Firecrackers and the Fourth of July

Get a band out of these crackers and cupcakes.

Festive flavors: Celebrate Independence Day with these delicious recipes.

By Donna Zitter Bordelon

Happy Birthday, America! And we just happen to be located smack dab in the center of where the USA began. Beginning with the first July 4 festivities in 1777, the nation has been celebrating with music, parades, parties, food and fireworks. Philadelphia is no exception.

The use of fireworks in celebrations likely began with the Chinese. But, for the last 241 years in this country, they have had a distinctive red, white and blue American flavor. Red, white and blue foods may also decorate the table for the holiday.

You’ll get a bang out of these crackers. They’re hot, hot, hot. My preference is to use the Italian dressing mix and Club crackers, but whichever way you choose to do it will be good. These are an inexpensive snack treat that requires no cooking but are deliciously addictive.

FOURTH OF JULY FIRECRACKER CRACKERS

1 or 2 Tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes (how hot do you like it?)

1 Tbsp. chili powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. onion powder

½ tsp. black pepper

1 envelope of powdered Italian salad dressing mix or ranch dressing mix

¾ cup olive oil

¼ cup canola oil

1 full box (lb.) of Club crackers or saltines, regular or whole wheat

Into the bottom of a 2-gallon zip lock bag, put the pepper flakes, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper and your choice of powdered dressing mix. Mix well.

Pour the oils directly into the bag and over the spices. Stir and mix well, making sure the oil and spices are combined.

Add the crackers to the bag and seal the bag.

Gently turn the bag over several times, coating all the crackers with the oil-spice. Move the crackers around gently in the bag so all are coated.

Allow the bag to sit for a few hours or overnight.

Serve with plain sour cream as a dip, if desired.

Use your favorite cupcake recipe or try the following chocolate cupcake recipe to make this red, white and blue firecracker dessert.

FOURTH OF JULY FIRECRACKER CUPCAKES

24 cupcakes, baked, cooled

5 cups coconut

Red food coloring

3 cups whipping cream, ¼ cup granulated sugar and ½ tsp. vanilla

OR use Cool Whip Whipped Topping, thawed

String licorice

Blue decorating gel and blue sprinkles

After cupcakes cool:

In a bowl, tint the coconut using a few drops of red food coloring.

In another bowl, beat the cream until soft peaks form then gradually add the sugar and vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form. Alternately, use Cool Whip.

Use a small amount of cream to attach the bottoms of 2 cupcakes together.

Repeat with additional cupcakes. Stand attached cupcakes on one end on a tray.

Frost cupcakes on top and sides. Press coconut onto sides.

Use decorator gel to draw a star on top and sprinkle with a little red/blue sprinkles.

Push a 3-inch piece of red or black licorice string into center of cupcakes.

Refrigerate or freeze flat until ready to serve.

This is an easy, quick, sturdy, delicious chocolate cupcake recipe that works well with the above firecracker recipe.

GRAM’S CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

¾ cup sour cream

¼ cup Crisco shortening

1¼ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

½ tsp. baking powder

2 eggs

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour (or use cupcake liners) muffin tins.

In a large mixing bowl, put all of the above ingredients.

Mix ½ minute on low speed, scraping the bowl constantly.

Beat an additional 3 minutes on high speed, scraping bowl occasionally.

Fill muffin cups 1/2 to 2/3 full, and bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Makes 2½ dozen cupcakes.

Eat well, live long, enjoy!

(Ques­tions or tips can be sent to Donna Zit­ter Bor­de­lon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Times, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002)

Don’t forget:

Send in your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $100 ShopRite gift card. Mail your recipe to Readers’ Recipes, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002. Or email your recipe to WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com. Please include name, address and telephone number.