4th of July Menu and Food Safety

Courtesy of epiphanystl.org – click for website

For the first time in 10 years, I am not hosting a 4th of July party. When I moved to my first house, it was to a neighborhood close (walking distance) to the fireworks in my city. The next house, has a neighbor with a really great view, so at the end of the BBQ, my friends, all the kids and I would walk to the hill behind my neighbors house. It was lovey, it was wonderful, it was a lot of work.

This year, the kids are gone to grandma’s house and the husband is travelling. That is too much work and food to bring chaos to a house I get to clean up alone. So, this is the year the annual 4th of July party went bust.

But, in case you have a shindig planned for tomorrow, I thought I would share some of my favorite recipes for the occasion:


Everyone has their favorite version, but save me from the pre-formed cardboard patties, blech

2lbs ground beef (or ask your butcher to ground a chuck roast)
1/4C favorite BBQ sauce
1Pkg Lipton Onion Soup Mix
2 splashes of Worstershire sauce

Mix the above ingredients and form into 8 hamburgers. Grill to desired doneness.

Broccoli Salad

Pasta Salad

This salad contains no mayo- so it is relatively safe to have out and about during a warm picnic.

1 Pkg Favorite Noodles, I like rainbow twisted ones they are so pretty
4 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar
8 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 TBSP Italian Seasoning
2 Balls Fresh Mozzarella, chopped
4 Tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 Lb of pepperoni or salami

Boil the noodles, and on a warm day, boil the noodles early, early in the morning, with windows and doors open to get the heat/steam outside before it gets too hot. Drain the noodles and set aside (Do Not Rinse the noodles, it keeps the dressing from sticking to them). Mix the Balsamic, Olive Oil, Seasoning and toss in the noodles till completely covered. Let noodles cool in the fridge. Bring out and toss the Tomatoes, Salami and Mozzarella. (You want the noodles cold for this so they don’t melt the cheese or get the meat too greasy) If the noodles have soaked up all the dressing, make some more and toss again. Serve room temperature.

As always, when BBQing outside, please be aware of food safety guidelines. We want poeple to remember the party, not the after effects!

Fresh French Fries – guranteed

Picture courtesy of Serious Eats. Click for article comparing french fries at major fast food retailers

I don’t know about you, but the summer time months make it so easy to swing through a fast food restaurant once in awhile. On a road trip, avoiding a hot stove on a hot day, busy with play dates and summer camps etc. But one thing that can make or break your fast food experience is old/cold fries.

Im sure the restaurant has a metric for the amount of food they have to throw out at the end of the day because it sat under a warmer for too long. (Appetizing, I know.) So, they have a reason for giving you those cold/old fries. To make sure you get fresh fries, order them this way *without salt*. Since fast food companies salt their fries as soon as they take them out of the fryer, ask for the fries without salt. They will have to make a fresh batch.


  • This takes longer, so be patient
  • Do this in the lobby, not the drive through. If you are standing in front of them, its easier to see them fry the fresh batch
  • Be nice. This is a special order and they deserve at least a smile and thank you for accommodating you.

Tuesday Tip: Lower your grocery budget

Image courtesy of Zaycon

Actually this is a couple of tips all rolled under one heading, reducing your grocery budget. I am raising a houseful of boys, all of whom are healthy eaters, and for a while, our grocery budget was out of control. Of course the kids preferred food consists of Macaroni and Cheese, Pizza and Ice Cream. But, we can’t live off only that, there must be fruits, vegetables and some actual meat once in a while too. I don’t have time for extreme couponing, so I use a few tried and true methods and am able to keep our grocery bills down to about $130 a week or less. My biggest secret? Find great quality at great prices! That is why I like shopping discount grocery stores, warehouse stores like Costco and Zaycon. What is Zaycon? Fresh meat, fruit and dairy delivered on a truck direct from the farms to a location near you. You have to buy in bulk, but for staples like chicken breast (bonless/skinless for only $1.90/lb) or 93%lean ground beef for only $3.49/lb and Organic Whole Milk (low patruized and non-homoginzed for only $5.99/gallon. These are amazing deals and everything is great quality and easy to freeze. Most cases are sold at 40pounds. So to buy a case, or more, can be spendy. But by planning ahead, splitting a case with a friend or following the rest of my steps, I feed my family of 5 for an average of $130 per week!

  • Make a menu
  • Make a list based on the menu
  • Use a warehouse, club or discount store for great deals
  • Watch portion sizes

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Ever heard that expression? The school my children attend does not have a cafeteria, so we must plan for 3 meals a day, every day. Lunches during the week gets a little routine so those items are easy to shop for. Its the breakfasts and the dinners that require more planning.

  1. I watch the ads, Safeway always has something interesting for $5 on Fridays. Dinners are taken care of If I can find a meat on sale, and figure out 2 different ways to cook it. From the ads, I menu plan the week. We eat leftovers, a lot, so I usually only make 2 main dishes for dinner. Add something easy like oatmeal or yogurt or bagels for breakfast. I let the boys choose what they want for the week, they have to agree on the 1 item. Once the menu is planned, I make the shopping list.
  2. Sometimes I buy things to put in the pantry because the price is right and I know I will use them eventually: diced tomatoes, cream of mushroom soup etc. and if I already have something on hand, then I don’t want to buy it again.
  3. When I have my list together, I figure out the best place to buy my items. Sometimes it is Winco (a great discount grocer in my area), and sometimes it is Costco because of quality/quantity needed. Thankfully these stores are rather close together and I don’t feel like I am running all over town to get the best deal. STICK TO THE LIST. Remember the list only works if you actually stick to it.
  4. When the boys are particularly hungry, or going through a growth spurt it can be more difficult to keep an eye on portion size. If I make a casserole, I do tell the kids that it needs to last at least 3 meals. So we supplement the main dish with salads, veggies, and bananas or an apple after their plate is still clean. By making the main dishes that typically cost more, last longer, we can stretch our budget even farther.

**Disclaimer: If you decide you want to check out any of the Zaycon products, click on the link above. I do earn referral points, but honestly, these deals are so good I just can’t pass them up or keep them to myself! I just ordered ground beef and the milk.

Bacon Delivered

I love bacon. You love bacon. We all love bacon…Hey! Its almost a song. I have found a way to get great bacon, for cheap and delivered. Not to your door, but to your neighborhood at any rate. I have written posts about Zaycon before. They have a great deal for Chicken Breasts. Now, they are offering and I have ordered their bacon as well! Bacon is not something that I eat every day, even if I want to. But I do like to add bacon in my Broccoli Salad, soups or as a side with breakfast. I still try to eat healthy and work out, update on my Fitness Friday this week. But, sometimes, a little bacon goes a long way. Stay tuned for more bacon recipes or check out this blog: 365 Days of Bacon, its delish!

If you click on this link to Zaycon, you can register to order bacon for only $3.49/lb. That is less than what I find at the grocery store. I am a deal finder, a hound if you will for decently priced meat, and bacon seems to be the one to break my self imposed per-pound limits. So yummy and a great treat once in a while. Here is an excerpt from their site to tell you more:

  • High quality, medium-cut hickory smoked sliced bacon (14-18 slices per pound)
  • Order includes 12 X 3 lb packages per case (Total order size is 36 lbs)
  • Bacon is fresh, but frozen for your convenience
  • Premium, high-quality and consistent, this hickory-smoked bacon has a wonderful flavor and represents a great value for families
  • Easy to share with a friend if you do not think you can use the entire case. Our new smaller 3 lb packages make it even easier to split up with friends and family.


**full disclosure: By clicking on the Zaycon link above and here, I do receive a referral for the company. But seriously it’s GREAT!

Homemade Cheez-It Crackers


Im pretty stoked about this reblog. My family loves Cheez-It crackers! But, with all the strange ingredients and general un-healthiness of them, we generally reserve these as ‘Treats’ for a special occasion. Then I stumbled up on this recipe from the Americas Test Kitchen Feed and Im sold. Soooo good. In order to make sure I give credit where it is due (definitely not me) I have linked the picture to the left from the original blog and the link at the bottom to the original recipe. Enjoy!

Homemade Cheez-It Crackers from America’s Test Kitchen Feed (step-by-step pictures also available here!) {Note: the annatto seeds are completely optional, they just give the crackers their orange color. I didn’t have any luck finding them locally and ordered mine from Amazon.}

3 tablespoons boiling water 1 tablespoon annatto seeds
Coarsely ground 6 oz (1 1/2 cups) finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch

In a heatproof bowl, stir together the water and annatto seeds. Allow to steep for 5 minutes, then pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Discard the seeds and save the (now orange) liquid. Let the liquid cool to room temperature. Add the cheese, butter, salt, and pepper to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture comes together and starts to stick to the sides of the bowl, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and cornstarch, beating until incorporated – the mixture should look like coarse sand. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the reserved liquid the annatto seeds steeped in and mix just until the dough starts to come together. (If the dough seems too dry, you can add up to 1 tablespoon of additional plain water to bring it together.) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a rectangle with a thickness of 1/16-inch. Using a pastry cutter (or if you don’t have one, a pizza cutter or sharp knife will work) cut the dough into 1-inch wide strips, then cut 1-inch squares from those strips. Transfer the squares to the prepared baking sheets – you can pack them in pretty tightly, they don’t spread much.

via Tracey’s Culinary Adventures: Homemade Cheez-It Crackers.