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Community Cookbook: Fourth of July is a cause for celebration

 (Stephen Templeton / The Spokesman-Review)
By Dick Sellers For The Spokesman-Review

Two hundred and forty-seven. No, that’s not my weight or age. It’s not my IQ. Lord knows, past experience has proven that time and time again. It’s not the dollars in my retirement fund, although it’s pretty close to that. Thursday is the 247th Fourth of July since the big one in 1776. Although armed hostilities had broken out a year earlier with the battles of Lexington and Concord, it was on that day in 1776 that the Declaration of Independence proclaiming America’s separation from the British Empire, was presented to the American public. The peace treaty acknowledging America’s independence was signed seven years later, in 1783.

American democracy and freedom didn’t come cheap. Many people have suffered and sacrificed to achieve and maintain the privileges we now enjoy and often take for granted. People are suffering and sacrificing as you read this to protect what we have. Imagine what the world would be like without a free and democratic America. Our country remains a beacon of hope and inspiration in a troubled world.

Forces are afoot, here in America and elsewhere in the world, that would take our freedoms away from us. Thursday is a perfect day for each of us to ask ourselves, “What have I done for our American democracy lately? What have I done, and what can I do to deserve and preserve the freedoms and privileges we enjoy?”

If you’re fortunate to have Thursday off, celebrate it with safe gatherings, plenty of fresh-air activity, and good eating. Enjoy the local and televised fireworks displays. The following recipes offer some tasty options to help with your Independence Day celebration. Have a Happy Fourth!

Smoked Chicken

Prepare this chicken in a smoker or barbecue. It’s some of the best chicken I’ve ever eaten. This chicken is so flavorful and succulent that it doesn’t even need salt and pepper. I’ve never used the optional barbecue sauce simply because the chicken doesn’t need it. I prefer to smoke a couple of chickens at a time. That’s twice the eating for about the same time and effort.


Wood chips for smoking

1 (3 or 4 pounds) broiler-fryer chicken

Barbecue sauce (optional)


Soak plenty of wood chips in water for several hours or overnight. Remove the giblets and neck from inside the chicken. Discard or reserve for other uses. Remove the excess fat from the tail area. With some of the wood chips in a metal pie plate sitting on the burner, preheat the smoker to 150 degrees Farenheit. Place the chicken on the smoker’s grill and secure the door or lid in place. Smoke the chicken for 3 to 4 hours, maintaining the temperature between 130-150 degrees. Control the temperature with the vents and burner thermostat. Replenish the wood chips as they burn up. Remove the chicken and bake it in a 375-degree oven with the rack in the middle-low position for about an hour, or until the internal temperature in the thigh area reaches 170 degrees. (Check both thighs to be safe). Baste with barbecue sauce for the last 10-15 minutes of baking, if preferred. Remove the chicken from the oven, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

Notes: This method will work with cut-up chicken as well. When smoking meat, use indirect heat, maintain a consistent temperature, keep the lid closed, and keep plenty of smoke going.

Yield: One whole chicken

Macaroni Salad

While growing up, our family had a lot of picnics. Mom’s macaroni salad was one of my favorite picnic dishes. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was delicious; I loved everything pasta back then. Mom’s macaroni salad was the starting point for developing this salad. This one is uniquely flavored with oregano and is one of my favorite salads. It ended up being very different from Mom’s original salad.


8 ounces dried medium elbow macaroni (about 2 cups)

1 cup mayonnaise

4 teaspoons granulated sugar or equivalent substitute

1 teaspoon yellow mustard

½ teaspoon salt

¼ plus ⅛ teaspoon dried oregano

⅛ teaspoon celery seed

⅛ teaspoon black pepper

3 green onions, thinly sliced

2 sweet pickles, minced

1 Roma tomato, seeds and juice removed, finely chopped


Cook the macaroni in salted, boiling water until tender (the pasta will firm up a little when cold). Drain well and let cool to warm. Combine the next 7 ingredients (through black pepper) in a medium bowl. Add the macaroni and the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving to allow the flavors to blend (or make the dressing ahead of time).

Notes: Add a cup of well-drained, large salad shrimp for a Scandinavian touch. Add a little more mayonnaise to accommodate the shrimp, if needed. Keep the salad cold. With regular mayonnaise, the salad will last several days in the refrigerator. With light or fat-free mayonnaise, use the salad within 3 to 4 hours of adding the dressing for the best quality. Or make the salad and dressing ahead of time, then combine them before serving.

Yields: About 6½ cups

Ice Cream Floats

We enjoyed many ice cream floats at the local A&W and Dairy Queen drive-ins while growing up in Yakima. There’s nothing finer on a hot summer day. Homemade ice cream floats are a perfect way to cap a summer barbeque or backyard dinner. Kids will love these treats any time of day or year!


Cold root beer or 7-Up soda (regular or sugar-free)

4 to 6 scoops of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt


Fill two soda fountain glasses or mugs one-third full with soda. Add 2 or 3 scoops of ice cream or frozen yogurt to each. Slowly fill the glasses or mugs with soda, being careful that they don’t overflow.

Yields: Two floats

Dick Sellers is a freelance writer. Contact him at