We will soon mark our country’s birthday. Americans will celebrate with parades, fireworks and barbecues. Friends and family will gather to share and be thankful for the many freedoms we enjoy.

American flags will be flying proudly. Red, white and blue will be the colors of the day. Swimming pools and lakes — anything with water — will be crowded on this day, which is the most American of all holidays.

The grocery stores have been bustling with shoppers preparing for their Independence Day feasts. Racks of ribs seem to be a favorite in the meat departments. The regular fare of hamburgers, ribs, chicken and hot dogs top almost everyone’s list. Potato salad, baked beans, slaw and ice-cold watermelon round out the menu.

Our family will gather at the pool for the afternoon and early evening meal. Beginning with a variety of chips and dip to whet our appetites is always a favorite time. We’ll have ribs, chicken, baked beans, potato salad, stuffed mushrooms and garlic bread. A freezer of delicious homemade ice cream and freshly baked cookies will end our feast. My mouth waters just thinking about it!

How fortunate we are to live in a free country. We owe our freedom to the many men and women who have fought and died for all of us. Veterans who have given so much of their lives are to be celebrated, honored and remembered. I also want to say a special “thank you” to the members of all law enforcement agencies who help to keep us safe and protect our communities, often putting their own lives on the line to make sure our citizens are safe.

Today I have some ideas for sides to complete your barbecue meal. Hope you enjoy them, as well as your holiday. Thanks for reading, and God bless America.

STUFFED MUSHROOMS

Button mushrooms

Ground sausage (hot or mild)

Worcestershire sauce

Garlic salt

Bread crumbs

Lemon wedges

Clean and de-stem mushrooms. Place in a baking dish, and stuff with uncooked sausage. Sprinkle Worcestershire and garlic salt. Top with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until sausage is cooked throughout. Squeeze with fresh lemons and serve.

(These are so easy and delicious. A must-have for our family get-togethers.)

DILLY COLESLAW

1 (16-ounce) package cabbage slaw mix

½ cup chopped onion

1 cup dill pickle relish

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons pickle juice

1 teaspoon dill

½ teaspoon garlic salt

Mix all ingredients together, and refrigerate before serving. Overnight is best to let flavors blend.

(I usually prefer a sweet vinegar based slaw, but this is a really nice change.)

BBQ BEANS

1 pound ground beef

¼ cup chopped onion

8 ounces Polish sausage

6 slices bacon

2 (16-ounce) cans pork and beans

1/3 cup ketchup

¼ cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons molasses, syrup or honey

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons prepared mustard

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon grounds cumin

Brown the ground beef and onion in a skillet; drain well. Cut the sausage into ¼-inch slices, and brown on both sides in a skillet; drain well. Combine the pork and beans, ketchup, brown sugar and molasses, and mix well. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, pepper and cumin. Add the ground beef mixture, sausage and bacon, and mix well. Pour into a baking dish, and top with bacon. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.

(This can easily be doubled — and you may need to. I also like to add a variety of beans, such as kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans and lima beans.)

SOUTHERN POTATO SALAD

2 pounds white potatoes, peeled

Salt to taste

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon dry mustard

¼ teaspoon paprika

2/3 cup chopped celery

1 onion, minced

3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

½ cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 teaspoon celery salt

Combine the potatoes and salt to taste with enough water to cover in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender but not mushy. Drain the potatoes, and cut into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Whisk the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, dry mustard and paprika in a bowl until combined. Pour over the warm potatoes, and mix gently. Chill covered in the refrigerator. Several hours before serving, add the celery, onion, eggs, mayonnaise, prepared mustard and celery salt to the potatoes. Return to the refrigerator to chill completely.

(There are a million potato salads, but this one just says old-fashioned potato salad.)

CORN SALAD

2 (11-ounce) cans white shoe peg corn, drained

1 (18-ounce) can small English peas

1 (7-ounce) jar diced pimientos, drained

½ cup diced red onion

1 cup chopped bell pepper

¾ cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ cup white vinegar

½ cup oil

In a bowl, combine corn, peas, pimientos, onion and bell pepper. In a bowl, whisk marinade ingredients together — sugar, salt, pepper, white vinegar and oil. Pour marinade over corn mixture, and chill for several hours. (This is also a delicious dip served with corn chips.)

• Contact Lee Ann Flemming at lafkitchen@hughes.net.

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