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Better Late Than Never - My Fourth of July Creations 
Jul. 16, 2009 1:47 pm 
Updated: Jul. 26, 2009 2:43 pm
I desperately wanted someone to invite us to a BBQ for the fourth of July. I really wanted a grilled brat. Normally, we have several invitations, and this year... none. It was supposed to rain, so my aunt wasn't having anything. My friends were all busy or out of town. My mom offered to throw something together for us, and while I greatly appreciated it, she lives about an hour away, and Brad had to work at 4:30 am the next day. At about 8:30 on July 3, one of Brad's buddies called and invited us to come watch the fireworks from his front porch. We declined because Brad had to work at 4:30 am the next day. I asked him to call back, though, and tell him that I would bring all of the sides if he would BBQ me a brat. He declared he was up to the challenge. He grilled me a brat, and in exchange, I made baked beans, potato salad, marinated tomatoes and mushrooms, deviled eggs, Sangria and fruit pizza. It worked out well for all parties involved, I think.  Why didn't we just barbecue our own brats, you ask?  Our grill is currently buried in the garage.  Grr. 
Baked Beans
6 slices bacon, cut into one inch pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 large can baked beans (I used Bush's Original, because that is what was on sale at Wal-Mart)
Pour can of baked beans into a slow cooker, set to medium or high (depending on what choices you have) heat.  Add brown sugar, stir, and cover. 
Place the bacon pieces in a skillet over medium high heat, stirring occasionally.  When bacon is browned and crispy, remove from the grease using a slotted spoon and stir it into the baked bean mixture.  Add onions to the skillet with bacon grease, (turn down to medium heat) stirring frequently.  When they are lightly browned, remove them from the grease using a slotted spoon, and stir them into the bean mixture.  Heat baked beans in the slow cooker for 2 - 12 hours.  (The longer they cook, the "smokier" they taste, but they are still really good after 2 hours.)
Byrdhouse Marinated Tomatoes and Mushrooms (from
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
1 (8 ounce) package fresh mushrooms
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, and pepper in a bowl; add the tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and basil; toss until evenly coated. Cover and chill in refrigerator at least 3 hours. Stir before serving.
The flavor of this dish was really good, but the texture of the experience weirded me out a bit.  Next time I make it, I am going to use it to dress a lettuce salad.  It would add the dressing, and the tomatoes and mushrooms and green onions, which I would add anyway.  I think it will be AMAZING. 

Sweet Potato Salad
2 red potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks 
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup milk
2 celery ribs, chopped 
1/3 cup sliced green onion
Heat a large pot of well salted water to boil.  When barely boiling, place the red potatoes in the pot, and bring back to boil.  Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 2 minutes.  Add sweet potatoes; return to a boil.  Cook 8-10 minutes longer or until potatoes are fork-tender. 
In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Drain potatoes; add to vinegar mixture and stir gently to coat. Cool.
In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and milk. Stir in the celery and onion. Gently stir into cooled potato mixture. Cover and chill at least 2 hours before serving. 

I don't have anything resembling a deviled egg recipe you could follow, so I will just show you the picture.  I put mayo, Dijon mustard and pickle relish in them, but I just sort of eye the amounts. 

1 bottle dry red wine
1 tablespoon sugar
Juice of 1 large orange
Juice of 1 large lemon
1 large orange, sliced thin crosswise
1 large lemon, sliced thin crosswise
2 medium peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
8 oz. cold club soda
Slice fruit and place it at the bottom of pitcher.  Pour juice from lemon and orange over fruit.  Sprinkle sugar on top.  Pour wine over the entire mixture, and gently stir to mix the flavors. Cover, and refrigerate over night.  Just before drinking, add the club soda, and stir gently. 
Brad got into the fruit pizza before I could take a photo, which I think in and of itself is a testament to how incredibly delicious this dessert is. 

Fruit Pizza
1 (18 ounce) package refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups fresh fruit (I used strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, but any fruit that doesn't brown easily works great.  In the past I've also used raspberries, kiwi and peaches.) 
1/2 cup white sugar
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Arrange cookie dough on greased pizza pan, and press dough flat into pan, no closer than about 1/2 inch from the side of the pan.   (The dough will expand upon baking.  Don't push it all the way to the edges, or it will bake over.)  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Allow to cool.

In a large bowl, stir together cream cheese, whipped topping and vanilla.  Spread over cooled crust. Then, add gently press fruit into mixture.  Chill in refrigerator until ready to apply sauce.
In a small saucepan, combine sugar, salt, corn starch, orange juice, lemon juice and water. Cook and stir over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat, and add grated orange rind. Allow to cool for 10 - 15 minutes. Spoon over fruit. Chill for two hours, then cut into wedges and serve.
Jul. 16, 2009 3:57 pm
Hm, Annabelle. I think I'd excavate the grill out & pick up a cover for it. That way, you can leave it outside !
Jul. 16, 2009 8:50 pm
Don't you just hate it sometimes when you have a hankering for something and just can't shake it? That was a lot of work for a brat. I hope the host appreciated all your efforts.
Jul. 16, 2009 9:04 pm
They were very appreciative! The reason why the grill is in the garage is because there is nowhere outside to put it. We don't have a deck or anything.
Jul. 26, 2009 2:43 pm
I want to thank you for the very helpful tip of using the salad spinner to dry the zucchini for Zucchini Patties. There isn't a lot of strength in my hands and this helped me so much!
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About Me
My cooking tragedies
Growing up, my nanny used to make her own pasta sauce using fresh tomatoes in season, but canned tomatoes in the winter. I watched her do it all of the time, and she used the pasta sauce in all of the same dishes that we always used the jar variety. One day, when I was in middle school, I decided I was going to make lasagna. I had watched my mom make lasagna a myriad of times, so I was confident I could do it too. However, I didn't realize until half-way into the process that I didn't have any spaghetti sauce. I figured I would just "make" some, like my nanny always did. I guess I forgot that she let the sauce simmer for hours, because I just threw all of the ingredients together and the used it as my sauce. The noodles didn't bake. It was soggy and crunchy at the same time. It was a disaster. My dad ate it to be polite, but my brother took one look at it and asked if we had any peanutbutter. Even after numerous successful lasagnas and close to 15 years later, my brother sti
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