Break the 4th of July Food Rut

For many Americans, Independence Day comes with its own itinerary for celebration:  a colorful palette of red, white, and blue; fireworks; cookouts with lots of food. In fact, a 2010 Hearth, Patio, and Barbeque Association national poll found that 80 percent of adults were planning to host or attend a Fourth of July cookout. This is the kind of comforting tradition that defines our patriotism as well as our childhood memories of summer.

However, there is one little detail of this tradition that could stand to be shaken up. We’re talking about the food of Fourth of July, which, for many Americans, has long consisted of the usual and tiresome menu of hot dogs, beef burgers, and pasta salad. Just look at the numbers. It is estimated that Americans will consume 155 million hot dogs on July 4. According to the HPBA’s poll, 85 percent of those surveyed will be serving burgers and 79 percent will be serving hot dogs. 

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with these dishes (we love our hot dogs, burgers, and pasta salads just as much as anyone who has a pulse). It’s just that the same cookout routine year after year can cross the line of tradition and enter the realm of boring. We here at RecipeCorner.com call this phenomenon the “Fourth of July Food Rut” and we have taken it upon ourselves to help you bust out of the ordinary and add a dash of delicious surprise to your cookout this Independence Day.

Food Rut Offender # 1: Beef Burger

Again, we love the beef burger with all our hearts, but its time to show some love to the other red meat that frequently gets left out of the Fourth of July food action. Keep the burger tradition alive this year while changing up the flavor by using lamb instead of beef.  

Lamb is flavorful and tender, and can be ground and cooked like beef burgers. Lamb is rich in protein, iron, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, and niacin. It is also low in saturated fat, making it quite beneficial for health.  Turn an expected barbeque staple into an unexpected main course for your guests with this recipe for greek lamb burgers.

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Solution # 1: Greek Lamb Burgers

Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup of fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 tsp. of paprika
  • 3/4 tsp. of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/3 lbs of ground lamb
  • 4 small ciabatta rolls
  • 1 1/2 cups of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 1/3 cups of crumbled feta cheese
  • ¼ cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp of balsamic vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your grill in accordance to your usual methods. 
  2. In a medium bowl, combine mint, paprika, cinnamon, salt and 1 ½ tablespoons of oil. When herb and spice mixture is well combined, add the lamb and mix thoroughly. 
  3. Use your hands to shape the meat and spice mixture into four 3/4-inch-thick patties. Make sure to wash your hands after working with the meat to prevent cross contamination. 
  4. Cook the patties over medium heat for 4-5 minutes per side (the patties will be medium, so adjust cook time accordingly if you prefer your burgers well done). If you do not have a grill, you can cook the patties in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 4 minutes per side. 
  5. While your lamb patties cook, cut your ciabatta rolls in half like a burger bun and place them on the grill. Cook until golden (about 2 minutes). If you do not have a grill, you can use the broiler setting on your oven to toast the ciabatta. 
  6. Combine spinach, feta, onion, vinegar, and remaining oil in a medium bowl. 
  7. Top each bun bottom with burger and place spinach mixture on top of the burgers. Cover with bun tops and serve.

Food Rut Offender # 2: Hot Dog

Give the wiener a break this year and give your vegetarian and vegan guests a reason to light up like a sparkler on the Fourth of July with this homemade southwestern black bean burger. This recipe has less fat than the traditional hot dog and packs a hearty helping of protein and fiber. 

Solution # 2: Southwestern Black-Bean Burgers

Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 (14-oz.) cans of black beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
  • 3 tsp. of mayonnaise (if serving vegans, use vegan friendly mayonnaise)
  • 1/3 cup of plain dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp. of ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. of dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/4 tsp. of cayenne
  • 1/4 cup of cilantro, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 soft small ciabatta rolls
  • Optional toppings: sour cream, salsa, and lettuce

Instructions:

  1. Combine 1 can of beans with mayonnaise, bread crumbs, cumin, oregano, and cayenne pepper in a food processor, pulsing until mixture becomes a coarse puree. 
  2. Transfer puree to a medium bowl and add the cilantro and remaining can of black beans. Stir until well combined. 
  3. Wash your hands thoroughly before using your hands to shape the mixture into 4 bean patties. 
  4. In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high heat until it simmers before gently placing the patties onto the skillet.
  5. Cook burgers until each side is crisp and lightly browned, turning once (approximately 5 minutes total). 
  6. Cut ciabatta rolls in half like a burger bun and warm rolls in oven or toaster. 
  7. Place bean burgers on top of the roll bottom, add favorite toppings, and serve.

Food Rut Offender # 3: Traditional Pasta Salad

Swap your high-fat, high-calorie mayonnaise based pasta salad with this healthy version of pasta salad that uses greek yogurt instead.  This recipe incorporates fresh vegetables and mint for a delightfully fresh twist on this summer classic.

Solution # 4: Mint Almond Pesto and Yogurt Pasta Salad

Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 8 – 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb box of rotini
  • 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice (1-2 lemons, squeezed)
  • 1 cup of packed fresh mint leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup of sliced almonds
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 cup of tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of asparagus, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Prepare rotini according to the directions on the box the pasta came in, making sure to season the pasta water with salt. Do not overcook the pasta as it will ruin the batch.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, place frozen peas and chopped asparagus into a colander and place in the sink.
  3. Pour pasta with water into a colander. As the pasta cools, the peas and asparagus are lightly steamed by the draining hot water. Allow pasta to cool on top of the asparagus and peas for 5 minutes.
  4. In a food processor, combine yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, mint leaves, garlic, almonds, salt, and pepper until mixture is well combined. If mixture is too thick, add small amounts of olive oil until it thins out.
  5. Transfer drained pasta into a large bowl. Add pesto mixture to pasta and use spoon to toss until the pasta is evenly coated in the pesto.
  6. Add cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, and steamed pea-asparagus mixture to the bowl of pasta. Toss ingredients until well combined and serve.

Food Rut Offender # 4: Apple Pie

This one is still a classic and can do no wrong in our minds. Go ahead and serve your own version of this Fourth of July favorite along with our strawberry s’mores. We guarantee these will go faster than the apple pie!

Solution # 4: Strawberry S'mores 

Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 – 10 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 12 strawberries, medium in size
  • 8 marshmallows, large
  • 8 slices of French baguette
  • 2 tbsp. of olive oil, for brushing
  • One (4 oz.) bar of dark chocolate (see heart healthy reasons, add link), divided into 8 pieces
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs
  • 4 skewers (pre-soaked, if wooden)

Instructions:

  1. Heat one side of your grill on a medium-high flame.
  2. Thread the strawberries and marshmallows alternately on 4 skewers (if using wooden skewers, pre-soak them). Lightly brush the slices of bread with olive oil.
  3. Place the skewers directly over the fire and grill for approximately 4 or 5 minutes, until the marshmallows have browned.
  4. At the same time, grill one side of the bread. Turn the slices over and move to the indirect side of the grill. Place a piece of chocolate on each slice and sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs and a pinch of coarse salt. Remove chocolate covered bread from the grill when the chocolate is soft, but still holds its shape.
  5. Serve the skewers with the grilled bread.