Friday, July 1, 2016

Cooking with Rod

A Summer Snack Menu for Independence Day

      The Fourth of July is nearly upon us. We all love barbecues, cookouts with obligatory hotdogs and hamburgers and all the wonderful goodies that go along with it: potato salad, cole slaw, and lemonade and limeade, teas and other cold drinks.

      But, one of the things often overlooked is the presentation of various quick and easy appetizer trays. One of my favorites involves barbecued Lil Smokies, fresh fruit, and yummy cheeses. Pair these with zesty crackers, spicy or plain chips, and a full variety of artisan breads.

      The key here is to keep things simple, the preparation painless, to feed the eye, the soul as well as the stomach. In addition to the fruit, cheese, and Lil Smoky tray, it is good to provide some fresh, crisply cold, pleasingly cut vegetables with a yummy dip alongside or centered in the serving tray.

      So, along with the ripe, red watermelon, the trays of goodies, the cold drinks, here is a little selection of additional offerings that should fill out the menu – and fill out the tummy! The recipes here are simple and quick to prepare. Choose any or all to round out your 4th of July picnic.

Bon appetite! And Happy Fourth of July!!
Melinda’s Waldorf Chicken Salad
  • 4 cooked, cubed boneless, skinless chicken breasts (you can boil, grill, or bake the chicken)
  • 1 cup seedless green grapes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup peeled or unpeeled (your choice) Red Delicious apples, cut in small bits
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • 6 pecan halves for garnish
  • 3 crisp celery stalks, with strings removed before cutting into small pieces
  • ½ cup Miracle Whip, low fat (you can substitute Greek Yogurt if you so choose)
  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice
  • Cinnamon, a dash
  • Apple Pie spice, a dash
    In medium bowl, toss together chicken cubes, grape halves, apple bits, chopped pecans and celery. In a separate bowl, whisk together the Miracle Whip (or Greek Yogurt) with the spices and a squeeze of lemon. Add to chicken mixture and toss gently, making sure not to shred the chicken cubes.
    Cover and chill well. Just before serving, use pecan halves to decorate the top of the salad.
Classic Queso Dip
• 1 brick Velveeta cheese • 1 can Rotel (tomato and chili peppers)
• 1 can chopped green chilis (about 4 oz) drained well

    Cut brick of Velveeta into medium sized cubes. Place in top of double boiler, and add contents of Rotel and Hatch green chilis to the pan. Melt slowly, stirring frequently to make sure all ingredients are blending and no scalding is imminent.
    Serve with a selection of Tostados and warm soft flour tortillas.
    • This classic dip can be made more hearty by adding a can of prepared Chile such as Wolf Brand after the cheese has melted. Make sure the chili is heated thoroughly and blended well.
    • Addition of sauted onions and bell peppers or pickled mix of cauliflower, carrot, and jalapenos (drained) changes the flavor and presentation a bit.
Zesty Southwest Sour Cream Dip
• Carton of fresh sour cream
• 1 packet of Taco Seasoning
• 1 tsp. cumin
• ½ cup chopped green onions, reserve a little of the green tops as garnish

Whisk together sour cream and seasonings. Add chopped green onions. Cover and shill until ready to serve. Top with a the reserved green onion tops cut like chives.

Green Chile Sour Cream Dip
• Carton of fresh sour cream
• 1 can, well drained, chopped green chiles
• 1/4 cup Pico de Gallo (see recipe below. NOTE: add without cilantro leaves

Mix ingredients together well, tossing gently. Chill until ready to serve.

Pico De Gallo

• 1 tomato, chopped in small cubes
• 1 small white onion, chopped (I love Vidalia onions for this)
• ½ chopped green bell pepper, no membranes or seeds
• ½ chopped red bell pepper, no membranes or seeds
• 1 jalapeno, diced fine, no membranes or seeds
• ½ tsp Chile powder (or to taste)
• ½ tsp Garlic powder (or to taste)
• Juice of one lime
• 1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only (reserve a few stems with pretty leaves for garnish)

Prepare Pico de Gallo by mixing all ingredients except the cilantro leaves in a small bowl. Toss together well, then chill.

Reserve ¼ cup if desired for Green Chile Sour Cream Dip shown above. Just before serving, add fresh cilantro leaves, reserving a few with stems for garnish.

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