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It is always fun to have a reason to celebrate. July 4 is a great day to celebrate our freedom, and we do it in many ways. This year, enjoy by trying new recipes for that July 4 picnic or dinner. Our featured cook today, Jennifer Byers, has given us great recipes to do just that.

Jennifer and her husband Jason came to our area to go to Brigham Young University-Idaho. Jennifer is from Mexico City, Mexico and Jason from San Bernardino, California. They met through their church and have lived in Mexico City, Blythe, California and now in Rexburg.

Jennifer works at the Madison Women’s Clinic and Jason works for Basic American Foods in Rexburg. He has graduated from BYU-Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in ecology.

Both Jennifer and Jason enjoy cooking. Jennifer does the majority of cooking, but Jason will get a meal on the table if Jennifer is at work or busy with other obligations. Jason is self-taught and enjoys preparing a meal on occasion.

Jennifer grew up with a mom who was a great cook, and she did all of the family cooking. Jennifer wasn’t allowed in the kitchen, but after her dad bought her some cookbooks, her mom saw her interest in cooking and decided to teach her some of her own techniques and that is the basic food preparation that Jennifer learned. She now can cook almost anything and loves to cook. Jennifer would prefer to be a full-time homemaker and cook, as she enjoys that life. Most of Jennifer’s cooking is Mexican style since that is what she and Jason enjoy. She does like to bake occasionally, but she claims Jason is a better baker.

Favorite foods for Jennifer are enchiladas verde and barbecue pulled pork. Jason would choose chili rellenos and enchiladas. Jason does cook up a great Italian dish, chicken piccata, which is also a favorite of both.

Most of the meals for Jennifer and Jason are cooked at home, but they do enjoy a night dining out for special occasions. They love to shop for groceries together, and Jason is very particular about fresh produce. They are able to find most ingredients they need locally.

Personal hobbies for Jennifer, in addition to her cooking, including playing the piano. Growing up in Mexico, most households did not have musical instruments because of the cost, so a church member taught her piano lessons at the local church. She enjoys walking and running. She likes her work and the association with the good people in her office. Her future plans are to learn French to go along with her Spanish and English. She would eventually like to become a counselor, as she has seen the importance of that occupation and the results it can make in a person’s life. Traveling back to Mexico to visit her parents and five sisters is always a special treat for Jennifer.

Fly fishing is Jason’s favorite sport. He has done extensive research on the art of fly fishing. A favorite birthday gift was fishing waders from Jennifer. He enjoys traveling; mostly short trips. He likes to cook and loves to eat. An occasional video game makes him happy too.

Both Jennifer and Jason are looking forward to July 4 for a day off of work and a chance to celebrate with the entire country. Of course, it would have to include good food. They have included some of their favorite recipes in today’s Food Stuff for your own celebrations.

Autumn rotisserie chicken salad with almonds and apples

(Jennifer Byers)

3 cups chopped, cooked chicken

2 ribs celery, chopped

1 Granny Smith apple, chopped

½ cup sliced almonds, slightly crushed

3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

2 teaspoons dried tarragon

2 tablespoons light mayonnaise

½ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon coarse salt to taste

Freshly ground pepper to taste

¼ cup chopped cranberries, optional

Into one bowl, put chicken, celery, apples and almonds. In a separate bowl, combine Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, tarragon, onion powder, salt and pepper. Combine ingredients in both bowls and serve at room temperature.

Mama’s Guacamole Dip

(Jennifer Byers)

4 to 5 tomatillos

3 or 4 Arbol chilies (less if you want it less spicy)

2 tablespoons diced onion

½ teaspoon chopped garlic

1 ripe avocado

1 dollop sour cream (Mexican cream is the best)

Salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan with water and salt, bring the tomatillos to a boil or until they are soft. Put the tomatillos with the rest of the ingredients in a blender and blend until all is mixed. You can decorate with cilantro leaves and a lime wedge. Great for a July 4 barbeque with tortilla chips.

Tortilla soup

(Jennifer Byers)

1 regular sized chicken breast (chopped in bite-size squares)

1 can pinto or black beans (your choice)

1 can RO-TEL tomatoes

1 diced red bell pepper

1 diced green bell pepper

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon chili powder

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon chicken bouillon mixed with 4-5 cups water or chicken stock

Avocado, chopped or sliced

Tortilla strips

Cheese (cheddar or Monterey Jack)

Sour cream (or Mexican cream)


In a pan, pour about two tablespoons of oil and let it heat. Put the chicken to season with the chili powder and a little bit of salt until it is cooked. Set aside. In a deep saucepan, pour some more oil and put the onion, garlic and bell peppers in and fry until soft. Reduce the heat and add the bouillon with water or chicken stock. Add tomato paste, and, if you like, some more chili powder. Let it boil and simmer to add some thickness. Serve in a bowl with the cheese, sour cream, avocado and tortilla strips.

Chicken piccata

(Jennifer Byers)

4 skinless, boneless, chicken breast halves

1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup flour for dredging

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon capers, drained

½ cup white wine

¼ cup of fresh lemon juice

¼ cup water

3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter

2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Place each chicken breast between two layers of plastic wrap and pound to about ½-inch thick. Season chicken with cayenne, salt, pepper and dredge lightly in flour and shake off any excess. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Place chicken in the pan and reduce heat to medium and cook until browned and cooked through. Remove and set aside. Cook capers in reserved oil, smashing them with a fork slightly to release brine, about 30 seconds. Pour wine into skillet. Scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until reduced by half. Stir lemon juice, water and butter into the reduced wine mixture. Cook and stir continuously to form a thick sauce. Reduce heat to low and stir parsley into the sauce. Return chicken breasts to the pan and cook until heated through. Serve with sauce spooned over the top.

Chiles Rellenos Mami vic style

(Jennifer Byers)

4 Poblano chilies

2 eggs

1 to 2 cups flour

1 packet queso fresco or mozzarella cheese

4 to 5 tomatoes

3 or 4 slices of a large onion

1 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon chicken bouillon

Salt and pepper to taste

3 or 4 dried chilies de Arbol

In a non-stick pan, roast the Poblano chili until soft and place them inside a plastic zip bag until the skin easily peels off, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse the chilies and slice open the chili on one side the entire length. Remove the seeds and reserve. Slice the cheese into strips, about an inch thick. In a bowl, whisk the eggs with a pinch of salt. Prepare a large plate with flour. Place one or two pieces of cheese inside the chili; once stuffed, dip the entire chili into the egg mixture and then coat it with flour. In a non-stick pan, heat the oil. Once it is hot, place the chilies to fry until golden brown. Remove from heat and reserve.

For the sauce:

In a blender, place the tomatoes, onion, garlic, chicken bouillon and chilis de Arbol, if you want it with a kick. Blend until smooth. In a saucepan, pour about one tablespoon of oil to heat. After the pan is hot, pour in the sauce mix and let it boil; reduce heat to low and place your chili Rellenos in the saucepan to simmer for approximately five minutes.

Enjoy with fresh rice and beans.