Hooray for The Red, White and Blue

As a child growing up, we didn’t have the television as a distraction during dinner. For the longest time, the dining room table was in the kitchen, and the television (an old black and white contraption with rabbit ears and three channels to choose from) was in the living room.

For reasons I have never understood, for a brief time the dining room table was moved into the living room. It was during this brief “fancy” placement of our table that music became a part of our dining experience. I don’t mean tuning in the radio or dropping a stack of top hit 45s on the record player. Dad was in charge of the music selection. Recordings of John Philip Sousa – lively marching music – was the usual selection. To this day, I enjoy a good march, and sometimes get a little teary eyed, although I cannot explain the deep emotional response to songs such as “Stars and Strips Forever”.


Fireworks and the music of John Philip Sousa were a big part of my childhood. Mind you, I grew up in a time when being a Patriot meant a sense of community pride and love of country. Today, Patriot seems to mean something entirely different, depending upon your political, religious and economical perspective. For the purpose of this simple posting, let’s put aside differences and all those ugly things that separate us. Let’s come together as a people to celebrate the birth of America with picnics and backyard barbecues.

*** Independence Day from Start to Finish ***

The Starters
Patriotic Deviled Eggs
Cold-Cut Roll-Ups 
Panko-Parmesan Crusted Marinated Artichoke Hearts with Lemon-Basil Aioli

From the Grill
Garlic-Beer Marinated Chicken Thighs
Grilled Smoked Beef Sausages
Basic Mini-Burgers

On the Side
Corn on the Cob
Macaroni Salad

Compressed Watermelon Salad with Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Cherry Balsamic Vinegar
Cucumber-Tomato-Basil Salad with Dill Dressing

The Grand Finale 
American Flag Cake


The Starters

Patriotic Deviled Eggs
16 Hard Boiled Eggs (or as needed, see tip below)
1 cup mayonnaise
3 teaspoons mustard (yellow, stoned or Dijon-Style Mustard – it’s a matter of personal tastes – try each to see which flavor suits you)
4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste
2 cups hot water, divided
1 teaspoon Royal Blue Food Coloring
1 teaspoon Red Food Coloring
2 tablespoons white vinegar, divided

Tip: Boil 2 eggs more than required to fill serving tray. The extra eggs give more yolk filling, the extra whites allow for tasting and adjusting seasonings if necessary.

To Boil eggs, place eggs in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a full boil. Remove from heat, cover and let rest for 12-14 minutes. Drain, then plunge eggs into ice-cold water to cease the cooking process. The results will be a perfectly cooked egg with a sunny yellow yolk.

Tips for Peeling Hard-Boiled Eggs: Once eggs are cool enough to handle, roll gently on counter to crack shells. Place into cold water, refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from water and peel. Water will work its way into shell, the result is an easily peeled egg.

Peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Remove egg yolks and place yolks in food processor with mixing/chopping blade. Set whites aside and mix coloring.

In a glass bowl, mix 1 cup hot water, distilled white vinegar and 1 teaspoon Royal Blue Food Coloring. Mix well and add more coloring if desired.

In another glass bowl, mix remaining cup of hot water, distilled white vinegar and 1 teaspoon Red Food Coloring. Mix well, and add more coloring if desired.

Divide egg white halves into three groups. One group is to remain uncolored, the remaining two are colored red and blue. Place half of the “colored” whites into blue coloring, the other half into the red coloring.  Allow white to soak about 3 minutes or until desired color is reached. Place white up-side-down (cut side down) on a paper towel to drain. While colored egg whites drain, make filling.

Mix/chop yolks until fluffy and are fine grade resembling bread crumbs. Add mayonnaise and mustard and mix until creamy. Mix in red wine vinegar one tablespoon at a time and season to taste.

Place 12 white halves on serving dish or egg platter. Select best of the halves.

Spoon filling mixture into a piping bag fitted with desired tip. (I like the larger star for deviled eggs), then pipe into egg white halves.

Tent with plastic wrap (using toothpicks for “tent poles” ) and chill well until ready to serve.

Cold Cut Roll-Ups
Roast Beef Roll-Ups:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 to 3 tablespoons minced banana peppers
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 pound thinly sliced cooked roast beef

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, cilantro, peppers and garlic. Spread about 2 tablespoons on each slice of beef. Roll up tightly and wrap in plastic wrap.

Refrigerate overnight.

Ham and Turkey Roll-Ups
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup shredded zucchini
4 teaspoons dill weed
1/2 pound thinly sliced fully cooked ham
1/2 pound thinly sliced cooked turkey

For ham and turkey rolls, in another bowl, combine the cream cheese, carrot, zucchini and dill. Spread about 2 tablespoons on each slice of ham and turkey. Roll up tightly; wrap in plastic wrap.

Refrigerate overnight.

Slice the roll-ups into 1-1/2-in. pieces. Yield: 6-7 dozen.

Panko-Parmesan Marinated Artichoke Hearts with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Artichoke Hearts
1 (12 oz) jar Marinated Artichoke Hearts, drained
¼ cup flour
Garlic powder, to taste
Sea salt to taste
White Pepper to taste
1 egg
2 tbsp vegetable oil
½ cup plain panko crumbs
¼ cup Parmesan, finely grated

Drain marinated artichoke hearts. Lay on a double layer of paper towels, top with another layer of paper towels. Press on them gently to squeeze any excess liquid out of them.The hearts need to be as dry as possible. If needed, change towels and continue to gently press out the excess liquid.

Place the flour in a bowl. Season to taste with garlic powder, sea salt and while pepper.

In another bowl, whisk the egg with a little vegetable oil.

In a third bowl, mix the panko and finely grated Parmesan cheese.

Dip each artichoke heart lightly into the flour mixture then in the egg mixture followed by the Panko-Parmesan mixture until completely coated.

Place the coated artichoke heart on small baking dish. Repeat with the remaining artichoke hearts until all the hearts are coated.

Place the plate of coated artichoke hearts unwrapped into the refrigerator for 30 minutes. This resting period is important. By allowing breaded artichokes to chill in the refrigerator the coating will better adhere to the artichoke, thus preventing the coating from falling off during the frying process. While the artichoke hearts chill in the refrigerator, make the Aioli (recipe below)

To Cook: Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
Once the oil is HOT, add the artichokes a few at a time, making sure not to crowd the pan too much.

Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown.

Carefully turn the artichokes over and continue to cook until golden brown.

Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and place on a rack lined with a paper towel to soak up any excess grease.

Lemon-Basil Aioli
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 clove of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons basil, finely minced
1 Pinch Fresh Dill
1 Lemon, zested
Juice of 1 Lemon

Place basil and dill in a blender or food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add lemon zest and pulse one or two times more just to incorporate without over-processing.

Transfer basil mixture to a mixing bowl. Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, minced garlic, and lemon juice together until well combined.

Add the basil mixture to the mayonnaise mixture. Whisk together, taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Cover and place in the refrigerator until well chilled.

To Serve: Arrange artichoke hearts on a small serving platter. Spoon Lemon-Basil Aioli sauce into a small bowl. Serve platter of artichoke hearts along side sauce for dipping.

From the Grill

Garlic-Beer Marinated Chicken
(1) 11 oz beer or dark ale
3 tablespoons sesame seed oil
1 1/2 tablespoons roasted minced garlic (from a jar okay)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 lbs chicken thighs, bones and skin removed
2 limes, cut into wedges

In a bowl, whisk together beer and sesame oil. Add minced garlic, seasonings and spices. Whisk well.

Place thighs into a large zip-lock bag. Pour marinade over chicken. Turn bag several times to distribute the marinade. Place bag on a platter or casserole dish just in case bag might leak. Place into the refrigerator overnight, shooting for at least 12 hours of soaking. The longer the chicken percolates in the marinade, the deeper the flavor.

When ready to cook, remove chicken from the refrigerator and allow bag to lay flat on the counter for 30 minutes.

While meat comes to room temperature, build a nice bed of coals. Remove chicken from marinade and grill about 6 minutes per side. Move to upper warming rack, cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes or until cooked through.

Transfer thighs to serving platter and garnish with lime wedges before serving.

Grilled Smoked Beef Sausage
2 Packages Hillshire Farms Smoked Beef Sausage
1 1/2 Cup Barbecue Sauce, any flavor

Heat small grill gas grill for direct cooking. Split sausages in half width-wise to create 2 halves. Split again lengthwise to open sausage. You will now have 8 “J” shaped sausages.

When grill is ready, place sausage haves on grill skin side up until nicely cooked. Turn, brush with barbecue sauce and continue to grill until heated through.

Serve with additional barbecue sausage if desired.

Mini Burger Sliders
2 lbs Ground Beef
2 tablespoons Hamburger Seasoning
12 mini hamburger buns
1 Large Tomato, sliced
1 small Red Onion, sliced
4 Cheddar Cheese slices, optional

In a bowl, combine ground beef with hamburger seasoning. Divide ground beef into twelve balls. Pat down into patties just slightly larger than buns.

Grill patties to desired doneness. Top with cheese and allow to melt before removing burgers from grill.

If desired, brush buns will a little olive oil and toast on the grill just before assembling burgers.

While the burgers are grilling, place a lettuce leaf on the bottom bun, top with tomato and a little red onion. Set bun bottoms aside until ready to use.

Once the cheese had melted on burgers, place patties on bottom bun. Top with top of bun. Arrange burgers on a platter and serve with condiments as desired.

On the Side

Corn on the Cob
12 Ears of Corn
2 teaspoons Sugar
Boiling Water, enough to cover corn

Husk, clean and trim ears of corn. Place corn in a large boiling pot. Cover with cold water.

Over medium-high heat, bring corn to a rolling boil. Continue to cook until corn kernels are tender when pricked with a fork.

Remove pot from heat. Remove corn with tongs. Place in a Chafer and keep warm. Serve with lots of butter.

Red-White and Blue Macaroni Salad
6 Eggs, hard-boiled
1 lb Salad Macaroni
¼ Cup Green Onions, finely chopped
¼ Cup Red onion, finely chopped
2 Celery Stocks, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon Dill Pickle Relish
1 ½ Cups Best Food Mayonnaise
½ Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Green Onions for Garnish (Optional)
Red and Blue Food Coloring

The Night Before:
Place eggs in a saucepan, add cold water to cover eggs. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 12-14 minutes, then plunge eggs into cold water to stop cooking process. Remove from water, gently roll on counter to “crack” shell. Place back into cold water and let rest 30 minutes before peeling.

The Morning Of:
Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions. Drain and rinse well under cold running water. Set aside to continue draining.

In bowl, combine onions, celery, pickle relish, mayonnaise and red wine vinegar. Whisk to combine. Taste dressing and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Adjust seasoning according to personal tastes.

Chop 5 eggs. Add to dressing. Cut V marks in 6th egg to create two tulip flowers. Reserve one or both flowers. If reserving one flower, chop other half and add to dressing. Taste dressing a second time, adjust seasonings as necessary.

Place macaroni in a large bowl. Pour egg dressing over macaroni and toss to coat. Smooth out top. In the center, using the back of a spoon, create a small indentation. Place Egg flower into indentation. If desired, garnish with green onions.

To color your salad, divide into three parts. Add blue food coloring to one, red to the other, leaving the final third white. Place into a decorative glass bowl in layers of red, white and blue.

The Salads

Compressed Watermelon Salad 
1 small seedless watermelon
16 small tomatoes, assorted colors
3 oz Goat Cheese, crumbled (Herb Goat Cheese gives extra flavor)
4 Basil Leaves, cut into narrow strips
1/4 Cup Cherry Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 Teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper
Sea Salt to taste

Cut one end off the watermelon. (You want to begin working with a watermelon that has a flat; even end). Discard end slice or nibble on it while you work.

Cut round disk from remaining watermelon about 1 inch thick. Remove rind. Using a small shot glass, cut 8 circles from watermelon.

Place circles into a vacuum seal bag. Seal according to manufacturer’s directions.

Cut second round disk from watermelon.  Again, cut 8 small circles from watermelon disk and seal in a vacuum seal bag.

Place vacuum sealed bags into the freezer for at least 3 hours. (Note: if bag is not gently compressing watermelon, place a pie tin on top of bag. Place a bag of frozen vegetables on pie tin to compress watermelon).

Once compressed; remove from freezer and let thaw. Keep chilled in refrigerator. You want the melon crisp-cold but not frozen.

When ready to serve, slice small tomatoes (grape size) in half. Stack fresh basil and roll tightly, creating a cigar-shape. Cut basil width-wise to shred into very narrow strips.

Drizzle a little cherry balsamic vinegar on a serving platter. Place watermelon rounds on top of vinegar. Tuck tomato halves around watermelon in a pleasing arrangement. Sprinkle with goat cheese and basil.

Drizzle salad with a little more balsamic vinegar. Season with fresh pepper and a pinch of salt.

Serve and enjoy.

Cucumber-Tomato-Basil Salad with Dill Dressing
The Salad
3 medium cucumbers, peeled
1 medium red onion, sliced
3 medium red tomatoes
1/2 Cup Small Basil Leaves

Peel cucumber, slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Peel onion, slice into rings and separate. Cut tomato into nice wedges. Tear basil into small pieces.

Toss everything together in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled.

While salad is chilling, make dressing.

The Dressing
1/2 cup Vinegar
1/4 cup Sugar
1 Cup water
1/4 Cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
2 sprigs of dill, chopped

Place all ingredients into a mason jar fitted with a lid. Shake well and refrigerate.

Just before serving, give dressing a good shake. Pour over salad, toss and serve.

The Grand Finale 

Independence Day Flag Cake
French Vanilla Cake
2 Boxes French Vanilla White Cake (or favorite box/scratch sheet cake recipe)
2 Baskets Strawberries, sliced
1 Container Strawberry Glaze
1 Basket Blueberries

Cake: Mix batter according to the recipe directions. If using a box cake mix, see tips above for making batter. Bake in a 11×15 cake pan.

Bake cake according to pan directions. This is important – the pan baking temperature and times may vary from the cake mix or scratch recipe. For best result, follow the guidelines of your baking pan. It may be necessary to adjust baking time according to your oven – some ovens bake a little quicker than others. Mine is at 325 degrees, about 34 minutes – I start checking for doneness at about 28 minutes, keeping a sharp eye on the cake for best results.

While cake is baking, slice strawberries, creating flat-bottom, uniform berries. Mix berries with a little sugar to help draw out their juices. Set berries with sugar aside.

Let cake cool 10 minutes in the pan. Invert onto large cutting board, then invert again (right side up) on cake board. Allow cake to cool completely.

Make Buttercream Frosting once the cake has cooled. Frost COOLED cake on top with a thin layer of frosting. (You will be adding more frosting with the flag arrangements). Frost sides as you normally would.

Arrange Blueberries in upper left corner for “blue background”.

Drain strawberries. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Lay strawberries onto towel. Pat dry. If desired, arrange berries on towel to give you a rough idea of finished cake. Remember – this is a rough idea. Play with it if you like.

Using a fork, dip sliced berries into glaze, allowing excess to fall back into container. Arrange Strawberries to create flag “stripes”. Don’t worry about perfection, unless you want to make yourself crazy. Fill pastry bag fitted with star tip. Create stars between blueberries and stars for white stripes of flag. If you have enough frosting left, pipe a nice trim of stars at the base of the cake for a pretty finish.

Buttercream Frosting
1/2 Cup Solid Butter-Flavored Vegetable Shortening
1 1/2 Cups Butter, Softened
2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
8 Cups sifted powdered Sugar*
6 tablespoons milk**

Cream butter and shortening with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl between additions and after the last of the sugar has been added. When all sugar has been mixed in, the frosting will appear to be dry. Add milk one tablespoon at a time and beat a medium speed until light and fluffy. For thinner frosting, add 3-4 tablespoons light corn syrup. Corn Syrup will also create a frosting that is smoother. Keep frosting covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.

* The easiest way to sift powdered sugar is to use a large kitchen strainer. Simply place strainer over a large bowl. Sift powdered sugar, 2 cups at a time, using a wooden spoon to stir powdered sugar in strainer. It is quick and easy. Sifters are fine for dusting purposes, but when large quantities of ingredients need to be sifted, using a strainer will produce the same results in less time, with less effort.

**Whole milk, 2% or Heavy Cream equally work well as thinning agents. Heavy Cream gives a creamier, thicker texture to the frosting; there is no discernible difference between whole milk or 2% milk. Buttercream frosting can also be flavored by using orange juice or lemon juice in place of the milk. For a smoother finish, the frosting may also be thinned using clear Karo syrup.


Author: Rosemarie's Kitchen

I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and avid home cook.I believe in eating healthy whenever possible, while still managing to indulge in life's pleasures.

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