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Every year July 4th our clan throws a party! Not only do we celebrate our nation’s birthday, but our mother’s as well and then, we add my sister’s wedding anniversary to all the fun.

This year, it will be different.  My sister’s family is meeting friends at a nearby manmade lake and going to their party and I am off to visit our daughter and grandkids.

Baring that in mind, I’ll still tell you about our “traditions” on this holiday!

Now my mom never wants cake-she’s more of an ice cream gal, so we also serve various ice creams/sorbets and Popsicles for this hot Southern California day. We keep a red, white and blue theme on all of the festivities-including the food! So for this day we serve vanilla and strawberry flavors, rocket pops, coconut and berry sorbets.

Also, since I’m the “healthy” one (although, sorbets and Popsicles are fat free!) I’m always asked to come up with something extra. I take advantage of the summer fruits. I do use some add ons that, well, aren’t quite so virtuous but they do make things fun!

Here are some of the more popular recipes and ideas:

1) Make a berry parfait using blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries and fat free whipped topping. Get out margarita glasses or champagne flutes. Mix the fresh berries with just a tad of sugar and balsamic vinegar. Depending on the size/shape of the glass, start with a tablespoon or two of the berries, then a dollop of the topping, repeat until you get to the top of the glass. Top with a sprig of fresh mint. Chill and serve.

2) Update the shortcake idea using a store bought angel food cake. Either make separate dishes with a slice of cake, a melange of fresh berries and this time chiffonade (a fancy way of saying shredded) mint and gently stir into the fat free topping and layer it on.

3) Combine the best looking red berries, pitted cherries and blueberries with mini-marshmallows, whipped topping and some shredded coconut. Top with some toasted almonds.

4) Simplest and fun-make fruit kabobs with watermelon, strawberries and star fruit (okay they are yellow, but they follow the Independence Day theme in shape)  

Serve a dark chocolate sauce on the side for dipping.

5) Now this isn’t really diet savvy fare, but it is easy, light and delicious-

Fruit Pizza  

1 roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough
8 oz container of whipped cream cheese (go for the fat-free if you dare! or even switching it out for some ricotta)
1/4 C sugar
3 C of sliced red, white and blue berries
1/2 C melted and slightly cooled apricot preserves that have been pressed through a sieve so that it’s nice and smooth.

Pre-heat oven to directions on cookie dough. Grease pizza pan. Roll out cookie dough onto pan, leaving an inch around. Bake according to instructions. Cool crust.

Stir sugar into cream cheese until well mixed. When crust is cool, gently spread cream cheese on top. Get creative with the sliced berries! Make a flag, circle them in rows, do not overcrowd the pie! With a pastry brush, gently pat on the cooled jam. Refrigerate. This works well with soy cream cheese if you have lactose intolerant guests.

You can also have fun with this same method using a ready made plain cheesecake-simply replacing the cookie crust with the pie.

Desserts for July 4th can be just as delicious as they are healthy, with just a few twists made on the original ideas.

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