When you picture a Fourth of July cake, there’s only one that comes to mind for most people — a rectangular cake with white whipped cream icing, red stripes made of strawberries, and a field of blueberries in the upper left corner.
Both Ina Garten and Martha Stewart claim to have invented it, but the truth is that nobody knows for sure where the iconic American flag cake, beloved of so many backyard barbecues, really came from.
Patriotic cakes are nothing new in America. Even before the Revolutionary War, innkeepers and industrious housewives baked spicy, yeasty “election cakes” to feed farmers who came to town to train as soldiers or, later, to vote in America’s first elections. In the early 19th century, Americans snacked on cakes that paid tribute to George Washington and other beloved heroes, though cake-baking, on the whole, hadn’t evolved enough for the cakes to actually resemble the father of America.
By the early 20th century, Americans were in love with patriotically decorated petit fours, tinted with blue and red dye from indigo and dried beetles. Other cakes paid tribute to Washington and Lincoln on their birthdays. One 1940 recipe suggested a Fourth of July cake with pink frosting and patriotic “ornaments.”
The iconic flag cake seems like it’s been around forever, but really, it was likely invented in the 1950s as a marketing push for cake mixes. Other manufacturers and fruit companies jumped on board to add their own spins and advertise their particular products. The rest is history, and perhaps you were alive to experience it all.
By 2016, Betty Crocker alone had at least 14 different flag cake recipes available online. So this year, if you’re in charge of making your grandma’s classic flag cake, take a few extra minutes to appreciate how long and how far the patriotic cake traveled to get to where it is today.
Glazed fruit skewers
Sweet and juicy, fruit makes a great summer dessert. This delicious glaze enhances the natural flavor of the fruit to create a crowd-pleasing favorite.
• 10 strawberries, halved lengthwise
• 10 kiwi cubes
• 10 blueberries
• 10 pieces of pineapple
• 10 pieces of cantaloupe
• 10 wooden skewers
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
1. Combine the water and brown sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. If the mixture starts to boil, lower the heat slightly.
2. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, remove from the heat and allow to cool for 45 minutes.
3. Thread the fruit pieces one after the other on the skewers.
4. Brush the skewers with the simple syrup.
Even though pasta is usually linked with Italy, its origins, in fact, are in ancient China. Legend has it that Marco Polo brought back to Europe this culinary technique after traveling to the Far East. Wherever it comes from, “noodles” always make for a meal that is easily prepared and easily varied with limitless sauce possibilities. It’s no surprise that pasta is so popular around the world.
It usually takes less than fifteen minutes to obtain al dente pasta, which means it is tender on the outside but still firm inside. Be sure to use a large enough pan with plenty of water so that the pasta won’t stick together. When the water starts to boil, add a pinch of salt before putting it in the noodles. Use a wooden spoon to stir short pasta or a large fork for long pasta such as spaghetti, which should not be broken into smaller pieces for authenticity. Egg noodles take less time to cook than other types of pasta. Even after being drained in a colander, the pasta will continue to cook, so be sure to follow the cooking instructions as indicated on the package. You might even shorten the recommended cooking time by a bit if the pasta will be sitting for a while before serving.
One trick used by great chefs is to set aside a small quantity of cooking water before straining the pasta. They will then add this extra water to the sauce as they heat it up for service. This allows them to add volume back to the sauce as it reheats and reduces and helps the sauce stick better to the pasta.
Al dente means “firm when bitten,” or cooked ’till tender on the outside but still firm inside.
Roasted tomato and goat cheese bruschetta
Are you having guests over for a casual meal? These cheesy starters are sure to be a hit.
• 20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 8 slices of baguette bread
• 8 tablespoons goat cheese
• Fresh basil, coarsely chopped
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Honey, for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Toss the cherry tomatoes with olive oil and spread them into an oven-safe baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the tomatoes start to pucker.
3. Lay the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until crisp.
4. Spread a tablespoon of goat cheese on each slice of bread.
5. Add some fresh basil and roasted tomatoes.
Drizzle some honey over the bruschetta before serving for a subtle sweetness.
Extra watermelon? Try these refreshing drinks
Forget broccoli and spinach for today — here’s the superfood everyone loves to eat!
The juicy pink smile of a watermelon slice (one cup diced) is actually a thirst quencher at 92 percent water. More than in a banana, its ample potassium also makes it a good preventative for heat stroke.
Additionally, it packs a giant dose of glutathione to deter free radicals and enhance the immune system.
Watermelon is second only to tomatoes as a key source of the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene, and it has a lot of vitamin C besides.
This superfood has as much fiber as a slice of whole-wheat bread and also features vitamin A, thiamine, and magnesium, and all of this for little more than 50 calories a cup.
Actually, it’s enough just to know you can eat this treat anytime and feel good about doing it.
Selecting: Look for one with a brown stem attached. Thump the center to see if it makes a nice thud. That means it’s ripe.
Storing: Uncut watermelons can be stored unrefrigerated for three to four days. After cutting, cover and refrigerate any leftover chunks.
For a refreshing thirst quencher, puree with apple and lemon juices, or freeze this puree for ice pops.
Though we don’t recommend eating them, watermelon seeds are a folk remedy for high blood pressure. The seeds contain the compound cucurbocitrin, which helps dilate capillaries and boost kidney function– key mechanisms to decrease blood pressure.
Is there anything more delicious than late summer watermelon, ripened in the hot sun until juicy and fragrant?
Not really, and when you find yourself wilting in the late summer heat, a cold watermelon agua fresca or icy watermelon slushie is perfect for helping you cool down and relax. Adults and kids alike will love them, and adding your own spin with extra flavorings or cantaloupe instead of watermelon is easy.
Watermelon agua fresca
4 cups cubed seeded watermelon
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar (or to taste)
24 fresh mint leaves
Combine watermelon and water in a blender and puree until smooth. Add sugar to taste. Slice lime into small wedges (you’ll need about 8), then place one wedge into each serving glass and three mint leaves. Crush with a cocktail muddler (a wooden spoon handle also works), then add ice. Pour the agua fresca over the ice, stir, then serve.
4 cups cubed seeded ripe watermelon (188 calories)
2 tablespoons sugar (32 calories)
1 tablespoon lime juice (30 calories)
About 3 cups of ice
Blend the fruit, melon, sugar, and juice until liquid. Add ice and continue to blend until the liquid reaches a slushie consistency.
In the whole blend, there are about 250 calories.
3 ways to make homemade ice cream
There are many ways to make delicious homemade ice cream. Here are three easy methods for making this delicious dessert.
1. In an ice cream maker
Combine egg yolks, sugar, milk, and cream in a large bowl. Then, place the mixture in the ice cream maker and turn it on. The machine will cool and mix everything together for about 30 to 45 minutes. After that, the ice cream is ready to eat.
2. In a dish
Use a hand or stand mixer to beat cream, eggs, and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Stir in frozen fruit and condensed milk with a spatula. Then, place the mixture in the freezer in an airtight dish for at least four hours.
3. In bags
You can make ice cream in 10 to 20 minutes with this easy method. Pour heavy cream and vanilla into a small plastic bag. Then, place the small bag into a larger bag containing ice cubes and salt. Vigorously shake the bags until you reach the right consistency.
If you’re craving ice cream but don’t have time to make it yourself, visit a local ice cream shop or creamery.
If you want to make vegan ice cream, you can replace the dairy products with coconut or soy milk, coconut butter, coconut oil, or soy cream.
Vegan poke bowl
This poke bowl is packed with tasty and nutritious ingredients and makes the perfect healthy summer treat.
• 2 sweet potatoes, diced
• 2 cups baby spinach
• 4 cups quinoa, cooked and cooled
• 20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quarters
• 2 cups arugula
• 1 can chickpeas, drained
• 2 ripe avocados
• 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
• 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
• 1/2 cup maple syrup
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1/4 cup soy sauce
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 1 tablespoon sriracha sauce (optional)
1. 1Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet with a little bit of olive oil and bake for 30 minutes or until tender. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Place the baby spinach in the bottom of four serving bowls. Arrange the quinoa, cherry tomatoes, cooked sweet potatoes, arugula, and chickpeas in separate sections. Set aside in a cool place.
4. Cut the avocados in half length¬wise. Remove the pit and skin. Place one avocado half on a cutting board. Cut into thin slices crosswise, taking care to maintain the shape. Using your hands, fan out the slices. Make sure to keep them stuck together to create a straight line. Take one end́ of the line and roll it over itself until it becomes an avocado flower. Repeat with the other halves.
5. Gently lift each avocado flower and place one in the middle of each bowl. Sprinkle a quarter of the white and black sesame seeds over each bowl.
6. Combine the maple syrup, olive oil, and soy sauce in a separate bowl. Pour a quarter of the sauce over each bowl or serve separately.
Do you like spice? Give your recipe a kick by coating the chickpeas in sriracha.