UNITED STATES—It’s that time of the year again, when we fire up the grill, kick back with a chilled beer, and celebrate our nation’s independence under the summer sun. On Tuesday, we’ll feast on burgers with toasted buns, grilled onions, and slightly melted cheese. In the evening, we’ll head to the nearest designated park to watch the fireworks soar and glitter high above us, accompanied by the oh-so-familiar booms and crackles.
Fourth of July has always held a sense of nostalgia for me. My memories of fireworks and barbecues go far back, to a time when I could barely say my own name. Now that I’m older and capable of making my own holiday plans, I try to explore new options every year. Last year, I sat on a dusty, ant-covered hillside near Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Stadium to watch fireworks. The year before that, I went to the Griffith Observatory and witnessed about 20 firework displays occurring simultaneously all around the county.
But what I most look forward to every year is the food. During the last Fourth of July, I tried grilling watermelon alongside links of chicken sausage and bell peppers. In fact, anything I could cook on the grill, I went ahead and threw it on. And at my sweet tooth’s urging, I spent an hour searching for red, white, and blue desserts, though I ended up not having time to make anything.
This year, my goal is to make that dessert. I plan to keep it simple, both in terms of making and eating it. Here are some ideas for those looking for simpler recipes that don’t skimp on flavor or appearance.
These red, white, and blue stars caught my attention right away. From the nostalgia of colorful Jello cut into fun shapes, to creamy sweetness from condensed milk, what’s not to like? These stars are denser than traditional Jello and can be picked up and eaten with the fingers. The recipe can easily be customized for other holidays, sports teams, and graduations.
Is it just me, or is food more appealing in little jars? I’ve been drawn to recipes for cute individual treats lately, and these Patriotic Mini Parfaits are definitely on my to-make list. Cherry-almond cookie dough is layered with whipped cream cheese, and topped with a swirl of blue frosting. The tiny portions are perfect for this rich dessert.
Cupcakes that look like snow cones? Count me in. These adorable cakes are baked in paper soufflé cups, with the convenience of a box cake mix. Portions of each cupcake are covered in red, white, and blue frosting, and white and colored sugar crystals are shaken over the top of each corresponding color. The resulting domed, glittery tops resemble snow cones, with tiny straws or spoons to complete the look.
After all that sugar, we may need a healthier snack, and this American flag made of fruit sounds perfect. Blueberries, raspberries, and apple cubes are arranged onto bamboo skewers on a nice platter. A bit of lemon curd and yogurt are combined and drizzled on top. Guests can simply pick up a skewer and enjoy.
After hours in the sun, a cool treat is a must. A healthy frozen treat is even better. These Patriotic Popsicles are made with blueberry and strawberry puree, layered with Greek yogurt. Honey can be added for sweetness, and the yogurt can be substituted with coconut milk or coconut yogurt. For those who don’t own Popsicle molds, small cups will fit the bill nicely.
What’s a party without some margaritas? I recently tried a margarita for the first time (I know, a little late there) and fell in love. In this recipe, frozen strawberries, blueberries, and coconut milk are respectively combined with tequila, lime juice, and agave nectar. Each flavor is layered one at a time into serving glasses and topped with a festive firecracker. Salt or sugar can be used to rim the glasses, as an extra touch.
I’ve come to realize that I love themed celebrations, such as Harry Potter-themed dinners, ugly Christmas sweater parties, and Halloween get-togethers where guests are required to dress up. As with other holidays, Fourth of July only comes once a year, so I plan to take advantage of the weather, the fireworks, and especially the red, white, and blue food.