Keeping it Light and Cool on the Fourth of July

by on July 1, 2007
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Red, White, and Blue Fruit Terrine[2013 Update: Check out my Vegan 4th of July Pinterest board for more delicious suggestions.]

I can’t remember ever celebrating the 4th of July when I was growing up. Perhaps the holiday blended into other summer days of swimming and picnics so that now I don’t remember it as anything special, but whatever the case, I grew into adulthood not realizing that other people actually have special parties and picnics devoted to Independence Day. It wasn’t until I moved to Mississippi and joined a community swimming pool that the pleas of my daughter forced me from the comfort of my air conditioned house into what has to be the most sweltering holiday of the year. Each 4th of July, our pool throws a big party in the very middle of the day. While the children compete in games and contests in the cooling waters of the pool, the parents sit and stand around sweating, competing for the shadiest spots and hoping that the mayo in the potato salad they’re eating hasn’t gone bad.

On a scale of root canal to 10, I give the 4th of July picnic about a 2–better than having a dentist’s hand in my mouth for two hours but less comfortable than a mammogram. But sometimes parents just have to suck it up and brave the heat, mosquitoes, and questionable food for the sake of the kids. If I absolutely have to be out in the heat, I want to be eating the coolest things possible, and for me that means salads.

International Quinoa Salad

International Quinoa Salad is perhaps my favorite main-dish salad, and I think it reflects the diversity of our country, making it, to me, a perfect 4th food.

Asparagus Pesto Pasta Salad

I’m knee-deep in basil at this time of the year, and Asparagus Pesto Pasta Salad is a delicious showcase for the summery flavor of fresh basil.

Orange Couscous Curry

One of my favorite dishes, Orange Couscous Curry, can be served hot or cold. If you’re avoiding couscous and other pastas, you can make it with millet or quinoa instead.

I don’t want to be anywhere near a grill at noon on a July day, but I know that some people like to get their barbecue on, so here are a few suggestions:

Barbecued Seitan Ribz

Be sure to make a double–or triple–recipe of these Barbecued Ribz, because even your omnivore friends will want to take a bite. You can also choose to go a little less traditional and make them with Sweet and Sour Orange Sauce instead.

Barbecue Black-Eyed Pea Burgers

My new favorite burger! These Barbecue Black-Eyed Pea Burgers can be made ahead in the oven and reheated for a few minutes on the grill. They’re fast and easy, too! Click here for more burger recipes!

Maple-Grilled Tofu with Blueberry Salsa

When I think of grilling, I think of tofu. Maple-Grilled Tofu, above, goes great with sweet and spicy salsas. Or check out Teriyaki Tofu or Cumin-Grilled Tofu with Papaya Salsa.

Grilled Asparagus with Spinach and Smoked Paprika Dressing

Salad on the grill? Of course, you can’t put lettuce over hot coals (or can you?), but asparagus cooked on the grill or grill pan is a wonderful addition to any salad. Try this Grilled Asparagus with Spinach and Smoked Paprika Dressing, and your taste buds will thank you.

Looking for side dishes to complement your burgers? Here are a few light and tasty options:

Basic Low-Fat Coleslaw

Everybody loves coleslaw. Try my Basic Low-Fat Coleslaw or, for a different twist, Coleslaw with Poppy Seed Dressing.

Potato-Green Bean Salad

No picnic is complete without potato salad! Try the Potato and Green Bean Salad, pictured, my Vegan German Potato Salad, or for a heartier salad, Southwestern Black Bean Potato Salad is almost a meal in itself.

Oven-Roasted Corn on the Cob

Corn on the cob is delicious both boiled and cooked on the grill. Or, if you’re going to be celebrating the holiday indoors, consider oven-roasting your corn.  Yum!

When it comes time for dessert, nothing says cool and light like fruit. The Red, White, and Blue Fruit Terrine pictured at the top of the page is an impressive yet healthy way to end your holiday meal. But, if it’s going to need to be out in the heat for more than an hour, I recommend something a little less delicate (agar will eventually melt under high heat).

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

Blueberry Breakfast Cake travels well and has made many an omnivore realize that low-fat vegan cooking can be yummy.

Strawberry-Blueberry Tapioca Parfaits

You’ll need to keep them chilled before serving, but these delicious Strawberry-Blueberry Tapioca Parfaits will be the hit of your party.

Chocolate-Orange Cake

In the mood for chocolate? Bring this amazing Chocolate-Orange Cake to your celebration and I promise you that no one will know it’s fat-free.

Almost Instant Frozen Yogurt

If you’re going to be close to a freezer, there’s no better way to beat the heat than with a frozen dessert, such Almost Instant Frozen Yogurt, pictured above, or Strawberry-Banana Sorbet. If strawberries aren’t available, Ridiculously Easy Pineapple Sorbet is, well, ridiculously easy. Or try it with whatever fruit you like–just make sure it’s frozen solid beforehand. If all you’ve got are bananas, give the classic Banana “Ice Cream” a try.

Hope you all have a great holiday. And to all of my readers in other countries, think of me standing out in the hot sun, watching my daughter try to grab a greased watermelon in a swimming pool, and once you’ve stopped laughing, drink a nice cold glass of wine in my honor. Because no alcohol is allowed at the pool. But later…oh, I’ll make up for it later!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Audrey June 18, 2010 at 9:40 am

Thanks for the great recipes for July 4th and I totally agree with your assessment of July picnics! I just back from a camping trip that I suffered through “for the kids” so I understand! The things we do for happy memories! 🙂


2 shannon July 15, 2010 at 5:11 pm

I love ur site a customer atwork recommended i look for vegan recipes on your blog I love it thank u soooo much


3 Laura Hudson July 1, 2011 at 11:14 am

Hi Susan! I wanted to let you know that I mentioned this blog post in my July 4th Feature Friday on our Facebook page. I’ll be posting it at around 2pm on our Facebook page at

Great blog! Let me know if we can ever be of assistance to you.

Laura H.
Hallelujah Acres


4 SusanV July 1, 2011 at 11:16 am

Thanks so much, Laura! I’ll look for it on FB.


5 Sharon G July 2, 2013 at 10:56 am

Great ideas….love your site! Especially can’t wait to try the Ribz!


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