Usually we spend the 4th of July on the road. It’s the kickoff to our summer road trip or vacation with the kids – previous trips have included driving to Pikes Peak, touring the Texas wine country, or vacationing at Disney World. But this year, with just returning from the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and a mini vacation in New Mexico, we’ll be spending Independence Day at home. So I get to cook!!
Here are some of my tried and true go-to Independence Day recipes.
I like to keep the cooking simple and with hot Texas summers, who wants to turn on the oven. For appetizers, I love creating a vegetable tray from fares picked up from the local Farmers Market. Red peppers, snap peas, mushrooms, carrots, and broccoli all go wonderfully with my Mom’s spinach dip. For a more sophisticated, but equally simple appetizer, serve radishes with sea salt and herb butter.
Mom’s Dill Dip
1 1/3 cup sour cream
1 1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp fresh italian parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp dried onions
3 tsp fresh dill, finely chopped or 2 tsp dried dill weed
Blend all ingredients together. Make at least 1 day before to all for the flavors to develop.
The options for main entrees are endless, but grilling is a must – after all, it’s summer! Simple options are cheeseburgers (try adding blue cheese into the patty before cooking), hotdogs, and bratwursts (boil in your favorite beer and onions for 3 hours before grilling for added flavor).
Earl Grey Baby Back Ribs Recipe
6 bags of earl grey tea
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
kosher salt and pepper
2 racks baby back ribs (about 2 pounds)
The night before:
Empty 3 tea bags into a bowl and combine the loose tea with 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Grate in the lemon zest. Pat the ribs dry and trim the membrane from the underside. Rub the tea mixture over the ribs; place in a roasting pan, meat-side up, and bring to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Steep the remaining 3 tea bags in 2 cups boiling water, about 5-10 minutes until there is a strong flavor. Discard the bags and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar and the juice of the lemon. Cook until slightly thickened. Pour the mixture around the ribs in the pan. Cover with foil and roast until tender, about 2 hours.
Remove the ribs from the oven. Pour the cooking liquid into a saucepan. Cool both the liquid and meat for 30 minutes, then cover and refrigerate.
The next day:
Remove the ribs from the fridge. Let the meat come to room temperature. Put the cooking liquid into a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. When the remaining liquid in the saucepan is syrupy, add lemon juice to taste.
In the meantime, prepare the grill for smoking. Place the ribs on the grill. Baste the ribs with some of the liquid reduction. Smoke the ribs for 2.5 to 3 hours at 250 degrees, basting ever 30 minutes.
The sides have always been my favorite part of a cook-out. I often struggle choosing what to make – and as a result, we often end up with 5-10 sides! When asked – I simply reply, “I wanted to make sure we had something for everyone.”
My favorites include simple sides such as grilled orange peppers, zucchini, and red onions. And don’t forget about the grilled corn! Growing up in the northeast, sweet yellow corn was always a treat in the summer. We would go to upstate New Jersey to pick our own or visit a roadside stand. Of course, grilled corn in the North is simply prepared with butter and salt. But we always grill extra so I can make Bobby Flay’s Mexican corn salad. Another favorite (and slightly spicy) salad of mine is Guy Fieri’s black bean salad – love the combination of pineapple with the jalapenos and black beans.
And a staple at any summer gathering is my Great-Grandma’s baked beans recipe. A very simple recipe, but very flavorful. I have modified it some from when the recipe was created during the Great Depression. I have found that Amy’s vegetarian baked beans and Central Market’s dijon mustard work best in the recipe.
Great-Grandma’s Baked Bean Recipe
2 cans baked beans
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 onion, diced
Mix together thoroughly and bake on 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbling.
A holiday celebration wouldn’t be complete without dessert. The simplest (and healthiest) is a fruit platter.
But I love baking, especially when I can get the kids involved. As a little girl, I remember sitting at the kitchen table helping my mom bake cookies, cakes, and pies. These were always my favorite to make – mini cheesecakes. My kids love putting the baking cups in the cupcake pan, filling them with the Nilla wafers, and stirring the ingredients. They can almost make these completely by themselves! And let the kids decide what toppings to put on the cheesecakes. We have topped with blueberries, a raspberry, sliced strawberries, and even mixed in some of Delysia’s chocolate barks.
What are your favorite Independence Day holidays and traditions? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.