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Recipes for Independence Day may cause sparklers in mouth

Happy Birthday America, Happy Independence Day, Happy Fourth of July. The biggest bash of the summer is just around the corner. I sure hope the Fourth of July weekend brings lots of sunshine so we can spend time outdoors relaxing, grilling and taking in the parade and Brainerd's spectacular fireworks.

The grand finale to my picnic menu is my Independence Dessert I plan to serve.

Crab Salad

4-1/2 cups uncooked tri-colored spiral pasta

16 ounces imitation crab meat, flaked

1/2 cup each celery, green pepper and onion, chopped

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup ranch salad dressing

1 teaspoon dill weed

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and rinse in cold water. Place in a large bowl; add the crab, celery, green pepper and onion. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, ranch salad dressing and dill. Pour over pasta mixture and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.

Fourth of July Chicken

2 large frying chickens, cut into pieces

3 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoon each fresh ground black pepper

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon sage

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup buttermilk

Combine dry ingredients in a plastic zip locked bag. Pour buttermilk in a shallow dish. Wash chicken pieces and pat dry. Roll each piece in buttermilk and then drop into bag. Shake about three pieces at a time in the dry ingredients. In a skillet on top of stove or an electric skillet, heat two cups Crisco to temperature of 365-370 degrees. Fry chicken 15 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels and serve hot, or refrigerate overnight and serve cold.

Independence Dessert

16 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups heavy (whipping) cream

2 quarts strawberries, halved and divided

2 quarts blueberries

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and extracts until fluffy. Fold in the whipped cream. Place a third of the mixture in a 4-quart bowl. Reserve 20 strawberry halves and 1/2 cup blueberries for garnish. Layer half of the remaining strawberries and blueberries over cream cheese mixture. Top with another third of the cream mixture and the remaining berries. Spread the remaining cream mixture on top. Use the reserved strawberries and blueberries to make a "flag" on top.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Never let the seeds keep you from enjoying the watermelon.

GARY'S TIP: To cook any type of macaroni to the perfect tenderness, put your noodles in boiling water for five minutes, remove from heat and cover, let set 15 minutes, drain and serve.