Fourth of July Traditions & Recipes

July 1, 2019 | by rebecca stewart, recipes (and photos) by carole davenport

It can be said about most holidays, but the Fourth of July especially is steeped in tradition. With its special set of customs (and less crazed vibe), it’s this holiday that tends to rival all others as the fan favorite. Some traditions are woven into the fabric of a community, like the parades, the rodeos, the baseball games, and of course the fireworks. Then there are those that each family calls their own.

Growing up, it’s not the daytime activities that I remember most. It’s my parents either popping popcorn or whipping up a batch of caramel corn before heading down to the park to watch the fireworks. Then settling in the back of the family station wagon, waiting for the big show. As an adult, though, it’s all about that daytime (not to discount the fireworks because they are AMAZING, but I think we all already know, they are the cherry on top of the day).

As an adult, the centerpiece of this holiday has been an evolving and epic Ladder Golf Tournament (you’ve maybe heard me mention it?), complete with a gaudy trophy. But in order to be fueled for this tournament of champions, there must be food. Lots and lots of food. We operate in full potluck mode with my brother-in-law and sister supplying the burgers, dogs, and buns (along with his mad barbecuing skills).

If you’re looking to up your burger game this Fourth of July, we’ve pulled these slider options from the archives.

Carole’s Favorite Sliders:

  •  The Taco Bell Meatball. Covered with melted Monterey Jack cheese, topped with jalapeño pepper slices for a real south-of-the-border, fiesta dance with each bite!
  • Then, there's the family favorite, the Sweet n’ Sour Marinated Pulled-Roast Beef. Paired with mandarin oranges for a Hawaiian take on a beefy burger!

Looking to up your burger/grill game this Fourth (or summer)? We've pulled the best burger and slider recipes from the archives and created a special (exclusive online) SUMMER GRILLING GO-TO GUIDE. Check it out to get those ^^ recipes and more! 

Perfect Additions:

  •  Add bacon, pineapple, or jalapeno and any variety of cheese to regular ground beef patties to create custom sliders, sure to satisfy every palette at your barbecue.
  •  To make the most of your sliders, I highly encourage you to grab the pretzel buns at Costco. I’m telling you, pure deliciousness.

While the brother-in-law is making the magic happen on the barbecue and the mouth-watering food buffet is being set up inside, team sign-ups for the tournament are in full swing. Once the teams are roped in, it’s time to set up the bracket (www.printyourbracket.com), which is all the luck of the draw – except for the previous year's champions, they get a first-round bye. There's no time for pool play, and it's a single elimination tournament, so the stakes are intensely high. The smack talk that ensues is quite possibly the best part of the tournament.

As the tournament gets rolling, the food is flowing, while those currently playing are hoping for a quick win because the sun is meltingly hot. To quench your thirst, you could go a lot of directions, but Carole’s Watermelon Slushy is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. 

Watermelon Slushy


  • Watermelon
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2-3 tablespoons lime juice
  • Ginger ale or Rose’ wine (optional)

1. First, stand the watermelon on the flattest, most stable end to ensure that it is balanced with no risk of tipping over. Then, take a sharp-bladed knife and cut the top off.

2. Next, remove an inch or so of the fruit from the inside of the melon, to allow for room to work and the addition of more ingredients later. This will help keep the slushy from spilling over the edge once the immersion blender is inserted into the melon cavity.

3. With the immersion blender on high, begin to slowly and gently pulverize the melon’s fruity inside, being careful not to cut into the rind or puncture it. Use the blender to scrape down the rounded sides and turn the firm flesh into a mushy slush. It will take about 15 minutes for the watermelon rind bowl to be filled with juices.

4. Finally, add a ½ cup of honey into 1 cup of boiling water and stir until it is dissolved. Once cooled, add the sweetened water to the melon. You can also squeeze in a few tablespoons of lime juice to really make the watermelon flavor pop!

Keep the melon on a tray in the refrigerator until serving time. Consider providing several additional flavor options such as ginger ale or Rose’ wine for your guests to add to their individual glasses in case they wanted more of a wine cooler. (This watermelon slushy is a great base for fancy cocktails too, if that’s your party style). Find some fun, wide paper straws for use in slurping your slushies.

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As one team after another is eliminated from the tournament, and the final faceoff is imminent, the spectators choose their favorites and add their own flavor of smack talk to the mix. Finally, after hours of playing, cheering, snacking, water-fighting, and good-natured ribbing, a team emerges victorious. Hoisting that glorious monstrosity of a trophy above their heads, they are reminded to bring the trophy back next year, even more bedazzled than they received it.

After all of that, it’s time for dessert (if you haven’t already partaken).  

Carole’s Summer Cheesecake


  •     1 cup small curd cottage cheese (drained)
  •     1/2 lb. cream cheese, room temperature
  •     1 cup granulated sugar
  •     3 large eggs, separated
  •     1/2 teaspoon salt
  •     1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  •     1 cup heavy cream, whipped
  •     1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  •     1 cup fresh or frozen strawberry slices
  1. Beat cottage cheese and cream cheese together. Add egg yolks, salt, and vanilla to the cheese mixture and blend well. Beat egg whites until they form a soft peak. Gently fold the egg whites and whipped cream into the cheese mixture using a rubber spatula.
  2. Pour into a prepared cookie crust. Freeze until solid, approximately 4 hours. Add blueberries and strawberries to the top in your favorite patriotic pattern, then serve while the cheesecake is still frozen. 

Cookie Crust

  • 2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted.
  1. Mix ingredients well. Press into the bottom of a springform pan. Fill with Summer Cheesecake mix. 

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With a new team riding the wave of their victory, it’s time to do a last round of nibbling before changing, spritzing each other with summer’s perfume (bug spray), and gathering up blankets and chairs to head into the park for the fireworks.


Originally printed in the July 2019 issue of Simply Family Magazine

Never miss an issue, check out SFM's digital editions here! 

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