Make Ahead Food Staples for Big Groups on the 4th

We are expecting another big group on July 4th this year, and I’m comforted by falling back on some old favorites I’ve used in the past. Typically, we assign different families to different meals on a holiday weekend, and I always do the breakfast - first, because my room is right by the kitchen and I know I’ll be up! I can’t sleep in with a house full. Also, I really don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t sleep in at the lake. It’s a wonderful place for rest. So breakfast is mine!

My go-to for breakfast is a casserole given to us by a sweet friend when my dad passed away several years ago. It was such a great idea to have a breakfast all made for us as our family gathered each day that week. This one has it all - eggs, hash browns, and sausage. It’s super filling, and you only need a little serving, so one 9x13 pan feeds more than 12 people. I like to take it out of the oven a few minutes before it is done, freeze it and warm it up in the oven the morning after I thaw it.

Many of the kids that show up to our lake house for these big family gatherings have a sweet tooth. Even if we serve dessert at dinner and snacks on the dock in addition to meals, they somehow always find me and ask, “Do you have any cookies?” I’ve named everyone’s favorite and mine, “Lake House Cookies.”

Lake House Cookies start with a basic drop cookie from Better Homes and Gardens’ Homemade Cookies book, and I add oatmeal, chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. Yes, I know, nuts are even more healthy and I love them in cookies, but not everyone likes nuts! If you want a cookies that everyone loves, this is it. I get tons of oohs and ahhhs on these, and I love hearing it every time. Keep these frozen and serve them right out of the freezer for best results at a humid lake environment.

Finally, Ina Garten gets my vote for the best Fourth of July dessert there is, “Flag Cake.” Lots of my friends make this incredibly delicious dessert and one of them shared it with me years ago. It is now a tradition that the family won’t let me forget. The special cream cheese icing on super moist white cake with strawberries and blueberries make your tastebuds go wild. And this cake is a delight to the eyes as well. Thank you, Ina!!

Sausage Hashbrown Egg Casserole

Sausage Hashbrown Egg Casserole is a staple at the lake house.  Plain Chicken

Sausage Hashbrown Egg Casserole is a staple at the lake house. Plain Chicken

1 lb. Mild breakfast sausage

1 lb. Hot breakfast sausage

1 30-32 oz. Bag frozen shredded hash browns

1 t. Salt

1/2 t. Pepper

1/4 t. Garlic powder

1/4 t. Onion powder

2 C. Shredded cheddar cheese

8 Eggs

2 C. Milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, cook sausage until no longer pink. Drain fat. Cook hash browns in separate non-stick skillet with a little bit of oil, doing as many batches as you need to in order to finish off the bag. Place hash browns in bottom of lightly greased 9 x 13-inch pan. Top with sausage and cheese. Whisk eggs together with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and milk. Pour over hash browns, sausage and cheese. Cover and refrigerate if baking later. Bake, uncovered, for 35-50 minutes.

Most favorite cookies at the lake!  Taste and See

Most favorite cookies at the lake! Taste and See

Lake House Cookies

2 sticks unsalted Butter, softened

2 1/4 C. Flour

3/4 C. Sugar

3/4 C. Packed brown sugar

2 Eggs

1 t. Baking soda

1 t. Vanilla

1/2 Bag Semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 Bag Butterscotch chips

2 C. Quick cooking oats

In a mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until smooth. Add about half the flour, the sugar, brown sugar, eggs, baking soda and vanilla to butter. Beat until combined. Beat or stir in remaining flour. Fold in chips and oats. Drop dough 2 inches apart on an uncreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute. Then remove cookies and cool on wire rack. Makes about 48.

Barefoot Contessa’s Flag Cake

18 T. unsalted butter, room temperature

3 C. Sugar

6 Extra-Large Eggs, room temperature

1 C. Sour cream, room temperature

1 1/2 t. Pure Vanilla extract

3 C. Flour

1/3 C. Cornstarch

1 t. Kosher Salt

1 t. Baking soda

Three cheers for Ina Garten! She has created a tradition for our family that I believe will never fade. “Flag Cake.” This is my cake from two years ago. I will be making this year’s on the 3rd of July and icing it on the 4th.

Three cheers for Ina Garten! She has created a tradition for our family that I believe will never fade. “Flag Cake.” This is my cake from two years ago. I will be making this year’s on the 3rd of July and icing it on the 4th.

Icing:

1 lb. Unsalted Butter, room temperature

1 1/2 lbs. Cream cheese, room temperature

1 lb. Confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 1/2 t. Pure Vanilla extract

Topping:

1 pint Blueberries

1 1/2 pints Raspberries

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 18 x 13 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven for 20-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.

For the icing, combine the butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mixing just until smooth. Spread three-fourths of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake. Outline the flag on the top of the cake with a toothpick. Fill the upper left corner with blueberries. Place 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe. Put the remaining icing in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe two rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and icing until the flag is completed. Pipe stars on top of the blueberries. Ina serves this cake right out of the pan. If you want to turn it out onto a board before frosting, use parchment paper when you grease and flour the pan.

The Barefoot Contessa Family Style Cookbook