Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Stuffed Bell Peppers in the Slow Cooker

Last night's menu helped me use up a lot of leftovers. Meals that clean out the fridge make me a more frugal and creative cook. I wanted to try something I've never made before: stuffed bell peppers. I followed no recipe because I already knew the basics. You stuff a seasoned meat/rice mixture into some bell peppers and braise the peppers in a bit of liquid, typically tomato sauce. 

I haven't had these since I was a kid and I have to admit I did not like them back then. Mostly because I went through a phase where I didn't like rice. Also because I loathed green bell peppers. Well that hasn't changed, I know they are much less expensive than the delicious red and yellow ones but I simply can't stand their bitter flavor. 

Well the great thing about being an adult is, barring allergies, you can eat whatever you wish. So I picked up some lovely red, yellow, and orange peppers from the local dollar store (yep, they have produce, yes it's good, yes I'm as surprised as you are) and got started.  

minced aromatics
leftover rice
Leftover bits of carrots and celery from a recent veggie platter I made along with half an onion languishing in my crisper drawer made up the aromatics. A package of ground turkey I'd bought with no particular intentions was the meat. A bit of Spanish rice I'd made about a week ago was still good, if a bit dried out. With that, I had my filling. 

On to the recipe! 

Stuffed Bell Peppers (serves 4) 

1.25 lbs ground turkey 
1/2 purple onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, minced
1 carrot, minced
5-6 bell peppers, any color you like
1/2 cup tomato sauce or juice 
1 cup leftover rice (Spanish if you've got it but plain is good too)
Salt and seasoning blend
3 tablespoons Oil/butter/rendered fat of your choice 

schmaltz is rendered chicken fat
In a large skillet, add your fat (I used schmaltz) and heat over a medium flame. 
While the pan heats up, chop the tops off your peppers and cut any flesh off around the stems, chopping finely. Add this to your minced onion/carrot/celery and toss it all into the pan. Add a pinch of salt to draw liquid from the vegetables and cook them over medium heat 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
sweating the vegetables

While the vegetables cook, core your peppers and arrange them cut-side-up in a 9x9 casserole dish or in a crock pot. 
Once the vegetables are soft and have given up most of their liquid, remove from the pan. (Use the bowl containing the rice--one fewer dish to wash.)  

seasoning blend
Heat the pan back up to high and add the turkey, letting it sit and brown before  breaking up with a spatula. Season with salt and spices. Oregano/thyme would be going here, or paprika/cumin, but I used a spice blend I received as a gift. It has paprika, pepper, rosemary, thyme, and chipotle. 
Note: I do typically blend my own spices in a dedicated coffee grinder but this is a great blend and it made everything much easier. 
Break up the turkey in the pan and add the cooked vegetables with rice into the pan. Stir to combine it thoroughly. 
Once the mixture is cooked completely, taste it for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Take it off the heat and scoop into the vacant peppers. 

filling the peppers
I was elated that the filling completely filled each pepper with none left over! This was too perfect and you should probably not expect these results since peppers vary so widely in size. 

use what you have
I remembered at this stage that stuffed peppers are usually bathed in tomato sauce. I did not have any, but I was drinking a Spicy V-8. So guess what I used? 

At this point you could freeze or refrigerate these to cook later. 

When you're ready to cook, if you are using the crock pot cook on high for 2.5 hours. If using a casserole dish, double up on tomato sauce and bake at 350 for 35 minutes. 
Extend cooking time if you like your peppers really soft, because ours were just cooked enough to be tender but stiff enough that they held their shape and flavor. 

I would make this again, and I would probably not change a thing. I loved how I didn't have to make a side because these were packed with vegetables. I loved how my kids devoured the sweet peppers, which I doubt they would have done had I used green. I loved the way the flavors in the filling melded perfectly. 

I planned on writing up this recipe whether it was a flop or a hit. It was a home run! I urge you to try it especially if you're trying to eat healthier. Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Lunch for One: Tortellini Soup

I love days off when I can make myself anything I want for lunch, not restricted by what can fit into plastic containers and warmed in the break room microwave. 

Tortellini soup is one of these lunches, because I need to boil broth to cook the pasta, which can't be then transported in the broth (well it can but it will certainly deteriorate in quality) but rather served immediately.
 The chicken stock, also known as bone broth, contains the nutrients such as gelatin extracted from chicken bones, while a fistful of spinach added at the very end brings vitamins, phytonutrients, and minerals to the party. 

This simple soup is nutritious and easy to prepare. Make sure you wait till the very end to add the spinach to retain its bright color and flavor. 


2 cups homemade stock
1 cup tortellini 
1 small carrot, thinly sliced
Handful of spinach

Bring stock to a gentle boil, and add carrot slices. Simmer for one minute. 
Add tortellini and cook until tender. 
Add the spinach and stir in until it wilts. The spinach should only take 10-15 seconds. 
Take the pot off the heat and serve immediately. 
I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I do. Thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Homemade Hummus

Don't you just love hummus? As much as I truly enjoy traditional hummus with good olive oil drizzled on top and served with soft pita or oily pita chips, I also like many of the interesting flavors it's available in nowadays, like sun-dried tomatoes, jalapeño, and pesto.

Whenever I see prepared foods like this at the grocery store, I stop myself from spending the extra money by reminding myself, "Dom, you have all these ingredients at home. If you really want it, you'll make some from scratch and it will be cheaper and taste much better." 

This serves me pretty well except the fact that I don't get to eat said processed food in the car on the way home. 

This week I wanted to do what I kept promising myself I'd do: make hummus. The finished product would be great for snacking, or taken in my lunch. 

Meet the ingredients:

Garbanzo Beans (1 pound for this recipe) aka chickpeas, are nutritious legumes that look nothing like beans. Fortunately, they cook just like other beans, you can soak them overnight and then boil them until tender, or you can skip the soak and cook them 4-6 hours in the slow cooker. This is how I cooked mine, then drained them and allowed to cool. 
Canned beans work fine for this, so if that's what's in your pantry, go for it. 

Tahini is a paste made of sesame seeds. They sell it at most grocery stores nowadays, if not among the nut butters then with the international foods. Don't worry about having a jar left over: tahini paste is great in salad dressings, baba ganouj, and keeps for quite a while in the fridge. 

Olive Oil is a star ingredient here, so spring for some good quality extra virgin. 

Garlic, 3-5 cloves, peeled and smashed with the broad side of the knife. 

Lemon Juice 
From 2 lemons. Please, no bottled swill.
Optional ingredients to add for variation: pesto, minced jalapeño, olives, roasted peppers, or whatever sounds good to you! 

You need a food processor for this. You can use a small chopper like I did but you will have to make the hummus in batches. This worked out perfectly for me because I wanted to make a few different flavors. 
You'll also need a spatula, containers to store the finished product, a reamer for the lemon, and a knife.

I do this a little backwards from the way the recipes I've read, which advise drizzling olive oil into the spinning hummus last. 
The only reason I didn't do it this way is because this particular chopper doesn't have a feed tube. The finished product was delicious and completely emulsified. 

In the bowl of a food processor pour in about 5 tablespoons of olive oil and 2-3 cloves smashed garlic  and pulverize that garlic. 

Next add your cooked, drained, cooled beans till they fill the bowl about three quarters of the way. If you cooked your beans from scratch, add a pinch of salt here, or your hummus will be bland.  Squeeze in about half of the lemons you have for this, and blend again. 

Then, add your tahini paste. Since I made this on the fly, I didn't measure the quantity of tahini, just scooped out two big globs with a butter knife.  I'd call it three tablespoons.  Blend again, then taste.  At my first taste test, I thought it needed more lemon juice and a bit more tahini, so I added those and chopped again until it was smooth.  Perfect. 

For my second batch, I grabbed this jar of "olive medley" from the fridge.  I wasn't a huge fan of this medley because, being stuck in a jar together, the olives all tasted the same.  They did have variations in texture that I enjoyed, but I decided they'd shine as an ingredient in my hummus.  So after packaging my first batch in a re-used plastic container and labeling it "plain hummus" (nobody likes to encounter unexpected hummus when opening a container of yogurt) I made another miniature batch in the same chopper, then when I had the taste just right, added my olives, pulsing until they were chopped but not pureed. 

This batch was as delicious as the first.  I taste-tested it right out of the mixing bowl with a crunchy pita chip and was delighted.  The olives added a great flavor and some texture without tasting entirely of olives.  The briny olive juice blended itself with the other flavors and for the rest of the afternoon I found it difficult to be productive between stealing bites. 

The third flavor I tried was curry.  I have some very nice Penzey's spice blends and I took out the "curry" box and, no kidding, sniffed them all.  I wanted to carefully choose the next flavor that would compliment but not overpower the hummus.  Fortunately, it's pretty hard to overpower all that raw garlic.  I settled on "masala" and sprinkled in about a half teaspoon when I added the tahini.  This one turned out great.  It tasted especially good on pieces of red bell pepper. 
This was so easy to make that I'll make it again and again.  Because it's to taste, I did not include exact measurements, but I think that's what makes this dish so easy to make, and fun.  Of the three varieties I made, I like the plain the best, although they're all quite good.  I think I'd make a few kinds for a party or gathering, but for everyday snacking plain is the winner. 

What would you add to your homemade hummus?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Fifteen Fun Ways to Use Leftovers

We all know those people who don't eat leftovers... for whatever reason they find them unappealing.  While I completely understand the sentiment, it's extremely unpractical for anyone who doesn't have an unlimited grocery budget.  Another, more plausible reason that leftover bits of this and that become forgotten in the fridge is that the portions are too small to be simply reheated and served as another meal. 
Here are fifteen fun ways to revive, repurpose, or stretch the food in your fridge so you won't have to toss food and therefore money in the trash.  A bit of advice (It's not "fun" so it didn't make it into the list) is to have labels and markers in the kitchen so you can write the date and contents on each container you throw in there.  These few seconds of effort take the guesswork out of looking for ingredients to throw into the following leftover based dishes.

1. Make Sandwiches

This seems like an obvious one, especially since the only reason some of us even make meatloaf is to have it cold on sandwiches the next day.  So grab some crusty sliced bread, throw it in the toaster, and gather last night's meat from the fridge. Steak or chicken are obviously great for this, but even meatballs, grilled vegetables, or  fish will do!  When you're done slicing up the meat and some vegetables to top it, the bread will be ready and you can assemble dinner in just a few minutes. 

2. Bake into a Frittata
photo credit: Frittata on Pillivuyt Round Serving Trays large via photopin (license)

If all you have left are small bits of this and that, consider a frittata.  Chopped cooked vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, or zucchini are perfect as are bits of sausage, ham, or cheese.  Four to six beaten eggs will hold the whole thing together.  Just add the contents to a hot skillet and cook, stirring for the first minute or so until the eggs begin to set.  Then place the whole thing under the broiler for a minute to let the top firm up.  Slice into wedges and serve with last night's salad or some rolls.

3. Have a Leftovers Buffet
I got this idea from a coworker who has teenagers and a tight grocery budget. Basically we grab all the week's leftovers from the fridge and see what's still good, heat up whatever needs to be heated, and maybe supplement it with a salad. Everything is put on the table and everyone helps themselves. This is a hit with kids because they get to choose what they eat and also because they can be adventurous about combining foods in ways that we adults probably wouldn't. In one night you can clean out the fridge and start fresh. 

4. Make Fried Rice
Dried out rice that's been sitting in your fridge waiting to be reheated for a few days is perfect for making fried rice.  My trick to making it come out perfectly loose and crispy without sticking to the pan is to smear cooking oil into my very clean hands and toss the rice with my hands, coating each grain with oil before frying it. Then I add the already warmed leftovers to the rice and toss until heated through and incorporated. Don't forget the egg!

5. Bake into Hand Pies
Much like this post in which I used leftover pot roast to stuff into hand-held pies, you can use a wide variety of leftovers for this application.  Just make sure you use a dough that can stand up to moist filling and being picked up and eaten by had, in other words puff pastry would not be ideal, but store-bought (or homemade, if you're amazing) pizza dough would be perfect.

6. Make soup

If you've got homemade stock on hand you're even better off... But likely you have even a can of broth in the pantry. One of my favorites is to take the last bit of meatballs and marinara, stretched with some macaroni and maybe frozen peas or green beans, a can of kidney or garbanzo beans... Get the idea? 

7. Take them in Your Lunch

Does this require much explanation? Put leftovers into lunch-portioned containers the very same night you're putting them away. This ensures you won't forget to do so in the morning rush... AND you won't end up wasting $10 on mediocre food on your lunch break.

8. Toss with cooked pasta
Did you know pasta originated as a way to stretch out soups?  Well, you can stretch other meals too!  Leftover cooked veggies are great tossed with pasta, and if they don't already have some sauce on them, add some butter, salt, and pepper, and you have a satisfying new meal.

Of course, this requires that you have arborio rice in the house and that you know how to make risotto. But it's not terribly difficult and, since you're using leftovers it's the only cooking you'll really be doing. Some great additions from a previous meal would be sautéed mushrooms, asparagus, or peas. Just make sure the stuff you're adding isn't chilled-- leave it on the counter or warm it in the microwave before stirring it into your creamy risotto near the end of its cooking time. 

10. Fold into your morning omelette
The same rules as risotto apply here: make sure anything you add to your omelette is warm before you toss it in. Fajita fillings (the peppers and onions in particular) are delicious here, as are asparagus and other savory vegetables. 

11. Layer into a lasagne or casserole 
photo credit: TurkeyWildRiceCasseroleSqe via photopin (license)

Depending on what you're trying to use up, you can layer it between lasagne noodles or torn up corn tortillas. Make sure whatever you are adding is moist enough on its own or add some sauce between the layers. Since casseroles require most of the ingredients be already cooked, they're perfect for using up leftover vegetables and meats. Don't forget to top it with cheese, if you have it.

12. Use as a pizza topping 
photo credit: Presidents Choice Home Made Pizza via photopin (license)

Nowadays almost anything goes when it comes to pizza, so don't hold back. Just make sure whatever sauce you use, pesto, barbecue, or traditional, compliments whatever leftovers you're using to top it, and use some neutral-flavored cheese like mozzarella or jack to hold it all together. Don't have pizza crust on hand? Flour make a great thin-crusts! 

13. Roll up into a Burrito
Granted, not everything belongs in a burrito, but that same rule applies to everything on this list, which means you have plenty of options for different ways to use your leftovers.  Meat, rice, and cheese are all perfect for rolling into a big fluffy flour tortilla, and if you have a can of beans in the pantry, you are set!

14. Make a Pot Pie
If you can throw together a white sauce, you can easily mix in leftover chicken or beef and vegetables into a thick, creamy pot pie filling.  Don't feel like dealing with pie crust?  Top with Bisquick batter or canned biscuit dough, or frozen puff pastry and bake in ramekins, or spoon the filling into bowls and bake your topping separately, placing them on top of the bowls just before serving.

15. Share with the Dog

Not all people food is safe for canine consumption, but most meats, rice, and some vegetables like carrots are healthy for dogs too!  Mix a little in with their food and they will see it as such a treat!  Just stay clear of onions, tomatoes, and fatty foods like gristle and butter, which are all bad for your furry friend.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Asian Style lettuce Wraps and a Condiment You *Must* Try

Today's cooking adventure came about as I explored my local Asian grocery store and came across two ingredients that I never see at the American groceries. The first was ground chicken, and the other was a condiment I'd never seen anywhere before called kecap manis. 

Standing in the aisle of mysterious sauces I decided then and there that when one encounters a sauce named "Bango" with the picture of a funny bird on the front, the only thing to do is to buy it without question. 
The kecap manis and ground chicken came home with me, along with fresh ginger roots, scallions, and a bunch of Asian ingredients that are much  more reasonably priced than they would have been at my other usual grocery stops. 
As it turns out, kecap manis is an Indonesian soy sauce, a bit thicker and sweeter than the soy sauce most of us are used to, with notes of garlic and anise (I thought I detected tamarind but I guess I was wrong) and an overall more complex flavor. It's used as a sauce in a lot of Indonesian cooking and can be used as a marinade as well as a condiment. 
It sounded perfect for the ground chicken mixture I was going to make for lettuce wraps. 
The recipe that follows isn't exactly a copycat recipe for the lettuce wraps that they serve at PF Changs, rather it's just inspired by that dish. I have attempted lettuce wraps for burgers and discovered that although most places use iceberg, those tender leaves are infuriatingly difficult to unwrap from the head without tearing them. I used green leaf lettuce, which is stiffer than the floppy red leaf or romaine varieties but easy to separate from the head. So they ended up looking a bit more like tacos or hot dogs than "wraps". I suppose a better name would be "Asian chicken boats" or something like that, but if I made that the title then nobody looking for this recipe online would find it. 
On to the recipe! The measurements below will serve four hungry people, although I served ours with potstickers and we had enough leftovers to have the same meal another night. 
2 pounds ground chicken
1 head green leaf lettuce
1 knob fresh ginger, about an inch long, grated
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 scallion, sliced
3-4 tablespoons kecap manis (or soy sauce)
1 can sliced water chestnuts, chopped
Grated ginger/garlic
This goes pretty quick so get your chopping and grating out of the way and have all your ingredients ready.  Separate your lettuce leaves, reserving the outer leaves for tomorrow's salad and using the leaves closer to the core for tonight's meal.  Rinse and dry them, then pile onto a serving platter and put them in the fridge to keep them crisp until it's time to serve. 
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add the sesame oil letting the oil get nice and hot before adding the ginger and garlic.  Cook, stirring, until it becomes fragrant.  Add your chicken to the pan.  I recommend doing this in batches, a pound of chicken at a time. 
You'll be temped to prod, flip, and break up the chicken in the pan as soon as you hear the sizzle.  Resist the urge!  Let the chicken sit there for three or four minutes while it browns.  This is essential to the flavor of the chicken.  Browned meat tastes much better than soggy meat so let it sit there browning while you set the table or slice your scallions. 
Brown food tastes good!
After several minutes, flip the chicken over in the pan and let it brown on the other side.  Only then should you begin breaking up the chicken into the consistency of taco meat.  Add a few tablespoons of kecap manis while most of the chicken is still raw so that it gets nicely seasoned, and cook, continuing to break it up until most of the liquid has cooked away.  

Add the chopped water chestnuts and let them heat up. If you're doing this in batches like I did, transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and repeat the browning process with the rest of the meat, heating more oil in the pan and adding the rest of the chicken...

Chicken mixture with chopped water chestnuts added
When your second batch of chicken is done, if you have enough room in the pan, add the first batch and combine to bring it all up to the same temperature.  Return the mixture to the serving bowl and add scallions, tossing to combine. 

Serve the lettuce and chicken mixture separately for everyone at the table to make their own wraps.  Optionally you can put the bottle of kecap manis and/or some sriracha sauce as condiments.  The sriracha was a hit for the adults at our table, adding a spicy kick.  I don't recommend assembling and serving the wraps ready-made, mostly because they will become soggy but also because that's too much work for the cook!  Plus it's fun for the family to scoop the chicken into their little lettuce cups and fun to eat. 
If you try this dish, let me know in the comments.  What else would you serve inside green-leaf lettuce "boats?"

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Easy homemade Yogurt and Why You Should be Making It

(Most blogs present everything they make in pretty little mason jars, but we are all about being frugal here, and we recycle plastic containers! Plus it allows us to measure the exact yield)

There are tons of articles out there with recipes for homemade yogurt, and almost as many ways to do it. I'm here to tell you why you should be making your own yogurt!

You can make plain yogurt in the crock pot, as I learned from one of my favorite blogs, A Year of Slow Cooking. This is where I first became inspired to make my own yogurt, since it sounded so easy. Homemade yogurt can also be made on the stovetop, although I prefer an even easier, more hands-off method than this. I use the microwave. 

Store bought yogurt is fairly inexpensive, particularly on a good sale day. Plus, it already comes in yummy flavors, so why bother to make it at home? 

In general, the cheaper the yogurt, the less, well, actual yogurt there is in that little tub. Go ahead and look, you probably have some in the fridge, the little 50 cent tub with the cute little foil neatly crimped over the top. Now read the ingredients... I'll wait. 

 Gelatin, aspartame, dyes, HFCS, junk, and more junk. Nobody is judging you. I admit to enjoying them from time to time. However they lack the nutritional benefits of real cultured yogurt, and that makes them inherently more expensive. Food should nourish our bodies, and if it doesn't, then it's money wasted. 

Now let's look at some more premium or high-end yogurt. "Greek-style yogurt" if you must. That stuff is considerably more pricey, but at least it's good for you! Which brings me to reason number two why you should be making your own:

It's much cheaper, and if you read on, I'll show you just how much. 

Before I do, I'd like to reward you, the reader, by providing the recipe. If you're like me you hate recipes with long introductions. 
Reason number three to make yogurt at home is it's easy, so let's dive in now and do the math after. 

You'll need: 

A large bowl or crock with a lid. (A crock pot crock works beautifully for this, but a glass bowl with a tight fitting lid is also great) make sure it fits in your microwave before getting started. 
1 gallon of milk, NOT ultra-pasteurized 
1 single-serving container of good quality plain yogurt like Fage- whatever is on sale, doesn't have to be Greek but it does need to be Plain. 
A meat thermometer 


Pour the milk into your vessel. 

A note on milk: I have read on numerous yogurt recipes not to use ultra-pasteurized milk. Pasteurized is ok, apparently it's that "ultra" that's the problem. I've only had this recipe fail me once, and it turned out I'd used ultra-pasteurized by mistake, when on a whim I bought the expensive milk for guests and wanted to use it up by making yogurt. So, don't. 

Moving on, take the bowl or crock and heat it in the microwave for 10-12 minutes and then check the temperature with your thermometer. If it's not 180°, heat for 5 minute intervals, checking the temperature until it reaches 180°. It makes anywhere from 16-20 minutes to get there. 

When it comes to temp, open the door of the microwave and let the milk cool, checking the temperature every ten or so minutes until it has dropped to 120°. 

What's happening here? You just heated the milk enough to kill the bad bacteria that makes milk spoil. Now you're cooling it to the point where the good bacteria can survive and multiply. 

 Now, combine your plain yogurt with the hot milk.  

Put the lid on your bowl, wrap the whole thing in an old towel or blanket and place your bundle in the oven or microwave, whichever is less likely to be used anytime soon. 

In 8-10 hours it will be yogurt. You did it!  Transfer to containers if you like and refrigerate. 


Now let's talk cost. 

For this experiment let's say you found your yogurt on manager special like I did. 
This means we bought a 6oz tub of plain Fage for $1. A gallon of milk is about $4, making this big bowl of yogurt $5. If you use the whole gallon, your yield will be about 78oz. That makes my homemade yogurt a little over 6 cents an ounce.  Even if you're being super frugal like me, buying clearance yogurt at $1 for 6oz, that store-bought stuff is 17 cents an ounce.
Or: About 5 pounds of homemade yogurt costs $5 to make while the same amount of store bought would be $13.60. 


My kids aren't crazy about the plain stuff, even with fruit and honey, but I love it. To make it taste more like the store bought stuff for them, I stir in fruit jam. Worried you made too much?  You can mix in some crushed garlic and chopped herbs for a killer dressing/dip/marinade.  Or use it in smoothies.  Yogurt keeps practically forever in the fridge. 

Further reading

Monday, July 4, 2011

Flag Icebox Cake

Happy 4th of July! And what Independance day barbecue is complete without a flag cake!

Wait... You want me to turn the OVEN on? In JULY???

No! Of course not! This is a no-bake cake I make for my family all the time by layering graham crackers with vanilla pudding, top with real whipped cream and decorated with berries. I was inspired as a kid by the Uncool Whip commercials they showed during the summer that featured a similar looking cake. Decorating to look like an American flag using berries had to be easier than frosting, right? Right! I've never had an easy time decorating with frosting and an even worse time baking cakes, so I decided I had to combine my beloved icebox cake with the ubiquitous flag cake to make this creation.
The measurements for this recipe aren't exact, I've always had either too much or two little of everything. It depends on how many layers you want and the size of your pan.
You'll need:
-At least one box of graham crackers
-At least 24 oz of vanilla or chocolate pudding (or both!)- you're favorite brand (mine happens to be a store brand)
-a package of blueberries, and one of strawberries or raspberries. (I wanted to use raspberries because they'll look neater and don't have to be cut. But the family wanted strawberries and once quartered they fit rather nicely.)
-A pint of heavy whipping cream , or a container of whipped topping if you must. Note: whipped cream from a can for topping sundaes will not work for this!

In a 9x13" baking dish, put down a layer of graham crackers, nice and straight, filling all available space. You'll need to break some of the crackers into halves and quarters but they will fit. Gently spread a generous layer of pudding on top, followed by another layer of graham crackers, going the opposite direction for stability, as you would with with lasagna. The next layer can be a different flavor of pudding, if you're using both. Keep going until you're out of graham crackers, which need to be your top layer.
Pour the heavy cream into the bowl of your stand mixer and turn it on high. While it's whipping, rinse and thoroughly dry your berries, and quarter your strawberries, if you have them. Top your "cake" with whipped cream, and finally, arrange the berries to the design of Old Glory.
Stash in the fridge for at least 4 hours, overnight is best.
This will not slice up as nicely as a cake but will taste moist and delicious. This has been a hit at every potluck I've been to!

If chocolate and graham isn't your thing try my Strawberry "Shortcut" Icebox cake!

What's your favorite 4th of July dish?