America's birthday, Independence Day, July Fourth, call it what you will, this is a day for casual celebrations. It's a stress-free holiday filled with outdoor fun and fireworks that goes hand-in-hand with low-key cookouts based on recipes that are cheap and easy to prepare. With the harvest just coming in, ripe and ready fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, and raspberries, and vegetables such as corn, peppers, and tomatoes, fetch budget prices at the farmer's market and deserve starring roles in July Fourth meals. Build them into a red, white, and blue theme with an occasional boost from a little food coloring or red and blue sprinkles.
15 Cheap Party Foods for July Fourth
Whole-kernel popping corn costs about 12 cents an ounce and yields about 4 cups popped. Add in the cost of oil and food coloring, and the bottom line comes to less than 10 cents a popped cup. To make colored popcorn, add food coloring to the oil before the kernels; pop in three batches, one without food coloring, one with red, and one with blue; season and combine.
Sugar cookies require just a few pantry staples and are easy to mix up; the Internet is larded with recipes. Create white icing by mixing powdered sugar with cream, milk, or water, 1 tablespoon at a time until just combined and still thick. Divide into three parts and add a drop or two of food coloring to make blue and red frostings. Use brushes and toothpicks to decorate the cookies to resemble flags with stars and stripes.
Cut chunks of watermelon and pineapple into star shapes and mix with blueberries. Buy the whole fruits and cut them yourself; in general, pre-cut fruit costs up to two times more than the straight-from-nature version.
Arrange strawberry and banana chunks into alternating rows to represent the stripes in the flag and lay out blueberries in a square in the corner to represent the stars. Substitute Swiss or mozzarella cheese chunks for the bananas if you prefer a Fourth of July fruit-and-cheese plate instead.
Line up halved strawberries, thick banana rounds, and two or three blueberries on wooden skewers and arrange on a platter. Simple, cheap, and quick, dessert kebabs are a no-mess way for guests to enjoy a holiday-themed dessert.
Skewer up tomatoes, onion, button mushrooms, and green pepper as the vegetarian contribution to your holiday celebration. Each skewer uses a small amount of vegetables that hits close to the $1 range.
Take advantage of low-cost cauliflower for this themed vegetable platter. Cut the cauliflower and one red bell pepper into strips and arrange as stripes on a square or rectangular platter. In the top left corner arrange blue potato chips to represent the stars.
Whip up a batch of your favorite basic cupcake recipe and let cool completely. Top with white icing and decorate with red and blue sprinkles or red and blue berries.
Apples are America's original sweet treat, with New York's Hudson Valley producing some of the finest baking apples. Setting them in the oven or on the grill caramelizes the sugars to make them even tastier. Remove the core, add cinnamon and raisins, cover with foil and bake until soft for a cheap and healthy dessert that tastes like apple pie filling.
This airy dessert uses big volume whipped cream to create large portions from a small amount of ingredients. Set out six jars or glasses and layer in red berries, home-whipped cream, and blueberries. Repeat twice and top with another dollop of whipped cream.
Create a sophisticated yet patriotic salad by combining blueberries, dried cranberries, and goat cheese with arugula. Toss with olive oil, black pepper, and wine vinegar just before serving.
This light wine punch is a refreshing drink all summer long and the festive colors make it a beverage of choice for America's birthday bash. Add a handful of blueberries and diced red apple to a bottle of white wine along with 3 ounces of orange liqueur and a bottle of club soda; serve over ice.