Friday, June 28, 2013

favorite things friday | fourth of july recipes

Today, I thought I'd do a Fourth of July recipe roundup.  I'm sad to be missing out on Fourth of July with my parents.  They live in Kansas at one of the historical seats of the real Wild West.  Custer was stationed there, Buffalo Bill lived there, and Wild Bill Hickok was the sheriff! 

With such an exciting historical pedigree, the town knows how to celebrate their American roots.  Every year, they have a huge wild west festival, bringing out musical artists such as the Charlie Daniels Band, 38 Special, Billy Currington, and my favorite, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  For just $10, you get access to a week's full of outdoor concerts - just bring a lawn chair and enjoy!  There's delicious food, like BBQ sandwiches and cheesecake on a stick, and then of course a huge fireworks show on the 4th of July.  We have always gathered on top of a small hill at the old fort to watch the 20 minutes of fireworks set to music played on one of the local radio stations.  The fireworks go off right above a field of buffalo - it's hilarious to watch the buffalo run around to the beat of the songs! :)

Because of the fun festivities back home, I've loved and looked forward to the 4th of July for many years.  Not only has it been a time of great fun, but also of great food.

We generally start the day off with something quick and easy that we can grab and eat on our way to the town parade.  These blueberry banana muffins are perfect!

Lunch is when we really get down to business.  We often bust out the grill and have a nice cookout (as long as the Kansas wind doesn't stop us).  Salads like this blueberry tossed salad are the perfect accompaniment to any picnic or cookout.  Fresh blueberries are in season and look so patriotic!

My mama's potato salad is simply the best ever.  It's got bacon in it, so you know it's a must-have.

Cookie Bandit loves saying the word "succotash" (I think it's from his days watching old cartoons...."suffering succotash!").  This creamed succotash is a fun way to get some veggies (and fiber) into our picnic fare.

Ever since I created these bacon ranch beans, they've been a staple whenever we've eaten hamburgers and hot dogs.  I've never met anyone who didn't like them! 

If the winds get in our way and shut down the grill, fried catfish is a perfect substitute.  With hush puppies and a can of Pepsi, they make the perfect meal.

Or, we might whip up some of this delicious sweet and savory pulled pork.  Everyone who has tried it raves about it.  Since it slow cooks in a delicious homemade marinade, you won't need much extra barbecue sauce.  It's delicious!

However, usually the weather treats us right and the grill is fired up.  These are delicious spicy marinated burgers - they've got so much flavor, I can get by with using a leaner meat!

These chicken-apple sliders have become a newer favorite at my house, and it's no wonder why.  The flavor combination is out of this world!

And what would the 4th of July be without dessert?  Blueberries are so plentiful now that I love turning them into a festive pie.  This blueberry vanilla pie is a favorite of both Cookie Bandit and my little sister.

For the chocolate lovers, I enjoy serving up this beautiful pie.  It's especially fun because I don't tell them about the secret ingredient until they've already lopped up a slice - avocado!  You won't find a creamier chocolate pie in the world. :)


And finally, the best dessert of them all...homemade ice cream.  We would make our ice cream on the afternoon of the 4th and then take it with us to watch the fireworks.  Mom always had it packed so well in the cooler that it never melted!  My favorite way to serve it is with Butterfinger mixed good.  My sister likes it with fresh fruit - not nearly as exciting (to me, anyway), but it definitely looks patriotic!  It's the perfect end to such a fun-filled day.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

pepper-crusted honey dijon chicken

We eat a lot of chicken.  I mean, a LOT.  Chicken breasts are inexpensive and freeze well, not to mention healthy, so I try to incorporate them into our diet several times a week.  This means that I'm always looking for ways to fix them.

I miss the good old days when I was complete ignorant about the health hazards of fried chicken.  I could eat greasy, crispy chicken all the time.  But now that I'm an adult with cholesterol bordering on the high mark (alas!), no fried chicken for least not often.

Thankfully, we don't have to miss out on flavor when we give up our old greasy favorites.  This chicken recipe is excellent!  I love the honey-dijon flavor underneath the crispy coating.  Be sure to give it a try.

Begin by mixing Dijon mustard, honey, and buttermilk in one bowl (or plastic bag).  In another bowl (or plastic bag), combine breadcrumbs with a small amount of water.  Crumble with your fingers until it turns into large, soft crumbs.  Then, add your seasonings (pepper, thyme, sage, and salt).

If you are using the bowl method, dip a chicken breast into the wet ingredients and then into the dry ingredients.  Use your fingers to press the crumbs into the breast.  (I haven't tried this with bags, but I imagine that you could shake the chicken breasts in the crumbs to coat.  You'd probably still want to press the crumbs into the breast, though, just to ensure full coverage.

Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes, or until cooked through.  Be sure not to overcook like I often do, or the chicken will be dry.  (I really need to get myself a meat thermometer!)

This chicken goes well with just about any side dish.  Next time I make it, I'll be marinating the chicken in the buttermilk/honey-Dijon mixture overnight for added flavor and tenderness.  Yum.

Pepper-Crusted Honey Dijon Chicken
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 T. honey
  • 2 T. buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 T. water
  • 1 t. minced thyme
  • 1 t. rubbed sage
  • 1 to 2 t. coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/4 t. salt

In a bowl, combine the mustard, honey, and buttermilk.  In another bowl, combine the bread crumbs and water; crumble with fingers until crumbs have softened.  Add remaining spices to bread crumbs, mixing well.  Dip each chicken breast in mustard mixture and then into crumbs; coat well.  Place in a greased baking dish.  Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until cooked through.
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