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Special eats for your special Canada Day celebration

By Stacey Stein

Beyond marking our nation’s birthday, the Canada Day long weekend heralds the arrival of cottage season, summer vacation plans, patio dinners and two months where life seems to slow down a little. It’s a weekend brimming with possibility, and that alone is reason to celebrate.

Whether you plan to mark our country’s 152nd birthday by relaxing at a cottage, camping under the stars at a national park, or enjoying a backyard barbecue with friends and family, planning the perfect eats will help elevate your long weekend festivities.

We’ve got you covered with recipe ideas that will suit any type of Canada Day celebration – whatever your plans are, the combination of good food, warm weather, family and friends is sure to make the weekend memorable.

The plan: Kick back at the cottage

The goal:

Maximize relaxation time, minimize time spent in the kitchen. “You’re there to enjoy the weekend, so you want quick and easy meals and make ahead items,” says registered dietitian Shannon Crocker.

The eats:

Breakfast: Waffles and pancakes are universally loved by adults and kids alike, and can be made in advance and frozen. These tasty apple pie pancakes incorporate smooth cottage cheese, perfect for keeping hungry guests satiated. “The protein in the cottage cheese gives these long lasting satisfaction,” says Crocker.

This maple cheddar breakfast sandwich is also packed with protein and works well if you’re hosting a large group. Make a big pan of scrambled eggs and enlist the help of guests when assembling the sandwiches. “This is a great way to feed a crowd,” says Crocker.

Lunch: Sandwiches – an obvious go-to – may seem pedestrian, but they can still be inspired. This Mediterranean tuna pita sandwich is an interesting take on classic tuna salad, while a Mexican favourite gets a makeover with these apple cheddar quesadillas.

Dinner: Sheet pan meals involve minimal fuss and clean-up – perfect for a relaxed cottage dinner. “There aren’t a lot of pots and pans on the go,” says Crocker, adding that you can skip the serving dishes and let guests serve themselves from the pan. These honey chipotle sheet pan steak fajitas are sure to be a crowd pleaser, or try experimenting with various combinations of meats and veggies.

Dessert: A long weekend at the cottage wouldn’t be complete without a campfire and s’mores. Make them the old-fashioned way by squeezing a gooey, roasted marshmallow and piece of chocolate between two graham crackers. For a flavour boost, top off your creation with a dollop of Gay Lea toasted marshmallow whipped cream. For a fun twist on this classic campfire treat, you can also try making these gourmet s’more shortbreads or these s’mores cookies.

Snacks: Cottage life and snacking go hand-in-hand. These berry coconut protein balls make for a healthy grab n’ go snack and you can make them at home ahead of time. For something savoury, try this cheddar popcorn mix.

The plan: Commune with nature at a national park

The goal:

Packing light food that stores well, yet will keep you fueled for long days of hiking outdoors. “You’ll need food that is packable, doesn’t take up much space, and is easy to eat,” says Crocker.

The eats:

Breakfast & lunch: Keep your backpack light with food that can be eaten without a plate or utensils. Wraps fit the bill for breakfast or lunch. For a breakfast wrap, stuff a whole wheat tortilla with scrambled eggs, shredded cheese and veggies of your choice (try baby spinach, red onions or diced peppers) and wrap it up in foil for later – with this wrap, you get your grains, protein and vegetables in one neat package.

This hearty wrap is perfect for lunch. Checking off four different food groups, it’s guaranteed to keep you energized all day long. When assembling your wraps, Crocker recommends first lining the tortilla with lettuce (make sure it’s dry) and then placing all the ingredients inside – this will keep everything fresher for longer.

Snacks: Think easy, packable, energizing snacks you can eat with your hands while in the great outdoors. Fresh whole fruit, strawberries stored in an airtight container, or veggies paired with dip (try Nordica Smooth dill ranch) all work nicely. Prone to sweet cravings? These trail rock cookies will do the trick – a combination of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds also provides a nutritional boost.

Tip: Include a cooler pack in your backpack to keep your food safe, especially in hot weather!

The plan: Relax with family and friends at a backyard barbecue

The goal:

Simple food that appeals to a large crowd and doesn’t require tons of prep or cooking time, allowing you to enjoy hanging out with your guests.

The eats:

App: Nachos and dips are a mainstay at many barbecues – this layered tex mex dip reinvents the classic app thanks to the use of smooth cottage cheese (bonus: it’s also chock-full of protein.) Serve with pita chips, nacho chips or veggies.

Main: Burgers and barbecuing go hand-in-hand – on Canada Day, kick things up a notch with these Black River burgers that pay homage to Prince Edward County’s viniculture, courtesy of a wine-infused topping. You can make the patties ahead of time and store in the fridge or freezer.

Sides: Potato salad is a quintessential BBQ side – traditionally a heavier dish, this grilled potato salad does away with mayonnaise, cutting out calories and fat. You can make this dish ahead of time and serve it warm or cold.

Take advantage of prime asparagus season with this lemon-roasted asparagus gratin – a crispy cheese topping is sure to make this a hit with guests. Multi-task by baking this dish in the oven while the burgers cook on the grill.

Dessert: Toast our nation’s birthday – and impress your guests – with a festive Canada Day-themed dessert that showcases in-season strawberries. Opt for a simple, yet classic, summer treat by putting out a big bowl of juicy strawberries topped with whipped cream. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can try making this Canada Day strawberry lemonade cake or strawberry shortcake.

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