These recipes originally appeared in the July 2020 issue of HomeLife Magazine.
As July rolls around and we make plans with family to celebrate our nation’s birthday, one such gathering stands out among all the rest, bringing new clarity to why we gather and what we’re building.
Six years ago in early June, my daughter, Elise, and I set out to traverse the Southeast from Tennessee to Florida. Being on break from her teaching career with a deployed husband created the perfect opportunity to run a few long-distance errands with me. Traveling in close quarters, I noticed Elise began showing curious symptoms: nausea, a heightened sense of smell, and naps midday. When I exposed my suspicion, she scoffed, tearfully explaining, “I want to be with him when I find out.”
When the prognosis was confirmed, Elise shared the good news with her husband via a phone call that evening. Turning to me she asked, “Can you keep a secret?”
“It’s in the vault,” I assured her. Missing out on savoring their news together, they devised a plan to share it with both families over the 4th of July weekend. Four weeks later, secret still intact, both families gathered at our lake home to celebrate the holiday together. Prepping for the evening meal in a boisterous and crowded kitchen, news spread of two from our party who had set out on a private kayak ride and hadn’t yet returned.
An astute remark was whispered among the mostly female kitchen crowd: “He’s asking for her hand, you know.”
As the kayakers returned, we gathered around picnic tables and shared watermelon. During a brief lull in the conversation, Elise and her husband moved center stage. A quiet “ahem” slipped from her lips as her husband uttered, “So, we have news. We’re pregnant!”
Joyful mayhem broke out as the red light on my camera silently captured their news. In that moment of celebrating a first grandchild on the way, a looming proposal, and family growing before my very eyes, I realized we were building something greater than ourselves — a family, a home, a community. A place of welcoming.
Your table holds immeasurable value. It provides a space to nurture and nourish, share and celebrate. It also offers a place for others to come alongside and belong. Whether you’re welcoming neighbors around your table this holiday or opening your family to new members, set the stage for a place of welcoming.
This holiday we’re going simple on food and instead focusing on family.
Brats with Secret Sauce ▶ Makes 8 servings
2 lb. bratwurst
8 hoagie rolls
3 c. onions (diced)
1/2 c. balsamic vinaigrette
1/2 c. water
4 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tsp. rubbed sage
2 Tbsp. sour cream
Place bratwurst on grill and cover. Grill at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or internal temperature of 160 degrees, turning often for good color.
In a small saucepan over medium heat add onions, vinaigrette, water, sugar, and sage. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook on low for 20 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Whisk in sour cream. Transfer to a dish and serve as a relish on top of brats.
“This holiday we’re going simple on food and instead focusing on family.” — Laura
Liberty Baked Beans ▶ Makes 8 servings
1/2 lb, bacon (cut in 1-inch pieces)
1 onion (chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1 c. chili sauce
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp. molasses
2 28 oz. cans baked beans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a cast iron skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towel. Chop vegetables and add all ingredients to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, stirring well. Cover with foil and bake for 45-60 minutes.
Dirt Cake ▶ Makes 8 servings
19.1 oz. package Oreo cookies
8 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. butter
1/2 c. confectioners sugar
3-1/2 c. milk
2 3.5 oz. box instant vanilla pudding
1 12 oz. frozen dairy whip
1 clean medium-sized flowerpot (or several small flower-pots)
Optional: Bag of gummy worms (red, white. and blue)
In a food processor, chop cookies until fine, making the cookies look like fresh soil. In a small bowl, mix cream cheese, butter, and sugar. In a large bowl, combine milk and instant pudding, then add frozen dairy whip. Once combined, add cream cheese mixture to pudding mixture. In a clean flowerpot, layer cookie crumbs and then pudding. Repeat layers ending with cookies on top to represent dirt. If using gummy worms, add in with layers. Chill for at least four hours.
“Your table holds immeasurable value. It provides a space to nurture and nourish, share and celebrate.” — Laura
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Laura Schupp is the author of Our Newlywed Kitchen: The Art of Cooking, Gathering & Creating Traditions. Learn more about Laura at OurNewlywedKitchen.com.