The countdown is on! The Fourth of July is almost here and, if you're like me, you're still finalizing your plans. Will you head over to the fireworks show? Stop by that picnic with friends? Host your own shindig? Whether you're looking for a recipe to round our your party-perfect menu or are just getting started, I can help you pick the perfect July 4th recipe.

Rule 1: Have something (anything!) red, white, & blue. People love a theme!


Celebration Cupcakes are a great way to knock this one out. Food coloring transforms plain Jane cupcakes into patriotic pastries. Short on time? Head to the store and pick up this list: bakery cupcakes, white frosting, and red, white, and blue sprinkles. Look at you, you're practically Lady Liberty! Looking to skip the sweets? Serve Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad (no food coloring needed, we promise!).

Rule 2: Offer a festive cocktail, and give it a fun name.


Land of the Free Lemonade is a definite crowd-pleaser. It has four ingredients (how appropriate!) and gets its punchy pink color from fresh watermelon. Plus, you can write people's names on those tiny flags to prevent people from losing their cups. Speaking of cups, go clear for these cuties to ensure you can enjoy that ruby hue.

Rule 3: Plate something hearty.


Ribs, anyone? If you can believe it, those bad boys are even more delicious looking in person. Whether you go burgers or vegetarian, it's good to provide something hearty to soak up any adult beverages people have been consuming throughout the day. Yes, those beers before the fireworks show DO count, Uncle Fred, so let's keep our tummies full and our lemonade glasses ice cold.

Rule 4: Have fun!

Whether you cook a feast or pick up fried chicken and a bag of chips, enjoy your holiday, watch some fireworks, and reconnect with friends. I'm not saying that people don't look their best when decked out in red, white, and blue, I'm just saying that flag-print swimsuits may be the great equalizer of our generation.

Happy Fourth of July!

By Ashley Kappel and Ashley Kappel