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Fixing the Fourth’s leftovers. July 5, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. July Fourth’s eating extravaganzas may be over, but unless you planned perfectly or sent every last leftover home with friends and family, your refrigerator is probably groaning with the remains of yesterday’s feast. Assuming you took good care of your food, keeping stuff like deviled eggs and potato salad chilled on ice and out of the sun so they wouldn’t spoil and only bringing them out of the fridge at the last minute, I have some suggestions for transforming these dishes into new ones your family will love. And they’re all easy, because you’ve already done most of the work!

* Deviled eggs. Turn deviled eggs into easy egg salad by dumping them into a bowl and mashing them up with a fork until the whites and yolk mixture are blended. Voila! How easy is that? Now you have extra-yummy egg salad to spread on your morning toast, fill a sandwich of whole-grain bread with crunchy lettuce add tomato, or scoop up as a dip with celery, carrot strips or rounds (baby carrots are too slender and round for this), or broccoli florets.

* Potato salad. If your potato salad has a mayonnaise dressing (and you’re sure it’s been kept cold and covered), consider making a “composed” salad with layers of iceberg lettuce, potato salad, strips of red, yellow or orange bell peppers (curved ends removed), chopped scallions (green onions), arugula, sliced tomatoes, and sliced green olives. Make it in a circular ovenproof dish with straight sides or a glass brownie or lasagna pan (i.e., not in a bowl, or you won’t get even layers). Chill until serving time, then cut into individual servings, remove each serving with a spatula, and pass the salt, pepper and olive oil. If your potato salad has an oil-based dressing, on the other hand, you can heat it and serve as an extra-flavorful potato side dish. Yum!

* Pimiento cheese. Like egg salad, pimiento cheese is a great sandwich stuffer with lettuce and tomato. But don’t overlook its potential as a filler for omelettes and quesadillas, especially when coupled with crunchy red, orange or yellow diced bell peppers. It’s also a different and delicious topping for burgers and those leftover hotdogs. It’s a great dip for crudites, especially celery. And wait ’til you try pimiento mac’n’cheese!

* Grilled veggies. What, you have leftover veggies? Say it ain’t so! But if it happens that you do, it’s a real blessing in disguise. You have the perfect base for a great pasta dish! Just make your favorite pasta (spaghetti, fettucine, and penne all work well). Heat the veggies with a little extra-virgin olive oil and fresh basil or with storebought pesto. Mix them with the cooked pasta, top with shredded Parmesan, pass the salt, pepper, hot pepper flakes, and dried oregano, and enjoy! They’re also great reheated over rice, or used in a tomato-based spaghetti sauce, or added to an Alfredo sauce, or folded into quiche or an omelette or other egg dish, or reheated as the veggie portion of fajitas.

* Corn on the cob. This grilling favorite can be used in innumerable ways if there are leftover ears (again, gasp!). Stand each ear upright in a bowl (to keep the kernels from flying all over the place) or lay each ear on a cutting board and cut off the kernels. Add them to salads, burritos, or wraps. Mix them with canned black beans and heat for a yummy side dish, especially if mixed with diced tomato, jalapeno, bell pepper, and sweet or green onion just before serving. Saute them in a little butter as a side dish, with or without mushrooms and diced sweet onion. They’re great in quiche and corn pudding, and really enrich cornbread and corn muffins. Don’t forget corn pie and corn chowder!

* Coleslaw. What says summer like coleslaw? But what do you do if you have a big vat of it left after your Fourth of July guests depart? Well, here’s what I do: Use it as the ultimate flavorful topping on tossed salad. The combo of creamy slaw and crunchy salad is just about perfect. And if I’ve made one of my special slaws with tons of shredded red cabbage, carrots, diced sweet onion, cumin and cracked fennel seeds, oil and crumbled blue or Gorgonzola cheese, plus lots of fresh-cracked black pepper and salt (we like RealSalt), I’ll mix it into a mixed lettuce base and won’t need to do another thing to have the best, most flavorful, healthiest salad anyone could ask for. If your slaw is oil- rather than mayo-based, there’s no reason you couldn’t roll it up in phyllo or eggroll sheets for a luscious hot snack or use it as a hotdog topping. And if it is mayo-based, I’ve heard that a popular sandwich is made from rye bread, corned beef, and coleslaw. Go for it!

* Veggie burgers. Gee, your guests didn’t go for the grilled veggie burgers? Not to worry. You can crumble those grilled burgers and use them as a salad topping, pizza topping, in spaghetti sauce, in a casserole, chili, shepherd’s pie, sloppy Joes, or lasagna as a meat substitute, or coupled with cheese in an omelette. Veggie burgers have come a long way: Some are really delicious, and some taste startlingly like meat. If you got them to appease vegetarian or vegan guests, don’t toss the leftovers. You may be pleasantly surprised.

* Buns. The bread bought for occasions like July Fourth is often an afterthought, but it’s still food that could potentially be wasted or saved, depending on your approach. Buns can easily be turned into garlic bread by smearing the inside surfaces with butter and chopped fresh garlic or granulated garlic or with jarred minced garlic with its oil, then heated. They may not reach the level of fresh-made garlic knots, but they’ll satisfy garlic bread-lovers’ tastebuds just as much as storebought, and you won’t need to do anything besides split each bun in half. You can also turn the buns into homemade croutons by cubing them, tossing them in a bowl with olive oil and herbs like thyme, oregano, rosemary and basil, then baking them ’til crisp and golden. Think about brushing the cut surface of each bun with a little olive oil, then baking it ’til just hot and topping it with sloppy Joe spread or barbecue, potentially topped with coleslaw, or with egg salad or pimiento cheese spread.

* Melon. If nobody finished off the watermelons and cantaloupes you got, and you’re not prepared to eat all those leftover chunks with salt (as I do), try this: Make salad with Romaine, arugula, and frisee (watercress and baby spinach are also options). Add diced red (aka Spanish) onion, fresh mint, and melon cubes, along with crumbled feta cheese if desired. Top with splashes of extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and pass the salt and pepper. Or blend the melons into a chilled soup, with or without a plain yogurt base. Or add blueberries and strawberries (for cantaloupe) or blueberries and kiwi (for watermelon) for a refreshing fruit salad, with or without a topping of plain yogurt and pomegranate seeds.

Enjoy, and don’t waste all that good food!

‘Til next time,



Patriotic trivia for the Fourth of July. July 4, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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It’s me, Richard Saunders of “Poor Richard’s Almanac” fame, here today to remind you that two of the things we take for granted are comparatively recent additions to our national identity. In fact, we owe them both to the Civil War.

You might think that the Pledge of Allegiance is as old as the Declaration of Independence, but in fact, it was written by a socialist Baptist preacher, Francis Bellamy, in 1892. When our nation was founded, a long struggle between States’ Rights—the notion that every state was sovereign, and central government should be minimalized, espoused by Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and many other Founding Fathers—and a strong central government, promoted by George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and others, split our nation into two political parties, the Federalists (those in favor of strong central government) and the Republicans (those in favor of sovereign states and weak central government).

It’s obvious to us that the strong central government option won, but it wasn’t obvious to U.S. citizens before the Civil War. In fact, States’ Rights played prominently in the mobilization of citizens against the Crown and the lighting of the fuse that sparked the Revolution. It also was the justification behind the Confederacy’s breaking away from the North.

With our five-minute attention spans, we don’t realize what a long-lasting impact the Civil War had on Americans. Though the war itself ended in 1865, a nation ripped apart and crudely patched back together was still reeling and healing when Reverend Bellamy wrote “one nation, under God, indivisible” almost 30 years later. To this day, we reinforce this vow of unity every time we recite the Pledge.

The other aftereffect of the Civil War was the shift of our national motto from “E Pluribus Unum” to “In God We Trust.” This is rather ironic, given that “E Pluribus Unum” means “from many, one,” reinforcing the idea of a United States emerging from diverse colonies, and then states. It was also the chosen motto of the Founding Fathers, who set the shape for and values of our nation.

But in the aftermath of the Civil War, with so many dead and injured on both sides, so many ripped from their homes and families, the nation turned to God for comfort and consolation. The first coins to display “In God We Trust” appeared in 1864, prompted by another preacher, the Reverend M.R. Watkinson. It took almost a hundred years to appear on our currency (paper money), in 1957. President Dwight Eisenhower made it our country’s official motto in 1956, when we were still recovering from the aftermath of World War II, and still looking to God to save us from a nuclear apocalypse.

What would the Founders make of the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” as our national motto? God only knows. But I wish I could go back and ask them.


Richard Saunders

Deviled eggs for the Fourth. July 4, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, recipes.
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Silence Dogood here, wishing everyone a very happy Fourth of July from all of us here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, including myself, our friend Ben, Richard Saunders and, of course, our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin!

We suggest that you break out that all-American beverage, bourbon, make a pitcher of Planter’s Punch, Old Fashioneds, Mint Juleps, or Bourbon and Coke, watch “Independence Day” (or, if your taste turns to history, the “John Adams” series or even the musical “1776”). Then enjoy some summer picnic fare and head out to watch some fireworks later.

Speaking of picnic fare, I’d promised everyone my favorite deviled egg recipe, so easy and delicious. So here it is:

                Silence’s Bedeviled Eggs

However much I enjoy other versions, I still haven’t found one to top this.

6 hardboiled eggs

mayonnaise (Hellman’s or grapeseed, please)

mustard (we like Jim Beam bourbon-honey mustard)


hot sauce (we like Pickapeppa)

salt (we like RealSalt, or try Trocomare instead)

Hungarian paprika, sweet or hot

Shell and halve hardboiled eggs, removing and mashing the yolks in a bowl. Mash yolks with a fork. Drain 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish (the secret ingredient). Stir in mayonnaise and mustard, a teaspoon at a time, until yolk mixture is no longer crumbly but is still stiff, not runny. Add horseradish. If the yolk mix is still too dry, add more mayonnaise first, then taste, and add more mustard and/or drained horseradish to adjust seasonings to taste. Once the yolks are set, add a dash of hot sauce and salt or Trocomare to taste, stirring well to blend. Mound yolk mix back into egg halves, top each with a sprinkling of paprika, and refrigerate to set up. 

Needless to say, these are great all summer or any time, not just on the Fourth. But if you haven’t had them before, now’s a great time to start!

                  ‘Til next time,


Picnic fare for the Fourth (part one). July 2, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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This weekend, we’re featuring some of our favorite Fourth of July recipes from past posts.

Silence Dogood here. With the Fourth of July almost upon us, it’s time to get serious about some easy, yummy summertime fare you can take along on picnics or serve at barbecues and deck or patio parties. Today’s recipes are all great with sandwiches, too (or in the case of the pimiento cheese spread, on sandwiches). Yum—just thinking about them is making me hungry!

Our friend Ben and I love pickles. We love big, garlicky Kosher pickles, tiny crunchy-sweet cornichons, bread-and-butter slices—you name it, we love it. After my father gave us a jar of hot-sweet pickles from a specialty food company in Nashville, we fell in love with them and I (of course) developed my own recipe for this fabulous treat. Hot-sweet pickles are still our favorites, but, thanks to my ingenious friend Delilah of Crock-Pot mac’n’cheese fame, I’ve developed a much easier way to make them.

Before we tasted Delilah’s refrigerator pickles, our experience with refrigerator pickles had been a total disappointment. Limp and flavorless, these so-called pickles tasted more like sliced salad cukes that had sat too long in the fridge. Yuck!!! But Delilah’s were crunchy and flavorful. I asked for her secret, then went home and worked out a sweet-hot recipe for refrigerator pickles that are bursting with flavor and crunch. Let me tell you, these sweet hotties are picklelicious!!!

If you can keep any around long enough, the flavor just gets better over time, and they stay crunchy for months. And there’s no standing over a hot stove with canning jars. We keep several large containers in our fridge all summer so we can enjoy them ourselves with sandwiches and appetizers, and have plenty on hand when guests come over or to take to the Friday Night Supper Club. (See my post “The Friday Night Supper Club” for more on this great idea.) Even if we set out a whole vat, there are never any survivors! Needless to say, a container of these makes a great gift, too.

              Silence’s Hot-Sweet Refrigerator Pickles

5-6 slender cukes, sliced (any kind will taste fine, but please, no waxed skins) 

1 cup sugar

1 cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons salt (any kind is fine, no need to get pickling salt)

1 tablespoon black mustardseed

1 tablespoon turmeric

1 tablespoon whole cloves

1 large sweet onion (Vidalia, WallaWalla, or Candy type), or more to taste, diced

dash hot sauce, such as Tabasco Chipotle or Pickapeppa

Combine vinegar and sugar and heat until sugar dissolves; add salt, spices, and hot sauce. Layer sliced cukes and onions in alternate layers in a glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. When the brine (the vinegar mix) is lukewarm, pour it over the cukes and onions, then close the lid and refrigerate. Shake container gently every day to make sure brine is saturating top layers. You can begin eating the pickles after 3 to 5 days; the flavor gets stronger over time. The pickled onions can be eaten as is, and they’re great as a sandwich relish and in salads, too. You can add more fresh cukes and onions as you eat the first batch, but make sure you put them at the bottom of the container with the older pickles on top. Check the brine to make sure it’s still flavorful, adding more salt, turmeric, and other spices as needed. I’ve found that the brine can be reused about three times before you need to pour it out and start over. (Note: This brine is cloudy, not clear like a canned pickle brine, which is why we use opaque plastic storage containers for our refrigerator pickles rather than glass.) So easy and so incredibly good!!! People can’t keep their hands off them. 

We prefer hot potato salads, but we were won over by this one when visiting family in Greensboro, North Carolina, where the family patriarch—a great chef at age 91—had whipped up a batch for us. Despite the huge quantity, it was gone after lunch the next day. Nobody seemed able to resist seconds, and some people (ahem) disappeared into the kitchen and returned with thirds. We think it will become your family’s new favorite, too. Mr. Hays makes it with baking potatoes, and interestingly, it works! 

              Mr. Hays’s “Baked Potato” Salad

3 pounds russet potatoes

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste (plus 1 teaspoon for cooking)

1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper, or to taste

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

4 large eggs, hard-boiled, peeled, and diced

1 cup diced red bell pepper

1 cup thinly sliced celery (about 1 large stalk)

1 cup diced sweet onion (WallaWalla, Vidalia, or Candy type, about 1 medium onion)

1/4 cup each diced sweet and dill pickles (try my hot-sweet refrigerator pickles for the sweet pickles for a real taste sensation!)

3/4 cup mayonnaise

Fill a large saucepan with cold water. Add the potatoes and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, about 25-30 minutes. Drain the potatoes and gently rub off the skins, using a paper towel, while still warm. (If using a thin-skinned potato such as ‘Yukon Gold’, we leave the skins on.) Chop the potatoes into 1-inch pieces and toss with the cider vinegar, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir in the red bell pepper, celery, onion, and pickles. Fold in the eggs and mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Mr. Hays says this recipe serves 10, but given the quantities that were disappearing in front of our eyes, I’d be a little skeptical about that!

My father’s girlfriend Alice has perfected pimiento cheese spread. I’d always avoided this particular food, having had some really horrific encounters with various forms of it as a child (ooh, it was bad, nasty stuff). But Father loves Alice’s pimiento spread, and not being raised by wolves, when it was presented during one of our visits, we of course tried it—and could see his point. This stuff is easy, and yes, it is good. On crackers, as a stuffing for celery or dip for veggies, on a sandwich with toasted multigrain bread, crunchy Romaine lettuce, and red bell pepper rings or a slice of beefsteak tomato, it is positively addictive. Try it and see for yourself!  

              Alice’s Primo Pimiento Cheese Spread

Large piece of sharp yellow Cheddar, grated (or equivalent pre-shredded)

Smaller piece of medium-sharp white Cheddar, grated (or equivalent pre-shredded)

Small jar chopped pimiento, half-drained

Hellman’s mayonnaise

3 drops Tabasco, or to taste

Ground cayenne, paprika, or black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon sour cream

Mix all ingredients in a food processor, adding enough Hellman’s mayonnaise to make a thick but spreadable dip or spread.

We, of course, use our favorite hot sauce, Pickapeppa, with a liberal hand, skip the additional pepper, add salt, and whisk it all together instead of processing it (we’re Luddites, after all; food processors scare us). This means you’d get a more textured spread or dip; Alice’s is smoother. But I’ll guarantee that whichever way you make it, you’re going to love it. It keeps well, covered, in the fridge, too.

Happy eating!

              ‘Til next time,


Honoring the Fourth July 4, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben has asked for and gotten permission from our friend and fellow blog contributor, Richard Saunders, to reprint some wonderful patriotic quotes from his July 4th 2008 post, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (which see). Be we never so cynical the rest of the year, let’s take a minute to consider these comments today, since they summarize why America is what it is.

“Where liberty dwells, there is my country.”—Benjamin Franklin

“May I never wake up from the American dream.”—Carrie Latet

“America is a passionate idea or it is nothing.”—Max Lerner

“Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American.”—Woodrow Wilson

“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”—William Jefferson Clinton

Happy Fourth of July to all! And if you have favorite quotes for the occasion, please share them with us!

How to repel flies from picnics. July 3, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. With the Fourth of July weekend upon us, I thought that the folks who came on to our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, seeking an answer to this question were very timely. I’m surprised people haven’t come on asking how to repel ants! (That one’s actually easy: Set your picnic table out where ants can’t drop down from an umbrella or park-shelter ceiling. Then set the legs of the picnic table in wide, shatter-proof bowls or buckets of water until the picnic’s over. No trouble, and no ants on the table!)

Because flies, well, fly, they’re a little more problematic. Ditto for those horrid yellowjackets. To keep yellowjackets away, keep trash cans far, far away from your picnic and don’t serve sweetened drinks. Diet drinks are fine; unlike us, they don’t recognize those no-cal sweeteners as sugary. Keep any fruit salads, melons, and the like covered until you’re actually eating them, and re-cover them the second everyone’s helped themselves. The same holds true for pies, cakes, and sweets in general. And as soon as you’ve finished eating, take those ooey, gooey plates to the distant trash can and toss them! But I digress.

Flies are more problematic, because they’re attracted to all kinds of food, not just sweets, and, as noted, they can fly wherever the food is. But there are a few things you can do to fly-proof your picnic. Here are four:

1. Hold your picnic away from public parks and other places where food is typically served. Flies build up where food is abundant. If you have your picnic in a backyard or other area that doesn’t usually attract flies, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding them.

2. Hold your picnic in a screened pavilion. This could actually be very romantic. You can rent large tents and pavilions for parties, outdoor weddings, and the like. No need to tack actual metal screening on the sides—instead, use sheer curtains, mosquito netting, or other lightweight, see-through fabric panels that are woven densely enough to keep the flies out but loosely enough to let in the breeze. If your picnic is likely to extend into the night or resume after dark, hang strings of tiny white lights and/or paper lanterns from the ceiling, set potted shrubs in the corners with white-light netting, run lights up the corner poles, and you’ll stage a picnic no one will ever forget. Welcome to Shangri-La! This is a great option if mosquitos are a nemesis, too. For extra protection, burn citronella candles on the table(s) or citronella-oil tiki torches outside the pavilion.

3. Hold your picnic in a breezy spot. And no, I don’t mean someplace with a strong enough breeze to blow the plates and napkins off the table. Our friend Ben and I often eat out on the deck at our home, Hawk’s Haven, which is characterized by gentle but nonstop breezes year-round. It’s not a fly-free area by any means, but we’ve never been bothered by a single fly while enjoying a leisurely repast on our breezy deck.

4. Eat indoors. As a last resort, reconsider your idea of what a “picnic” is. Set out a buffet of picnic foods and drinks, cover your dining-room table with a cheerful red-checked tablecloth, paper plates, and colorful paper napkins, and dash back inside with those grilled burgers, dogs and so on as soon as they’re done. Make sure there are plenty of fun outdoor activities to engage in as soon as the “picnic” is over, and everybody will enjoy fly-free food and an outdoor gathering. If you finish up with sparklers or a trip to your local ice-cream stand followed by a visit to the local park to watch the fireworks, I promise everybody will think it was the greatest “picnic” ever!

There are other effective but less appealing options, like tossing a fresh roadkill or piece of raw meat a good way from your picnic area. Nothing like carrion to get a fly’s undivided attention. (Thanks, but no thanks.) No fly strip on earth is going to draw every single fly away from your picnic spread, and anyway, who wants to look at dead (or dying, struggling) flies while they’re trying to eat? Eeeewwww. So I’m sticking with my four suggestions. Anybody have others?

Happy Fourth, everyone!

          ‘Til next time,


Food for the Fourth July 4, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. It’s the Fourth of July, and, like many of you, our friend Ben and I have a whole houseful of company coming over to our home, Hawk’s Haven, to celebrate. But we have a little problem. It’s black as pitch outside and weather.com assures us it’s going to rain all day. Bye-bye backyard picnic, grill, firepit, and sparklers. Hello, Margaritaville!

First, let me tell you what I would have made for a sunny celebration on the Fourth. No doubt I’d have celebrated our American food heritage with the Native American “Three Sisters”—corn, beans, and squash—done up right for the picnic with grilled corn on the cob, dilly beans or Silence’s Five-Bean Salad or a simple hot side of mixed green and wax beans with butter (no purple beans, it sounds like a beautiful third but they turn green when cooked, save them for the salad), and grilled yellow squash or, more likely, Silence’s Super Squash Casserole (see my earlier post, “Super summer squash recipes,” for the recipe). Continuing the native-to-the-Americas theme, I’d have served up a platter of thick slices of vine-ripened beefsteak tomatoes topped with fresh basil leaves, fresh mozzarella balls, a drizzle of green olive oil, and a sprinkling of Real Salt.

Of course, there’d be plenty of classic picnic fare for leisurely grazing: Silence’s Hot Sweet Refrigerator Pickles, crudites like organic celery and yellow baby carrots and slices of crusty baguette to slather with Alice’s Primo Pimiento Cheese Spread and Spring Radish Spread (since we’re still getting yummy radishes from our CSA). You’ll find the recipes for these in my earlier posts “Revolutionary radishes” and “Painless pickles, potato salad, and pimiento cheese spread.” Speaking of that potato salad, of course I’d have a huge bowl of Mr. Hays’s “Baked Potato” Salad on hand. And for the kid in all of us, a big crock of the world’s best mac’n’cheese, Delilah’s Crock-Pot Macaroni and Cheese (see my earlier post, “The ultimate mac’n’cheese,” for this incredible recipe).

That’s not all, folks. Given that it’s the Fourth of July, I’d make a big bowl of Silence’s Red, White and Blue Salad (see my earlier post, “Some celebratory salads,” for the recipe). I’d of course make deviled eggs—Silence’s Bedeviled Eggs (the recipe’s in my earlier post, “Some eggcellent picnic fare”). And I’d have huge pitchers of iced tea, pink lemonade, orangeade, water, and cranberry-grape punch for thirsty guests. Ben and our good friend and blog collaborator Richard Saunders might get busy at the grill and cook up some yummy grilled pizzas (See “Ben Picks Ten: Veggie Pizza Toppings”) and/or grilled sweet onion rings, red bell pepper strips, cheese-stuffed jalapenos, pesto-stuffed mushroom caps, and sweet potato slices, all drizzled with green olive oil and sprinkled with Real Salt, to go with those grilled summer squash slices and ears of corn. And of course we’d have cantaloupe and watermelon and a red-white-and-blue dessert of angelfood cake with Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream (the best), whipped cream, and fresh blueberries and raspberries for those for whom melons just don’t say dessert.

Maybe next year! For now, we’re stuck inside, and in the dark, cold, rainy weather, picnic fare just doesn’t appeal. So Margaritaville is in order. We’ve strung our chile pepper lights, put Jimmy Buffett’s “Live in Anguila” CD on, and set out the chile pepper placemats. I’ve put on my cayenne-red broomstick skirt and chile necklace, and Ben’s donned his chile-pepper-festooned Hawaiian shirt. Plutarch the Parrot and Marcus Hookbill are ready to play their “Parrotheads at the party” roles, and the pirate flag is flying out back. It’s party time!!!

To celebrate, I’m making a huge pitcher of Silence’s Sangria while our friend Ben concocts Ben’s Knock-Me-Down, Set-Me-Up Margaritas (we bought a bagful of Key limes just for the occasion). I still have a few cherished jars of Primo Peach Salsa a la Silence, and will make up a batch of Fresh Salsa a la Silence as well. We’ll set out a few interesting jarred salsas we bought at last year’s Bowers Chile Pepper Festival to give people plenty of snacking options.

We’ll set out tons of chips—we like Green Mountain Gringo tortilla chips for a natural selection, but our all-time favorite remains bite-size white corn Tostitos—and bowls of sour cream, sliced black olives, sliced jalapenos, diced tomatoes, diced multicolored bell peppers (purple, yellow, red, orange, and green), and sliced green onions (scallions), along with big bowls of shredded pepper jack and sharp white Cheddar cheeses and a selection of hot sauces to have with them.

Sometimes I’ll break down and buy a tub of fresh-made guacamole, which Ben and I both loathe, since we’re constantly being told that everyone loves it. But somehow nobody who comes over here ever eats it, so I’ve almost reached the why-bother point. I’ll also make up a quick Southwestern dip with our homemade yogurt cheese and the dip mix of our choice, or buy a fabulous farm-fresh Southwestern dip from our CSA. And of course I’ll put out bell pepper strips in all colors, snap peas, radish slices, yellow and orange baby carrots, broccoli florets, and celery sticks for folks who’d rather use veggies for dipping than tortilla chips.

Once everybody’s eaten their fill of chips and toppings and had a few glasses of sangria, margaritas, and/or some refreshing iced tea, we’re ready for a lighter, more leisurely dinner. I of course make a huge Dutch oven’s worth of Silence’s Top Secret Disappearing Refried Beans (see my earlier post, “Fiesta Time! It’s Cinco de Mayo!” for this recipe as well as the recipes for our sangria and margaritas and the salsas). I heat up some taco shells, make a lot of rice, and set out big bowls of toppings—salsas, sour cream, shredded cheeses, sliced black olives, green onions (scallions) and jalapenos, diced bell peppers and tomatoes, chopped lettuce and arugula, minced fresh cilantro and basil—and a variety of hot sauces and dried hot pepper mixes.

Ben adds to the options by grilling red, orange, and yellow bell pepper strips, sweet onion rings, halved jalapenos, corn (stripped off the cob) and potatoes (diced), portabella slices and whole button mushroom caps, and sliced plantains, so people can create their own fajitas by adding the grilled veggies to soft, warm flour tortillas, topping them with refried beans and/or a selection of toppings to taste, or simply helping themselves to grilled veggies over rice, perhaps with a sprinkling of fresh Key lime juice and salt or hot pepper sauce. Yum!!!

Dessert is the simplest possible—wedges of cantaloupe with key lime juice. (We like salt on ours, but our guests somehow have failed to try this culinary delight.) No sparklers inside, but lots of candlelight and chile lights, and perhaps a final toast with Silence’s Sangria before sending our friends home. Good times!

May each and every one of you have a wonderful, happy Fourth with family, good friends, and good food.

              ‘Til next time,


Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. July 4, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
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It’s me, Richard Saunders of Poor Richard’s Almanac fame, back today to celebrate the Fourth of July with some patriotic quotes. Let’s hope they inspire us to appreciate our freedom and count our blessings. We are so very, very lucky, so very privileged, to live in a country unravaged by war, a country of plenty. Rather than taking it all for granted and complaining about our small deprivations and minor inconveniences as though they were matters of life and death, let’s allow ourselves—at least for today—to feel gratitude and humility for our abundant gifts. Hopefully these quotes will help kick-start those feelings. Of course, I’ll begin and end with quotes from my hero and mentor, Ben Franklin:

“The U.S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.”—Benjamin Franklin

“There is no ‘Republican’, no ‘Democrat’, on the Fourth of July—all are Americans.”—James Gillespie Blaine

“There was never a colony save this that went forth, not to seek gold, but God.”—James Russell Lowell

“There are those, I know, who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American dream.”—Archibald MacLeish

“One country, one constitution, one destiny.”—Daniel Webster

“We can’t all be Washingtons, but we can all be patriots.”—Charles F. Browne   

“Four score and seven years ago our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal… We here highly resolve that… this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”—Abraham Lincoln

“America—the place where miracles not only happen, but where they happen all the time.”—Thomas Wolfe

“Where liberty dwells, there is my country.”—Benjamin Franklin

“Man’s capacity for evil makes democracy necessary and man’s capacity for good makes democracy possible.”—Reinhold Niebuhr

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”—Elmer Davis

“If our country is worth dying for in time of war then let us resolve that it is truly worth living for in time of peace.”—Hamilton Fish

“Those who won our independence believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty.”—Louis D. Brandeis

“How often we fail to realize our good fortune in living in a country where happiness is more than a lack of tragedy.”—Paul Sweeney

“One flag, one land, one heart, one hand, One Nation, evermore!”—Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Our citizenship in the United States is our national character.”—Thomas Paine

“In the beginning, all the world was America.”—John Locke

“We are not so much a nation as a world.”—Herman Melville

“The American, by nature, is optimistic. He is experimental, an inventor and a builder who builds best when called upon to build greatly.”—John F. Kennedy

“When an American says that he loves his country, he means… that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect.”—Adlai Stevenson

“America is a passionate idea or it is nothing.”—Max Lerner

“What constitutes an American? Not color nor race nor religion… An American is one who loves justice and believes in the dignity of man.”—Harold Ickes

“Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American.”—Woodrow Wilson

“We go forth all to seek America. And in the seeking we create her. In the quality of our search shall be the nature of the America that we created.”—Waldo Frank

“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!”—Benjamin Franklin

“What is the essence of America? Finding and maintaining that perfect, delicate balance between freedom ‘to’ and freedom ‘from’.”—Marilyn vos Savant

“Ours is the only country deliberately founded on a good idea.”—John Gunther

“Let Freedom ring!”—Samuel F. Smith, America

“This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.”—Theodore Roosevelt

“He loves his country best who strives to make it best.”—Robert G. Ingersoll

“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”—William J. Clinton

“May I never wake up from the American dream.”—Carrie Latet

“They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”—Benjamin Franklin