On this day 245 years ago, America declared independence from England. It was the birth of a new nation with great dreams and expectations. Growing up, the 4th of July gave us a huge sense of community pride.
Just like our neighbors, we decorated our house. Flags were displayed everywhere. All across the nation countless friends and family gathered in parks or backyards for a barbecue, followed by a display of fireworks. It wasn’t about the politics, it was about possibilities. The 4th of July was always an excuse for Dad play his recordings of John Philips Susa. Mom always became emotional.
My Mom loved America, although she never became an American Citizen. For her, America represented salvation. She had been a child in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation of World War II. At the hands of soldiers, she endured unspeakable acts. The emotional scares remained with her for life. America set her free, and the flag stood for freedom.
Last year was a sad 4th of July for so many. Extended family gathering canceled. Parades canceled. Community picnics canceled. This year isn’t going to be much better. No, we aren’t canceled in the traditional sense. However; our nation is painfully divided. There is deep anger and hatred toward one another that weighs heavily on those who love this country. We all seem so lost.
Are we perfect? Nope. Far from it. I believe we need to recognize and acknowledge the ugliness in our past. But we also need to move forward and we need to do that together. I will never apologize for the color of my skin any more than I would expect a person of color to apologize for theirs. MLK was a great man and visionary. His dreams of the future was that of a world that was color blind. He believed that one day people would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. In the 1960s the Civil Rights Movement was led by two men with very different visions of America. One saw a future without color, an America united as one people – Americans.
The other saw a world that was separate and segregated, walled off from the other. One filled with hate and violence and racial slaughter. In these turbulent times, his vision seems to have a strong footing in our war-torn inner cities. And it is spreading under the cloak of Critical Race Theory. It’s seeping into the classrooms of our children. I ask you, how does painting all white children as oppressors and all black children as victims benefit anyone? Hate begets hate.
I had promised myself I would avoid politics this Independence Day. That is easier said than done. It’s so hard to stay positive, to believe America will find her way and come together as one nation committed to the believe that all men are equal, that every person is of value and every life matters. That does not make me a racist. My heart breaks for the children caught in the crossfire. There is such outrage when law enforcement is involved in the death of a person of color. Yet such silence when a child is gunned down in the streets of our cities in a hail of gang violence. We cannot make this world a better place until we put the hate and bitterness behind us. We cannot save ourselves without first saving the children. Prejudices are not born, but taught. We need to change the lesson.
Happy Birthday America
Patriotic Deviled Eggs
Hoorah Smokies in a Blanket
From the Grill –
Saint Louis Ribs
Barbecue Chicken Breasts
Grilled Corn with Spicy Butter
Mini Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins
Slow Cooker Barbecue Baked Beans
Mixed Greens Toss Salad
Happy Birthday America Flag Cake
Patriotic Deviled Eggs
16 Hard Boiled Eggs
1 cup Mayonnaise
3 teaspoons Mustard (any kind you like)
4 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
Onion Powder to taste
Garlic Powder to taste
Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
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.
2 cups hot water, divided
1 teaspoon Royal Blue Food Coloring
1 teaspoon Red Food Coloring
2 tablespoons white vinegar, divided
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.
Hoorah Smokies in a Blanket
1 tube Crescent Dough Sheet
24 Cocktail Smokies
1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
1 tablespoons Water
Ketchup, for serving
Spicy Brown Mustard, for serving
American Flag Toothpicks for Patriotic Theme
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper.
Unroll crescent rolls, pinching together at seam to create one large sheet. Brush lightly with Dijon mustard.
With a pizza cutter, cut lengthwise into 4 strips. Cut each strip into 6 pieces. Place cocktail sausage on each of 24 pieces. Roll and secure ends, pinching or tucking under as necessary to insure that sausage is wrapped.
Arrange smokies on the prepared baking pan.
Beat egg with a little water to create a wash. Brush smokies. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crescents are golden. Let cool for at least 20 minutes.
Arrange smokies on a serving platter. Decorate with American Flags as desired.
Serve with ketchup and mustard for dipping.
Meet Me In Saint Louis Grilled Ribs
4 racks St. Louis Spareribs
2 tablespoons Kosher Salt
1 tablespoon Dry Mustard
1 tablespoon Smoked Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
Chicken Stock as needed
2 cups Favorite Barbecue Sauce
Additional Barbecue Sauce for serving
Cut 8 pieces of heavy foil large enough to double wrap each rack of ribs. Stack 2 sheets together to create 4 foil packs.
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Trim ribs, remove silver membrane from the back of the ribs. Center ribs, meat side up on each foil pack.
In a small bowl combine salt, dry mustard, smoked paprika, Cayenne pepper and black pepper.
Sprinkle ribs generously with the rub. Gently work into the meat. Wrap each rack individually, place on 2 rimmed baking sheet..
Bake ribs until tender but not falling apart, about 3 hours. Carefully unwrap ribs; pour off any juices from foil into a 4 cup measuring cup; reserve juices. Let ribs cool completely.
Note: Ribs can be baked up to 3 days. Colder ribs will hold up better on the grill, the flavors will be deeper and less work on barbecue day. After draining the juices, simply rewrap ribs in foil and chill.
Build a medium hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high.
Add chicken stock to rib juices as needed measure 1-1/2 cups. Whisk in barbecue sauce to blend.
Grill ribs, basting with barbecue sauce mixture. Turn ribs frequently, until heated through, lacquered and charred in places, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board; cut between each rib to separate and serve with additional barbecue sauce.
Barbecued Chicken Breasts
8 boneless Chicken Breasts
Olive Oil as needed
Kosher Salt to taste
White Pepper to taste
Barbecue Seasoning to taste
1 cup Barbecue Sauce for basting
More Barbecue Sauce for serving
Heat the barbecue grill for direct cooking at high heat. Brush the cooking grates clean. Oil grate to prevent chicken from sticking.
Drizzle the chicken breasts olive oil and rub over the breasts. Season generously salt, pepper and barbecue seasoning.
Place the chicken breasts on the hot grill. Cover and cook for 5-6 minutes or until they easily release from the grates. Flip the chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes longer. Baste the chicken breasts with barbecue sauce, flip and cook for 2 minutes sauced side. Baste the chicken with more sauce, flip and cook freshly sauced side for 2 minutes. Repeat basting, turning as needed until well coated and cooked through.
Transfer to a plate, cover and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with additional sauce as desired.
Grilled Corn on the Cob with Spicy Garlic Butter
8 ears Corn, in husks
2 fresh Limes
2 tablespoons Chives, garnish
Remove thick outer husks from the corn, leaving several layers of the thinner, pale husks in tact.
Peel back these layers of husks from the corn without removing them from the ears. Remove the silks, rinse ears and recover the corn with the husk. Secure husks with kitchen twine. Place ears of corn in a large pot of cold water. Let soak for at least 30 minutes. (The kernels will absorb some of the water, allowing them to steam in their husks when placed on the grill.)
While corn is soaking, cut the limes into quarters, wrap in plastic and set aside. Snip chives for garnish, set aside. Make spicy butter.
Spicy Garlic Butter
8 Garlic Cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 Habanero pepper, seeded
4 tablespoons Chives
1 cup (2 sticks) Butter, slightly softened
Kosher Salt to taste
Fresh Black Pepper to taste
Peel and coarsely chop garlic, set aside. Stem, seed and roughly chop Habanero, set aside. Snip chives, set aside.
Combine butter, garlic, Habanero, and chives in a food processor and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to use.
When ready to grill, remove corn from water and shake off excess. Place the corn on the grill, directly over fire; close the cover and grill. Check and turn periodically. If husks begin to burn, transfer ears and continue to cook using an indirect method. Grill for about 20 to 30 minutes. Corn should be firm but tender when properly grilled.
When corn is cooked, unwrap and brush with the garlic butter. Squeeze lime over buttered corn, garnish with a pinch of chives. Serve and enjoy.
Note: While this recipe calls for 8 ears of corn, more can easily be made – provided there is room on the grill. There’s no need to increase the butter recipe – this recipe will make plenty of spicy butter.
Mini Jalapeño Cornbread Muffins
To Prepare Pan
1 tablespoon Butter, melted
3 tablespoons Yellow Cornmeal, or as needed
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Melt 1 tablespoons of butter. Brush 24 mini muffin cups with melted butter. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of cornmeal into each buttered muffin cup. Tilt the pan to coat with cornmeal. Tap out excess meal and set the pan aside.
4 Jalapeño Peppers
1 cups Cheddar Cheese
1 cup Flour
1 cup Yellow Cornmeal
1/4 cup Sugar
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 cup Milk
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Remove stems from the jalapeño peppers. Using a small cheese grater, grate the peppers into a bowl, catching all the seeds and juices. Set aside.
Using the smallest holes in a cheese grater, finely grate Cheddar Cheese. Set aside until ready to use.
Whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and garlic powder together in a bowl. Work Cheddar cheese into dry ingredients until coated.
In another bowl, beat eggs, vegetable oil, jalapeño peppers, and vanilla extract together until well mixed. Add the milk and stir to blend.
Make a well in the Cheddar cheese mixture and pour egg mixture into the well; stir just until combined. Batter should be slightly lumpy.
Using a small cupcake scoop, fill each muffin tin almost to the point of being full. Bake in the heated oven until lightly browned, 11 to 12 minutes. Allow to cool 5 minutes in the pans before removing from the pan.
Place warm muffins in a napkin-lined basket and serve with plenty of soft butter.
You might have some muffin batter left over. That’s okay, pour it into a little loaf pan for later if you like.
Slow Cooker Barbecue Baked Beans
3 (28 oz) cans favorite Baked Beans
1 medium Onion
2/3 cup favorite Barbecue Sauce
1/2 cup packed Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Ground Mustard
Empty cans of baked beans into the bowl of a slow cooker.
Peel and finely chop the onion, add to the cooker. Stir in barbecue sauce, brown sugar and ground mustard.
Cover and cook on LOW heat setting 4 hours or HIGH setting for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Once heated, remove lid and continue to cook about 30 minutes longer for the sauce to thicken.
Mixed Greens Toss Salad
1 head Iceberg Lettuce
1 small head Romaine Lettuce
1/2 head Purple Cabbage
1 cup shredded Carrots
Grape or Small Cherry Tomatoes as desired
Kosher Salt to taste
Fresh Black Pepper to taste
Desired Salad Dressings
Shred Iceberg lettuce, place in a large salad bowl. Tear Romaine Lettuce into pieces, scatter over Iceberg Lettuce. Cut cabbage in half, shred half the head. scatter over lettuces. Set aside.
Peel and shred carrots, scatter over salad. Add tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and fresh pepper.
Toss, cover and chill until ready to serve.
Serve salad with an assortment of favorite dressings such as Ranch, Creamy Italian or Blue Cheese.
American Flag Cake
French Almond Cake
6 large Eggs
2/3 cup Vegetable Oil
2 Boxes French Vanilla White Cake
2 cups Water
2 teaspoons Almond Extract
Heat oven according to instructions of baking pan or 325 degrees if uncertain. Coat an 11-inch by 15-inch half-sheet cake pan with cake release or lightly butter and dust with flour. Set aside.
Place eggs in the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat eggs until pale yellow, about 2 minutes. With the mixer running, add the vegetable oil in a steady stream. Continue to beat until frothy. Turn mixer off, add box cake mix, water and Almond Extract. Beat on low for 30 seconds, then medium-high speed for 2 minutes. Pour batter into the prepared cake pan. Lightly tap on counter to release any air bubbles.
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 and not the cake recipe. 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.
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. While the cake is cooling, make the buttercream frosting.
Almond Buttercream Frosting
1/2 Cup Solid Butter-Flavored Vegetable Shortening
1 1/2 Cups Butter, Softened
2 teaspoon Almond Extract
8 Cups sifted Powdered Sugar
6 tablespoons Milk, Cream or Light Corn Syrup
Note: 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.
Cream butter and shortening with electric mixer. Add Almond Extract. 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 or other thinner one tablespoon at a time and beat a medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep frosting covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
Note: 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. For a smoother finish with a bit of a sheen, the frosting may also be thinned using clear corn syrup.
To Create Flag
1 Pint Blueberries
2 Pints Strawberries
Rinse blueberries, set aside. Cut tops from strawberries. Rinse berries, cut in half or thirds depending upon size, set aside.
Cover the entire top of the cake in thin layer of buttercream frosting. This is the base and does not need to be piled on thick as more frosting will be added. Spread smooth over the top and down the sides of the cake.
Place the frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a ribbon tip. Pipe a square in the upper left corner for the blue background of the flag. Arrange blueberries for the flag’s blue background.
Create alternating rows of red and white with sliced strawberries and pipped frosting to create the strips of the flag.
Switch to a star tip on the pastry bag. Add stars on the blueberries. If there is enough frosting remaining, trim the base of the cake in stars as well.