One of my favorite Independence Day celebrations used to be a charming picnic for myself and my three-year-old son. We threw down a blanket at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden and snacked on things like PB&J and Goldfish crackers.
The atmosphere was perfect for a small family celebration, but the food was only perfect for a toddler. Lately I’ve wondered how I could elevate our patriotic picnic to a meal we both could enjoy?
There are the July Fourth staples that come to mind: Hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, popsicles. If pre-cooked and packed up, a cookout could easily be carried to a great picnic spot. Well, except for the popsicles.
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Whether you have a party at home or find a grassy place in the park to celebrate, here are a few recipes to add variety to your spread. And the kids will love them, too!
Greek Summer Salad
2 cucumbers, chopped and quartered
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped into cubes
1 cup feta cheese crumbles
Optional add-in: black olives
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. oregano
In a small container with a lid, combine the dressing ingredients. Close container and shake until blended. Set aside.
In a large bowl or container, add cucumber, bell pepper, onion, tomato, and olives if preferred. With a large spoon, gently combine ingredients until mixed. Add feta cheese crumbles.
If serving immediately, drizzle the dressing over the salad and stir again gently until salad is coated. If picnicking, put the dressing in a container and add to the salad later.
Spinach Salad with Strawberries
3 to 4 cups baby spinach
1 to 2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup strawberries, finely chopped
1 tsp. poppy seeds
In a small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients and stir. Set aside.
In a large salad bowl, add the baby spinach, chopped strawberries, and almonds and toss gently until combined.
Drizzle with the dressing over the salad and serve immediately. If picnicking, put the dressing in a container and add to the salad later.
Cucumber Dill Sandwiches
1 cucumber, sliced
1 beefsteak tomato, sliced
3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
Sandwich bread of choice
1 tsp. dill
Salt to taste
Optional add-in: minced garlic
In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise and dill. Add minced garlic if preferred.
Toast four slices of your bread of choice (I prefer rye or sourdough). Spread mayo mixture on top of the toast. Add sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Season with a pinch of salt.
Summer Apple Slaw
1 and 1/2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 and 1/2 cups shredded carrots
1 apple, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup of your choice of Italian dressing
1 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
In a large bowl, combine, cabbage, carrots, and apple slices. Add salad dressing, salt, and pepper and combine again.
Cover or place salad in a container and refrigerate for at least one hour. Add the basil and sunflower seeds when ready to serve.
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Lemon Pepper Pasta Salad with Chicken
6 oz. cooked chicken breast, cubed
2 cups cooked penne
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 cups baby spinach
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Optional add-ins: red onion and/or black olives
In a large pan, add the olive oil and garlic and saute the grape tomatoes on medium heat for three to four minutes.
Add the baby spinach, penne, and chicken cubes to the pan. Reduce heat to low and cook another few minutes. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
Allow the mixture to simmer for five to eight minutes.
This dish can be served hot immediately, or you can store it in the refrigerator for several hours and then serve cool.
Strawberry Avocado Salsa
2 cups strawberries, chopped
1 and 1/2 cups avocado, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro
2 tsp. lime juice
1 tsp. Kosher salt
Optional add-in: Make it spicy with 1/4 cup minced jalapeños
In a medium bowl, gently combine strawberries, avocado, cilantro, lime juice, and, if preferred, jalapeños. Sprinkle with salt. Serve with your favorite chips, crackers, or toast.
Vegan Rice Pudding with Apples
1 cup dry rice of your choice
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup figs, chopped
1 apple of your choice, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
Cook the rice as directed on the package. Remove from heat.
Add coconut milk to the pot of rice and gently stir. Add the raisins, figs, brown sugar, and apple pieces to the pot and combine all ingredients.
Top with cinnamon and serve warm immediately. If taking it to go, place in a container and chill in the refrigerator. Serve as a picnic-style dessert.
Ambrosia Fruit Salad
1 pineapple, cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Can substitute canned pineapple chunks, drained.
2 cups green grapes
1 cup strawberries, halved
1 cup blueberries
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice (or Sprite for an extra zing)
Optional add-in: shaved coconut
In a large bowl, combine pineapple, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and mandarin oranges. In a separate bowl, combine yogurt, sugar, and lemon juice or Sprite.
Gradually add the yogurt mix to the fruit mix and gently fold. Can be served immediately or put into the refrigerator for later.
Red, White, and Blue Dessert Bark
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
1 1/2 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
Line a square or rectangle cake pan with wax paper.
Smooth the yogurt in flat layer in cake pan, 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle a mixture of blueberries and strawberries onto the yogurt. Use a small spoon or toothpick to press the fruit into the yogurt.
Place in the freezer for at least three hours. When you remove the pan from the freezer, peel the paper away from yogurt bark. Break the bark into pieces. You can serve immediately or store in containers in the freezer for later.
Simple, Healthy(ish) Snack Mix
1 cup roasted unsalted almonds
1 cup raisins
1 cup mini marshmallows
Combine all ingredients and serve. Sweet, simple, and healthier than a bowl of chips, cookies, or candy.
Enjoy, and Happy Independence Day!