Blueberry Shortcake, a Tasty Potato Salad, and Memories of Fireworks from Long Ago

blueberry shortcake with lemon thyme ice cream

For most of us, today’s 4th of July celebration is a quiet lunch at home with maybe a friend or two and some “quaran-team” family members. It reminds me of a 4th of July when I was around 14 or so. My family went camping every year, rain or shine (mostly rain) and we had a habit of visiting battlefields and historic monuments (my father’s passion).

a large tank
My father belonged to one of the Tank Destroyer Battalions in WWII Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Rainy Camping Trip to VA

On this particular holiday, we were in VA. We’d packed the van in the rain, driven down rainy highways, and through rain-soaked fields of corn that seemed to grow 10 feet high! And we found a campground in Tyson’s Corner, which back then was a podunk town with lots of farms and one very flooded campground. Even so, it was a very cool campground in normal circumstances. Unfortunately, that year it had flooded badly. The overflow sites, usually providing extra campsites over a busy holiday weekend, were literally “overflow sites.” Because most of the more desirable, wooded sites had been flooded out. But they had an Olympic size swimming pool with a diving board, trails to walk, a huge activity area, and even a train that ran around the pond. Unfortunately, we found that the train had also been damaged by the flood. Train cars were lying on their side among trees that had toppled over into the mud of the pond. But we were not the family who stood around moping, at least not for long, so we quickly found other kids and the pool and things to do.

Nothing like a cool swimming pool on a hot day. Photo by Sarah Schorer on Pexels.com

The Smithsonian on a Hot Day

We were also excited about going to see fireworks displays in Washington DC. We did go into the city on that trip. We spent one full day walking around the mall. We went in and out of the various museums of the Smithsonian, impatiently waiting as my father read every scrap of newspaper, every descriptive plaque he could find. It didn’t matter if he was reading something that was part of a collage in a wall mural, or a sign attached to an antique plane wing or an old tank wheel. It made for a long slow slog through those museums. And the heat in DC in July was crazy hot. We begged nonstop to be allowed to ride the little shuttle buses we saw everywhere. It seemed like such a relaxing and cooler way to explore. But no amount of whining or dropping dramatically to the grass would change my mother’s mind. Those buses cost money and we didn’t have extra to spend riding when we had “perfectly good feet that could carry us around.”

I wish the sidewalks were this empty back then! And we were indoors. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Years later, when I was in DC for a business trip I looked into taking one of those buses. I discovered that they’re actually free to ride all day long! I shook my head remembering that past vacation when we sweated our way through museum after museum wishing for just one teensy bit of coolness that hot summer.

Happy Fourth! That means fireworks… we think

When the 4th finally arrived (we’d headed down a few days ahead), my father decided driving into the city and finding a place to park the van to watch fireworks wasn’t worth it. Plus, he’d heard that if you sat on the grassy hill at the campground, and looked off into the distance over the trees, you could watch not only the DC fireworks, but some shows that were even closer! We gathered our blankets, our drinks, our snacks, and staked out our spot on the hill with all the other families. And we waited… and waited. Would the sun ever go down? Eventually, it started to get dark and still… we waited.

Just over those trees, imagine the fireworks. Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Then my father had this great idea. As we sat there looking off into the distance, he suggested we imagine our own fireworks display. We sat there ooohing and aahhhhhing to our heart’s content.

“Look! That one is like butterflies!”

“oooooooo, that one is an amazing orange, like flaming birds!”

or just one long satisfying “Aaaaaaah” from all four of us.

Eventually, a father sitting with his family a few feet away turned around in confusion, “Can you guys actually see fireworks?”

We had the perfect seat to watch the fireworks. Photo by Marco Lima on Pexels.com

We laughed and explained that we were just making them up. He shook his head, but very soon the real fireworks started. And it was a show worth waiting for.

Imagination can make any event special

The point of this quick memory is, sometimes it’s the little things that make a memory, or an event special. Sometimes changing things up, or allowing your imagination to run a little bit, can create fun out of mundane! That’s like two little recipes Beth and I experimented with today. Potato Salad with Carrots and Garlic Scapes, and Blueberry Shortcake. We’re celebrating with just us two today, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have an awesome lunch and a celebration to remember.

Potato Salad with Carrots and Garlic Scapes

This recipe is one where you mix things together in quantities enough to feed your crowd. I used enough to make potato salad for the two of us with a bit left over. I’m providing ingredients but measurements need to be based on your need and your taste!

The start of an amazing potato salad

Ingredients:

  • Small red potatoes, cut into bite size pieces (I used probably 6 – 8 small potatoes)
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 3 garlic scapes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • dried sweet basil
  • onion salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

Instructions:

  • Boil the potatoes until just tender, then rinse in cool water and place in refrigerator to chill
  • Chop garlic scapes into small pieces, blanch in boiling water for a minute or two, then refresh in cold water and place in the refrigerator to chill
  • Grate the carrot
  • Once your vegetables have cooled, mix them together in a medium bowl, adding the spices, sour cream and mayonnaise, and mix well.
  • Depending on the preferences of your guests, add fresh chopped chives, chopped onions, fresh dill and even a splash of lemon juice.

Serve with hot dogs, hamburgers or anything else you’re serving.

Blueberry Shortcake

Ingredients:

We went the shortcut way and purchased fresh baked shortcake biscuits from our local grocery store. You can also use angel food cakes, or even slices of unfrosted cake.

  • Blueberries
  • granulated sugar (assume 1 cup sugar to 6 cups blueberries)
  • lemon zest
  • lemon juice
  • cinammon
  • Corn starch (to thicken the juice)
blueberries simmering in the pan with lemon zest, juice, and sugar
They look delicious already!

Instructions:

  • Simmer blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and zest. Stir occasionally until sugar is melted and mixture is just starting to simmer.
  • Use a masher or flat spoon to mash some of the blueberries. Remove from the heat.
Blueberries at the "ready to mash" stage
Mash some of the berries to release the juices.
  • Make a slurry with cornstarch and cold water, and when ready, turn heat back on under the blueberry mixture and slowly stir in the slurry, continue to stir until the juices start to thicken. Go carefully on adding the slurry. You want to change the juice to syrup, but it can go over fast. Or you can just leave out the cornstarch as we did and the shortcake will soak up the juices.
  • Slice biscuits in half and top with your blueberry sauce, and a few fresh blueberry, top with the other half of the biscuit and a dollop of whipped cream. Or you can top it with ice cream. My lemon thyme ice cream was the perfect topper for this July 4th treat!
blueberry shortcake with lemon thyme ice cream
A homemade dessert worthy of celebration