Independence Day is one of our most colorful holidays, a day to proclaim our patriotism in shades of red, white and blue.

Flag in the front yard? Check.

Flower pots filled with red, white and blue blooms? Been working on my petunias and geraniums for a month now.

Tablecloths, napkins and tableware adorned with stars and red-and-white stripes? That’s why God created dollar stores.

And firecracker and sparkler party favors awaiting your picnic guests? Is it Independence Day without some fiery excitement?

It’s all part of a Fourth of July celebration aimed at showing off our American spirit. So why not bring the holiday spirit to the picnic or dinner table, too, with festive foods in hues of red, white and blue.

The options are plenty when it comes to creating a menu with a patriotic palate — think fruit, meat, cheese and spices. Desserts are easy — blueberries, strawberries, white peaches and raspberries are now in season and imbue color and texture to ice cream, Jell-O and a creamy (and ridiculously simple) Italian-inspired dessert of panna cotta.

You can red-white-and-blue it for main courses and appetizers, too.

Deviled eggs, a must-have at any summer picnic, make a great canvas for color, and so does a pizza crust. Same with barbecue sauces, which dress up everything from grilled chicken and pulled pork to hamburgers and steak.

Fourth of July is the most popular day of the year for grilling, after all, so why not put a patriotic spin on your condiments. How does a tangy barbecue sauce made from blueberries sound? Just as good as a spicy red one with Kansas City roots, or a unusual white sauce (to us Northerners, anyway) that graces many a barbecue table in Alabama.

Here are some colorful foods for the Fourth. Happy cooking!

This classic, a kid favorite, is usually only made with strawberry-flavored gelatin. To make it more patriotic for your Fourth of July picnic, we added a blue layer.

Red, White and Blue Pretzel Salad

  • 2 cups finely crushed pretzels
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 2/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1-1/2 (8-ounces) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 2 teaspoons milk
  • 1 cup whipped cream, homemade or store-bought
  • 1 (6-ounces) box strawberry-flavored gelatin
  • 4 (0.25-ounces) envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 5-1/2 cups boiling water, divided
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped
  • 1 (14-ounces) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (6-ounces) box berry blue-flavored gelatin
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries, destemmed

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Make crust: Mix pretzel crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and butter; press onto bottom of 13-by-9-inch pan. Bake 10 minutes. Cool.

Beat cream cheese, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and milk with mixer until blended. Stir in whipped cream or whipped topping; spread over crust. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Make gelatin: In a small bowl, stir together strawberry-flavored gelatin, 1 envelope of the unflavored gelatin and 2 cups of boiling water, ensuring everything has dissolved. Stir in strawberries, then pour into the prepared pan and place in the refrigerator to set, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together the sweetened condensed milk and 1 cup boiling water. In a separate small bowl, sprinkle 2 envelopes of the unflavored gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup boiling water to the unflavored gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve. Pour into the sweetened condensed milk mixture and stir to combine.

Once the red layer is set, pour milk mixture over the red layer. Place in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together berry blue-flavored gelatin, 1 envelope of the unflavored gelatin and 2 cups of boiling water, ensuring everything has dissolved. Stir in blueberries, then pour into the prepared pan on top of condensed milk layer.

Plan pan in refrigerator, and allow to set for at least 4 hours. When ready to serve, run a thin knife around the edges of the pan. Cut into squares and serve, refrigerating any leftovers.

Makes up to 24 squares.

Recipe adapted from:

This easy pizza is a subtle nod to Independence Day, but all the components are there. There’s red (prosciutto), white (pears and mozzarella) and blue (cheese).

Caramelized Pear, Prosciutto and Blue Cheese Pizza

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 semi-ripe pears, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
  • 6 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
  • 4 slices prosciutto, roughly torn
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

Heat a large skillet over low heat and add olive oil and butter. Add in pears with salt and cook until tender and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat if the pears begin to brown too much. Set aside.

Using a rolling pin or your hands, form pizza dough into desired shape (rectangles or free-form pizzas) and place on a baking sheet or pizza peel. Place towel over the dough and let sit in the warm place for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees f. Sprinkle mozzarella on the dough.

Spread pears all over the pizza, then cover them with prosciutto and red onion slices. Crumble blue cheese over top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

Grilled Chicken

  • 1 pound boneless chicken breast
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Place chicken breasts in large plastic bag and using a rolling pin, pound to 3/4-inch thick. In a medium bowl, whisk together the water, salt, and sugar until the solids are dissolved. Place the chicken breast slices in brine and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Clean and oil the grilling grate, and heat to medium-high. Remove chicken breasts from brine, pat dry with paper towels, season to taste with salt and pepper, and brush lightly with olive oil. Place chicken over hot side of grill and cook until well browned, 3 to 5 minutes.

Flip and continue to cook until second side is browned and chicken registers 150 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.

Remove from grill, and cut across the grain into thin slices. Serve with barbecue sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

This regional delicacy is reminiscent of a creamy dressing, and can be used to perk up pork and fish along with chicken.

Alabama White BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon creole mustard
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, or more to taste
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Refrigerate at least 1 hour to allow flavors to develop. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Makes 1-1/2 cups.

Recipe from: Chile Pepper magazine

Sweet and tangy, this unexpected sauce can dress up chicken, pork or tuna. Slather it on right at the end of cooking, and pass the rest at the table. If fresh blueberries aren’t available, use 2 cups of thawed frozen blueberries.

Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Sauce

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until slightly thick. Remove from heat; cool. Place blueberry mixture in a blender; process until smooth.

Makes 1-1/2 cups.

Recipe from:

This list of ingredients is long, but this spicy sauce is worth the effort.

Kansas City BBQ Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup steak sauce
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne-based hot sauce
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced

In small bowl, mix chili powder, pepper and salt.

In large bowl, mix ketchup, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire, lemon juice, steak sauce, molasses, honey, hot sauce and brown sugar.

In large saucepan over medium heat, warm oil. Add onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add dry spices and stir for about 2 minutes. Add ketchup mixture and simmer over medium for 15 minutes with the lid off to thicken the sauce a bit. Stir often.

Makes 6 cups.

Recipe from: Chile Pepper magazine

Your kids will love these colorful eggs, even if they think they’re going to taste weird. Be sure the eggs are completely submerged in the color baths, and that you give them an occasional stir while they’re coloring — that way the color will be even. We include a simple filling recipe, but feel free to fill the eggs any way you like.

Red, White and Blue Deviled Eggs

  • For eggs:
  • 6 large eggs
  • Red and blue food coloring
  • For filling:
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paprika, for dusting

Place your eggs in a large pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat.

Allow eggs to boil for 30 seconds, then cover with a tight lid, remove from the heat and set aside for 12 minutes. Drain eggs in colander, then chill completely, either in an ice bath (for at least 15 minutes), under cold running water or in the refrigerator over night. The cooler the egg is, the firmer and tighter its structure will be and the easier it will be to peel the shell away from the cooked white.

Gently crack the eggs all over their surface, starting at the fat end and gently rotating and tapping all around until egg is covered with cracks. Roll egg under the palm of you hand. Start peeling from the large end. If you like, you can peel eggs under cool, running water.

Using a sharp knife, slice each egg in half lengthwise. Gently scoop out yolks, place in a small mixing bowl and set aside for filling. Fill 2 large cups with 1/2 cup cold water, and add 7 drops of food coloring to each cup. Place egg white halves into color baths and let sit until you reach desired color. Remove colored egg whites with a slotted spoon to dry on paper towels.

While eggs white are coloring, prepare filling.

Fill egg halves with filling.

Makes 12 halves.

You will never make an easier frozen dessert, or one that tastes so fruity fresh. Experiment with whatever fruit is in season, (be sure to freeze it first) or whatever you find in your grocery store’s frozen food aisle.

Almost-Instant Soft Serve

  • 1-1/2 pounds frozen strawberries, blueberries or white peaches
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Kosher salt

In a food processor, pulse the fruit with the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and a generous pinch of salt until the fruit is finely chopped. Puree until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes; scrape down the side of the bowl as needed. Serve soft or transfer to a metal baking pan, cover and freeze until just firm.

The soft-serve can be frozen for up to 3 days. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 3-1/2 cups.

Recipe from: Food & Wine magazine

This dessert requires some planning because it has to chill in the fridge overnight. To plate, place panna cotta moulds, one at a time, into a heatproof bowl half-filled with hot water. Leave for about 5 seconds. Invert onto a serving plate by placing your thumbs on top of the mould and holding the plate with your fingers. You might have to give it a little shake; if it sticks, run a sharp knife around the perimeter.

Bourbon Panna Cotta

  • 3 tablespoons plus 1-3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 split vanilla bean
  • Fresh blueberries and raspberries, for serving

Add 3 tablespoons cream to small bowl and sprinkle with gelatin. Let stand for 10 minutes, then gently stir to dissolve gelatin. Combine remaining cream, bourbon, sugar and vanilla bean in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until hot, 5 minutes.

Add gelatin mixture, whisking constantly, and remove from heat. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and divide evenly between 4 6-ounce ramekins. Chill for 12 hours.

Unmold onto plate and serve with berries.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from: “Saveur Italian Comfort Food” (Wedwon Owen; 2015)

Let’s Eat is a Tribune News Service column from Gretchen McKay, a feature writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The mother of five has won numerous national awards for her food writing and features. Check out her “Cooking With Gretchen” videos on YouTube.

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