Fourth of July heralds hot days; it brings kids clutching melting red, white, and blue rocket popsicles and local politicians handing out booster buttons.
We get fun runs and freedom. In one day, we pack in fairs, fireworks, parades and potlucks.
When you show up at a neighborhood barbecue, dish in hand, you want to make sure that what you’ve brought will be a hit—but you don’t want to spend all day making it. We’ve got you covered with a salad hearty enough to stay crisp in the heat and some treats that will disappear before you can wind your way to the dessert table.
Red, White and Blue Berries
These treats are more craft than recipe. Give your kids a little independence of their own and let them take over making these. Last Fourth of July, I brought these to a party and they were gone before the hostess put them out—everyone who passed through the kitchen gobbled one up until all that was left was an empty plate with my name on it.
- 1 quart of strawberries, washed and dried, stems intact
- 1 cup white chocolate chips (or baking chocolate)
- 1/2 teaspoon canola oil
- Blue sprinkles
1. Prepare tray with wax or parchment paper.
2. Put chips and canola oil in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in microwave for one minute, then stir. (I find that using a fork mixes the chips best.) Continue heating in 30-second increments until melted.
3. Hold each strawberry by the stem and dip into chocolate, leaving a little red still showing at the top of the berry.
4. While berry is still wet, dip bottom into small bowl or ramekin of blue sprinkles. Place strawberry on tray to cool. Can keep in fridge for several hours.
Tip: Don’t make more than eight hours in advance because strawberries will start to give off juice and chocolate will loosen.
Alternative: Make using blue Pop Rocks instead of sprinkles for a “fireworks in your mouth” experience.
Gail’s Bok Choy Salad
This is my mother-in-law’s yummy recipe for a picnic-ready salad that will easily eclipse that supermarket potato salad sitting next to it.
Combine for salad:
- A few bunches of bok choy, chopped
- 1 bunch scallions, diced
Combine for topping:
- 3/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
- 3/4 cup slivered almonds
- 1 package dry ramen noodles, broken into small pieces (discard the flavor packet)
Combine for dressing:
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup canola oil (can substitute vegetable oil)
1. Right before you head out, toss together the salad, topping, and a drizzle of dressing. Bring the leftover dressing on the side for those who like their salads soaked.
Pink Lemonade Cupcakes
Makes approximately 40 mini cupcakes
Summer and lemonade are perfect party partners. And when it comes to party desserts, it’s best to bring hand-held treats in small portions—that way no one has to balance their plate and fork while crooking a drink in their elbow. I made these as mini-cupcakes; people who won’t commit to a regular-sized cupcake will down three of these in one conversation!
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons sweetened lemonade-drink powder
- 1 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, beat butter for two minutes until smooth. Gradually add sugar and beat three minutes until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the flours, lemon zest and lemonade-drink powder; add to mix in four parts alternating with milk and vanilla extract. Beat well after each addition.
4. Line two mini-cupcake tins with liner cups. Spoon batter into cups, filling nearly to top. Bake for 10 minutes, then check for doneness (cake should spring back when lightly touched); cook longer if needed. Cool on rack.
Shortcut: If you don’t have time to make from-scratch cupcakes, buy a box of white cake mix and combine according to box instructions, then mix in lemon zest, lemonade-drink powder and vanilla extract in amounts above.
Pink Lemonade Frosting:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 pound confectioner’s sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3-5 tablespoons frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
1. In a large bowl, beat butter for two minutes until creamy.
2. Mix in two cups of confectioner’s sugar. Add vanilla extract and lemonade concentrate and beat three minutes or until smooth. Continue adding and mixing confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time until desired consistency. For smoother frosting, beat longer.
3. Frost cupcakes and embellish with blue and red sprinkles or mini flags.
Pamela Rothbard is a writer and photographer living in Glencoe with her husband and two children. For more recipes, check out her website, Flour on the Floor.