This Fourth of July, declare your independence from the kitchen. It's easy enough to head outside and throw some burgers or chicken on the grill, but what about side dishes? These can be treacherous.

If you're not careful, it's easy to end up wasting half the holiday mincing celery. I refuse to.Even the slowest cook can make today's Creamy Broccoli Slaw in less than 10 minutes, thanks to the convenience of broccoli coleslaw mix. Made from shredded broccoli stalks with a little carrot thrown in for color, this time-saving ingredient is found in plastic bags in the grocery produce section.

To round out the menu, I might pull one of my mother's favorite tricks, which is to buy Southern-style potato salad from the deli, stir in my own raw onion and sprinkle paprika on top. Hard to believe, but this transforms that supermarket stuff into a close cousin of homemade.

My own quick trick is Scandinavian pickled cucumbers. In a serving bowl, whisk together half a cup each of water and white vinegar. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of sugar until it dissolves. Buy a "seedless" hothouse cucumber if you can find one (or use about a pound of thin-skinned Kirby cukes) and slice them without peeling directly into the bowl. Toss to coat with the dressing, and salt and pepper to taste. This fat-free dish improves the longer it rests, and sliced tomatoes are a welcome addition.

If you've avoided deviled eggs because they seem too complicated, think again. The best deviled eggs are the simplest. The easy way is to put as many eggs as you need in a pot, cover them with cold water and bring the pot to a boil. When the water boils, continue to cook, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Then just cover the pot, remove it from the heat, and let it stand for at least 20 minutes. The eggs can be cooked a couple of days ahead.

Peel the eggs, (rinse first with cold water if they're still hot), slice them in half vertically and pop out the yolks into a mixing bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork until the lumps are gone. Add light mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon at a time, and a little Dijon mustard to taste, until the yolk mixture is a thick paste. Salt and pepper to taste and then spoon the mixture back into the white "cups."

Whether you choose potato salad, pickled cucumbers or deviled eggs to go with your grilled chicken and broccoli slaw, you can celebrate your freedom from difficult side dishes with this easy menu:

Grilled chicken

Creamy broccoli slaw

Choice of deli potato salad, pickled cucumbers or deviled eggs

Watermelon wedges


1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1/2 teaspoon white or cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon celery seed, optional

1 package (8 ounces) broccoli coleslaw

Salt and black pepper to taste

In a 2-quart or larger bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, sugar and celery seed, if using. Stir until well-blended.

Add the broccoli slaw and stir until the broccoli is well-coated with dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook's note: This recipe may easily be doubled or tripled.

Serve at once or refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 4.

- Approximate values per serving: 78 calories (65 percent from fat), 6 G fat (2 G saturated), 11 MG cholesterol, 2 G protein, 5 G carbohydrates, 2 G dietary fiber, 37 MG sodium.