Independence Day: The Recipe Guide

Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day is a great holiday. We can celebrate the birth of our great nation, barbeque some burgers, and set off fireworks all in one night. If you're heading to a party this year, don't show up emptyhanded! Make something easy, festive, and already party approved:

Summer Sangria:

My mom gave me this recipe in college and I have served it at many a festivity since then. Always a hit.

4 cups red wine (any cheap brand will do)
3 cups orange juice (I prefer pulpless)

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 sugar

optional: a couple shots of brandy, cognac, or orange flavored liquor

Mix everything together and stir to dissolve the sugar. To really make a presentation, serve it in a punch bowl with slices of citrus fruit floated on the top. Drink and be merry.

Fruit Topped Cupcakes:

I put a couple of Martha Stewart recipes together to make my favorite kind of cupcake: chocolate with cream cheese icing and fruit. For the Fourth, I'll use lots of blueberries that I picked at Chmielewski's Blueberry Farm. I picked five-and-a-half pounds of them, so I better use them!

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper liners.

2. Into a medium bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, then beat in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with sour cream and beginning and ending with flour.

3. Pour batter into cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.

4. Cool in pan 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then spread with Cream Cheese Frosting using a table knife or small offset spatula.

8 oz cream cheese at room temperature

8 Tbsp (one stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
1 cup confectioner's sugar

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1. Place cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl. Using a rubber spatula, soften cream cheese. Gradually add butter, and continue beating until smooth and well blended. Sift in confectioners' sugar, and continue beating until smooth. Add vanilla, and stir to combine.

2. Garnish cupcakes with different festive fruits and topping. I'm using blueberries, sliced strawberries, and white chocolate shavings. You could also try raspberries, coconut, cherries, or just go for the sprinkles!

Creamy Olive Nut Spread:
This one is a recipe from my big sister in Houston. When she moved into her first apartment over a decade ago, she made this for me and I would snack on it for hours!

6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. liquid from olives
dash of ground pepper
1/2 cup ground pecans
1 cup ground green olives

Combine all ingredients and enjoy!

California Couscous Salad:

This one comes from my healthy-eating sister in San Jose. You wouldn't expect to dig into this, but I eat this salad by the bowlful!
1-1/2 cups uncooked couscous (1-10 oz. box)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 tsp. curry
2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup thin-sliced green onions
1/4 cup fresh basil
15-1/2 oz. can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained

Combine first 4 ingredients and pour boiling water over. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and cool. Stir in rest of ingredients.

Combine in a jar and shake up:
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp. orange zest
2 Tbsp. water
1-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. thawed orange juice concentrate
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 crushed garlic cloves

Pour over couscous and toss well to combine. Cover and chill 1 hour.

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