Saturday, July 30, 2011

Minnesota Bars

The dessert bar at the Padua Pub near Sauk Centre, Minnesota, wouldn’t be the same without the Minnesota Bars that, for years, have been a standard there alongside the warm bread pudding, ice cream and heated caramel and chocolate sauces. They are an expected element of the tempting sweet menagerie that often also includes pies and other pastries.

Clara Rooney, who, with her husband, Dave, has owned the Padua Pub for 32 years, has been making these bars for the pub’s dessert bar for at least 10 years after finding the recipe in “Yummy to the Tummy,” a cookbook compiled by the grade school in Belgrade. No one seems to know how these simple-to-make treats got their name but, according to Clara, everyone really likes them. From what I’ve heard, I’d say they do their name proud! CJK



Minnesota Bars
(Clara Rooney)


Photo by Bill Vossler 
Bottom layer:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour

Top layer:
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. flour
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 oz. chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9 x 13-inch pan.

Bottom layer:
Cream butter. Beat in brown sugar. Add flour and mix. Press into bottom of pan. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes.

Top layer:
Beat eggs. Add sugar. Mix. Add flour, vanilla, baking powder and salt. Pour over bottom layer. Sprinkle chocolate chips over top. Bake an additional 20 minutes at 350°F. (Do not overbake!)

Yield: 24 bars

A note from Clara: I’ve made variations of this recipe using butterscotch chips or adding a cup of coconut. People really like the coconut version, too!

A note from Carol: Clara and Dave, parishioners of St. Donatus Parish in Brooten, shared this popular recipe from their pub — in addition to their well-liked broccoli bacon salad and scalloped potatoes and ham recipes — for the parish centennial cookbook . During the time they’ve owned the eatery, their five children and most of their 18 grandchildren have worked with them at the family-run pub.

To order the cookbook, contact the parish office at stdonatus@tds.net or 320-346-2431. They are on sale for $20 each or two for $30.

 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Best-in-the-West Beans

Fran Bertsch has literally made this recipe hundreds of times. She’s probably had it for more than 25 years.

“Everybody likes these beans. I make them any time there is a gathering,” Fran said. Now, my daughter Jeanine Ellingson, does the same thing. They’re great for church events, family gatherings or whenever we get together with friends.” CJK




Best-in-the-West Beans
(Fran Bertsch)


1/2 lb. ground beef
12 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
2 tbsp. prepared mustard
2 tbsp. molasses
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 (16 oz.) can pork and beans, partially drained*
1 (16 oz.) can red kidney beans, partially drained*
1 (16 oz.) can butter beans, partially drained*

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 3-quart casserole.

Place ground beef and bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain. Add onion and cook until tender. Add brown sugar, sugar, ketchup, barbecue sauce, mustard, molasses, chili powder and black pepper. Mix well. Add beans. Pour into casserole. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

A note from Fran: *I’ve learned to partially drain each can of beans — otherwise the dish has too much liquid in it and not enough of it cooks off to allow it to thicken up the way it should. I don’t rinse any of the beans, though, because I want to leave all those flavors there.

In the last few years I’ve often substituted Bush’s Original baked beans for the pork and beans because they are so good in this recipe.

A note from Carol: This variation of calico beans sounds delicious! Fran contributed it to the St. Donatus Parish cookbook titled “Fruit of the Spirit” and it’s my pleasure to pass it on to you.

To order the cookbook, contact the parish office at stdonatus@tds.net or 320-346-2431. They are on sale for $20 each or two for $30.



Thursday, July 28, 2011

Audrey’s Secret Marinade for Pork Chops

Audrey Radermacher discovered this savory marinade for pork chops in a magazine about 15 years ago and over time has tweaked it to suit her family’s taste.

“It’s so simple and good,” she said. “My family loves it and so does my dad, Harold Grundman. I make these pork chops for Father’s Day every year. Of course, some of the credit goes to my husband Greg too, for grilling them.” CJK



Audrey’s Secret Marinade for Pork Chops
(Audrey Radermacher)

3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. chili sauce
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 clove garlic, chopped

6 to 8 pork loin chops (about 1 1/2 inches thick)


Combine marinade ingredients. Put pork chops in heavy plastic resealable bag; add marinade. (Place bag inside a bowl or on a cookie sheet.) Marinate for at least eight hours or overnight in refrigerator, turning bag occasionally.

Coat grill rack with nonstick cooking spray before starting the grill. Preheat grill to medium heat. Drain marinade from pork and discard. Grill pork chops, covered, for 6 to 10 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 160°F.
  

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


A note from Audrey: The longer the pork chops marinate, the more tender they get.
They are also great when they are broiled.

A note from Carol: Audrey coordinated — with Trisha Delhamer — the production of the “Fruit of the Spirit” centennial cookbook for St. Donatus Parish in Brooten where you will find this recipe and more than 650 others.

She’s been the parish secretary/bookeeper there for 18 years and has also been the bookkeeper at St. Francis De Sales in Belgrade and SS. Peter and Paul in Elrosa for 6. Members of St. Donatus for more than 40 years, she and Greg raised a family of five children and now are grandparents of nine, most of whom live in the Brooten area.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Greek Burgers

Stefanie Steinhofer, who contributed this recipe to the St. Donatus Parish centennial cookbook, found it on a website for busy moms. 

“I thought it would be a great one to get my kids to try feta cheese and curry. It’s become one of my boys’ favorite recipes — that’s why I chose it for the cookbook,” she said. 

These burgers are requested year-round in the Steinhofer house. Stefanie’s husband, Donald, makes them on the grill when the weather allows or she fries them on the stovetop the rest of the year. CJK



Greek Burgers
(Stefanie Steinhofer)

1 cup mayonnaise
4 tsp. curry powder
2 lbs. ground turkey
2 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 tsp. salt

Hamburger buns
Red onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups spinach leaves

Mix mayonnaise and curry powder together; set aside. Combine turkey, 2 tbsp. mayonnaise/curry mixture, feta cheese and salt. Shape into eight 1/2-inch thick patties. Broil or grill until done.

Spread remaining mayonnaise/curry mixture on hamburger buns (or serve as a side condiment) and add onion, spinach and more feta, if desired.

Yield: 8 burgers
  
A note from Stefanie: I’ve found that tomato/basil feta cheese is delicious with the burgers. I haven’t tried broiling them but that would work well, too.

A note from Carol: Stefanie and Donald, their 12-year-old twins, Nick and Jake, and Ethan (6) are members of St. Donatus Parish in Brooten.

To order the cookbook, contact the parish office at stdonatus@tds.net or 320-346-2431. They are on sale for $20 each or two for $30.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hamburger Barbecue

St. Donatus parishioner Trisha Delhamer treasures this recipe for hamburger barbecues because it stirs fond memories from her childhood. She grew up in Pennsylvania. The recipe is one that her maternal grandmother, Mary Chilcoat, passed on to Trisha’s mom, Mary Christine Linebaugh, who in turn, passed it on to Trisha.

“These barbecues were served at every single picnic, every single cookout that I can remember,” Trisha said. “My mom usually served them with chicken corn soup, which isn’t a big thing out here [in the Midwest] but it is very Pennsylvania Dutch. There’s also a butcher at home that made these awesome hotdogs — we always had those three foods whenever we had people at our house during the fall and summer.” CJK


Hamburger Barbecue
(Trisha Delhamer)

1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 to 1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 to 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Hamburger buns

Brown hamburger with onion and garlic. Add tomato sauce, sugar, vinegar, salt, chili powder, dry mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 20 minutes and serve on hamburger buns.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

 A note from Trisha: Most of the recipes that I contributed to the cookbook are from my family. I wanted my sons Benjamin (13) and Joe (11) to have them. I bought them each a copy of the book.

A note from Carol: This recipe was originally published in “Fruit of the Spirit,” the centennial cookbook of St. Donatus Parish in Brooten, Minnesota.

Trisha, a veterinarian at Minnesota Veterinary Associates, Inc. in Melrose, Minnesota, and her husband, Dale Thompson, along with parish secretary, Audrey Radermacher, read the recipes as they came in for the cookbook, checked details and clarified information before they organized them into categories. Audrey’s daughter, Mary Radermacher, helped to format many of the 650-plus entries into the style required by the printing company.

To order the cookbook, contact the parish office at stdonatus@tds.net or 320-346-2431. They are on sale for $20 each or two for $30.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fruit of the Spirit

As part of their centennial celebration, St. Donatus Parish in Brooten published a cookbook featuring more than 650 recipes. Titled “Fruit of the Spirit,” this collection of cherished recipes from parishioners (past and present) spans the gamut from “a to v” (appetizers to veggies) and everything in between.

The ensemble includes family favorites — some recently acquired and others that connect generations. In between are recipes from former parishioners, family members who live elsewhere and those who have been pastors of the parish.

Father Jeff Ethen, current pastor, shares instructions for Through Thick or Thin Chili, Mother Superior’s Wild Rice and Bases Loaded Pork Chops. Outdoorsman Father LeRoy Scheierl discloses the secret to grilling salmon fillets. Father Tony Kroll tells how to make halibut chowder and “The Climber’s Delight,” a crockpot recipe starting with an ingredient we usually see scampering about in tree branches. And, in the sweet section, there’s a treat Father James Statz enjoys so much he nicknamed them “Grace Bars.”

Hispanic ministry started at St. Donatus in the late 1980s with Franciscan Sister Adela Gross and Benedictine Sister Mary Weidner each serving four years. Sister Adela’s chicken enchiladas appear on page 104 and Sister Mary’s fruit pizza is on 190. Affectionately known as Sister Coro, Native Venezuelan Coromoto Gonzalez, Third Order Secular Franciscan, has served the parish for the past 14 years and shares six recipes from her repertoire. Hispanic women who worship at the church contributed authentic directions for enchiladas, chiles rellenos, frijoles rancheros and Mexican meatballs.

Foods served at church functions — the egg bake for St. Donatus’ brunch for graduates and church dinner coleslaw dressing are included as are those with some intriguing names: Grandpa John’s Spick ‘N Dicken, Raspberries in the Snow, Lazy Daisy and Snow Frostings, Yum Yums and the Chevy Man’s Carrot Cake.

Please continue to check back this week for a sampling from “Fruit of the Spirit.” You’ll want to add the upcoming recipes for Hamburger Barbecues, Greek Burgers, Marinated Pork Chops, Best-in-the-West Beans and Minnesota Bars to your summer menus. CJK


To order the cookbook, contact the parish office at stdonatus@tds.net or 320-346-2431. They are on sale for $20 each or two for $30.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Corn Cake





Lora Robinson, Karen Kierzek and Vicky Kuefler prepared this authentic Venezuelan dessert for the special event their parish hosted June 22. Torta de Jojoto turns out more like a bar than what we would refer to as “cake.” It creates its own crust on both the top and bottom while the middle remains moist.  CJK




Corn Cake
(Torta de Jojoto)


(Photo courtesy of Karen Reker)
1 (14.75 oz.) cream style corn
3 eggs
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk

Powdered sugar for dusting

Grease and flour an 8 x 8-inch pan. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix cake ingredients together. Pour mixture in prepared pan. Bake at 350°F for one hour. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the cake after it has cooled slightly and again right before serving. 

The cake can be served hot or cold.

Yield: 8 servings

A note from Lora: I’ve found that we tend to refrigerate foods more here than they do in Latin and South America. I did not refrigerate the batches I made and found that it remained crisper than those that were refrigerated after baking.

A note from Carol: Lora, Karen and Vicky baked six-and-a-half batches of this appealing Venezuelan treat to serve around 100 people.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Avocado Salsa




Kristi Anderson made this authentic fresh salsa — with chunky, relish-like ingredients for the parish’s Venezuelan night event. Served with tortilla chips, the striking kaleidoscopic-colored condiment was a hit — both in flavor and looks! CJK


Avocado Salsa
(Guasacaca)

2 large onions, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 jalape├▒o pepper, seeded and finely chopped  
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 avocados, peeled and chopped
6 medium-sized plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 tsp. hot pepper sauce

Combine first nine ingredients in a large bowl; toss mixture gently. Cover and refrigerate three hours. Stir in avocado and other remaining ingredients just before serving.

Yield: 6 cups or 24 (1/4 cup) servings

A note from Kristi: After the menu for the event had been decided, I realized that many of the choices were similar in hue so I searched for a colorful yet authentic accompaniment. The vivid green avocados and vibrant red tomatoes in this popular Venezuelan salsa caught my eye. A simple and easy side dish to prepare, I made this a few hours before the event, which kept the ingredients fresh yet allowed time for the flavors to mingle. Adding the avocados just before serving prevented them from turning brown.


A note from Carol: Similar to Mexican guacamole, guasacaca is often served in Venezuela as accompaniment to grilled meats, poultry, salads, empanadas and arepas. This spicy avocado salsa is thinner and more acidic than its Mexican cousin.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Plantains with Cheese

Father Ron Weyrens, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, researched online to find this authentic Venezuelan method for preparing plantains. He prepared about 20 of them to serve at the Venezuelan night his parish hosted June 22 to celebrate their sister parish, Cristo Rey in the Diocese of Maracy, Venezuela. CJK


Plantains with Cheese
(Plátanos Machos con Queso)


Ripe plantains
Mozzarella cheese
Cayenne pepper


Grease a baking sheet. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Peel the plantains and cut them lengthwise, and then into smaller sections. Place the flat surface on the greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with the cheese and cayenne pepper. Bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes.

Another way to do this is to cut a wedge out of the slice of plantain and place mozzarella cheese inside the groove. Place the cut out wedges on the baking sheet and sprinkle with the cheese and cayenne pepper.


A note from Father Weyrens: Using ripe plantains is the key to this recipe. It’s hard to find ripe ones in this area so think of buying them a few days ahead and let them ripen on your counter. As they ripen they begin to soften and become sweeter. You’ll know because they turn increasingly yellow and get black spots on them. The peeling comes off easily when they are ripe.

A note from Carol: Grown most widely in tropical climates, plantains are a starchy, low-sugar member of the banana family and are sometimes referred to as the “pasta or potatoes of the Caribbean.” More like a vegetable than a fruit, this “banana” is usually fried, baked or boiled rather than being eaten “out of hand.”



Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Black Bean Soup





Karen Reker and Phyllis Ackerman prepared this delicious, traditional black bean soup for the Venezuelan celebration their parish recently hosted. They used a variety of colorful peppers — red, orange, yellow, green — giving the dark bean soup a more exciting appearance. CJK  


Black Bean Soup
(Sopa de Frijoles Negros)

1 lb. black beans*

1 tbsp. oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 sweet red or yellow pepper, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1 can (60 fl. oz.) low salt chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp. chopped cilantro


Place the beans in a large saucepan, cover with plenty of cold water and leave to soak overnight (six to 10 hours). The next day, drain the beans, rinse well and return to pan, cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Partially cover the pan and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours — until the beans start to soften.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onion, garlic, sweet pepper and celery. Saute until softened. Drain the softened beans and rinse out the saucepan. Return beans to the rinsed out saucepan, add the onion mixture and chicken stock. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Bring to boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Stir in cilantro immediately before serving. Serve the soup hot.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

A note from Karen: We added one tablespoon of baking soda per bag of beans to the soaking water to “degas” them. It’s important to pour off the water and rinse the beans thoroughly after soaking.

Instead of using canned chicken stock, we used chicken flavored soup base mixed with water.

This soup freezes well. I froze some of it after the event and found it still tasted great after thawing and reheating. I added a little water to it when I reheated it.

A note from Carol: *One pound of dried beans equals approximately six cups of cooked beans. Three (15 oz.) cans of black beans could be substituted if you are short on time for soaking and cooking dry beans.

Another trick to assist in getting rid of gas-causing molecules is to skim off any white foam that rises to the top of the pot in the first five to 10 minutes of boiling the beans.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chicken Adobo with White Rice

George Gustin and Jackie Johnson, members of Sacred Heart Parish, Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, worked as a team to prepare the tasty chicken adobo and white rice for the Venezuelan night their parish recently hosted. CJK


Chicken Adobo with White Rice
(Pollo en Adobo con Arroz Blanco)

1 cup white vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 tbsp. crushed cayenne pepper 
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup soy sauce
6 skinless chicken breasts, halved

6 to 8 cups cooked white rice


In large saucepan combine vinegar, garlic, pepper, bay leaves and soy sauce. Add chicken and marinate for 20 to 30 minutes, turning after 10 to15 minutes. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes — until the chicken breasts are fully cooked.

Remove bay leaves. Serve the chicken with some of the sauce over a bed of white rice.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


A note from George: This recipe is simple to prepare — the chicken breasts are placed in the saucepan marinade right on the stove. They stay very moist. The sauce has a slight bite to it — the cayenne pepper adds a little zing.

A note from Carol: George bought three cases of the four-ounce chicken breasts they cooked for this event. With 40 to a case, the committee had enough to serve everyone a full chicken breast.



















Emma Johnson, 7, assisted George Gustin in serving chicken adobo and white rice during the “Taste of Venezuela” event June 22. (Photo courtesy of Mary Lou Janski)



Monday, July 11, 2011

A Taste of Venezuela

The Sister Parish Partnership Committee and Father Ronald Weyrens, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, hosted a special event June 22 to celebrate the relationship with their sister parish Cristo Rey, in the Diocese of Maracay, Venezuela. More than 100 people attended the evening, which included musical entertainment by native Venezuelans Jonathan Walz and Amilkar Bello and a presentation by Sacred Heart members Henry and Mary Ann Padgett, who were delegates with the diocesan partnership mission that visited the Diocese of Maracay in February 2010.

“When our committee decided to host this event, we were hoping for a crowd of 40 to 50 people,” said Kristi Anderson who heads the Sister Parish Partnership Committee. “Imagine our delight when we hosted over 100 guests! It was a tremendous evening of sharing and fellowship with our parish community, and also brought to the light the ways in which we are all connected through the global church. It’s exciting to foster our relationship with the parish of Cristo Rey.”

Father Bill Vos, director of Catholic Relief Services in the St. Cloud Diocese, and diocesan priests who have served in Venezuela over the years — Fathers Tony Kroll, Todd Schneider, James Statz and Mark Willenbring — were honored guests along with Father Freddimir Villavicencio, a missioner from Maracay, Venezuela, serving in the St. Cloud Diocese, and Father Alexis Torrealba, a priest from Maracay visiting Father Kroll.

This celebration commemorating the interconnectedness of the global church also included a dinner featuring Venezuelan cuisine — chicken adobo with white rice, black bean soup, arepas, baked plantains, guacamole salsa with tortilla chips and, for dessert, corn cake. Over the next few days, “Food, Faith and Fellowship” will share the recipes for the foods served at this enticing feast. CJK









St. Cloud Diocesan Multicultural Ministries director Mayuli Bales, left, and Cathy Peterson, a member of the diocesan Maracay Partnership Committee, receive servings of chicken abobo from Sacred Heart Parish member George Gustin at the parish’s “Taste of Venezuela” event. (Photo courtesy of Karen Reker)





Friday, July 1, 2011

All-American desserts

Aren’t “watermelon” and the “Fourth of July” synonymous? So, I could stop right here — your holiday dessert plans would be complete, your family and guests would be happy and, since Mother Nature has done all the work, you simply cut up this juicy, refreshing fruit and serve it.

But, what if a watermelon tomato salad is already part of your menu (see yesterday’s recipe) or the “sweet tooths” among your guests are asking for something more? You can push the “easy button” and bring on star-spangled raves with these red, white and blue suggestions!

Traditionally, shortcake is made with baking powder biscuits, which are simple to make from scratch or from a baking mix. Slices of angel food or pound cake are other favorites for this old-fashioned treat. Whipped cream, whipped topping or vanilla ice cream and strawberries or raspberries and blueberries complete this uncomplicated showpiece.

Those same ingredients translate into an attractive parfait as well. Break up pieces of biscuits, cake or cookies to layer in individual clear glasses — with stems if you have them. Granola or another crispy, crunchy cereal is a healthy alternative for the sweets. It pairs well with vanilla yogurt and your choice of fruit.

You could take this concept to another level to create a form of trifle, layering your ingredients in a large clear glass bowl. Prepared vanilla pudding or custard, sponge or angel food cake layered with berries and whipped cream look gorgeous together — and make you look like the “queen (or king) of desserts.”

You can’t go wrong with a cake for your last course. It’s easy to create a flag motif on an oblong cake. Icing is an obvious tool. Or, cover your cake with whipped cream and use blueberries for the star section and sliced strawberries for the red stripes.

Cupcakes can provide “edible whimsey” in a cinch! There’s no limit to the way they can be embellished. You can bedeck them yourself or save the adorning for an activity for the kids. Use frosting and sprinkles for the final touches or return to the whipped cream and berries concept. (Cupcakes are also fun when baked in flat-bottomed ice cream cones.)

Speaking of “fun,” have you seen the Stars and Stripes Funfetti cake mix and companion can of frosting on the store shelves this time of year? The red and blue candy bits are baked in the cake and also scattered over the frosting for a festive look inside and out. Baking “Funfetti” cupcakes in those paper liners decorated with red and white stripes and blue and white stars could be a clever coordinating coup!

Let’s not overlook serving ice cream for dessert. Watermelon sorbet, vanilla cream and blue moon flavors beautifully orchestrate this patriotic banana split. But, this dessert combination is likely “too much of a good thing” for most of us. A single scoop of ice cream in a waffle cone just might be the perfect ending for your holiday meal. 

Samples of red, white and blue ice cream or sherbet — wild strawberry, pineapple and blue raspberry — in a dish could also be alluring. A cookie or two would definitely round out the pleasure factor…

If time allows, dig out your firecracker, flag and star cookie cutters, gather the kids and bake up some memories. The “easy button” for this one is using refrigerated dough or a package of dry sugar cookie mix. Colored sugar, sprinkles or frosting add the finishing touches.

Short on time? Push the “really easy button.” Pick up a carton of pre-cut ready to bake flag-stamped sugar cookies from the refrigerated section in your grocery store. In no time at all you’ll have 24 tempting confections on a serving platter.

But, wait — there’s more! With a cup of frosting, a few sprinkles and about five minutes you can turn those sweet wafers into a dozen attractive sandwich cookies.

Of course, your choice of dishes, tablecloths, napkins, candles, flags and other decorations make a difference, too.

However, the truth is that no matter what you serve or how you decorate, the most important “elements” of your Fourth of July gathering are the family, friends and neighbors who’ve come together to celebrate this great day in our nation’s history! Let’s never forget that it’s the people in our lives who can turn the simplest meal into an unforgettable party! CJK