Some people have Halloween. Most people have Christmas. We have the Fourth of July.
We all know the pressure to be patriotic is at a near fever pitch every day on a military base, but there is no holiday for which it’s quite so extreme as Independence Day. We are patriotic everyday, our nation’s birthday has to be extra special.
But what can you make that won’t melt in the heat, eradicate the work of the AC in the house, and still be a big hit at the annual fireworks picnic?
Here’s a quick and easy guide to the perfect picnic plan for your Fourth.
First, the meat: leave the hot dogs to the good folks at Sonic and skip the burgers. Fried chicken is your Fourth of July kingpin. Not only will it be gobbled up by little children and hungry soldiers alike, it’s still delicious after over-exposure at a sun-drenched affair and so much better the next day that you might want to squirrel some away in the fridge.
This simple fried chicken recipe combines the best of Southern tradition with a radical twist: use crushed Matzoh – that Passover staple – to add real crunch to the breading. The result is intensely moist on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside. Your friends will be raving.
Of course, you’ll need your slaw. But while everyone else is dousing cabbage in Hellman’s and vinegar, go the tastier, and healthier, route. Make this Fuji Apple Slaw. Adapted from the Commonsense Kitchen cookbook, this slaw is full of fresh apples, purple onions, cabbage, and deliciousness. It’s different, it’s tasty, and any opportunity to give your family fruits and vegetables is one you should take and run with.
You’ll also need the sides. A basket full of star-shaped biscuits will go a long way, and they’re so easy to do. Some flour, milk, baking soda, and twenty minutes? Ta-da! Biscuits are ready.
Black beans, cilantro, and feta also combine for a delicious summer dip. It works in the heat, won’t wilt, and is substantial enough that you can pat yourself on the back for providing a healthy alternative to queso and everyone will be begging for more.
But the piece de resistance for any holiday will always be the dessert, and no heat flash, dorecho storm, or other act of nature will hold you back. Skip the pretty strawberries dipped in sparkly blue sanding sugar all over Pinterest; you don’t need blue lips. And frosting-encrusted pretzel rods? Pretty, but not tasty.
Rice krispy treats on a stick? With fruit taboot? Sold. Star-shaped and patriotic, these easy desserts are hand-held and child friendly, can be made with the kids, and will survive the punishing heat as you wait for the fireworks to start. Better yet, you don’t need to worry about scheduling an appointment with your doctor to check your heart immediately after consumption.
Don’t be scared to add some kick, either. If it’s just the grown-ups, a little bourbon goes a long way in the pan when the marshmallows are still melting.
Last but not least, the drinks. Kids and abstainers alike can enjoy a delicious strawberry and mint mockjito to kick back and cool down. With fresh strawberries and club soda, serve your guests a cool alternative to the bug juice and soda they’re used to.
Meanwhile, you can toast your efforts and exertion with a watermelon and basil margarita. When my mother comes to visit, she begs my husband to make these, and once you make one, you’ll understand why. It’s summer in a cup.
Raleigh Duttweiler is a freelance journalist, doctoral candidate, and lifestyle blogger living in coastal North Carolina. When she isn’t writing, she can be found roaming local farmers markets, estate sales, and the marshy roads of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. She blogs at bunnyvictorious.com.