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10 Red, White, and Blue Treats for Independence Day

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Any holiday means special food, and since the Fourth of July isn't a "candy holiday," we need to make up for it with ice cream, fresh fruit, and other delightful dishes! Here are 10 delicious ways to spice up recipes by giving them the colors of the American flag.

1. LAYERED PATRIOTIC PUNCH

The secret to layering this potent punch is two different colors of Gatorade, keeping the lighter, sugar-free version on top. The heaviest layer of pina colada is on the bottom. Be sure to take a picture, because they will be consumed posthaste. The recipe is at Rolling Out.

2. PATRIOTIC POPS

It looks like a homemade version of Bomb Pops! The red and blue are frozen drinks, and the white is a delicious combination of yogurt and whipped topping. Each is frozen in a small disposable cup. You'll find complete instructions at Spoonful.

3. FOURTH OF JULY STRAWBERRIES

Strawberries are already red and ripe for July 4th, but it's easy to take them all the way into flag territory. These were dipped in melted white chocolate, then in colored sugar. See the instructions at The Sisters Cafe.

4. BACON FLAG PIZZA

What food could be more American than bacon and pizza? Maybe potatoes, but this pizza has them, too, in the form of purple potatoes that cook to a nice blue. Add cheese for the white stripes, and you have a pizza with an American flag on it! See how it's done at Rock UR Party.

5. FLAG FRUIT PIZZA

Oh, the title may say pizza, but this is made with cookie dough and fruit, so slice it up for a sweet treat! On top of the cookie, there's a "pizza sauce" made with cream cheese and whipped topping, then lovingly layered bananas, strawberries, and blueberries to make the flag. Made by Sabby in Suburbia, where you'll find complete instructions.

6. PATRIOTIC ICE CREAM SANDWICHES

Cool off with an ice cream treat in style! You can use ice cream sandwiches from the grocery and roll the edges in red, white, and blue sprinkles, but they're even more impressive made from home-baked chocolate chip cookies. Slip a slab of ice cream between two cookies, add sprinkles, and these will be eaten before they melt. Get instructions at Jimmy Choos on the Treadmill.

7. RED, WHITE, AND BLUE PASTRIES

Using Puff Pastry is a shortcut that saves a lot of time in making these patriotic pastries, which are stuffed with berry jam and topped with cream cheese filling and raspberries and blueberries. Yum! The top opening is a star shape, which leaves you star pastry to make into extra treats. See the whole process illustrated at Recipe Girl.

8. FIRECRACKER CAKELETTES

Why anyone would ever want to ingest Pop Rocks is beyond me, but they weren't a part of my childhood, so what do I know? For these edible firecrackers, you stack red, white, and blue cake rings on top of each other, glued with frosting. Then "load" them with Pop Rocks and add a licorice fuse. Great for a kid's party! Find the complete instructions at She Knows.

9. RED, WHITE, AND BLUE SANGRIA

This fruit-filled wine cooler is made of white wine and berry-flavored vodka, with a few other ingredients for flavor and visual appeal. Add blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and pineapplee cut into star shapes for an impressive refreshment! Recipe Girl has the rest of the recipe.

10. THE TROJAN CAKE

This is what happens when adjacent countries have their patriotic holidays so close together on the calendar. Just like the Trojan Horse, this gift of a Canada Day cake came with a surprise inside. Canadian recipient and redditor TruthGoliath posted the deception. Of course, it was all in fun, and you can make a cake like this with directions from Betty Crocker. The lovely frosting job is not included with the recipe.

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Big Questions
Why Do We Cook So Many Foods at 350 Degrees?
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Whether you’re making mouthwatering blueberry muffins from scratch or finally giving in to that partially opened box of fish sticks that's been hiding in the back of your freezer for eight months, there’s a fairly good chance that you’ll be heating your oven to 350ºF. How can such vastly different foods require the same cooking temperature?

It’s all thanks to something called the Maillard Reaction. In 1912, chemist Louis Camille Maillard was the first to describe the magical transformation that happens to food when it's cooked at around 300 to 350ºF. The finer details of the process are still not totally understood, but according to Serious Eats, it’s generally agreed that the Maillard Reaction happens when heat transforms the proteins and sugars in food, creating a release of new flavors, aromas, and colors. On a primitive level, these delicious changes signal to humans that the food won't harm us and may also contain vital nutrients.

However, that doesn’t mean that we should cook everything at 350ºF. That’s just the baseline. For example, most breads need higher temperatures to rise quickly, and puff pastries do better in the 400ºF range because the steam released at that temperature helps the dough expand. But for many recipes, 350ºF is the golden rule.

By the way: you should thank your lucky stars for modern oven temperature dials, which are way better than the old method of sticking your arm inside to test the heat. Before temperature technology existed, Slate says, bakers would hold an arm inside the oven to see if they could stand it for more than 30 seconds. If they could, it wasn’t hot enough yet.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Food
Why Ice Cream Parlors Were Once Considered Evil
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Chocolate chip cookie dough is probably the only sin you connect with ice cream parlors—after all, they’re associated with squeaky-clean, rated-G good times in a fresh-faced, olden-timey environment. But ice cream didn’t always have such a deliciously benign rep. In fact, at the turn of the 20th century, the ice cream parlor was regarded by many as a den of corruption, prostitution, and sin. 

There was New York, where a man testified to a senate committee in 1895 that he knew of several ice cream parlors that were “really houses of prostitution or disorderly houses.” But Chicago was really the center of the immoral ice cream epidemic—the city had so many problems in ice cream parlors that it passed a curfew law and even forbade the institutions from erecting “curtains, screens, or partitions of any kind that will serve to divide such places into compartments.” 

In 1911, the city’s vice committee published a report of its activities at ice cream parlors, which included nabbing gropers, flirts, and girls who told boys they “could be had.” But perhaps the most outrageous anti-ice cream parlor screed was published in a 481-page 1909 book called War on the White Slave Trade, in which the Illinois Vigilance Association tore the city’s taste for cool treats to shreds.

“One thing should be made very clear to the girl who comes up to the city,” the association warned, “and that is that the ordinary ice cream parlor is very likely to be a spider’s web for her entanglement.” They went on to describe how foreign-owned ice cream establishments were “recruiting stations” for prostitution, where “scores of girls have taken their first steps downward.”

Why ice cream parlors? Historian and folklorist Bill Ellis writes that ice cream wasn’t exactly seen as all-American in the early 1900s. Despite its adoption by Americans like Thomas Jefferson, the cold treat was associated with foreign tastes—tastes that were associated with the specter of “white slavery,” a dated term used to described sex trafficking, prostitution, and other kinds of sexual debauchery during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Fueled by fear of immigrants, changes in how men and women met and married, and consternation over the relative freedom of working women, the term became a major cause at the turn of the century, and a rallying cry for panicked parents and uptight reformers.

Ice cream parlors found themselves in the center of the controversy. Often foreign-owned, the establishments that tried to capitalize on growing leisure time and changing tastebuds found themselves in the crosshairs of moral panic. 

So did the scoop scare cause ice cream business to dwindle? Not exactly. In a 1914 edition of The International Confectioner, an ice cream expert noted that the industry was already so big it could compete with butter production. “The man who kills the goose that lays the golden egg always has and ever will be called a fool,” he wrote. So much for empty ice cream freezers in those dens of sweet, sweet sin.

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