Dear StyleBlueprint:
Each 4th of July I am asked to bring a side of baked beans and an appetizer to my large family gathering.  I’m so tired of the canned baked beans and dip I always bring.  Can you help me with some new  EASY recipes that will draw great praise?  Thanks! – Mariann, East Nashville

This is easy for me as I completely understand this need.  For me, the 4th of July is the largest family gathering I am a part of each year.  My uncle hosts about 30 – 40 of our closest family members on his porch in the mountains of North Carolina.  And, I’m always asked to bring several things requiring some new recipes each year.  As I make my fare in a tiny cabin kitchen, with lots of kids running around, none of the recipes can be too complicated.  Elizabeth, my blog partner, and I have included four recipes here to cover anyone’s needs: baked beans, a salad and and 2 simple appetizers.  Have fun and Happy 4th!


Minnesota Bake Beans

Elizabeth served these at the Whitland Ave 4th of July Patrons Party last weekend to rave reviews.  I made them for my family specifically for this answer and Mariann, everyone LOVED these!

  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 4 green onions/chopped or 1 small onion chopped
  • ½ cup  vinegar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 t garlic powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • ½ t. dry mustard*
  • 1 t chili powder*
  • 3-4 drops Tabasco, or to your own flavor
  • 1 16 oz can green beans drained*
  • 1 16 oz can lima beans*
  • 1 16 oz can red kidney beans
  • 1 16oz can pork and beans

Cut bacon in pieces and brown.  Remove bacon and sauté onion in some of drippings.  Add the next 7 ingredients to onions and simmer 20 minutes.  Combine bacon and beans with onion mixture.  Place in crock pot or casserole and bake at 350 for 1 1/2 -2 hours.  Salt and pepper to taste. *I buy frozen vs. canned for these beans.  The * spices I double and I also add 1 T of Worcester sauce.

Serves 12

Feel free to embellish this in anyway.. add a variety of beans not just kidney and pork & beans..

Ready for the baking sheet: Prosciutto and Brown Sugar wrapped bread sticks

Prosciutto and Brown Sugar Covered Bread Sticks

This is the healthier version, see Variation for “who cares but big flavor” version:

  • Bread sticks – Pillsbury
  • 6 oz Prosciutto
  • Light Brown sugar-1-2  cups

Wrap bread sticks in Prosciutto, one slice per bread stick.  Then roll in brown sugar making sure to really pat the sugar in.  Put on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (it can be refrigerated at this stage). Bake at 350 for 11-13 minutes. Watch because they can burn and you may want to turn them. Remove quickly and place on wax paper, they will stick due to sugar.

Bread sticks loved by kids and adults alike!


  • 1 box cooked bread sticks (24 pieces)
  • Bacon
  • dark brown sugar

Coat each strip of bacon with brown sugar.  Wrap bread sticks with brown sugar covered bacon. Bake at 350 oven for 30-40 minutes.  You may need to turn, so watch them!  Remember to use wax paper to set them on when they come out of the oven.

Tomato-Mozzarella Skewers

You can not get more simple than this:

  • Heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • Mini mozzarella balls
  • fresh basil
  • Vinagrette dressing

Use bamboo skewers or these fancy toothpicks that I picked up at World Market.

Alternate tomatoes and cheese.  Place on a blue patter and drizzle with vinaigrette dressing and chopped basil.  It’s easy and patriotic!

Tomato Watermelon Salad

This salad is simple to make and highlights the best of summer: tomatoes and watermelon.  Elizabeth and I love this recipe from  For the 4th of July, I would consider adding blueberries as your toppings would be red, white and blue!

  • 8 cups 1 1/4-inch chunks seedless watermelon (about 6 pounds)
  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes (preferably heirloom) in assorted colors, cored, cut into 1 1/4-inch chunks (about 6 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) fleur de sel or coarse kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped assorted fresh herbs (such as dill, basil, and mint
  • 6 cups fresh arugula leaves or small watercress sprigs
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 5 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

Combine melon and tomatoes in large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon fleur de sel and toss to blend; let stand 15 minutes. Add 4 tablespoons oil, vinegar, and herbs to melon mixture. Season to taste with pepper and more salt, if desired.

Toss arugula in medium bowl with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Divide arugula among plates. Top with melon salad; sprinkle with feta cheese and toasted almonds and serve.  Serves 4 – 6 large salads.  Plenty for 10 side salads.