America is celebrating its 231st birthday today, and what better way to celebrate a birthday than with friends, fireworks, family and food!

There are many ways to celebrate the Fourth. The two most popular ways of celebrating are grilling out and having a picnic, weather permitting of course.

An easy way to celebrate the Fourth is to have a theme. Peggy Trowbridge Fillipone, a writer for and a food service industry professional, suggests adding a red, white and blue color scheme to your foods. This is also a good way to get the kids involved in cooking. Who knows, they may even learn something new out of it!

If you're going to have your celebration outside, she also has some food safety tips.

Hot weather food tips

•Think ahead before opening your cooler. Every time you open it, cold air escapes and the temperature rises.

•If possible, have all your cooler food in watertight containers. Add water to the ice which will keep the foods and beverages colder for a longer period.

•If you don't have blue-ice packs, you can fill up zip-top bags, plastic or cardboard cartons with water and freeze ahead of time. With the bags or sealed plastic jugs, the melted ice can be used for cold drinking water.

•Be sure the food is already cold before putting into a cold cooler of ice to keep temperatures low. Warm or even room temperature foods added to a cold cooler will reduce your storage time.

•Unless you have facilities to boil leftover marinades for sauce, toss out the leftover marinade or risk foodborne illness.

•Leftover hot foods need to be refrigerated or iced immediately to avoid bacteria contamination. Make sure you bring extra ice if you are away from home.

Here are some red, white and blue recipes to help you celebrate the Fourth in style.

Be safe in all of your Fourth of July activities, and enjoy the fireworks!


Sun-dried Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

3 oz. sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil, about 30)

2 jars (7 oz. each) roasted red peppers, drained

2 garlic cloves, chopped fine

1-1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1 to 2 bottled pickled jalapeño chilies, seeded and minced

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves

1/4 cup chopped scallion (green onions)

4 oz. cream cheese, softened (half of a large block)

Salt to taste

Tortilla chips, carrot and/or celery sticks for dipping

Soak sun-dried tomatoes in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain well, reserving 3 tbsp. of the liquid to be used later. Place soaked sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, garlic, cumin, jalapeño chiles, lemon juice, cilantro, and scallions in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Add cream cheese, salt to taste, and enough of the sun-dried tomato soaking liquid to thin to a dipping consistency. Pulse until combined and smooth, scraping down sides of processor bowl as needed. Pour into a serving bowl and serve with tortilla chips, carrot sticks, and/or celery sticks. Dip may be made a day in advance and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature and stir before serving.

From Peggy Trowbridge Fillipone,


Blue Potato Honey Mustard Salad

3 lbs. blue potatoes, quartered, then halved

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 large red onion, diced

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup mustard

1 tbsp. cider vinegar, for dressing

2 tbsp. water, for sauté

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar, for sauté

Prepare potatoes by quartering length wise, then halving the quarters. Boil for approximately 15 minutes. Drain and return pan to stove to dry cooked potatoes. While potatoes are cooking, sauté until tender onions and peppers. Combine honey, mustard, cider vinegar, and spices, mix thoroughly. Mix potatoes, veggies, and dressing together, serve hot or chill for a summer salad.


Main dish

Grilled "Philly" Cheese Steak

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk

1 1/2 to 2 cups grated sharp yellow cheddar

2 tsp. dry mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 filet mignons, 12 to 16 ounces each

2 tbsp. olive oil

4 soft Italian rolls, split and grilled

Preheat grill to high. Melt butter in a medium saucepan on top of the grates of the grill. Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the milk and cook until thickened. Whisk in the cheese and cook until melted. Add dry mustard and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm. Brush filets with oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes on each side for rare, which is desired for this sandwich. Let rest for 5 minutes and then slice into 1/8-inch thick slices. Slice 7/8 of the way through the rolls and fill each with several slices of the beef, cheese sauce, and any or all of the toppings. Return sandwiches to the grill, close top, and grill very briefly just to heat through.

Side dish

Dill Potato Salad

4 lbs. all purpose potatoes (smooth-skinned, not russet)

1-1/4 cup mayonnaise (store bought, low-fat works too)

Juice from one lemon

1 tsp. paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill

4 scallions (both white and green) finely chopped

Scrub potatoes and boil with their skins on until the largest potato in the pot is fork tender. Let potatoes cool. Peel and cut in large dice. Mix together mayonnaise, lemon juice, paprika, salt and pepper to taste, fresh dill, and chopped scallions. Add mixture to potatoes and stir all will wooden spoon until potatoes are covered. Sprinkle salad with sweet paprika for color. Chill for at least an hour (overnight is even better, lets flavors mingle).

Side dish

Red, White and Blue Potato Salad

1/2 lb. baby red rose potatoes (new potatoes)

1/2 lb. baby white rose potatoes

1/2 lb. small blue potatoes

1/8 cup mayonnaise

1/8 cup ranch dressing

1/2 tbsp. white vinegar)

1/4 tsp. dried dill weed

Pinch of sugar (optional)

1/4 cup thin-sliced green onions, tops included (see notes)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Grape tomatoes for garnish

Simmer red, white, and blue potatoes, skins on, in salted water until tender, but not mushy. Let cool until easy enough to handle, but still warm. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Combine mayonnaise, ranch dressing, champagne vinegar, dill weed, and optional sugar. Pour over warm potatoes and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate 2 hours or more to let flavors meld. Let come to room temperature to serve. Garnish with grape tomatoes.


Mascarpone Mini Cupcakes with Strawberry Glaze

8 oz. mascarpone cheese (about 1 cup), softened

2 egg whites

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 box white cake mix

1 cup water

1/3 cup frozen strawberries, thawed and drained

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

4 mini muffin tins and 48 mini muffin paper cupcake liners

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line the mini tins with paper liners. In a large bowl combine the mascarpone cheese, egg whites and vegetable oil. Using a hand mixer, beat the ingredients until combined and creamy. Add the cake mix and water and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Fill the mini cups to just below the rim and bake until puffed and golden, about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly in the tin then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack. Meanwhile, puree the strawberries in a blender or small food processor. Place the powdered sugar in a medium bowl. Pour in the strawberry puree and whisk until smooth. Top the cooled cupcakes with the strawberry glaze. Let the cupcakes sit for a few minutes for the glaze to firm up, then serve.

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