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Planning a July Fourth bash? Dont sweat it!
Keep your recipes cool, simple for holiday fun
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Skewers and salads keep work in the kitchen to a minimum. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

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Interior designer Jennifer Peck gives us some inspiration for poolside decor.

Steaks and burgers sometimes can be a little too heavy for a hot summer day.

A great alternative for a poolside Fourth of July celebration - or a holiday back yard get-together - could be a cool platter of seasonal veggies and fruits, salsas or grilled shrimp skewers.

"You could do a shrimp cocktail," said Slade "Butch" Exley, owner or Slade's catering and general manager of the restaurant at the Elks Lodge No. 1126 in Gainesville. "You can't go wrong with fruit; grilled pineapple is a wonderful side dish for something like that."

Exley also added that the grilled shrimp he prepares at the Elks Lodge is a perfect poolside meal.

"We do several different versions of it," he said. "Sometimes we barbecue them, sometimes we do a Key lime, citrus or a tequila."

Although he emphasized that with any dish, poolside or otherwise, the ingredients must be fresh.

"We use only wild-caught Georgia white shrimp that comes from Darien," he said. "There is no such thing as fresh shrimp anymore; shrimp is frozen on the boat. But this shrimp is only frozen that one time."

And skewers, he said, help make sure your shrimp is prepared to perfection.

"Put them on a skewer; it really makes a difference," Exley said. "Unless you are doing the great big shrimp ... and not overcooking them. They will finish cooking a little bit when they get off, too."

Another simple creation for an outdoor party is homemade salsa.

"You can make a salsa out of anything," Exley said. "I'm making one tonight for a rehearsal dinner that has black beans and corn added to it. You can add pineapple, mango; you could have a different salsa every single time you had a party and just use the same base.

For a peach-inspired salsa, make sure the peach is a little firm, Exley added.

And if you're looking for something to wash everything down with, try adding a summer-inspired cocktail. You can find simple recipes, such as a simple fruit punch, from DrinkSwap.com.

April's Summertime Punch recipe includes cherry and lime vodka with orange juice. To make the punch, pour the cherry vodka, lime vodka and orange juice into a cocktail shaker half filled with ice cubes. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and serve.

But no pool party would be complete without a tablescape - and that part of the decor is easily inspired by the Fourth of July holiday.

"Any kind of flags, anything that has red, white and blue," said Jenny Peck, an interior designer at Traditions For Your Home. "If you have a sand bucket and have sand and put some small flags sticking out of it, that's a good centerpiece to use outside."

Peck suggested any summer outdoor accessories that add potted flowers to the table and "anything bright - the lime greens are really popular, pinks or even oranges," she said.

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