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Celebrating the Fourth of July: a star-spangled picnic!


Last updated 6/28/2007 at Noon

The zenith of summer fare is the All-American holiday of the Fourth of July coming mid-week. No doubt there will be all manner of picnics… from hot dogs at a beach fire to fancier menus served al fresco, there will be food and fellowship to celebrate the hard-won freedoms that are the basis for our government of today.

Most likely the basics will remain: burgers, hot dogs, steak, chicken. It’s with the menu accompaniments that you’ll see variety and innovation. Here are some favorites you might incorporate into your bang-up picnic, giving thanks, as the coin of the realm says, “In God We Trust.”

Ruby red ripe tomatoes and blue cheese are a flavor marriage few would deny. The dressing will also work with the sweet Roma or grape-style tomatoes.

Tomatoes with Blue Cheese Dressing

1 cup sour cream

¼ cup catsup

2 tbsp. fresh shredded Parmesan cheese

¼ cup crumbled blue cheese

½ clove garlic, crushed

¼ tsp. paprika

¼ tsp. dry mustard

8 ripe tomatoes, sliced

8 pieces Farmers, leaf or Romaine lettuce

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine sour cream, catsup, cheeses, garlic, paprika and dry mustard; blend well. Refrigerate until about an hour before serving.

Line serving platter with lettuce pieces and chill.

Just before serving, slice tomatoes and place on chilled lettuce. Drizzle half of the dressing over the tomatoes. Pass remaining dressing. Or, pour into serving bowl and serve alongside salad using ladle for extra dressing. 8-10 servings.

While you can buy potato salad at a good deli, this version from a box of hash browns is yet another way to go… and you can season just the way YOU want.

Almost Too Easy Potato Salad

1 pkg. (8 ¾ oz.) hash brown potatoes

1 cup chopped celery

½ cup finely chopped mild onion

¼ cup chopped green pepper

1 tbsp. vinegar

1 tbsp. yellow mustard

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

2/3 cup mayonnaise

2 tbsp. sweet pickle relish, optional

Lettuce-lined serving bowl

Pitted ripe olives, garnish

Stuffed green olives, garnish

Simmer and drain hash brown potatoes according to package directions. Chill. Combine cold potatoes with remaining ingredients and toss lightly, using pickle relish as desired.

Turn into lettuce-lined serving bowl and garnish with sliced pitted ripe olives and sliced stuffed green olives. 6 servings.

A simple macaroni salad can be the focus of a patio picnic. Here the pasta is enhanced by the richness of blue cheese.

Patio Mac and Frank Salad

6 oz. elbow macaroni

4 hot dogs, thinly sliced, or ¼ lb. thin sliced salami, cut into strips

1 cup chopped celery

¼ cup minced onion

½ cup sliced radishes

1 pkg. (about 5 oz.) baby spinach leaves, trimmed

1/3 cup French-style salad dressing

1/3 cup blue cheese-flavored salad dressing

½ cup crumbled blue cheese

Romaine lettuce for salad platter/bowl

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain well and chill.

Turn macaroni into a large mixing bowl and add hot dog slices or salami, celery, onion and radish slices. Mix two salad dressings with blue cheese. Toss with macaroni and chill. Trim end pieces from baby spinach. Toss lightly with macaroni mixture. Line salad bowl or platter with lettuce. Pile macaroni mixture onto lettuce and serve. 8 servings.

Canned peaches and frozen raspberries are the basis for a sauce to serve over the season’s choicest fresh fruits, ice cream, pound cake or even angel food cake. It could be a dessert buffet, giving everyone the ultimate freedom of choice.

Raspberry Peach Sauce

(For Raspberries, Strawberries, Blueberries, Ice Cream, Pound Cake)

1 can (l lb.) peach slices

1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen raspberries, thawed

1 ½ tbsp. cornstarch

Dash of salt

2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Drain syrups from peaches and thawed raspberries into a small saucepan. Blend cornstarch with a little of the syrup mixture and salt. Stir well so there are no lumps.

Stir cornstarch mixture into fruit syrups. Cook, stirring, until thickened and clear. Stir in lemon juice and remove from heat. Cut peaches into tiny cubes. Add to sauce with reserved raspberries. Chill.

Serve as a sauce with fresh berries over ice cream or with pound cake or angel food cake. Makes 2 ½ cups sauce, about 5 servings.

At one time people baked beans from scratch all day (and night?) and had them frequently. Lucky for us, today we can take the shortcuts and start with canned beans. Frankfurters add special flavor and important nutrition for this main dish or accompaniment.

Franks and Bean Bake

1 can (1 lb.) butter beans, drained

1 can (1 lb.) pork and beans

1 can (1 lb.) kidney beans

½ cup chili sauce

¼ cup molasses

1 tsp. dry mustard

½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce

½ envelope (about ¼ cup) dry onion soup mix

1 lb. frankfurters, cut into 1-inch pieces

Combine canned beans with remaining ingredients, blending well. Turn into a 2-quart casserole. Bake, covered, 1 hour. Uncover and continue to bake about 30 minutes. Serve hot. 6 servings.


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