Last Minute 4th of July Desserts

A guest blog post by Onward Travel’s summer intern, Caitlin Sweeney, Cornell SHA ’19


4th of July is here people! If you’re anything like me, you waited for the absolute last minute to confirm your holiday plans. No need to stress, we’ve got 4 easy to make desserts that are sure to be a hit at any BBQ, outing, camping trip, or event. Hope you enjoy them as much as my family does!


Individual Berry Trifle

This dish is easy to make and travel. This is a colorful versatile dish that everyone will love! Kids can help join in and stack their own creations. I used mason jars because they’re durable and can be sealed for easy travel.


  • Red and blue fruits
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Vanilla extract
  • Sugar
  • Cake

You can use any fruit, but for this I used raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries. Make sure to wash them before you use them!

You can use store-bought whipped cream, but I decided to make my own. Just mix ½ cup of sugar with 16 oz of heavy whipping cream and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Beat with an electric hand mixer until stiff peaks are formed.

For the cake I used Sara Lee pound cake cut up into small cubes. Stack your ingredients in any order you would like and enjoy!


Chocolate Covered Pretzels

These sweet and salty treats are fun to make, and even more fun to eat!


  • Pretzel Rods
  • White Chocolate
  • Sprinkles
  • Food Coloring
  • Parchment paper

Take your white chocolate and separate it into 3 microwave safe dishes. Microwave for 30 seconds and stir, repeat until the chocolate is melted. Once the chocolate is melted, add red food coloring to one bowl, and blue food coloring to another.

Spread a piece of parchment paper on the countertop and lay out pretzel rods.

Decorate the pretzels with the different colors in any design you would like! These are fun for kids to decorate with sprinkles. Let cool on the parchment paper for 20 minutes. (You can freeze them as well if they’re going to be traveling so they don’t melt as quickly) Enjoy!


Frozen Watermelon Pops

These are healthy but sweet treats for hot sunny days. These pops are a twist on the classic watermelon, but will still keep you hydrated!


  • Watermelon
  • Pop Rocks
  • Cookie Cutter
  • Wooden Sticks

Cut your watermelon into 1-inch-thick rings. Lay flat and press your favorite shaped cookie cutters into the watermelon. Lay the watermelon cuts on a baking sheet and skewer them with wooden sticks.

Feel free to add fruits to the wooden stick holding the watermelon. Let the watermelon freeze in the freezer for at least 2 hours. Once they are frozen, garnish with pop rocks for a poppin’ surprise!


Patriotic Rice Krispie Treats

These red white and blue marshmallow desserts are a classic, and are sure to be a hit!


  • Rice Krispies cereal
  • Marshmallow
  • Butter
  • Parchment paper
  • Cookie Cutter
  • Food coloring

Mix 1 tablespoon of butter with 3 cups of marshmallows. For a quick way to make treats you can separate into 3 bowls and microwave the marshmallows. (if you have more time I prefer to melt the marshmallows on the stovetop) Microwave for 30 seconds at a time, marshmallows will puff up and begin to melt. Take them out of the microwave and add blue and red food coloring to two of the bowls.

Mix 1 cup of Rice Krispies into each bowl of melted marshmallow. Grease a wooden spoon and delicately incorporate the Krispies into the marshmallow, be careful not to crush the Krispies.

Once the Krispies are incorporated, flatten the three colors onto a piece of parchment paper.

Make sure to work with the treats while they are still hot and easy to reshape. If the treats get too hard and brittle, stick them in the microwave for 10 seconds. Take the cookie cutter and cut the pattern in each of the colors. Stack the 3 colors on top of each other to create a patriotic dessert. Flatten the remaining colors and repeat until all of the Krispies are shaped. Enjoy!!


Reminiscing about Amore in Italy: Tuscany

In October we travelled to Tuscany for two back-to-back tours with Chef Jenna of Amore Trattoria in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We visited charming Tuscan villages: Cortona, Greve in Chianti, Montalcino, Bagno Vignoni, Siena… and savored the absolutely picturesque countryside that characterizes the region. They say the light in Tuscany is unlike any other place in the world. They’re right. The purple sunsets, the olive trees heavy with fruit, the Cyprus trees…. absolutely intoxicating. Or was it the Chianti?

Highlights from Amore in Italy 2015 ~ Tuscany:

The olive oil.
We were in Tuscany just as the olives were ready for pressing. And 2014 was a crummy year for olives (due to a warm winter) so locals were dying to get that bright green gorgeousness back in their kitchens. It was wonderful tasting a variety of different oils and equally wonderful sharing in the joy and enthusiasm that locals exuded. (And thank goodness I still have two bottles in my cabinet.) We even visited a press in Cortona, on one of the first days they were pressing for the season, and Chef Jenna translated the process and history of this business.

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A charming cheesemaker in the hills. We visited the homestead of Federico Bagnoli, a cheese maker in a mountaintop village whose secret lies in the pure farmland his cows freely graze and his dedication to quality. He set up a table in the olive grove, talked about making cheese, and cut wheel after wheel of absolutely gorgeous cheese for us to sample.


Attending Sagra del Tordo in Montalcino! This is Montalcino’s most important annual festival and it includes food, dance, and celebration. The city is divided into four corners and the residents spend the weekend competing, on food, archery, traditional dance, and falconry. There is lots of parading and revelry. We spent two sunny days enjoying the festival. We dined at the open air food stands with a view of the valley (all four corners did great in our opinion!), attended a feast clad with bandanas supporting the city quadrant where we were based for our stay in Montalcino, watched the nail-biting archery competition, and watched the parades and dancers with joy. Those costumes!

The highlight was absolutely the food tents. Each city quadrant had their own set of tents with local specialties (hand-rolled pici pasta with ragu, giant grilled porcini mushrooms, polenta, chocolate salami (made with dark chocolate, cookies, and wine)… and so much more! We shared at least one of everything and the well-stocked wine tents made sure we had the terrific local Brunello di Montalicno to wash it down.

Top Left: A drummer in the parade, Jenna with a tray of food at the food tents, flags decorated each city quadrant. Bottom left: Molly and Jenna with their quadrant's scarves at the evening feast, a man working the wine tent, locals grilling porcini mushrooms.

Top Left: A drummer in the parade, Jenna with a tray of food at the food tents, flags decorated each city quadrant.
Bottom left: Molly and Jenna with their quadrant’s scarves at the evening feast, a man working the wine tent, locals grilling porcini mushrooms.

Cooking & eating together. We love including cooking classes on most of our tours. In addition to picking up new recipes and enjoying a fabulous meal, we get to chat with instructors about their home.  Spending a day in Chef Alessandra’s kitchen in Cortona was wonderful. Here is Chef Alessandra’s Tiramisu Recipe (delizioso!!) ~ enjoy!


And the views! Oh, the views! We enjoyed this view from Cortona at a private home we rented, owned by a Prada fashion designer. Unique accommodations always help us experience the essence and flavor of the local area.


Check out this Facebook album for photos of our time in Tuscany.

We’re excited for more culinary adventuring with Chef Jenna this fall in Sicily. View tour details here; at the time of writing there are a few spots left.  Amore in Italy ~ Sicily promises to be another tour full of unique experiences, great wine, hilarious moments, and stunning scenery. Our October 2016 Tuscany tour is sold out but we’re considering going again in 2017. Interested in joining us? Let us know!