The Fourth of July has been one of my favorite holidays for as long as I can remember...but the funny thing is that it's one of the few holidays that I love that isn't all about the food for me.  Thanksgiving?  Definitely about the food.  Christmas Season? Cookie Party,  Fondue and Roast Beast. Easter?  A delicious brunch.  New Year's Eve?  Osso Bucco. New Year's Day? Black Eyed Peas.  You see, the thing that keeps me up the night before most holidays is child-like excitement over what I'm going to be cooking and/or eating the next day.  Of course it's about family and friends (and let's be honest...presents) as well but food always plays a central character on holidays for me and it has since I was a child.

The Fourth of July, however, was always a bit different.  I grew up having a big family picnic in a local park every Fourth of July...so it was the one holiday where my mom and I weren't cooking at home and weren't responsible for the entire meal.  Sure we'd make a few nice dishes to bring along but other members of the family chipped in too so it was casual, easy and really more about being in the park and hanging out with family that we really only saw on this one day a year.  Well, it was also about my Aunt Nixa's amazing Puerto Rican rice that she made every year...but I've yet to wrangle that recipe from her!

So to this day, the 4th is a low-key food holiday for me and despite how much more I've gotten into food and cooking over the years, I prefer to keep it that way.  So I'm sorry to disappoint, but I have no fancy recipes to share.  We'll be hanging out with friends and grilling up burgers, brats and maybe I'll make a batch of my mom's cracker-fried chicken.  Some pasta salad, chips and guacamole, cold U.S. beer and we're good to go for a day of relaxation and fun.

The one tradition I do like to keep from my family's picnic, however, is a festive Red, White and Blue dessert.  This still isn't fancy though...it's really whatever you're in the mood for since it's incredibly easy to make anything Red, White & Blue with all of the summer berries in season.  The photo you see above is a simple chocolate cake with butter-cream frosting and raspberries & blueberries.  Another year I made red-devil cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and blue star sprinkles.  Sometimes jello or ambrosia can be fun...and you can even cut the jello out in little star shapes.  This year, I think we'll make a trifle.  Which is really just a fancy word for a layered dessert.  You can use almost anything but some of my favorites are shortcake biscuits with homemade cinnamon whipped cream and berries.  I also really like using macaroons to add a hint of coconut.  Angel food cake works as well.  Some people add vanilla pudding into the layers in addition to the whipped cream.  The key, however, is that you have a nice glass serving dish to layer everything into so that you can see all of the layers from the outside.  Stick a few sparklers in the top when it's time to serve and your guests will be wowed and it will be our secret how easy it was to make.  Simple, beautiful and delicious whatever you decide to layer!

So what's your tradition on the Fourth of July?  Do you keep it simple as I do or do you have some fabulous foodie traditions that you bring out this time of year?  If so, please share!  Whatever you decide to do, Happy Fourth of July everyone...may your day be filled with fun, relaxation time with loved ones and of course an amazing fireworks display!

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