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Cooks' Exchange: Delicious recipes to celebrate summer picnics

Cooks' Exchange: Delicious recipes to celebrate summer picnics


The arrival of July triggers memories from the past when sidewalk fireworks meant nickle and dime snaps, crackles, and pops along with the beauty of sparklers swirled and twirled by hand. It also meant picnics in the parks, our favorite being Sunset Point on the west side in Hoyt Park.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us won’t be having large family gatherings to celebrate July 4. So maybe it’s more important than ever to have a supply of fun picnic food recipes to share with those in your household.

Mrs. Russell Wendt, Windsor, hoped to have more than one recipe on hand at all times for cheesy hash brown potatoes. Here is an easy one from the very special cookbook, “North Country Cabin Cooking” compiled in 1983 by Mary Brubacher and Margie Knoblauch.

Potato casserole

3 cups half and half

1 cup skim milk

½ cup butter, melted

²⁄³ cup Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon salt

2 pounds Ore Ida southern style frozen hash browns

Combine half and half, milk and cooled butter in 2-quart glass casserole dish. Add cheese, salt and hash browns. Bake, covered, at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove cover. Bake 15 minutes more. Serves 6-8

A second recipe includes a mixture of sour cream, cream of chicken soup, and cheddar cheese topped with buttery cornflake crumbs. It’s from “The Best of Hometown Cooking” by Meredith Books, Des Moines, Iowa.

Hash brown casserole

2-pound package Southern-style frozen hash browns, thawed

1 onion, chopped

1 cup butter

10-ounce can condensed cream of chicken soup

8-ounce carton sour cream

8-ounce package shredded cheddar cheese

2 cups crushed cornflakes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place hash browns in a 9x13 baking dish. In a medium saucepan, cook onion in ½ cup of the butter. Stir in cream of chicken soup, sour cream, and cheese. Cook and stir until smooth. Pour mixture over hash browns. Sprinkle cornflakes over mixture in baking dish. In a small saucepan, melt remaining ½ cup butter; pour evenly over cornflakes. Bake for 40-45 minutes until heated through.

Makes 8-10 servings

Casey Schilling remembers a cold rice salad recipe including ham and crab that appeared “somewhere in the Taste Section” about 5-7 years ago. Here it is as submitted and featured in 1964 by Mrs. B. C. Fallentine of Middleton.

Rice salad

2 cups cooked rice, cooked

½ cup chopped crab or lobster

½ cup sliced ham

½ cup finely chopped celery

2 cups finely chopped hard cooked eggs (about 5 eggs)

1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

¼ cup finely chopped parsley

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon wine vinegar

½ cup mayonnaise



Toss together the first seven ingredients. Sprinkle with oil and vinegar; add mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Let stand in refrigerator several hours.

Yield: 6 servings

Judy Schulze wondered if the Olive Garden’s lasagna recipe was available. It isn’t at the moment, however they did share one about 20 years that is too lengthy for this column. If interested in the recipe, send me a self-addressed stamped envelope to the address at the end of the column.

Ellie Lindmeier used to make a “tunnel of sugar plum cake” using a package of a one layer cake size vanilla buttercream frosting mix. It had candied cherries, almonds and coconut in it and mixed with frosting, settled into the center of a Bundt cake. She also described it as being “delicious” but she is no longer able to find the package of frosting. She wondered if a reader knows about regular vanilla buttercream frosting mixes, not canned, but one in a box. Can you help?

Kathy Esser responded to a request for a fruit salad recipe using peach pie filling. Another recipe was just discovered in “North County Cabin Cooking,” a wonderful cookbook compiled in Minnesota in 1983 by Mary Brubacher and Margie Knoblauch.

Easy fruit salad

13-ounce can chunk pineapple, drained

16-ounce can pears or peaches, drained and cubed

11-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained

22-ounce can peach or apricot pie filling.

Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate several hours before serving

This recipe is very flexible and can be used successfully with miniature marshmallows, sliced bananas, grapes, melon pieces, and many other fresh fruits. Time to experiment!

Serves 6 to 8

What’s a July 4th picnic in the park without baked beans? Here is a simple and delicious baked beans recipe that guests are always asking for the recipe submitted by Eliot Wesen, Arlington, Texas, and discovered in a 2019 Taste of Home issue.

Sweet and spicy baked beans

2 28-ounce cans baked beans

1 20-ounce can unsweetened crushed pineapple, drained

1 cup spicy barbecue sauce

½ cup molasses

2 tablespoons prepared mustard

½ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon salt

6-ounce can french-fried onions, crushed, divided

5 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

In a large bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients. Stir in half the onions and bacon. Transfer to a greased 9x13-inch baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining onions and bacon. Bake uncovered 5-10 minutes longer or until bubbly.

Makes 14 servings.

Linda Martin isn’t sure where she found this recipe using “ugly tomatoes”, but claims it is “absolutely delicious.” Although she describes herself cooking more than anyone else she knows, as the mother of four grown sons , she still collects recipes and hasn’t a clue where she found this one.

Ugly tomato pie

One unbaked pie crust

2 large ugly tomatoes, sliced into ½-inch rounds (about 10 slices)

1 cup grated Gruyere cheese

1 cup fresh basil, torn into pieces

Press pie dough into a 9-inch pan and prick all over with a fork (you might need to use pie weights to keep the crust from bulging). Bake 10 minutes or until partially cooked and just turning golden. Meanwhile, place tomato slices on paper towels and let sit for 10 minutes to absorb excess juices. When the crust is ready, sprinkle one third of the cheese on the bottom, one-half of the tomato slices, overlapping slightly, and one-half of the basil on top. Press down slightly with the back of a spoon. Repeat layers ending with cheese. Bake 30 minutes util golden and bubbly. Cool 10 minutes and serve, or serve at room temperature.

Happy 4th of July!

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at

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