You could say that because of the pandemic, July 4, 2020 was a failure. Community parades, festivals and fireworks have all been canceled. Barbecues in the yard canceled. There just didn’t seem to be anything worth celebrating. But Americans are resilient, and I expect July 4, 2021 to be a full celebration of independence. A gathering of family, friends and neighbors, exposed and freed from rules and regulations.

When planning your 4th of July celebration, make it easy on yourself. There are no rules. Don’t prioritize food, instead spend time with your guests. Make as much as possible in advance and choose easy and delicious recipes.

Give yourself and your grill a break by putting the slow cooker to work to create chewy and tender pulled pork or shredded beef for sandwiches. The secret ingredient, root beer or cola, tenderizes and sweetens the cooking sauce. Simply add the ingredients to the slow cooker, no browning required. Set it up and forget about it.

When ready to serve, give the sandwiches a little crunch by garnishing them with sweet and sour coleslaw. Prepare coleslaw up to a week in advance or prepare and freeze it for future use.

Have a safe and good holiday!

Slow cooker pulled pork

1 pork shoulder (4 to 5 pounds) or roast ploughshare

Salt, pepper and garlic powder

1 onion, sliced

1 (12 ounce) can of beer or cola

3/4 cup barbecue sauce

Crispy rolls or sliding rolls

Directions: Sprinkle roast with a mixture of salt, pepper and garlic powder. Place roast, fat side up, on onions in bottom of slow cooker. Pour the root beer over the pork, cover and cook on high power 4 to 5 hours or on low heat 7 to 8 hours.

When the meat is very tender, switch from a slow cooker to an ovenproof dish. Using two forks, shred the pork and return it to the juice in the slow cooker (if there is a lot of juice, squeeze out some before adding the grated pork.) Add the barbecue sauce to the pork and to juices.

Serve on buns with coleslaw. Makes 8 large sandwiches or 16 sandwiches.

Slow cooker pulled beef

1 boneless chuck roast (2 to 2.50 pounds), trimmed

2 medium onions, roughly chopped

3/4 cup cola

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp of cider vinegar

1 C. beef broth pellets

1/2 tsp. dry mustard

1/2 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. ground red chilli

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup of ketchup

2 tablespoons of butter

Directions: Place chopped onions and roast in 4 quart slow cooker. In a large measuring cup, whisk together cola and the next 7 ingredients. Reserve 1/2 cup of the mixture; refrigerate. Pour remaining mixture over roast and onions.

Cover and cook on high power 6 hours or until very tender. Drain the cooking liquid and shred the roast in the slow cooker. Keep warm.

In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the reserved cola mixture, butter and ketchup. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until heated through. Pour over the pulled beef. Serve with crisps and pickle tips. For 6.

Sweet and sour salad

(Top your sandwiches with this delicious crunchy coleslaw.)

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup of sugar

1/4 cup water

1 C. salt

1/2 tsp. celery seed

8 cups of shredded cabbage

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 carrot, grated

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

2 T. chopped chilli pepper

Directions: In a small non-reactive saucepan, combine the sugar, vinegar, water, salt and celery seeds. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat. Let cool. Refrigerate dressing for several hours or overnight.

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, celery, carrot and chili. Pour in the chilled dressing and toss to coat well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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