Fourth of July puts one in a festive frame of mind. There’s plenty of summer left for happy gatherings of family and friends, but time, as they say, flies when you’re having fun and the season will be over before we know it. So … check out these five tasty, refreshing and just plain fun things for summer.

For the past decade, the folks at McCormick have prepared an annual Flavor Forecast for what they predict as flavor trends. This year, they fan the flames of flavor for backyard grilling.

Among the top trends identified by McCormick:
Layering flavors: Backyard cooks merge marinades, rubs, brines, mops and sauces.

Fired-up fruit: Grilled fruits are being skewered alongside meats, pureed to make tenderizing marinades and chopped for salsas and relishes.

Shaken, stirred and grilled: Flavorful spirits replace vinegar or other liquids for new combinations such as mojito marinades and bourbon-spiked pork tenderloin.

If you like to experiment with flavors, McCormick, of course, offers these suggestions:
Cilantro and lime: This zingy pair creates a refreshing taste of summer.
Chipotle and maple: An updated take on smoky, spicy and sweet.
Brown sugar and bourbon: A dose of Southern charm when dining alfresco
Red chili sauce and mango: This sweet, spicy combination adds great flavor on the grill.

More grilling recipes at

On the side:
What’s a summer cookout without potato salad? Want to impress your guests or family with something new? Try a taste of the Mediterranean with quick, healthy and flavorful Greek potato salad featuring Kalamata olives, Feta cheese, cucumbers and Greek yogurt. With just 2 grams of fat per serving, you can still look fit in your summer swimwear.

Makes about 60 appetizers
1 package McCormick Grill Mates Brown Sugar Bourbon Marinade Mix
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each)
½ cup peach preserves
2 pans (13-by 9-inch each) corn bread
Grilled peaches (recipe follows)

Combine marinade mix, oil, bourbon and orange juice in small bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons marinade for basting. Place pork in large resealable plastic bag or glass dish. Add remaining marinade; turn to coat well.

Refrigerate 4 hours. Remove pork from marinade. Discard any remaining marinade. Prepare grilled peaches as directed below.

Grill pork over medium heat 25 to 30 minutes or until desired doneness, turning occasionally and basting with reserved marinade halfway through cooking. Discard any remaining marinade. Cut pork tenderloins into ¼-inch thick slices.

Cut each corn bread into 1½-inch strips, and then cut each strip in half. Grill over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until grill marks appear, turning once with a wide spatula. (Do not use tongs as corn bread is fragile and tends to crumble.)

To serve, warm peach preserves. Spread evenly on corn bread strips. Cut each corn bread strip into 1½-inch squares.

Place 1 slice pork tenderloin and 1 grilled peach slice on each corn bread square.

Grilled peaches: Mix 1 package brown sugar bourbon marinade, ¼ cup each packed brown sugar and melted butter, and 1 tablespoon bourbon in large bowl until well blended. Add 2 peaches, each cut into ¼-inch slices; toss to coat well. Let stand 1 hour. Fold the edges of a sheet of heavy-duty foil to form a shallow baking pan. Place on grill over low heat. Place peaches on foil. Cover with second sheet of foil. Grill 6 to 8 minutes or until peaches are browned and caramelized around edges, turning occasionally and brushing with marinade.

4 servings
1½ pounds Russet potatoes (or red, yellow or white potatoes)
1 cup low-fat 2 percent Greek yogurt
1/3 cup minced red onion
¼ cup sliced Kalamata olives
¼ cup peeled, chopped cucumber
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley
½ cup crumbled Feta cheese
Chopped fresh oregano (optional)

Place whole potatoes (do not poke) into microwave-safe dish. Cover dish. (If covering dish with plastic wrap, poke small hole in plastic). Microwave on high for 10 to 12 minutes depending on strength of microwave. Use oven mitts to remove dish from microwave; carefully remove cover from dish due to steam build-up and let cool.

Cut potatoes into bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl with remaining ingredients; stir well to mix. Sprinkle with cheese and oregano.

This salad may be served right away, but is best if refrigerated for at least one hour to allow flavors to blend.

– U.S. Potato Board (

Enjoy a laid-back party on your porch (or deck or patio or lawn) while sipping a cool drink from “Porch Parties” ($16.95, Chronicle Books). Author Denise Gee offers more than 50 recipes for colorful, simple cocktails and nibbles – plus tips for planning and decorations – to make outdoor entertaining a breeze. Try Luscious Lemonade, a Blackberry Smash or Tipsy Tea (6 ounces sweet tea mixed with 2 ounces chilled orange-flavored vodka and garnished with an orange slice.)

Summertime and watermelon go together like … well, like summertime and watermelon. Too cute to resist, this watermelon hedgehog will be a conversation starter when used as a centerpiece for your table or bar. For more carving ideas and recipes for salads, beverages, desserts and side dishes, go to

1 medium-large round seedless watermelon
Cutting board
Large kitchen and paring knives
Green dry erase marker
Large bowl and spoon

Wash the watermelon under cool running water and pat dry.

Being careful not to cut too deep, cut ¼ inch off the bottom of the watermelon so that it sits flat.

Place the watermelon so that its stem will be the nose.

From a point at the top at about ¼ the length of the watermelon, use a dry erase marker to draw vertical lines halfway down both sides of the watermelon. Then, from both points on the sides, draw horizontal lines straight to the back of the watermelon. Cut along the lines. Remove this whole portion and set aside.

Scoop out the fruit from the removed section and from the base. Chop this fruit into small cubes, drain and set aside.

Using a small paring knife, make many short, irregular, angled small cuts along the edges of the head and body to create the look of the hedgehog’s coarse coat.

From the removed rind, cut a 1 ¾-inch strip from the flat end. Cut a triangle from the center of the strip to make the nose. Attach the nose with toothpicks. Put a toothpick in the tip of the nose and place a blueberry on the end.

Using the rest of the removed rind, cut 4 equal-sized rectangles for the feet and then trim to shape into “paws.” Attach with toothpicks.

To make the ears, draw 2 curved triangles that come to a point into the edges of the face area where desired.

Carefully cut with the paring knife. Using your finger, gently push out the cut shape from the inside until it protrudes slightly, being careful not to crack or break the rind.

For the eyes, simply place 2 toothpicks slightly above the nose and put a blueberry on each end.

Add watermelon cubes, and place toothpicks in the cubes at the top to create the hedgehog’s coat.

– National Watermelon Promotion Board

Summer brings an abundance of fresh juicy blueberries – whether you grow your own or buy them at a supermarket, roadside stand or farmers market. Use them in unexpected ways, and guests will think, “I wish I had thought of that.”

Try a blueberry mojito. In a tall 16-ounce glass, add 1 cup fresh mint leaves, 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice and 1 teaspoon sugar. Mash the ingredients with the back of a spoon or a “muddler” until fragrant. Add 2 tablespoons blueberries and mash until juicy.

Fill the glass  ¾ with ice. Add ½ to ¾ cup lemonade until the glass is two-thirds full. Add a splash of soda, 1 ounce light rum and 2 more tablespoons blueberries; stir. Slowly pour ½ ounce dark rum into the drink so it floats on top. Garnish with a sprig of mint and slice of lime; serve immediately.

Still need to cool down? Whip up one of the spicy twists on ice cream from “Spice Dreams: Flavored Ice Creams and Other Frozen Treats” ($16, Andrew McMeel Publishing).

Authors Sara Engram and Katie Luber tap into the hot new trend of adding herbs and spices to ice cream. How does chile-orange-chocolate sorbet, honey-mint ice cream with thyme, basil or brown sugar-ginger ice cream or a caramel-apple sundae sound?

With more than 50 recipes, this book is sure to spice up your favorite frozen treat.

From azaleas to zinnias, “Southern Bouquets” ($24.99, Gibbs Smith) will show you how to use fresh flowers from your yard or garden on your table. The book, by Charleston, S.C., residents Melissa Bigner and Heather Barrie, includes gorgeous photos to demonstrate and inspire along with tips for growing, cutting and arranging.

Take colorful and sturdy zinnias, for example. They are a no-brainer for zesting up a party. A tip from the book:
“With their long stalks, and compact heads, zinnias are dream flowers for simple bouquets. Just collect a rainbow and place them sparingly in containers (you can see the blooms better when you vary the height and split a dense harvest among containers).”

The authors show zinnias arranged in a dented tin can, a jelly jar (mixed with fresh herbs) and a galvanized bucket to add no-fuss, but festive, color to a patio party. Add a trio of zinnia bouquets in old milk bottles to perk up the guest bath.