Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, the day Americans celebrate freedom and the beginning of our great nation. What better way to celebrate than with food!

This is also a time of year when many country churches celebrate Homecomings. Most modern city churches don’t celebrate Homecomings anymore, but a few out in the country still do.

It is a special day set aside each year when a guest preacher is invited to speak during the morning service, then the congregation breaks for a potluck meal, then there are guest singers in the afternoon.

The crowds are normally large, as people who attended church as children come back “home” on Homecoming Day to reflect and reconnect with friends and family.

Historically, Homecomings were often referred to as “All Day Singings & Dinner on the Ground.” Churchgoers would bring homemade dishes and spread them out on a cement table outside and enjoy a meal together.

Chances are by now you have realized that I love to eat! Therefore, I eagerly await the time when we get to attend Dinner on the Ground and sample the many distinct dishes that each individual has prepared. Our family has a gospel singing group that travels and sings for small church Homecomings, so we get to sample many of these great dishes.

Many of these dishes are made from scratch by home cooks who never went to culinary school or had any special training, but gained their experience from numerous years of preparing home-cooked meals for their families. One will not find any better tasting food than these home-cooked dishes at a Homecoming celebration.

Often times, if I really enjoyed a dish, I will inquire after who made it and ask the cook to share the recipe. This month’s inspiration comes from a recent visit to a church’s Homecoming celebration. This Blueberry Bread Pudding was on the dessert table, and it is one of the Top 3 best desserts that I have EVER tasted.

Larry and Peggy Smith, who attend my church, grow blueberries and gave me enough to make this dish. I prepared it for my family and took it to my office, and they all loved it. My daughter, who does not like blueberries, loved it too.

Since blueberries are in abundance now, you could make this for your Fourth of July celebration tomorrow, and people will be asking you for the recipe.

Strawberry and Blueberry Cheesecake Salad is a quick and easy patriotic dish for a Fourth of July celebration. Who doesn’t love cheesecake? Mixed with fresh berries, it’s a perfect combination.

Blueberry Bread Pudding

  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (12 ounce) package white baking chips
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 (1 pound) loaf French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, cream, sugar and vanilla. Stir in the baking chips and blueberries. Stir in the bread cubes. Let stand for about 30 minutes, or until the bread has soaked up the liquid.

Pour into a greased 13x9-inch baking dish and bake uncovered for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Tips:

Oven cooking times vary, so make sure you check this dish for doneness before taking it out of the oven. This is one that you will need to check and re-check.

Make sure the French bread loaf is the 1 pound/16 ounce size.

Fresh blueberries are preferred, but you can use frozen.

White baking chips are the same as the white chocolate chips sold in bags.

Strawberry and Blueberry Cheesecake Salad

  • ½ package of Philadelphia Cheesecake Filling (in the cream cheese aisle)
  • 2 small containers of vanilla yogurt
  • 1 (8 ounce) container of Cool Whip, thawed
  • ½ bag miniature marshmallows (optional)
  • 1 quart of strawberries, sliced
  • 1 pint of blueberries

Reserve enough fruit for garnish. In a large bowl, mix cheesecake filling, yogurt and Cool Whip until creamy. Stir in marshmallows, and fold in fruit. Garnish with reserved fruit. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. You can add sliced bananas to this if you like.

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