July 4th baby

BerriesJuly 4 is all about outdoor fun, picnics, fireworks, and enjoying your favorite people to celebrate the birth of our great nation. Old Glory sets the color scheme and summertime harvests provide an almost endless variety of healthy foods to add to the festivities. Try these July 4 menu tips showcasing the red, white, and blue theme; some of them are easy, some are healthy, some are both.

Blue Notes

There are very few true blue foods, with blueberries being the top choice. They can be used in every course of the meal but beware cooking them very long. High heat fades their vibrant blue pigments into a not-so-appetizing grey.

Other foods in the blue group include the purples: eggplant, cabbage, plums, grapes, blackberries, and some specialty varieties of carrots, potato, and bell pepper. Purple foods contain red and blue pigments, which provide a double-dose punch of high-quality antioxidants.

Setting the Table

Food that looks good tastes great and contributes to a meal’s satisfaction. Disposable paper dinnerware is ideal for picnics and a lot of it boldly features stars, stripes, flags, fireworks, and other holiday-appropriate designs. Reserve these busy patterns for napkins and tablecloths. Use plates and bowls in one solid color so your good food doesn’t get lost in the dinnerware design. Avoid blueberry overload with blue plates or mix up solid-colored red, white, and blue plates and bowls.

Appetizer Ideas

  • Stuff frozen mini phyllo cups with chunks of Brie cheese and bake till cheese melts. Top with cranberry chutney. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  • Crispy bruschetta topped with blue cheese and tomato or diced roasted red pepper.
  • Make nachos with blue corn tortilla chips, red salsa, and cotija cheese crumbles.

The Main Course

  • Turn a classic Caprese salad red, white, and blue by substituting purple basil for the traditional sweet green variety.
  • Fresh berries and white cheeses (feta, blue cheese, or cotija crumbles) bring the holiday spirit to any salad bowl.
  • Some vinaigrettes made from balsamic vinegar pair well with savory salads containing fresh fruits but poppyseed, blue cheese, peanut, or honey mustard dressings are excellent choices, too.
  • Serve slices of grilled bluefin tuna and red snapper over white rice or mashed potatoes.
  • Punch up the flavor of quinoa: Add roasted sunflower seed kernels and green grapes and a dash of paprika to cook with the quinoa. Cool and, just before serving, toss gently with diced red onion, pitted cherry halves, and blueberries.

Sweet Finishes

  • Stuff frozen mini phyllo cups with sweetened ricotta, mascarpone cheese, or softened cream cheese, top with maraschino or fresh cherries, blue or red berries, drizzle with honey, and served chilled.
  • Blueberry or blackberry pie (store-bought’s just fine) topped with whipped cream, non-dairy frozen topping, or vanilla ice cream and fresh strawberries or raspberries.
  • Or strawberry or rhubarb pie garnished with blueberries.
  • Pair red velvet cake with blue, either in separate cakes or separately colored layers.
  • Beautiful berry-filled dessert terrine (don’t slice the strawberries; use small whole berries or slice the big ones in half).
  • Serve one big red, white, and blue trifle filled with white cake chunks, berries, cherries, marshmallows, and whipped cream or assemble individual-sized trifles in small clear plastic drinking glasses.
  • Use big, fluffy refrigerator-case biscuits for July 4 shortcakes. Dip each biscuit into melted butter and then into turbinado (raw) sugar. Bake sugar side up. Once cool, split each biscuit horizontally, serve with whipped cream or ice cream and red and blue berries inside and out.
  • Berry-filled angel food Cake: Slice an angel food cake into three layers. Top one layer with whipped cream, marshmallows, and red berries or pitted cherry halves. Stack a second layer of cake filled the same way with blue berries. Top it all off with the third cake layer. Finish with whipped cream and red and blue berries. (Freeze the bare cake for easy slicing.)
  • Top your fave brownie recipe with red, white, and blue M&Ms. Keep cool or serve indoors; chocolate starts melting at 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Nothing beats icy cold watermelon chunks, slices, or stars on a hot sunny day.

Thirst Quenchers

  • Use any red, white, or blue kid-friendly beverage alone or in combos to quench hard-playing thirsts. Layering beverages can be tricky but it’s a guaranteed crowd-pleasing way to serve up a drink.
  • Blend up smoothies made with yogurt, bananas, and red or blue berries.
  • Whip up a batch of red or blue berry frozen margaritas for the adults.
  • Other adult beverages ideas include Blue Hawaiians, blue Martinis, Cosmopolitans, Patriotic Shooters, and red and blue Jello shots. Unlayered cocktails can be mixed up in pitcher-sized batches well ahead of party time.
  • Fill ice cube trays with red and blue berries before adding water. Use these colorful ice cubes to chill a glass or pitcher of lemonade, tea, sparkling water, wine spritzer, or champagne cocktail.

Happy Independence Day, everyone!