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4th of July Fun for Cooks – Easy Drinks, Salads, Desserts and More

July 4th, 2013 · 3 Comments

Watermelon Jell-o Shots in lime wedges /photo and recipe at Firstlookthencook.com

Watermelon Jell-o Shots in lime wedges /photo and recipe at Firstlookthencook.com

Picnics and watermelon, fireworks and sparklers – and plenty of red, white and blue. That’s the way we party for the Fourth of July.

Here are some quick ideas for your party foods – keep things easy and simple.

4th of July Drinks

ice cube traysStart by making blue and red ice stars from Star Shaped Ice Cube Trays. Add berries or mint leaves to them for extra flavor. For a punchbowl or large dispenser, use a small star-shaped mold.

Fill a large clear pitcher or dispenser with tap with 3/4 lemonade to 1/4 cranberry-blueberry juice, adding sliced strawberries, blueberries and mint leaves to the jug. Chill well; add ice to serve or serve over ice. If you want to make this for adults, add a cup of vodka or gin to 1/2 gallon lemonade and use extra mint.

Make Jell-o cups by carving small cups from watermelon blocks or core out the strawberry. Fill with Jell-o shots, or lemonade and chill well.

To make the watermelon-Jell-o lime cups shown above, visit the terrific food blog FirstLookThenCook.com – Dawn gives great photos and clear directions. (Scoop out halved limes, pour in Jell-O and chill; cut when set.) Check out her Drinks category where the delicious Cool as a Cucumber is also featured.

Layered salads

Use a clear glass bowl to layer items. For a green salad, choose from: Romaine leaves, torn; arugula, feta cheese cubes, red onion, avocado cubes, fresh peas, radish slices, shredded carrot, broccoli, bacon bits, cheddar cubes, tomatoes, olives, fried onion rings, croutons. A Green Goddess dressing or other creamy dressing of your choice should top your layers, sealing the salad to the edges. Refrigerate 4 hours before serving.

For a layered fruit salad, make these individually in small mason jars. Cube watermelon or other melons and drain in colander. Layer with feta cheese, blueberries, mint, tarragon or basil leaves, sliced strawberries, and top with a sweet onion vinaigrette dressing or lemon curd. Avoid whipped cream.

Bettycrocker-flagcakeDesserts for the Fourth

All the rage is the layer flag cake – when it’s cut, each slice forms a flag – as in the one above. Use a couple of boxed mixes and some berries – go here for the recipe from Betty Crocker if you can’t figure it out. It looks complicated but it’s not.

You can always make the sheet cake flag cake, formed with icing. We like Ina Garten’s version, but here’s a big tip: Don’t add the berries till you’re ready to serve – the berries weep and will cause the design to run.

Other ideas: Individual strawberry-blueberry trifles. Use half-pint sized Mason jars to layer angel food cake cubes, whipped cream (or lemon pudding – a favorite) and berries, sliced. Chill well and serve each with their own spoon.

creamcheesecherrypieSame theme, different dessert: You can make individual apple pies in a Mason jar – just bake a pie crust blind. Add layers of crust with pie filling and chill; add a crumble on top if desired, or whipped cream or a wedge of cheddar cheese.

Make the cream-cheese cherry pie – always a Fourth favorite. Stud it with blueberries for the Fourth.  Here’s the traditional recipe from Eagle brand condensed milk:

Cream Cheese Cherry Pie

  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (8 or 9-inch) prepared graham cracker or baked pie crust
  • 1 (21 oz.) can cherry pie filling, chilled

Beat cream cheese until fluffy in a large bowl. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla with rubber spatula.
Pour mixture into crust; chill 4 hours or until set. Top with desired amount of cherry pie filling before serving.


  • BLUEBERRY: Omit cherry pie filling. Combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in medium bowl; mix well. Add 1/2 cup water, 2 tablespoons lemon juice then 2 cup fresh or frozen unsweetened blueberries; mix well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes or until thick and clear. Cool 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool 15 minutes. Spread over pie. Chill thoroughly.
  • CRANBERRY: Omit cherry pie filling. Combine 1/3 cups sugar and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in medium saucepan. Add 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water and 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries; mix well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Spread over pie. Chill thoroughly.
  • FRESH FRUIT: Omit cherry pie filling. Just before serving, arrange well-drained fresh strawberries, banana slices (dipped in lemon juice and well drained) and blueberries on top of chilled pie. Brush fruit with light corn syrup if desired.
  • AMBROSIA: Omit cherry pie filling. Combine 1/2 cup Smucker’s® Peach or Apricot Preserves, 1/4 cup flaked coconut, 2 tablespoons orange juice and 2 teaspoons cornstarch in small saucepan; cook and stir until thickened. Remove from heat. Arrange fresh orange sections over top of pie; top with coconut mixture. Chill thoroughly.

Tags: Holiday cooking

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jessica // Jul 5, 2013 at 11:09 am

    I love ALL these ideas!!

  • 2 Linda James // Jul 16, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Wow. I did not know that there are many food and drink ideas for the fourth of July. I usually encounter hotdog, dessert and grilled foods during this special day. The layer flag cake is a very wonderful and innovative idea. I would love to try cream-cheese cherry pie or strawberry-blueberry trifles because I just love desserts

  • 3 Mike S. // Jul 20, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    That flag cake looks amazing! Almost to good to eat. Almost… 😉

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