JOPLIN, Mo. —
Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. That’s the best advice for the upcoming Fourth of July celebrations, or for just everyday get-togethers.
Not only does the correct temperature help the taste of the food, it ensures that you, your family and guests are safe. Food served at the wrong temperature can put a damper on a celebration faster than anything.
Don’t leave perishable food, such as potato salad, out longer than one hour if the temperature is hotter than 90 degrees. Two hours would be OK if it’s cooler, but chances are it will be even hotter than 90 degrees in the upcoming weeks.
If you’re traveling with cold food, or if you just don’t have enough room in the fridge, place it in a plastic container or plastic bag and seal it tightly. Wrap the food in foil, put it in a cooler, then top with ice. This will keep food cooler than placing it on top of the ice.
When served, the cold food should be kept at a maximum of 40 degrees. Ice surrounding a small bowl inside a larger bowl will make sure your potato salad stays cool.
Hot food should be kept at 140 degrees or hotter. If it’s ready before you are, wrap it in foil and a dish towel for insulation before placing it in a cooler Ñ no, not the cooler with the cold food, but it can be the same kind because they are made for either extreme.
Your slow cooker will keep those baked beans hot and ready. I also use mine to warm hamburger and hot dog buns by sealing the bread in foil and heating on low. It’s also good for keeping burgers and dogs warm.
Check out your local grocery store for hot or cool packs that can be heated in the microwave or frozen in the freezer. These are great for keeping your food at the right temperature. No matter what you serve, be food safe this summer.
Internet hobby website Pinterest has some great food ideas for the Fourth of July:
¥ Make a patriotic trifle with white cake, whipped topping, blueberry and cherry pie filling layered in a pretty glass bowl.
¥ Dip strawberries in white chocolate about three-quarters of the way up the berry, then dip the tip in blue sugar. I colored some of the white chocolate blue and used that for the tip.
¥ Skewer strawberries, bananas and blueberries in a flag configuration. Marshmallows would last longer in place of the bananas, and watermelon would work in place of the strawberries.
¥ Use whipped topping to frost a cake, then decorate with strawberries and blueberries to make a flag.
¥ Make three batches of Rice Krispies treats. Tint one red and one blue, then cut them into star shapes and layer them on top of each other.
¥ Frost some cupcakes red, some blue and some white, then put them in a patriotic arrangement.
¥ Layer blue and red gelatin and top with whipped topping.
¥ Red velvet cake topped with white cream cheese frosting then topped with blueberries makes a dandy dessert.
¥ Cake pops in the popular baby cakes maker can be dipped in red, white or blue drizzle then decorated.
¥ Cookie cutouts in the shapes of stars or flags are a blank canvas for decorations.
¥ Red licorice cut into a 3-inch strip then pulled apart about two inches can be stuck in a cupcake for a pretty decoration that gives the illusion of a sparkler. Or use the strips of the candy as flag stripes.
¥ Make a centerpiece out of red and blue Tootsie Roll Pops, and let the kids, young and old, help themselves.
¥ Put large marshmallows on a stick and dip them in colored drizzle, then sprinkle with colored sugar.
My friend, Ed Scorse, travels quite a bit and comes across some of the best-ever eating places. On his way back from a recent trip to Atlanta, he lugged back a can of chili for me from The Varsity, which is billed as the world’s largest drive-in. According to their website, they serve two miles of hot dogs, a ton of onions, 2,500 pounds of potatoes, 5,000 fried pies and make 300 gallons of chili from scratch daily.
The building sits on more than five acres and has parking spots for 600 cars. Once inside, there’s room for more than 800 customers. We had chili dogs one evening featuring the chili, and if it’s any indication of the taste and quality of food at The Varsity, it’s a place worth looking up if you are in Atlanta.
In honor of my daughter, Sarah’s, birthday tomorrow, I’m sharing a chicken recipe. For Sarah, the chicken must be white meat and absolutely nowhere near a chicken bone. Also, the pimientos in this recipe would have to be omitted. I’ve seen her patiently pick out the tiniest pieces of pimiento, and I know there’s no way she would think about eating any. But she loves rice and water chestnuts, so this is the perfect one-dish meal for her. This recipe is from The Dinner Doctor.
I’m also sharing Sarah’s recipe for artichoke and spinach dip. One would think that a picky eater would not like artichoke hearts, but she does, and this dip is the best. I eat big bites of the dip with little pieces of cracker.
The zucchini crisp recipe came to me from Balyssa Taylor, a co-worker of my daughter. You will be surprised by how much it tastes like an apple crisp, so give it a try.
Stay cool and happy eating!
Kentucky chicken and wild rice casserole
4 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 (6 ounce) package Uncle Ben’s long grain and wild rice original recipe
1 can cream of celery soup
2/3 cup Miracle Whip
1 (8 ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 (2 ounce) jar sliced pimiento peppers, drained
1 (9 ounce) package frozen French-cut green beans, thawed and drained
1 1/2 cups chicken broth or water
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine rice with its seasonings plus remaining ingredients except cheese in a large bowl.
Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Top with cheese. Cover with foil and bake until bubbly and the rice is cooked, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving. Serves eight.
Hot artichoke and spinach dip
1 cup chopped artichoke hearts
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Boil artichoke hearts and spinach in one cup of water in a small saucepan over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.
Heat cream cheese in a small bowl for one minute in microwave. Add spinach and artichoke hearts to cream cheese and stir well. Add Parmesan, salt, garlic powder and pepper; combine well. Serve hot with crackers, chips or toasted bread.
8 cups sliced zucchini (cut like apple slices)
3/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup butter, softened
Whipped cream or ice cream, optional
Place zucchini and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is tender, about 15 minutes. Add nutmeg, sugar and cinnamon; blend until sugar dissolves.
Remove from heat and pour into greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Combine brown sugar, flour, oats and butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over zucchini. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired. Yields 12 to 16 servings.
Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.