We’ve got just over a week until the Fourth of July and I will be hosting our family for Independence Day this year.
Will I have a beautiful buffet filled with red, white and blue foods? Probably not. I love those magazine spreads, but the truth is that these days with my little ones, I’m more likely to rely on a handful of family favorites that I can make ahead of time, and a ton of help from family members. As of this writing, I had not finalized my menu for our fete, but I wanted to look for red, white and blue foods for those of you who do care about the aesthetics and have the time to try something new.
For a main course, how about these red, white and blueberry burgers? The burgers are just plain old beef burgers, but the color and flavor comes in with some bright red cherry peppers, which are kind of like pimentos, the white from brie cheese (one of my favorites), and then a blueberry sauce made with blueberries, red wine vinegar, garlic, ginger, paprika and cayenne. Blueberries are actually more purple when cooked, but whatever. I’ll take the taste of real blueberries over blue dye any day.
Second, red, white and blue pie bars. These were gorgeous in the pictures, with the white coming from very pale batter used as a bottom base and dolloped on top of cherry and blueberry pie filling. This recipe used canned pie filling, but if you’ve got an extra half hour, I would go ahead and pre-cook some homemade pie filling on the stove. Bonus: extra pie filling can be used as ice cream toppings as well.
Third, I would love to have a red, white and blue drink, and one that even the kids can partake in as well. This recipe achieves that, though you can’t make a pitcher because they’ll all get mixed together as you pour it, so you have to prepare them in the cup. Start with your sugar-heavy cranberry juice at the bottom, topped by a clear lemon-lime soda, finished with a sugar-free blue Powerade or Gatorade. Bonus points if you have a fun straw for it.
And finally, for a little snack that brings the holidayness of the day home, red, white and blue snack mix. You simply mix cereal, pretzels and peanuts together in a big bowl and stir in some melted almond bark. Before the almond bark solidifies, add red, white and blue M&Ms and sprinkles, then spread it out to fully cool. Break into pieces when it’s done and put it in an obvious place where parents can monitor how much the kids are eating it.
Red, white and blueberry burgers
1 1/3 pounds ground beef
4 brioche buns
4 cherry peppers, sliced, seeds removed
4 slices brie
1 batch savory blueberry sauce (see below)
Prepare blueberry sauce and set aside.
Season the ground beef with a little salt and pepper. Form into 4 patties and set aside.
Heat the grill to medium-high and cook burgers to desired done-ness. Toast the insides of the brioche buns on the upper rack of the grill for 3 minutes to warm.
Build your burgers. Place the patty on the brioche bun, top with a slice of brie, 1 sliced cherry pepper and a dollop of blueberry sauce.
Savory blueberry sauce
1 cup blueberries
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove crushed garlic
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook on low for 10 minutes.
Using the back of a spoon, mash the blueberries against the side of the pan to pop the berries. Let cook another 5 minutes to thicken, then remove from the heat.
Let the sauce sit and thicken for another 5 minutes, then serve.
Red, white and blue pie bars
For the bars:
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups flour
1 (21-ounce) can blueberry pie filling (or homemade)
1 (21-ounce) can cherry pie filling
For the icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 1/2 sheet pan (interior measures about 16.5x11.38 x1 inches) by spraying with nonstick spray. Warning — if you don't have a pan this size, you're better going a little bigger than going a little smaller to prevent overflow. Or you can use a 9x13 baking dish but the bars will be much thicker and take longer to bake.
In bowl fitted for a stand mixer, cream butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl, as needed. Add extract and mix together. Add flour 1 cup at a time, just until dough is combined.
Measure out 3 cups of dough and spread onto greased baking sheet. Spoon pie fillings on top of dough, making sure to alternate spoonfuls of cherry and blueberry so they are mixed throughout the bars. Spread to edges of the dough and smooth out the top.
Drop remaining dough by the spoonfuls over the pie filling. You want to create a speckled look so no need to smooth the top. Bake in preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, or until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely before icing.
Mix icing ingredients together and drizzle over cooled bars. Cut bars and serve. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for a maximum of 2 days.
Red, white and blue layered drinks
Fill glasses two-thirds full with ice.
Pour the cranberry juice about one-third of the way up each glass. Slowly pour the lemon-lime soda another third of the way up the glass. Finally, slowly pour the blue Powerade to the top of the glass. Insert a straw and serve.
Patriotic party mix
4 cups Chex cereal
3 cups Cheerios
2 cups mini pretzels
1-1/2 cups dry roasted peanuts
1 (16-ounce) package Candiquik candy coating or 1 (20 ounce) package vanilla almond bark
2 (1.7-ounce) containers red, white and blue sprinkles
1 cup regular red, white and blue M&M's
1 cup peanut red, white and blue Peanut M&M's
In a large bowl, combine the Chex cereal, Cheerios, pretzels and peanuts.
In a microwave safe bowl, melt the almond bark or candy coating according to package directions, usually 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until melted and smooth. Be sure not to overheat the almond bark as it will burn and become too thick to stir and coat the mix evenly.
Pour the melted almond bark over the ingredients in the large bowl and toss to coat with a large spoon. Ingredients should be evenly coated in the almond bark.
Spread the mixture out in an even layer on parchment paper. Immediately sprinkle with the sprinkles and then the M&M's. Allow mixture to cool completely. Break apart to serve. Store in an airtight container or baggie.