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Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

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Archive for July 4th – Independence Day

RECIPE: Star Cookies For July 4th


It’s beginning to look like July 4th! The Silpat cookie sheet is from Williams-Sonoma.


Want to bake cookies for July 4th?

1. MIX up and roll out your favorite sugar cookie dough (or other rolled cookie dough).

2. USE a star cookie cutter to cut shapes. If you have small and large star cutters, make large and small sizes.

Here’s a set of 6 nested star cookie cutters, that you can also use for Christmas cookies.

3. BAKE, cool and ice the cookie tops white royal icing (recipe below); then decorate with red and blue stripes. Voilà: the Stars and Stripes.

Check out the different types of cookies in our delicious Cookie Glossary.



  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • Red and blue food color

    1. MIX first three ingredients together for 7 to 10 minutes, until icing stiffens. If icing appears too stiff, add more water, one teaspoon at a time. You want the icing to be thin enough that you can pipe it easily. Tint 1/4 of the icing red, and 1/4 blue (see instructions below).

    2. DECORATE the cookies when they are cool. Use an offset spatula to ice the cookie tops white. Then place the tinted icing into separate piping bags fitted with a very small round tip.

    3. CREATE the red and blue stripes. If you don’t have a steady hand, wavy lines are fine. Keep the tip about 1/2 inch above the cookie as you ice. This helps to achieve a straighter line.

    Variation: Instead of piping stripes, you can sprinkle red, white and blue star decorations on the white royal icing base while it’s still wet. Here are large stars and small stars.

    4. DRY the cookies completely, usually 1 to 2 hours.



    JULY 4th: American Flag Pie Top

    While we just said that our favorite pie topping is streusel (crumb topping), here’s something special for July 4th.

    You can buy or bake an open face pie (no top crust) or a tart, and decorate it as the American Flag.

    All you need to decorate are:

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Whipped Cream
    Older children can do the decorating, and everyone can enjoy a piece of “grand old pie.”

    If you’ve purchased the pie, the dessert can be ready in 10 minutes!

    For those who don’t know the lyrics/tune to George M. Cohan’s classic, “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” practice on You Tube.



    It’s a grand old pie! Photo courtesy Agata and Valentina | NYC.


    If you use an aerosol whipped cream like Reddi-Wip, the air will deflate much sooner than if you whip your own stabilized whipped cream.

    Even if you don’t stabilize the whipped cream, your own beater-whipped cream will stay fluffy longer. You don’t need to create whipped cream stars, which the Reddi-Wip nozzle enables. Instead, just emulate the real white bars of the flag, and use one long line of whipped cream in-between the rows of strawberries.



    JULY 4TH BREAKFAST: Yogurt Parfait With Star-Shaped Toast


    A spectacular breakfast parfait. Photo courtesy Smucker’s.


    What better way to celebrate July 4th, than to wake up to a red, white and blue yogurt parfait and star-shaped toast.

    Smucker’s uses its Natural Orange Marmalade Fruit Spread, Seedless Strawberry Jam and Blueberry Preserves to make the parfait. Prep time is 20 minute, cook time is 5 minutes.


    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries or fresh red raspberries
  • 1 medium ripe banana, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1-1/4 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 loaf (16 ounces) presliced cinnamon swirl bread, frozen until firm
  • Blueberry or strawberry jam or preserves for the toast
  • Preparation

    1. HEAT the broiler to HIGH. Combine the strawberries, banana and blueberries in medium bowl. Combine the yogurt and marmalade in separate small bowl.

    2. DIVIDE half of the fruit mixture into 4 parfait glasses. Top each with half of the yogurt mixture. Repeat the layers.

    3. CUT out 4 (1-inch) and 8 (3-inch) star shapes from frozen sliced bread using 1-inch and 3-inch cookie cutters. Place on a baking sheet. Broil five inches from the heat for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes, turning when lightly toasted.

    4. PLACE one small toasted star on top of each parfait. Spread the remaining toasted stars with jam and serve with the parfaits.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Pavlova Dessert

    If you’ve ever seen meringue like shells in a bakery and wondered what they are: They’re Pavlovas.

    The Pavlova is one of the most popular desserts in Australia, where it’s commonly known as a Pav. The dessert is named after the legendary Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who toured Australia and New Zealand in 1926 and 1929.

    Both countries claim to have invented this dessert, and have made it their national dessert. New Zealand may have the edge: Published recipes of fruit-filled meringue shells existed there without the name Pavlova.

    According to chef Herbert Sachse of the Hotel Esplanade in Perth, Australia, the Pavlova was born at the hotel 1935. According to hotel legend, it was named at a meeting at which Sachse presented the cake. Either the hotel licensee, the manager or Sachse remarked, “It is as light as Pavlova,” who had been a guest of the hotel during her 1929 tour.

    Years later, Sachse stated in an interview that he sought to improve the Meringue Cake recipe that he found in the Women’s Mirror Magazine, which was contributed by a New Zealand resident.*
    *Source: Linda Stradley, What’s Cooking America.



    A Pavlova and the ingredients to make it. Photo courtesy

    The Pavlova consists of a meringue base topped with fresh fruits. Most people buy the meringue shells at bakeries, but ambitious bakers can make their own (the recipe is below).

    In addition to individual meringue shells, the meringue can be shaped into one large family-style shell, or into cake layers that are alternated with fruit for a spectacular effect (photo below). This type of cake is also called a Swedish Midsummer Meringue Layer Cake. And the meringue is the same recipe used to make individual meringue cookies.

    Then, all you have to do is cut up your favorite fruits and add them to the shell. You can customize your Pavlova with:

  • Liqueur. If you want to exert more effort, you can marinate the fruits in wine or liqueur.
  • Topping. Add an optional topping: crème fraîche, mascarpone, raspberry purée, whipped cream.
  • Garnish. Garnish with chocolate curls or candied orange peel, or something as simple as a mint leaf.
    While the desert is light and airy for summer, and the red, white and blue colors are spot-on for July 4th. The toppings can be tailored to every season:

  • Fall: Assorted nuts (raw or candied), dried fruits garnish on the plate.
  • Christmas: Brandied fruits, candied fruits, crushed peppermint plate garnish.
  • Valentine’s Day: Strawberries and cream, candied rose petals plate garnish.
  • Spring: Apricots, nectarines, figs; edible flowers to garnish.
  • Summer: Seasonal fruits garnished with shaved coconut, lemon mint, lemon verbena or spearmint.
  • Anytime: Mousse or Strawberries Romanoff.

    This recipe (the first photo, above) is courtesy Samin Nosrat of, via Good Eggs. She has many wonderful recipes. This one has a touch of Indian flavor: rosewater, rose petals and cardamom. If you don’t have those ingredients, we’ve provided substitutions in the preparation steps.

    Samin serves the Pavlova with fresh-brewed mint tea: Steep fresh mint leaves in boiling water.



    A Pavlova Cake is called a Swedish Midsummer Cake in—you guessed it— Sweden. Here’s the recipe. Add blueberries for a July 4th red, white and blue theme. Photo courtesy Kate of


    Ingredients For The Meringue

  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 ounces (about 3) large egg whites at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of saffron, ground in a mortar and pestle and dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water, cooled (substitute: water only)
    Ingredients For The Topping

  • 1 cup each sliced strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, kept separate
  • 4 tablespoons rosewater
  • Dried rose petals (you can use rosebud tea) for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Preparation

    1. PLACE the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 250°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl.

    2. WHIP the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in the large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Start on low, increasing incrementally to medium speed until soft peaks/trails start to become visible, and the egg white bubbles are very small and uniform, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.

    3. INCREASE the speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually sprinkling in the sugar-cornstarch mixture. A few minutes after these dry ingredients are added, slowly pour in the saffron tea. Increase the speed a bit and whip until the meringue is glossy and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 4 to 5 minutes.

    4. SPOON the meringue into an 9-by-6-inch oval on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon liner. With the back of a spoon, create an indentation in the middle of the mound for holding the filling once the meringue is baked.

    5. PLACE the baking sheet in the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 225°F. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the meringues are crisp (dry to the touch on the outside) and white (not tan-colored or cracked). The interior should have a marshmallow-like consistency. Check on the meringue at least once during the baking time. If it appears to be taking on color or cracking, reduce the temperature 25 degrees and turn the pan around.

    6. GENTLY LIFT the meringue from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. It will keep in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to a week, barring any humidity. While the meringue is baking…

    7. MACERATE the berries. In separate dishes, macerate each type of berry for at least 30 minutes with 1 tablespoon of rosewater (substitute orange liqueur or plain water) and 1 tablespoon sugar. This draws out their juices.

    8. ADD the cardamom (substitute: 1 teaspoon vanilla or orange extract or orange liqueur) and 1/4 cup sugar to the cream and whip to soft peaks.

    9. ASSEMBLE: Place the meringue on a serving dish and spoon in the whipped cream. Spoon the juicy berries atop the cream. Top with crushed dried rose petals (substitute: chopped pistachio nuts or mint leaf). Serve with fresh mint tea.

    Leave off the whipped cream and you have a cholesterol-free dessert with far fewer calories than a cake.

    Don’t despair if your meringue cracks. If you can’t use it/them for a shell, simply create a “parfait” in a sundae dish or bowl, along with the berries and whipped cream.

    Or, use the same ingredients create a Pavlova version of an English Trifle.



    JULY 4TH: Star-Shaped Sandwich Skewers

    We loved this idea from Smucker’s, which uses its creamy Jif peanut butter and seedless strawberry jam to make these charming sandwiches.

    You don’t have to use PB&J: Any sweet or savory spread will do. You can make some very sophisticated combinations for adults.

    Prep time is 15 minutes.


    Ingredients For 1 Serving

  • 3 slices white or whole wheat bread
  • 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon seedless strawberry jam
  • Large fresh strawberries, halved
  • Seedless green grapes
  • Skewers

    You can use other spreads:

  • Chicken mousse pâté and fig jam
  • Cream cheese and raisins
  • Goat cheese and beets
  • Tapenade and julienne of carrots and celery


    July 4th lunch or snacks. Photo courtesy Smucker’s.

    Try more sophisticated breads, too, like brioche, date nut bread, Irish soda bread, olive bread or walnut bread.


    1. CUT 10 shapes from bread using 2-inch star-shaped cookie cutter.

    2. SPREAD peanut butter (or ingredient of choice) on half the stars and jam on remaining stars. Press together to make five small sandwiches.

    3. THREAD the sandwiches, strawberry halves and grapes alternately onto skewer. Serve immediately.



    TIP OF THE DAY: July 4th Recipes

    You’re a grand old pizza! Photo courtesy


    What are you dishing up for July 4th? While your tradition may be to turn on the grill, you can do that any day. How about some festive red, white and blue dishes?


  • Red Velvet Pancakes (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blueberry Muffins (recipe)
  • Poached Eggs or Egg White Omelet With A Side Of Red & Blue Berries
  • Yogurt Parfait With Star-Shaped Toast (recipe)

  • Apple Ginger Cole Slaw (recipe)
  • Blue Cheese & Red Vegetables (recipes)
  • Chilled Raspberry Soup With Blueberries(recipe)
  • Firecracker Macaroni & Cheese (recipe)
  • Patriotic Cheeseburger (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Potato Salad (recipe 1 and recipe 2)
  • Star-Shaped Sandwich Skewers (recipe)
  • Tomato & Mozzarella Skewers (recipe)

  • American Flag Crudité Plate (recipe)
  • American Flag Fruit Skewers (photo)
  • Bacon Flag Pizza (recipe)
  • Cheese American Flag (recipe)
  • Marshmallow Pops (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Ice Pops (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Popcorn (recipe)
  • Stuffed Celery (recipe)

  • Red, White & Blue Layered Cocktail (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Layered Shooter (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Sorbet Float (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Tequila Shooters (recipe 1 and recipe 2)
  • Spicy Hot Lemonade (recipe)


  • American Flag Cookies (recipe)
  • American Flag Pie (recipe)
  • Blueberry Cherry Pie With Stars & Stripes Top (recipe)
  • Oreo Cookie Balls (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Cupcakes (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Frosted Layer Cake (recipe 1, recipe 2,
    recipe 3)
  • Pavlova (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Grilled Angel Food Cake (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Parfaits (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Shortcake (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Tartlets (recipe)
  • Triple Berry Biscuit Shortcake (recipe)
  • Stars & Stripes Toll House Cookies (recipe)
  • Strawberry & Blueberry Parfait (recipe)
  • Red Velvet, White & Blue Cupcakes (recipe)


    Red, white and blue shortcake: a pretty way to celebrate. Photo courtesy Driscoll’s Berries.


  • More Recipes 1
  • More recipes 2


    FOOD FUN: Pie Crust Cutters

    Surrounded by luscious spring and summer fruits, it’s hard not to want to bake a pie—or to learn how to bake one, if you’ve never dipped a toe in the oven.

    Two pie gadgets from Williams-Sonoma make even a novice seem like a sophisticated pie baker.


    Like lattice crusts but lack the time or patience to make them?

    Williams-Sonoma offers this solution: a lattice pie crust cutter. It quickly and easily cuts a lattice-like crust from rolled-out dough.

    You simply place the lattice insert in the bottom of the gadget’s frame, then lay a sheet of rolled dough on top. To create the pattern, use a rolling pin to press the cutter into the dough. Lift off the insert and invert the latticed dough onto the pie.

    It’s not as dramatic as a hand-woven lattice, but it’s certainly more interesting than a solid top crust!



    Press a lattice-style pie crust in 1-2-3. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.


    Get yours at, $19.95.



    A patriotic pie, indeed! Photo courtesy



    What we really love is this American flag pie crust cutter, also from Williams-Sonoma and also $19.95.

    While we try to avoid bringing single-use gadgets into our small kitchen, we made an exception for this one. Now, a patriotic pie will be our annual contribution to July 4th festivities.

    Get yours at

    Both inserts are designed for use with a 12″ diameter pastry crust.




    RECIPE: Red Velvet Pancakes


    Red velvet pancakes: use seasonal garnish
    for July 4th, Christmas, Valentine’s Day or
    Mother’s Day. Photo courtesy Taste Of


    For a special Valentine’s Day breakfast, brunch or lunch, Taste Of Home magazine suggests these red velvet pancakes.

    Red food works for July 4th and Christmas, of course. Just vary the garnish:

  • Christmas: mint leaf or sliced kiwi (or make green whipped cream!)
  • Valentine’s Day: red berries
  • July 4th: whipped cream, crème fraîche or mascarpone; plus blueberries
    Note that the recipe below is for a party-size batch of pancakes—five batches of 16 pancakes per batch.

    However, the mixed dry ingredients can be divided into five batches, which can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months. You can use the recipe as a guide to make smaller amounts.

    Or, make the five-batch lot, and give the four extra batches as Valentine gifts—tied with a red ribbon.


    Prep time is: 30 minutes, cooking time is 15 minutes per batch.

    Ingredients For 5 Batches (10 Cups Mix Total)

  • 10 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup baking cocoa
  • 6 teaspoons baking soda
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 5 teaspoons salt
    Additional Ingredients (For Each Batch)

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • Butter and maple syrup

    1. COMBINE the first six ingredients in a large bowl. Place 2 cups in each of five resealable plastic bags or containers.

    2. PREPARE pancakes: Pour the mix into a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the buttermilk, eggs and food coloring. Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened.

    3. POUR the batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a greased hot griddle; turn when bubbles form on top. Cook until the second side is golden brown.

    4. SERVE with butter and syrup.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Best Burger Buns

    Beefburger on a bun with assorted dips.

    A brioche roll adds a gourmet touch to any type of burger. Photo © Craig Holmes | BSP.


    Gearing up for a Labor Day cookout? Go beyond the traditional burger bun and generate excitement with a selection of specialty burger buns (also, a selection of burgers—beef, bison, turkey, veggie, etc.). Here are our favorite options:

  • Bakery Rolls. Check your local bakery. Those that make good bread often make delicious hamburger rolls.
  • Batard. Wider than a baguette and pronounced buh-TARD, this crusty French bread can be pre-sliced into burger-size. Here are the different types of baguette-like breads.
  • Biscuits. You can turn refrigerated biscuit dough into homemade burger rolls. See the recipe below.
  • Brioche Buns or Challah Buns. Our personal favorite! Eggy yeast breads with rich with a soft, fluffy texture, both deliver rich flavor. They are best for smaller patties and lighter ingredients, so the bun absorbs the juices, but doesn’t fall apart. The difference between challah and brioche: Brioche is made with lots of butter and is richer; challah, which is made to be kosher parve with all meals, has no dairy ingredient.
  • Gluten Free Buns. All health-conscious people, including those with this option, will appreciate tis option. Gluten-free rolls from Rudi’s and Udi’s are so delicious, you can’t tell that they’re gluten free..
  • Potato Rolls. Typically made with mashed potatoes, these rolls are characteristically soft and light, yet durable.

  • Pita. We have a fondness for lamb burgers in pita, but look for a thick variety since the pita can break.
  • Portuguese Sweet Rolls. A refreshing burst of sweetness against roasty meat. Look for the King’s Hawaiian brand, which makes hamburger and hotdog rolls in addition to dinner rolls and other styles.
  • Pretzel Rolls. A sturdier bun, pretzel rolls are ideal for meaty burgers topped with many ingredients.
  • Skinny Buns. Those watching their carbs will appreciate this lighter replacement option. These are sold under different names. Skinny Buns is one brand; among others, Pepperidge Farm makes Deli Flats.
  • Whole Wheat Buns. Those watching their carbs will appreciate this lighter replacement option.

    If you’re hosting a crowd of calorie counters, Chef Leo from Grecian Delights, maker of Skinny Buns, shares his three favorite “lighter burger” recipes:

  • The Kickn’ Cow. Beef burgers made with lean beef, stacked with shredded lettuce, tomato and Zesty Greek Yogurt Feta Dip on a toasted 100% Whole Wheat Skinny Bun.
  • The Swiss Bird. A turkey burger topped with Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato on a toasted 100% Whole Wheat Skinny Bun.
  • The Ultra Vegetarian: A veggie burger layered with hummus, lettuce, tomato, red peppers, green peppers and red onion on a toasted Multigrain Skinny Bun.
    Switch the sweet ketchup for a spicy salsa, avoiding the high fructose corn syrup or other sweetener.



    Make your own burger biscuits with refrigerated biscuit dough. This recipe is from Pillsbury, and there’s also a hot and spicy version with jalapeño, Jack cheese and chipotle mayonnaise.

    Prep time is 10 minutes, total time is 30 minutes.

    Ingredients For 8 Burgers

  • 2 pounds lean (at least 80%) ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 8 slices American, Cheddar, Swiss or other cheese
  • 1 can (16.3 ounces) Pillsbury Grands Homestyle refrigerated original biscuits
  • Cooking spray


    Make your own burger rolls from refrigerated biscuit dough. Photo courtesyPillsbury.

  • Toppings: lettuce, tomato slices, onion slices, pickles, ketchup and mustard


    1. HEAT gas or charcoal grill. In medium bowl, mix beef, salt and pepper; shape into 8 patties.

    2. PLACE patties on grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook 10 to 12 minutes, turning once, until meat thermometer inserted in center of patties reads 160°F. Place cheese slices on patties to melt. Keep warm; reduce heat to medium-low.

    3. SEPARATE dough into 8 biscuits. Spray both sides with cooking spray. Place biscuits on double thickness of heavy-duty foil. Place foil on grill over indirect heat. Cover grill; cook 4 minutes; turn. Cook 2 to 4 minutes longer or until biscuits are golden brown.

    4. SPLIT biscuits in half. Place burgers on one half of each biscuit; top with desired toppings and remaining biscuit half.



    RECIPE: White Cosmopolitan

    Hey there, Carrie Bradshaw: How about a White Cosmopolitan?

    This recipe, from Grey Goose Vodka, uses white cranberry juice instead of red cranberry juice, plus Grey Goose L’Orange vodka.

    (A bonus: spill it and it doesn’t stain like a Red Cosmo.)


    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 3 parts orange-flavored vodka
  • 1/2 part premium orange liqueur
  • Splash of white cranberry juice
  • Squeeze of fresh lime
  • Garnish: orange peel




    A White Cosmo. Photo courtesy Grey Goose.

    1. SHAKE all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a Martini glass.

    2. GARNISH with an orange peel.

    A White Cosmopolitan is appropriate any time of the year. It looks like it belongs at the beach, for sure.

    But imagine a holiday tray of both Red Cosmos and White Cosmos, perhaps with a tiny mint leaf or a sprig evergreen-like rosemary floating atop for garnish.

    Or, go red, white and blue by adding a bit of blue food color to part of the White Cosmo recipe.



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