Quick, the 4th of July is almost here...what are you going to serve?

This year the holiday is on a Wednesday, which poses challenges for busy East Texans. Most people have to work Tuesday and Thursday, so there's little time to prepare. Here are some tasty, patriotic treats to serve your bunch that don't require you to stay up cooking the night before.

For the Grill

It's almost unpatriotic not to grill on the 4th of July. It's also always so hot in East Texas no one wants to spend any more time than they have to standing next to the grill.

If you opt for hamburgers and hot dogs, serve them with red tomatoes, white diced onions and a side of blue corn tortilla chips. If you want to try something new, this BBQ Grilled Chicken recipe from Delish takes literally five minutes to prepare and 16 to 20 minutes on the grill, so you spend a total of half an hour on your meat.

Healthy Treats

Many East Texans spend the day at Lake Palestine or Lake Tyler, or hang out at area parks waiting for fireworks displays. You're there for hours, and you want to munch. These patriotic sides allow you to indulge your taste buds without increasing your waistline.

  • 4th of July Fruit Skewers -- Pick up long wooden skewers like these available at Wal-Mart. Slice bananas into chunks and soak them in lemon juice. Then alternate strawberries, blueberries and bananas for a red, white and blue fruit snack.
  • Patriotic Popcorn -- Make your popcorn the old fashioned way and use food coloring to tint it. Get the recipe here.
  • Independence Parfait -- Layer deep red cherries, vanilla or plain Greek yogurt and blueberries in mason jars on Tuesday night. Keep them in your ice chest for a creamy sweet indulgence.

For Dessert

Stick with the red, white and blue theme but still keep it simple with a sugar cookie cake. Buy ready-made sugar cookie dough or use this recipe to start from scratch. Roll your dough out on a pizza pan. Top it with red, white and blue M & Ms and sprinkles, then bake. Use an icing pouch with tips available at most area grocery stores to pipe a decorative band around the outer edge.

Encourage DIY patriotism with a simple sundae bar. Allow guests to scoop and decorate their own Bluebell with these toppings:

  • Red raspberries
  • Patriotic sprinkles
  • Mini Marshmallows
  • Whipped topping
  • Crushed vanilla wafers

To make things even easier, make a list of what you'll need from the above suggestions and place a pick-up order at one of the East Texas grocery stores that bring it to your car. Consider adding disposable plates, cups and napkins to the list so clean-up is as easy as food prep. Happy 4th of July!

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