Refreshing desserts for the Fourth of July

When gathering with family and friends to celebrate the Fourth of July, plan to serve a cool, refreshing dessert.
Whether it is homemade ice cream, an ice cream pie or a cold dessert with fresh fruit, it will be a welcomed treat, providing sweet relief on a sultry afternoon.
When I was growing up in Opelika, many businesses were closed for the week of the Fourth, and workers had the week off to be with their families. At that time, there weren’t as many people having homes at Lake Martin. There were mostly small cabins.
During the Fourth week, my family would sit on the porch or under a Chinaberry tree in the backyard and shell bushels of peas for Mom to freeze for the winter months. She also spent a few days canning tomatoes and making jellies and jams.
We would make homemade ice cream, with Dad turning the crank on an old fashioned ice cream maker continuing until it became too difficult. The cold, creamy goodness was refreshing, while my siblings and I chased fireflies until dark.
Part of the week would be spent in Pensacola, Florida, visiting my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. On the Fourth, my Little Granny and aunts cooked a bountiful meas with garden fresh vegetables. Tables would be arranged under the tall oaks where everyone in the family would gather. Aunts kept glasses filled with sweet tea.
Along with platters of fried chicken, sliced tomatoes and cornbread were served with squash, freshly hulled black-eyed peas, lima beans and other vegetables.
My family has always had a fondness for desserts, and no meal was complete without several choices. Granny would bake thin-layered cakes and stack them tall, filled with cooked chocolate fudge icing that spilled onto the plate. She would generally have a huckleberry or wild blueberry filled cake as well, with the delicious thick filling drizzling from the layers.
Fruit desserts were popular during summer and are still relished in our family. Fragrant, juicy fresh peaches are among the tastiest fruits of summer. Fresh peaches can be used to create scrumptious cobblers, pies, cakes and refreshing desserts.
While Georgia is called the Peach State, the popular fruit has a long history. The Chinese were thought to have domesticated the peach before it spread to Western Europe. Some believe the tree was brought to the New World by the Spaniards.
Cherokee Indians grew peaches in the 18th century. After the Civil War, Georgia farmers were looking for alternatives to cotton. Peaches were so successful that in the following decades Georgia earned the nickname “the Peach State.”
In Alabama, Chilton County peaches are popular for eating and baking. Some believe Hernando DeSoto, who traveled down the Coosa River in the 1500s, was responsible for bringing peaches to Chilton County. Many varieties of peaches have been developed.
Chilton County peaches are available at local farmers markets and grocery stores. Fresh peaches are delicious additions to ice cream and can be used for enhancing other desserts.
Try Easy Peach Cheesecake Dessert with a layer of crust with pecans, a cream cheese filling and a congealed peach topping. Mom made a similar dessert that used strawberries instead of peaches. They both keep well in the refrigerator.
For a dessert featuring patriotic colors, try the Layered Red, White and Blue Dessert. Cubes of angel food cake are layered with whipped cream or ice cream, blueberries and strawberries. You can also make this dessert using pound cake.
After Don and I were married and lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, we visited Independence Hall. It was touching to hear the history and see where America’s Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. When family visited, we would take them to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.
While I don’t have a Chinaberry tree in my backyard and won’t be shelling a bushel of peas like when I was growing up, I am thankful to live in my hometown that I love. It has always been a special haven different from any other place.
Whether you are celebrating Independence Day at home or the lake with family and friends, take time to remember those who founded our country, as well as those who have continued to fight for our freedom.

Ann Renfro Smith’s grandmother’s recipe
2 quarts milk
3 cups peaches, blended
1/2 pint half and half
1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
3 cups sugar
Mix ingredients in large bowl and pour into ice cream freezer. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for freezing.

Debbie Whitley
5 egg yolks
2 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
1½ cups whole milk
4 cups whipping cream
12 oz. can Carnation evaporated milk
1½ Tbsp. vanilla
In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together yolks, sugar, salt and whole milk. Pour into saucepan and heat cream mixture over medium-high heat until warm. Remove from heat.
Gradually add whipping cream, evaporated milk and vanilla. Return to heat and cook over medium-low heat, stirring mixture constantly with a wooden spoon until thickened.
Put in refrigerator to cool at least 30 minutes. Pour into ice cream freezer and churn until thick.

½ pint heavy cream, whipped, or vanilla ice cream
3 Tbsp. sugar
Angel food cake, cubed
Whip cream with sugar. In individual dishes or clear glasses, place a layer of angel food cake cubes, blueberries, whipped cream or ice cream, strawberries, cake and another layer of whipped cream or ice cream.
Top with blueberries and strawberries. If using ice cream, serve immediately. Dishes of the dessert with whipped cream can be chilled until ready to serve. Can also use cubes of pound cake instead of angel food cake.

Jenny Clary
For the Fourth of July, use blueberries and strawberries or raspberries.
1 small lemon
2 cups buttermilk
½ cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
2 cups assorted fresh fruit (strawberries, peaches, blueberries, raspberries, bananas)
About 3 hours before serving or early in the day:
Line 12 muffin pan cups with fluted paper baking liners.
In a large bowl, grate peel from lemon; mix buttermilk, sugar and salt and lemon rind; gently stir in 1 ¼ cups of fruit.
Spoon mixture into muffin cups (make sure that each cup has pieces of fruit).
Cover and freeze until firm; to serve: peel off paper baking liners.

1 pkg. Oreo cookies, crushed
1 stick butter, melted
½ gallon butter pecan ice cream or ice cream of choice
Chocolate Sauce
Whipped cream or Cool Whip for topping
In a greased 9 by 13-inch pan, spread crushed Oreos and pour melted butter over top. Slice ice cream and place on top of cookie crust.
Pour cooled Chocolate Sauce on top and cover with whipped topping; freeze.
Chocolate Sauce:
1 Tbsp. melted butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
½ cup sugar
1 ½ squares semi-sweet chocolate
Combine ingredients in saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until thick.

This can be made with a layer of sliced peaches without the congealed topping.
First Layer:
2½ cups self-rising flour
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup chopped pecans, optional
Mix flour and butter together; add pecans. Press into the bottom of a 9 by 12 inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly brown. Cool.
Second Layer:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
8 oz. Cool Whip or 1½ cups sweetened whipped cream
Combine ingredients and spread over cooled crust.
Third Layer:
4 cups sliced fresh peaches
Spread peaches over second layer; refrigerate.
Fourth Layer:
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. flour
4 Tbsp. peach Jell-O
1 cup water
Combine all ingredients together and cook over medium heat until clear and thick. Cool. Pour over peaches.
Chill the dessert overnight before serving.

2 pints softened vanilla ice cream, divided
9-inch graham cracker piecrust
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. caramel sauce, divided
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. fudge sauce, divided
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
Scoop 1 pint ice cream into thin, flat scoops and spread on bottom of crust.
Spread 1/2 cup caramel sauce over ice cream. Freeze pie until solid. Remove pie from freezer and top with 1/2 pint ice cream; spread evenly over caramel. Spread 1/2 cup fudge sauce over ice cream.
Freeze pie until solid. Remove pie and top with remaining 1/2 pint ice cream.
Drizzle remaining 2 Tbsp. each caramel and fudge sauce over pie. Freeze.
Whip cream and confectioners’ sugar until firm peaks form. Spread over pie. Freeze until ready to serve. Serve with additional whipped cream, if desired.

Julia Thomas
26 Oreo cookies, divided
1/2 stick margarine
1 can Hershey’s chocolate syrup, divided
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
1 cup Spanish peanuts
12 oz. Cool Whip
Crush 24 Oreos in a plastic bag. Melt margarine; mix with crushed Oreos. Press in greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Cover with 1/2 can Hershey’s chocolate syrup.
Slice ice cream into 1½-inch slices. Arrange slices over crust. Sprinkle peanuts over top.
Cover with remaining syrup. Spread Cool Whip on syrup and sprinkle 2 crushed Oreos over top. Freeze. Serve in 2-inch squares.

Vera Ellen Scott
1 (12 oz.) pound cake, cut into 10 slices
3 Tbsp. orange juice
4 cups fresh berries (halved strawberries, whole blueberries, raspberries, etc.)
2 Tbsp. sugar
2½ cups cold milk
2 small pkgs. French vanilla instant pudding
8 oz. or larger sized Cool Whip
Arrange cake slices on bottom of 9×13-inch dish. Drizzle with orange juice. Top with berries. Sprinkle with sugar.
Make pudding. Pour milk in large bowl, add both pkgs. of pudding mixes, whisk for 2 minutes. Stir in 1 cup Cool Whip.
Spread pudding mixture over berries.
Top with remaining Cool Whip (now or before serving). Refrigerate. Cut into squares. Garnish if desired and serve. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup to 1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup chopped nuts
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 cup or more sweetened whipped cream or Cool Whip
3 oz. pkg. strawberry gelatin
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup boiling water
4 cups sliced strawberries
To prepare crust, mix brown sugar and flour; cut in margarine. Add nuts and press in 13 x 9 inch pan. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. Cool before adding filling.
To make filling, mix cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar in a large bowl. Fold in Cool Whip; spread over cooled crust.
To prepare topping, mix gelatin, sugar, cornstarch and water. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a rolling, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; cool. Add strawberries to cooled mixture. Pour over cream cheese filling. Chill until ready to serve.

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
1/3 cup lemon juice
Baked tart shells
4 fresh peaches, sliced
½ cup apricot preserves
2 Tbsp. sugar
Whipped cream
Beat cream cheese; add condensed milk and lemon juice and continue beating until smooth. Place in tart shells and chill.
Place sliced peaches on top of filling. Combine preserves and sugar; heat until melted. Pour over peaches. Top with whipped cream. Place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Carol Pridgen
1 large angel food cake (store bought)
1 large Cool Whip
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups fresh strawberries, quartered
Cut cake into 3 equal sized layers. Place bottom layer of cake in trifle bowl.
Mix cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk and Cool Whip.
Fold in strawberries. Divide mixture into thirds. Spread mixture onto bottom cake layer.
Top with next cake layer. Repeat.
Cream cheese mixture will be on top. Garnish with strawberries. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Mary Ann Swanson
½ cup chopped pecans
Vegetable cooking spray
1 tsp. sugar
1 pint light coffee ice cream, softened
1 pint light chocolate ice cream, softened
1 cup coarsely chopped reduced-fat cream-filled chocolate cookies, divided
1 ready-made chocolate crumb piecrust
2 Tbsp. chocolate syrup
Place pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Cool.
Stir together ice cream, cookie chunks and 1/3 cup pecans. Spoon into piecrust. Freeze 10 minutes.
Press remaining cookie chunks and pecans evenly on top. Cover with plastic wrap; freeze 8 hours. Drizzle slices with chocolate syrup. Store in freezer until ready to serve.

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 egg
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups sliced fresh peaches
16 oz. container sour cream
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla
1½ cups heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
Fresh peach slices for garnish
To make the cake, mix butter and sugar until creamy; add egg, beating well. Combine flour and baking powder; add to creamed mixture, beating until just mixed. Stir in vanilla.
Pat mixture into a greased 9-inch spring form pan. Arrange peach slices on top.
Combine filling ingredients; pour over peaches.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 50-55 minutes or until edges are lightly brown. Cool and then chill. Remove sides from spring form pan. Whip cream and add sugar. Spoon whipped cream over top. Garnish with fresh peach slices. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.