In these uncertain times, your Fourth of July may be a big celebration or a small family get-together. Either way, you are probably going to eat.

One summer holiday staple is deviled eggs. While best made the day of, you can store the filling and the whites separately for a day or two, then assemble before serving. Store the filling in a resealable plastic bag, snip off one end of the bag and pipe the filling into the whites for pretty eggs.

Dijon mustard adds a nice bite, as do bacon bits and ranch dressing. Most recipes call for vinegar, but pickle juice is also an option. Just as she did her mashed potatoes, That Joplin Woman always sprinkled her deviled eggs with a little paprika, so I do too. A sprinkling of fresh chives is nice too.

We are very fond of the ranch and bacon Suddenly Salad. This is a great make-ahead take-along as is, but you can easily dress it up with little effort.

If making it for my daughter, Sarah, I scoop out the dehydrated peas and follow package directions. Adding halved grape tomatoes and crumbled crispy bacon or bacon bits will make it your own, and it's hard to tell it started in a box and was so easy.

This is a good time to share my favorite slaw recipe. I buy a couple of packages of shredded cabbage, use Paul Newman's classic oil and vinegar dressing, and a sprinkling of garlic powder or garlic salt and a little sugar. Mix well a few hours ahead of time, chill and stir or turn a couple of times along the way. It s best when not made too early.

A nice Fourth of July dessert is fruit pizza. Spread a tube of sugar cookie dough into a pizza pan and bake until done. Cool, then top with a sauce of two 8-ounce packages of softened cream cheese mixed with two jars of marshmallow fluff. Decorate the white top with strawberries and blueberries for a very patriotic look.

Another easy red, white and blue dessert is a trifle. Layer chunks of angel food cake with whipped topping, blueberries and strawberries. I also like to add a layer or two of vanilla pudding for extra decadence. This is a show stopper when made in a tall, clear bowl.

Today's recipes both make good use of the slow cooker for cookout sides. They both go with whatever is on the grill.

From "I Can Make That in My Slow Cooker," the corn turns out perfect without heating up the kitchen. The bean recipe, from iowagirleats.com, is one option for amping up canned baked beans. Add cooked ground beef or sausage for heartier beans, and spice them up with some chopped jalapenos. Green pepper, liquid smoke and molasses are also good additions. Your additions could make this a signature dish.

Happy Fourth, and happy eating.

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Corn on the cob

4 or 5 ears of corn, husked

1 stick soft unsalted butter

3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons finely minced fresh Italian parsley

Salt and pepper

Place each ear on a piece of foil. Combine butter, garlic and parsley; spread on corn, then season with salt and pepper. Tightly seal foil. Place in slow cooker; add water to come 1/4 of the way over corn. Cover and cook on low 4 to 5 hours or high for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

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Slow cooker baked beans

4 slices bacon, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

2 (28-ounce) can baked beans

1/4 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Fry bacon and onion together. Mix all ingredients in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 6 hours, then remove lid for 10 minutes to allow to thicken. Serves 10 to 12.

Cheryle Finley is a food columnist for The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.

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