Easy Independence Day Dishes

With Independence Day just a few days away, it seems only fitting to offer up a quick and easy menu that will give you plenty of time to enjoy the fireworks. Well, easy for sure, somewhat quick and maybe just a bit more complicated than the average fare. But, you CAN cook ahead and still have fresh and delicious dishes.
Sure, cooking tube steaks (hot dogs) are fast and shaping raw ground beef into hamburger patties is simple (even when I combine 2/3 c. Italian salad dressing and 1/3 c. soy sauce and brush this over the burgers as they cook).
But with a little more effort, you can serve Lime and Chili Marinated Barbecued Chicken — delicious made ahead of time and served just warmed (put the chicken in a pan and keep warm on the warm (not hot) grill, after cooking. A chopped salad, with no lettuce, is another way to make ahead — try the Israeli salad to the right bursting with fresh tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers. And corn on the cob, grilled ahead of time, is fabulous served at room temperature (and decorated with your choice of great seasonings). Go forth on the fourth — and serve a tempting make-ahead menu. Use these recipes to add to your repertoire or save them for another occasion. Just remember, it’s always good to be independent from big work while you celebrate.

Lime and Chili Marinated Barbecued Chicken

For simpler fare, use this marinade for about 2 to 3 lb. of boneless and skinless chicken breasts and grill them for 4 to 6 minutes over high heat.

  • 4 lb. (approximately), chicken pieces with skin and bones


  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. fresh minced cilantro
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. Tequila, any variety
  • 1 Tbsp. hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
  • 1 Tbsp. mild or medium chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt

Place chicken in a zipper-style plastic bag (you may need 2 bags). Combine all marinade ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well. Pour this over the chicken, seal the bag and turn several times to coat. Chill up to overnight (no more than 10 hours).
Thirty minutes before cooking, remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Heat grill to medium. Place the chicken on the grill. Keep the marinade chilled. Close the hood or lid of the grill and cook for 20 minutes (check to ensure that the chicken is not charring too quickly).
Brush the marinade over the top of the uncooked chicken and cook for 20 minutes more (breast meat will take less time — be prepared to remove the breasts from the grill after about 30 minutes of cooking). Discard marinade. Season with a bit of salt and pepper before serving hot or at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.

Israeli Chopped Salad

  • 4 c. small diced seeded plum tomatoes
  • 2 c. diced, seeded, peeled cucumber
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced small
  • 1 orange or red bell pepper, diced small
  • 1 c. chopped scallions, white and green parts
  • Juice of 1 or 2 lemons, to taste
  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss well. Adjust lemon juice and seasoning to taste. Makes 8-12 servings.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

  • 1 peeled ear of corn per person
  • Olive oil


  • Chili powder, lime or lemon wedges, dried dill, extra-virgin olive oil mixed with minced garlic, assortment of hot pepper sauces (served from the bottles), Montreal Steak Seasoning or Lawry’s Seasoning Salt or granulated garlic.

Rub corn with a small amount of oil. Heat grill to medium-high. Place the corn on the grill and cook on all sides, until lightly charred. Serve hot or at room temperature with salt and pepper on the side, as well as an assortment of seasonings (examples are listed above) to dress us the corn to serve.

Shortcut 3 Bean Vegetarian Baked Beans

  • 1 can (about 15 oz.) navy or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (about 15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (about 15 oz.) small red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 c. chopped onions
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 c. good quality barbecue sauce, smoke flavored preferred, any variety
  • 1/4 c. real maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and, using a rubber spatula, fold well to combine.
Spray a glass or ceramic baking dish or casserole with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer the beans to the dish, cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove cover and cook for 30 minutes more. Serve hot. Makes 8 (or more) servings.

Red Velvet Squares

Denser than a cake, but not a brownie, these easy to cut and fun to eat squares are simple to prepare.

  • 1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 3/4 c. (2 1/2 sticks) butter or margarine
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 2 Tbsp. red liquid food coloring
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Cream cheese frosting:

  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 inch pan with parchment.
Microwave chocolate and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl at high for 2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30 second intervals. Stir in sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, whisking just until blended after each addition. Gently stir in flour and the next four ingredients. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs.

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