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Summer Garden Party Ideas and Grilled Garden Pizza Recipe

June 30th, 2011

 

Growing a garden provides numerous benefits that are good for the body and mind: exercise, joy, a form of therapy, and more. From watching seeds sprout into bountiful harvests of homegrown foods to pulling weeds in the wonderful, great outdoors, a garden truly does inspire and cultivate the soul. And it’s the perfect backdrop for a summer garden party that showcases the tastes of summer.

Even though there are boundless opportunities to gather family and friends for good conversations, good fun, and good food, there’s something especially relaxing about a summer garden party. It’s not a big, boisterous party nor does it compare to an excitable holiday celebration. A summer garden party is a delightful, easygoing gathering where the freshest foods can be appreciated and enjoyed al fresco.

Summer’s already here, so why not plan a garden party for you, your family, and friends. Here are some simple, fun ideas:

Drinks – Place drinks such as canned soda, bottled water, canned or bottled beer, and bottled wine in galvanized buckets filled with ice.

Invitations and Keepsakes – Make your invitations fun: attach a piece of paper with all the party details onto a flower or vegetable seed packet. It is a garden party after all! Or send out a garden party Evite. For a keepsake, print out recipes of the dishes you prepare on garden-themed paper then roll them up and tie with a piece of raffia or give each of your garden party guests or couples a small bag containing a few of your garden vegetables.

Menu – The best summer garden parties showcase the flavors of the season, and the great thing about hosting a summer garden party is that you can make it as relaxed or elegant as you’d like. From grilled pizzas loaded with flavorful herbs and vegetables to low and slow barbecued ribs served with a freshly prepared garden succotash, there are endless dishes you can prepare with summer herbs and vegetables.

Music – Theme your music to your menu. Hosting a Louisiana Crawfish Boil? Then celebrate and savor the moments with some traditional Cajun/zydeco music. Serving lemon-butter chicken breasts with rosemary red potatoes and elegant asparagus spears? Then put together a list of your favorite classical songs. Music, at the right volume, relaxes party guests and is a great party enhancer.

Setting – You can pick any location to set up garden party tables: on the lawn near a garden or pool, on the patio, under a couple of trees, etc. Pick your favorite spot!

Silverware – Make whimsical utensil containers using used, washed food cans such as soup or vegetable cans. Remove the labels then paint the outside of the cans with different colors such as tomato red, corn yellow, or basil green. Or visit your local flea market for a variety of mix and match silverware, dish towels from yesteryear (for lining a basket to hold your silverware), or unique vessels for holding silverware.

Table Decorations – Showcase flowers of the season, such as hydrangea or peonies, in simple glass containers such as canning jars or set vases that are overflowing with summer flowers on the tables along with bowls filled with brilliant, bright fruit. Dress the tables with simple natural-colored cotton tablecloths or tablecloths with a colorful butterfly patterns.

Whether you plan a super simple or elegant garden party, make it special by highlighting the foods of summer.

Grilled Garden Pizza

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 small red onion, sliced

1 green Yankee Bell Pepper, cored, seeded and sliced

1 medium Yellow Crookneck Squash, halved lengthwise then sliced

1 medium Costata Romanesco Zucchini, halved lengthwise then sliced

1 cup prepared pizza sauce

2 (10-inch) prepared pizza crusts

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Fresh Superbo Basil leaves, rolled then sliced into ribbons

Preparation

Prepare grill for medium heat and direct cooking.

In a medium size bowl, combine oil and garlic. Add onion, bell pepper, squash and zucchini to bowl; stir to coat. Place vegetables in a grilling basket then place on grill. Cover and cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Stir once or twice during cooking time. Remove vegetable basket from grill.

Top prepared pizza crusts with equal amounts of pizza sauce, cheese and grilled vegetables.

Reduce grilling temperature to medium-low heat. Place pizzas on grill, cover, and cook until cheese is melted and crust is hot, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle pizzas with basil before slicing and serving. SERVES 4

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Waste Not, Want Not

May 11th, 2010

 

How many times has this happened to you? You have a recipe that you want to make that calls for an ingredient that you do not have on hand. You buy the smallest package of said ingredient that you can find only to discover later that the rest has gone bad before you could use it all. In addition to leftover prepared foods, cheeses, fruits, herbs, and vegetables each make up a large portion of foods that end up going to waste while sitting on the counter or in the fridge. When you’re trying to stay within a budget, it’s easy to see how wasted food is wasted money. As hard as many of us attempt to pre-plan meals using what’s on hand or take advantage of our freezers it’s sometimes easier said than done.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans waste 30 percent of all edible food produced, bought, and sold in the U.S., and scientists at the University of Arizona and the National Institute of Health (NIH) estimate 40 percent or more. To add to this unfortunate situation, Environmental Protection Agency data suggests that rotting food may be responsible for about one-tenth of all anthropogenic (caused by humans) methane emissions. When rotting food decomposes in landfills a by-product is methane, which warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide.

While throwing out a few salad greens here and there may seem harmless, in the long run, every bit of food-gone-bad adds up to a lot of wasted food and global warming woes.

One way that people can help reduce food waste is by growing their own herbs and vegetables. When you grow your own foods not only will you be able to enjoy foods free of pesticides and fertilizer, but you will also be able to use what is needed, when needed. Another positive side to this is that if a food grower has more, say, vegetables than they can use during the growing season, there is the opportunity to share the bounty with friends and neighbors. It’s a much better feeling than the one you get when you spend your hard-earned money at the grocery store just to have foods go bad.

For more in-depth information on food waste and easy-to-embrace solutions, read How to Wage War on Food Waste, from OnEarth, the award-winning environmental magazine.

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