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Patriotic picnics

Picnics are magical.

Whether backpacked to a mountain top, spread out on a blanket in Riverfront Park or shared with family near a country lake – picnics are part of our collective culture, especially over long holiday weekends.

The Fourth of July is the perfect time to celebrate, and remember, with an old fashioned family picnic.

For our special “Independence Day Patriotic Picnic,” we asked Gov. Christine Gregoire and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris to share a couple of their favorite family dishes. We then rounded out the menu with recipes gleaned from White House cookbooks.

If you’re expecting a crowd for the holiday, make the whole menu. Or, pick and choose from these favorites for your own picnic.

“Texas-Style Barbecued Ribs prepared especially for picnics on the Lyndon B. Johnson ranch and featured in “The White House Family Cookbook.”

“Sunday’s Best Oven-Fried Chicken from “A Return to Family Picnics” by Russell Cronkhite, a former executive chef of Blair House, the presidential guesthouse. He served during the Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton years.

“Chip’s Deviled Eggs, a special snack of the Jimmy Carter family, also from “The White House Family Cookbook.”

“Homemade Macaroni Salad and Strawberry Shortcake, two longtime favorites of the Gregoire family.

“Potato Salad and Fresh Peach Cobbler, both from the McMorris family farm kitchen.

“Strawberry Lemonade from “A Return to Family Picnics.”

Summer picnic memories

“Some of my best Fourth of July memories were times spent with my family eating lots of potato salad, beans, fried chicken and peach cobbler,” said Congresswoman McMorris in an e-mail message.

“On our family farm in Kettle Falls, we would hope the cherries would be ripe enough to sell by the Fourth for all the people headed out to go camping, fishing and picnicking,” she said.

“During summer months at my family-owned and operated orchard and fruit stand, Peachcrest Fruitbasket,” continued McMorris, “we often found ourselves with peaches that needed attention – whether they were tree-ripened peaches that didn’t sell on a particular day or the ones bruised during the picking process or ones that had dropped to the ground.

“It was common for someone in the family to take them into the house and work up the peaches in a fresh peach cobbler. We made countless cobblers over the years. They really hit the spot,” she recalled.

Celebrating at the lake

Among the thousands of families escaping to Inland Northwest lakes are the Gregoires.

“Gov. Gregoire, her husband Mike and daughters, Courtney and Michelle, try to spend most Fourth of July weekends at their cabin on Hayden Lake,” said the governor’s spokeswoman Althea Cawley-Murphree in an e-mail. “Chris and Mike bought the cabin more than 25 years ago while living in Spokane.”

The Gregoires traditional July Fourth fare includes barbecued chicken or ribs, homemade macaroni salad and strawberry shortcake.

According to family members, “cooking in the woods presents certain culinary challenges,” said Cawley-Murphree. They have “adapted by generally disregarding modern conventions like measuring cups.”

A good example of their “adaptive” technique is the family recipe for homemade macaroni salad – a recipe made so many times they do it now “by taste.”

The Gregoires take “elbow macaroni boiled, drained and rinsed (the secret to a good pasta salad is to rinse the pasta in lukewarm water and then toss in a little olive oil so that is doesn’t stick together), a couple of hardboiled eggs chopped up, a few stalks of celery chopped up small and, at the request of Michelle and Courtney, no green onions. Toss the salad with a dressing of Best Foods mayonnaise, mustard and a bit of homemade apple cider vinegar, and black and cayenne pepper to taste.”

Sunday’s Best Oven-Fried Chicken

From “A Return to Family Picnics,” by Russell Cronkhite

Two 3 1/2 - to 4-pound frying chickens (or an equal number of cut pieces)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon celery seeds

2 teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons lemon pepper

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme

2 large eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup buttermilk

2 to 3 drops of Tabasco (optional)

One 16-ounce package seasoned bread stuffing mix, crushed

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Adjust the rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rinse the chickens thoroughly under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Transfer to a clean cutting board and with a sharp knife cut each chicken into 8 pieces. (Or, buy chicken pieces that have already been cut by the butcher.)

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, celery seeds, onion powder, paprika, lemon pepper, salt and thyme.

Whisk the eggs and buttermilk together thoroughly (and for a little extra kick, add a few drops of Tabasco); pour into a shallow bowl. Pour the crushed stuffing mix into a separate shallow bowl. Pour the melted butter onto a baking sheet.

Dredge the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour, then in the buttermilk mixture; thoroughly coat in the crushed stuffing mix. Transfer the chicken to the baking sheet and gently roll the pieces in the melted butter until lightly coated.

Divide the chicken between two clean baking sheets — place the breasts and wings on one, the legs and thighs on the other. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes for the white meat, 35 to 40 minutes for the dark. The chicken is done when an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit or when the juices flow clear after a knife is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh or breast.

When the chicken is fully cooked, transfer the pieces to a platter lined with paper towels. Allow the chicken to cool to room temperature before packing for a picnic or refrigerating.

Yield: 8 servings

Nutrition per serving: Unable to calculate.

Texas-Style Barbecued Ribs

From “The White House Family Cookbook”

6 to 10 pounds lean pork ribs

3 tablespoons dry mustard

1 cup white wine

3 to 4 cups Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Boil ribs in a large pot of salted water for 5 minutes; drain well. Arrange ribs in a large baking pan.

Mix mustard with wine and coat ribs with the mixture using a pastry brush.

Brush ribs with Barbecue Sauce. Bake on middle oven rack, turning often and brushing with additional sauce, for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Pork is done when meat pulls easily from the ribs.

Yield: 6 servings

Approximate nutrition per serving (based on 6 pounds pork ribs): 576 calories, 30 grams fat (10 grams saturated, 49 percent fat calories), 55 grams protein, 11 grams carbohydrate, 175 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram dietary fiber, 808 milligrams sodium.

Barbecue Sauce

2 teaspoons butter

1 large onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 cup chili sauce

2 cups ketchup

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1 bay leaf

1 cup cider vinegar

12 black peppercorns

1/4 cup brown sugar

Fresh parsley sprig

In a sauté pan, melt butter; sauté chopped vegetables and garlic until slightly browned.

Transfer to a large saucepan and mix in remaining ingredients.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour. Strain.

Yield: 1 quart

Approximate nutrition per 2-ounce serving: 63 calories, less than 1 gram fat (8 percent fat calories), less than 1 gram protein, 15 grams carbohydrate, 1 milligram cholesterol, no dietary fiber, 601 milligrams sodium.

Chip’s Deviled Eggs

From “The White House Family Cookbook”

6 hard-cooked eggs, chilled

1/2 cup soft cream cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Black olive slices

Fresh parsley sprigs

Remove shells from cold eggs; slice each in half lengthwise.

Carefully scoop out yolks and sieve into a small mixing bowl.

Arrange egg white halves on a tray, cavities up.

Add cream cheese, salt, pepper, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce to the mixing bowl; whip until smooth, using a wire whisk.

Transfer to a pastry tube fitted with a small (No. 4) tip and divide evenly among the cavities of the egg halves, filling each in a decorative manner.

Refrigerate until serving time. Garnish each egg with a tiny sprig of fresh parsley and several thin slices of black olive. Decorate serving platter with additional sprigs of fresh parsley, if desired.

Yield: 12 servings

Approximate nutrition per serving: 76 calories, 6 grams fat (3 grams saturated, 73 percent fat calories), 4 grams protein, 1 gram carbohydrate, 116 milligrams cholesterol, no dietary fiber, 233 milligrams sodium.

Potato Salad

From Congresswoman Cathy McMorris

4 cups boiled potatoes, cubed

3 hard boiled eggs, chopped

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped green pepper, pimento or parsley

1 to 2 cups diced raw vegetables (celery, cucumber, radish, etc.)

1 cup salad dressing or mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

Combine potatoes, eggs and vegetables. Blend remaining ingredients and mix lightly with potato mixture. Chill.

Yield: 8 servings

Approximate nutrition per serving: 261 calories, 15 grams fat (4 grams saturated, 51 percent fat calories), 5 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrate, 93 milligrams cholesterol, 1.8 grams dietary fiber, 692 milligrams cholesterol.

Fresh Peach Cobbler

From Congresswoman Cathy McMorris

For the filling:

4 cups peaches, sliced (fresh)

1 tablespoon lemon rind, grated

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons lemon juice

For the dumplings:

1 cup sifted bread flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup shortening

1/2 cup milk

For the syrup:

3 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

Combine the filling ingredients, peaches through lemon juice, and place in an 8-by-8-by-2-inch baking dish.

To make the dumplings: Sift the flour, salt and baking powder. Cut in shortening. Stir in milk. Drop by spoonfuls on peaches. (Bisquick can also be used for the dumplings.)

For the syrup: Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the sugar and water. Bring to a boil.

Pour the syrup mixture over peaches and dumplings. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

Best served slightly warm with cream or ice cream.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Approximate nutrition per serving, based on 10: 244 calories, 11 grams fat (4 grams saturated, 39 percent fat calories), 2.6 grams protein, 40 grams carbohydrate, 10 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams dietary fiber, 372 milligrams sodium.

Strawberry Shortcake

From Gov. Christine Gregoire

Homemade biscuits, sweetenedwhipped cream (with a dash of Grand Marnier “just for flavor” as Gregoire’s husband Mike says) and lots of ripe strawberries sliced and sprinkled with a little sugar make this ia family favorite.

For the shortcake biscuits:

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

2/3 cup milk

Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in butter until all the butter is pea-size or smaller. Quickly stir in milk until the dough is soft but not sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a board or counter top and pat down until it is about 3/4 -inch thick. Cut out biscuits with a juice glass.

Bake at 450 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Split biscuits and serve with whipped cream and sliced strawberries.

Yield: Varies

Approximate nutrition per serving: Unable to calculate due to recipe variables.

Strawberry Lemonade

From “A Return to Family Picnics”

There is something indescribable about the flavor combination of fresh strawberries and tangy lemons. This old-fashioned strawberry lemonade is sure to be one of summer’s treasured treats.

5 cups cold water

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 cup fresh strawberry slices

1 cup fresh lemon juice

Combine 2 cups of water with the sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat.

Add the lemon zest and strawberry slices to the syrup and cool to room temperature. Whisk in the lemon juice and refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving, strain the mixture through a fine sieve, pressing down with a rubber spatula to extract all the flavor. Stir in the remaining 3 cups of water and pour into tall glasses filled with crushed ice.

Yield: 2 quarts

Approximate nutrition per 8-ounce serving: 159 calories, no fat, .3 grams protein, 41 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, less than 1 gram dietary fiber, 2 milligrams sodium.

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