It’s rather depressing that we are talking about the Fourth of July already. Summer took too long to find us and now it’s going way too fast, but there’s still a lot of days to savor the fun and tastes that summer brings.

Whether planning a camping trip, just grilling out with friends or taking in a community celebration, the Fourth of July is a time to celebrate all the good things about our country and the summer season.

Some communities are hosting fireworks already this weekend. I like to think back to my childhood when, after the evening farm chores were done, we’d go into town for the fireworks each year.

Before leaving, my mom would pop a bunch of popcorn on the stovetop and put it into a brown paper grocery bag, topping it off with melted butter and salt. I still remember how good that popcorn tasted and the crazy colored blanket we always took with us to sit on for the evening.

I still like to take our own snacks to such events, but I have stepped up the popcorn a bit by making Patriotic Popcorn for summer celebrations. In just about 20 minutes we have a popcorn snack that everyone loves.

I start by putting about 10 cups of popped corn in a very large bowl. In a saucepan, I melt 3 tablespoons of butter, then I add 3 cups of mini marshmallows and stir until they are melted. Turn off the heat and pour three-fourths of the marshmallow mixture over the popcorn and gently fold it in with a spoon until most kernels are coated. Pour the popcorn onto a greased cookie sheet.

Drizzle the popcorn with the remaining marshmallow mixture. Sprinkle regular M&Ms (in fun red and blue colors), pretzel M&Ms, a few more unmelted mini marshmallows and even some red, white and blue decorator sprinkles over the popcorn and allow to cool before breaking apart and placing in an airtight container. It’s a popular snack. You might want to consider doubling the recipe.

I hope you all have a fun, safe and celebratory Fourth of July.

Janelle Thomas can be reached at janellethomas@charter.net.

4th of July Fruit Salsa

1 C strawberries, diced

1 C blueberries

1 C jicama, peeled and diced

1/4 C red onion, diced

1/4 C cilantro, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Salt

Combine all ingredients together and salt to taste. Cover and let sit for at least 20 minutes before serving to let the flavors meld. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers. Recipe and photo courtesy of yourcupofcake.com.

Patriotic Cookie Bars

1 C sugar

1/2 C softened butter

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 C sour cream

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 C flour

Vanilla icing:

1/2 C powdered sugar

1 Tbsp softened butter

2 Tbsp milk

Royal icing:

3 C powdered sugar

5 Tbsp milk

2 Tbsp corn syrup

1 tsp almond extract

Red and blue food coloring

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream together sugar and butter.  Add egg, sour cream and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda and salt to butter mixture; beat until smooth.  

Transfer dough to a 9-by-13-inch pan or a quarter baker’s sheet sprayed with nonstick spray. Spread dough to edges and gently flatten until it's mostly even. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. 

Whisk vanilla icing together and spread the thin layer over the cookies. This gives the royal icing a smoother surface and makes it easier to marbleize the icing. 

Whisk royal icing ingredients together until smooth. Separate roughly 3 tablespoons worth of icing each into 2 small bowls. Add a few drops of red coloring to one of the bowls and blue to the other. Stir until color is even. Transfer blue and red icing to separate baggies. 

Pour white icing onto the cookie bars and quickly spread over the entire surface, until smooth and even. Cut the corners of each of the baggies holding red and blue icing. Pipe red and blue lines of icing down the length of the cookie bars. Take a thin knife and swirl icing in even motions. Don't over-swirl or you'll start to see purple sections forming! 

Let cookie bars cool and set for several hours before cutting. Cut into squares. Makes 28 servings. Recipe and photo courtesy of butterwithasideofbread.com.

Blueberry Tomato Caprese Salad

1 pint blueberries

2 pints cherry tomatoes

Fresh basil

Balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Firm buffalo mozzarella cheese

Wash blueberries and cherry tomatoes and drain well in a colander. Halve cherry tomatoes and toss in a serving bowl with blueberries, set aside. Slice mozzarella cheese into 1/4- or 1/2-inch slices and then cut into small stars with a cookie cutter.

Top the tomatoes and blueberries with the star cheese. Tear fresh basil over the top and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Recipe and photo courtesy of freutcake.com.

Easy 4th of July Brownie Bites

16 to 18 brownie bites, store-bought or homemade

1/2 C whipping cream

3 Tbsp granulated sugar

5 to 6 strawberries, quartered

3 oz blueberries

Make whipped cream by placing cream and sugar in a chilled bowl. Use a hand-held electric mixer to beat on high until stiff peaks form. Transfer whipped cream to a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip.

Pipe whipped cream onto brownie tops and layer with strawberries and blueberries. Makes 16 servings. Recipe and photo courtesy of realfoodbydad.com.

Red, White & Blue Sangria

1 bottle white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

1½ C sparkling lemonade

1/2 C vodka

2 large Granny Smith apples

1 pint raspberries

1 pint blueberries

1 C sliced strawberries

Start by slicing the apples into fairly thin slices. Using a star cookie cutter, cut as many stars as you can from each slice. Add the white wine of your choice to a pitcher.

Add in the sparkling lemonade. You could also use flavored sparkling water, or ginger ale. Mix in the vodka and berries to the pitcher and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours before serving. Recipe and photo courtesy of madewithhappy.com.