A couple weeks ago I got an email from a reader who asked for a recipe to spice up hamburgers on the grill. I'm always pretty Plain Jane with my burgers, and do little more than shape ground beef into a patty and grill or fry it, but Bob H. from Tamaqua got me thinking.

Since tomorrow is the Fourth of July, I wanted to come up with a recipe that wouldn't require a lot of shopping or preparation. This is pretty easy, and if you were already planning on serving burgers at your picnic, you probably have all of the ingredients in your kitchen.

As I mentioned last week, I have a roast beef recipe I just love. So I thought, why not put the seasoning I use on the outside of the roast beef, inside the ground beef?

I combined the dry ingredients in a small bowl, then mixed a tablespoon of the mixture into the meat, along with a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. I heated a frying pan on the stove and rolled up a pinch of the meat mixture and fried it.

It was flavorful, but not really "spiced up." I added another spoonful of the seasoning mix, and a second spoonful of Worcestershire sauce. Better, but I thought a pinch more was the way to go. I added the remaining dry mix. I was pretty sure I had a winner.

Because the dry ingredients are similar to those used as a dry rub when barbecuing ribs or brisket, I decided to move forward with the whole barbecue "theme." I cooked up a batch of Barbecued Onions, which is a recipe my mother always made and served on grilled hot dogs. I thought it would work equally well on these burgers.

Then, instead of ketchup, I topped the burgers with Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce. I often make my own sauce from scratch, but when I don't, we love Sweet Baby Ray's. You can use your favorite barbecue sauce as well.

(My husband said they were the best burgers he's ever had. Bob from Tamaqua, if you're reading this, let me know what you think!)

I'm also including a recipe for another summertime favorite macaroni salad. This is also a recipe where you may already have all of the ingredients. That's exactly how I came up with it. I remember not too long after I was married, we made impromptu plans for a Sunday afternoon picnic.

I didn't have much in the house, nor did I have a recipe for macaroni salad. I had elbow macaroni, mayonnaise and an onion.

That didn't seem like quite enough, so after checking the cupboard and the fridge, I added some black olives and carrots. It was a huge hit, and I've been making it for over 30 years.

Since it wouldn't be a holiday without dessert, and because I ran out of time, I searched our archives and found a recipe we ran a few years ago.

Mixed-berry Parfait is a simple, sweet and colorful finale to a star-studded Fourth of July.

For more Comfort & Joy recipes, including my recipe for Baked Beans and Oma's Potato Salad, go to www.tnonline.com/lifestyle/comfort-and-joy.

Barbecue Burgers

Six servings

1 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons salt

6 hamburger buns

Barbecue Sauce

Barbecue Onions

Combine all ingredients until well-blended. Form into six round patties. Use your thumb to make an indentation in the center of the patty. This will keep the hamburger juicy and prevent it from swelling up like a football as it cooks.

For a medium burger, grill for about three minutes on one side, then for another minute on the other side. Because I like mine well done, we cook them for at least three minutes on each side.

Remove the hamburgers from the grill and place on the hamburger buns. Top with about a tablespoon or two of your favorite barbecue sauce, followed by two tablespoons (or more) of the barbecued onions. Serve immediately.

Barbecued Onions

Six servings

1 tablespoon oil

1 large Vidalia onion, or three small yellow onions

5 tablespoons ketchup

2 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

teaspoon black pepper

Heat oil in a medium-sized saucepan. When hot, add onion and a pinch of salt. Sauté until onion is soft and translucent. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer on low heat for 5 minutes. (This is excellent with grilled hot dogs.)

Macaroni Salad

Makes 16, 1-cup servings

1 16-ounce box elbow macaroni

1 small onion, diced

3 large carrots, peeled and diced

1 large can sliced black olives

to 1 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

teaspoon cayenne pepper

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain, then rinse with cold running water. Let cool to room temperature.

Add remaining ingredients. Refrigerate until serving. (Note: Pasta has the tendency to absorb mayonnaise, so you may wish to stir in a couple more tablespoons before serving.)

Mixed-berry Parfaits

with Star-shaped Pastry Puffs

For each parfait:

Fresh blueberries

Fresh strawberries, sliced

Fresh raspberries

Puff Pastry Stars (recipe follows)

Simple syrup

Whipped cream

(There are no amounts for berries in this recipe as it will depend on how many parfaits you are making.)

Puff pastry stars:

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

2 tablespoons simple syrup (recipe follows)

Clear sanding sugar (larger grains than regular sugar)

If you don't have a small, star-shaped cookie cutter, draw a star pattern on a sheet of cardboard and cut out.

Open puff pastry sheet onto a flour-covered board. Using your cookie cutter (dipped in flour to prevent sticking), cut out a star for each parfait. If you are using the cardboard pattern, gently place it on the pastry and cut out with a sharp knife.

Place pastry on an ungreased cookie sheet, about one inch apart. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until pastry has risen to about an inch high and is a light, golden brown. Remove from oven. While warm, brush tops with simple syrup and sprinkle immediately with sanding sugar.

Simple syrup:

To make simple syrup, you will need two parts sugar to one part water. Bring water to a boil. Dissolve sugar into boiling water. Once it has dissolved, remove pan from heat. Cool completely. Place in a jar and store in the refrigerator.

Whipped cream:

chill a metal bowl and beaters in the freezer for about a half-hour if possible. In the chilled bowl, add 1 cup of cold heavy cream, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.

Start with a long-stemmed water goblet or wine glass. Add a few spoonfuls of fresh blueberries, top with homemade whipped cream. Next, add a layer of sliced fresh strawberries, that have been tossed with a little bit of sugar. Add another layer of whipped cream.

Add a layer of fresh raspberries, and a big dollop of whipped cream. Top with a puff pastry star and serve.