15 Patriotic Party Foods for July Fourth
America's birthday, Independence Day, July Fourth -- whatever you call it, this is a day for outdoor fun, fireworks, and low-key cookouts based on recipes that are cheap and easy to prepare. With the summer 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 farmers market and deserve starring roles in Fourth of July meals. Build them into a patriotic theme with an occasional boost from a little food coloring or red and blue sprinkles.
Related: 16 Quick, Easy Side Dishes for Summer Parties
Whole-kernel popping corn costs about 12 cents an ounce and yields about 4 cups popped. Add 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 web 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 slices of watermelon and pineapple into star shapes with cookie cutters and mix with blueberries. Buy the whole fruits and cut them yourself to save money. In general, pre-cut fruit costs up to twice as much as the straight-from-nature version.
Arrange strawberry and banana chunks into alternating rows on a platter to represent the stripes in the flag and lay out blueberries in a square in the corner to represent the stars. For a Fourth of July fruit-and-cheese plate, substitute Swiss or mozzarella cheese chunks for the bananas.
There's no better time to indulge in this American classic than the Fourth of July. Even the best hot dogs are among the cheapest snacks or foundations for a summer meal, costing less than $2 a dog, fixin's included.
Line up halved strawberries, thick banana rounds, and two or three blueberries on wooden skewers and arrange on a platter. Simple, cheap, and quick, fruit kebabs are a no-mess way for guests to enjoy a holiday-themed dessert.
Skewer tomatoes, onion, button mushrooms, and green pepper as a vegetarian contribution to a holiday cookout. Each skewer uses a small amount of vegetables that hits close to $1.
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. Set a bowl of dip nearby.
Whip up a batch of a 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. Heating 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 dried cranberries, goat cheese, and blueberries with arugula. Toss with olive oil, black pepper, and wine vinegar just before serving.
Corn is native to the Americas, and no July Fourth celebration would be complete without corn on the cob. At about 50 cents an ear, this is one of the most nutritious and filling foods for the price.
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 sliced strawberries to a bottle of white wine, along with 3 ounces of orange liqueur and a bottle of club soda. Serve over ice.