A Festive Backyard Menu for the Fourth

by Brenda Hyde

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Fourth of July is a day of celebration. We should be thankful for the country we live in and the freedom we have to think, feel and express our opinions. At the same time it's a great day to be with our families, relax and enjoy a wonderful meal. This menu has a Mexican-American twist on the traditional grilled burgers. Add some bright colorful decorations, a pinata for the kids, and a watermelon and you have a celebration that won't soon be forgotten!

The Menu

Jalapeno Cheeseburgers
Wagon Wheel Pasta Salad
Spicy Cheese Muffins
Fresh Salsa
Banana Split Squares

Jalapeno Cheeseburgers


  • 3 pounds ground chuck
  • 2 tablespoons seeded, chopped jalapeno peppers 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 12 thin tomato slices
  • 12 hamburger buns, split and lightly toasted on grill

In a medium bowl, combine ground chuck, peppers and chili powder, mixing lightly and thoroughly. Shape into twelve 1/2 inch patties. Place on grill over medium coals or heat. Grill uncovered 14-16 minutes until no longer pink, turning once. During the last one minute sprinkle each pattie with 1 tablespoon of cheese. Place on buns with a tomato slice. Serves 10-12

Wagon Wheel Pasta Salad


  • 2 cups wagon wheel pasta
  • 3/4 salsa
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup diced Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup small cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 medium bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions with tops

Cook pasta according to directions; drain. Transfer to a large bowl; cool. In small bowl, mix salsa, mayonnaise and salt. Pour over pasta; mix. Add beans, cheese, tomatoes, green pepper and onions. Add more salsa to taste. Makes 10-12 servings (6 cups)

Spicy Cheese Muffins


  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 can (11 ounces) corn with red and green peppers, drained.
  • 2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese

Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and seasoning. Stir in milk, oil and egg mixing until dry ingredients are just moistened. Stir in corn and cheese. Spoon into greased mini muffin tins or regular sized tins, filling almost full. Bake at 400 degrees for 9-11 minutes for mini, 15 for regular or until toothpick comes out clean from center of muffin. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan. Can be made ahead and frozen. Makes 36 mini muffins. Note: For serving place in a large wicker basket lined with a colorful napkin.

Fresh Salsa


  • 3 large whole tomatoes, or 28 ounce can seasoned diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano leaves, crushed
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice.

Drain tomatoes if canned, chop and seed if fresh. In bowl combine all ingredients, mixing well. Cover and refrigerate several hours to blend flavors. Serve with tortillas chips. Makes 12 servings.

Banana Split Squares


  • 1 large package (21.5 or 23.7 ounces) fudge brownie mix
  • 2 bananas, thinly sliced, dipped in lemon juice and drained 1/2 cup crushed nuts
  • 2-3 flavors of your favorite ice cream
  • Chocolate topping, whipped cream, extra nuts, cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare brownie mix as package directs; spread in a 9x13 pan. Bake 20-25 minutes; cool. On brownie, layer bananas, nuts and four cups one flavor ice cream, then 2 cups another flavor and 4 cups another. Cover and freeze for 6 hours or until firm. Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving. Cut into squares; offer additional toppings. Serves 12-16.

Brenda is a wife, Mom of three, a writer and editor. For more summer recipes and features visit Brenda at her online magazine Seeds of Knowledge.

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