Great Menu Ideas For July 4th - or Any Time of Year
By Joan Whetzel
July 4th, our nation's favorite day for picnics and cookouts, gears everyone's minds toward the foods they love to eat as they celebrate our nation's independence. Everyone, of course, has their personal favorites and many of them include the grill or smoker.
Since the people our fine country come from all over the globe, the menus also frequently include items from all over the globe. No matter the origin of the menu items, what's important is that these family favorites are made and shared with love. Here are a few of my family's Fourth of July favorites. Some of these can be used year round, for any holiday. For those of you living up North, who can't grill year round like we can down here in Texas, find a way to "grill" these foods indoors or make use of an in-the-oven smoking system. It's worth the effort for some of those winter holidays and get togethers.
Appetizers are any little snack-style items that we love to munch on while we wait for the main meal to be prepared. They usually consist of one or more of these finger foods, some of them served with dips. Usually they are cold appetizers, which are ideal for any hot day picnic.
· Veggie tray served with either ranch or honey mustard dipping sauce.
· Tortilla wrap-ups. Mix a container of cream cheese (softened) with 1 to 5 Tablespoons of picante sauce (mild, medium or hot) depending on the spice level you like, and some chopped jalapenos (add to taste depending on your preferred spice level). Spread the cream cheese mixture on 4 to 6 flour tortillas and roll up the tortillas into a long tube, something like a flauta. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, though overnight is better. Slice the tortilla wrap ups and serve the spiral shaped slices on a tray or platter.
· Cheese and cracker tray. Serve the cheese and crackers separately and let everyone fix their own.
· Ants on a log - celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins.
· Guacamole and chips.
There's nothing like a cold salad on a hot day to keep everyone cool. Some of our favorites include:
· Mustard potato salad. It holds better outside than a mayo potato salad and it's tangier.
· Garden salad. They are crisp and cool and light.
· 5 Cup Salad. Mix together 1 cup of each ingredient: mini marshmallows, shredded coconut, canned mandarin orange slices (drained of their juice), canned crushed pineapple (drained of the juice), and sour cream. Be careful about leaving this one out in the heat too long because the marshmallows might melt and the sour cream could cause health problems. If served inside or eaten as soon as its served, it should be fine though.
Anything barbecued, grilled, or smoked works great here. Some family favorites at my house include:
· Barbecue brisket, sausage and chicken
· Hot dogs
Well just about anything goes in this category. If your picnic is at home you can try baked potatoes, Tator Tots or fries. If not, make a side that can be carried in any ice chest.
· potato salad (it's either a side or a salad)
· fruit tray
· macaroni salad
· sandwich fixings (lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mustard, ketchup, relish)
· chili for the hot dogs or hamburgers
· cheese - grated, sliced, or Cheese Whiz
What would a good meal be without a great dessert? Just about everyone's favorite is ice cream, which works great for home picnics. A few that travel fairly easy and stand up to hot weather include:
· pineapple upside-down cake
· unfrosted chocolate cake
· angel food cake with strawberries
· fruit pie - especially apple pie
Have a wonderful July 4th, everyone. And enjoy whatever family favorites you and your loved ones love to eat on our nation's holiday.