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Pitcher of Lemonade Sparkler for the 4th of July

Two Refreshing Cocktails for the 4th of July

Firecracker Tomato Juice Cocktail for the 4th of July-21

Monday is the 4th of July here in the U.S. It’s always been one of my favorite holidays – the early morning pancake breakfasts, the laid back lunch at the pool or beach, evening BBQs, and of course, the fireworks. But mostly, I guess, for me it’s all about the fun food and drinks. I’ve teamed up again with Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice to create two festive cocktails for the 4th of July using their newest juice, Tomato, and an old favorite, Natural Lemonade.

Firecracker Tomato Juice Cocktail for the 4th of July-19

Natalie's Orchid Island Juice

Natalie's Orchid Island Squeezed Fresh Juices

Natalie’s juices are all squeezed fresh which ensures the most delicious, fresh tasting juices and lemonade out there. And if you want the best recipe outcomes, well, then you better use the best ingredients. So that’s what we’re doing for these cocktails. (p.s. If you want non-alcoholic versions, I’ve included that in the notes below.)

Firecracker Tomato Juice Cocktail for the 4th of July-18

Firecracker Tomato Juice Cocktail and Lemonade Sparkler for the 4th of July

The Natural Lemonade only contains lemon juice, cane sugar, and water. And the Tomato juice only contains squeezed fresh tomatoes and a little bit of lemon juice. That’s it! That makes a really big difference, I’m telling you.

Firecracker Tomato Juice Cocktail for the 4th of July-2

Firecracker Tomato Juice Cocktail for the 4th of July-4
Firecracker Tomato Juice Cocktail for the 4th of July-17

Now, when you think of tomato juice cocktails, I’m sure the first one that comes to mind is a Bloody Mary. It’s the favorite of many brunch lovers. The most common recipe for a Bloody Mary contains tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire, lime and/or lemon juice, hot sauce, horseradish, salt and pepper, and sometimes a little celery salt. And then there are infinite variations from there.

Firecracker Tomato Juice Cocktail for the 4th of July-3
I’ve created my own take on a Bloody Mary using Natalie’s squeezed fresh tomato juice, cucumber vodka, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, smoked salt, celery salt, a big pinch of cayenne, and freshly ground black pepper. To quote my husband, “This tastes like a garden in a glass.” And then came the delightful burn that helped give this cocktail its name: Red Firecracker. So light, so refreshing, and basically what I want in my hand as I’m hanging out over the holiday weekend. Man is it good!

Firecracker Tomato Juice Cocktail for the 4th of July-6
My recipe uses a little more tomato juice than other recipes because the flavor is more delicate than canned tomato juice. I wanted to taste the tomato in there, not just the spices.

Speaking of spices, the smoked salt adds such an interesting flavor element that we really love. I buy mine from a specialty market, but I’ve seen it in well-stocked grocery and kitchen stores. It’s now something I always have on hand. (I’ll share more ways we use it in another post.) From there, the other ingredients are pretty simple. We found an incredible cucumber vodka, thanks to my sister’s suggestion, at our liquor store and it is amazing. I’m not usually a fan of flavored vodka, but the cucumber flavor here is perfection, especially in this cocktail. We LOVED it. And we tried it with regular vodka, too, but we missed that nuance of cucumber. Trust me, it’s worth it!

Firecracker Tomato Juice Cocktail for the 4th of July-7
You can go easy or heavy on the cayenne according to your preference. I put a nice big pinch because I love the heat that follows each sip. It’s sort of like firecrackers going off in your mouth. ;) I recommend not adding too much if you make this mixture ahead of time, for example, if you’re making a pitcher for a crowd. Let people add their own because it can get quite a bit spicier as it sits. (From experience. haha)

Firecracker Tomato Juice Cocktail for the 4th of July-12
Firecracker Tomato Juice Cocktail for the 4th of July-14

I probably don’t need to tell you that this Firecracker cocktail tastes infinitely better with this fresh squeezed juice than with that thick canned or bottle stuff you find on the grocery store shelves. (The kind that tastes like overly salty tomato sauce? You know? Yeah, you know.) This tastes like a ripe, juicy tomato…in juice form. That’s why everyone needs some Natalie’s in their fridge. (All of their flavors are crazy fresh and delicious, but I beg you to seek out the tomato juice. You will not be sorry!)

Red Firecracker (Cucumber Bloody Mary)
Ingredients:
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) Natalie’s Orchid Island Tomato Juice
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cucumber vodka
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon smoked salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
Large pinch ground cayenne
10 coarse grinds black pepper
2 cups crushed ice
Sliced cucumber rounds, for garnish

Instructions:
In a small pitcher or 16 ounce measuring cup, stir together the tomato juice, cucumber vodka, lemon juice, smoked and celery salts, cayenne, and black pepper. Taste and add more lemon, salt or pepper, to taste.
Place 1 cup ice each into two glasses. Pour the tomato mixture over the ice. Garnish with cucumber rounds. Serve immediately.

Serves 2.

Notes:
-To make ahead, prepare cocktail mixture, minus crushed ice, and store in fridge until ready to serve.
-To make for a crowd, quadruple the recipe and place in a large pitcher.
-To make a stronger cocktail, use 5-6 ounces of vodka.

And now for the Lemonade Sparkler!

Lemonade Sparkler with Blackberries-6

Pitcher of Lemonade Sparkler for the 4th of July-2
As a companion to our Red Firecracker cocktail, I made a pitcher of Lemonade Sparkler. I went with my favorite flavor combo for this and that combo is elderflower liqueur (a.k.a. St Germaine…mmm…my very favorite), lemonade, blackberries, and sparkling water. We make some kind of version of this quite often in the summertime. It’s incredibly refreshing, and it’s fun to eat the berries afterwards. They soak up the bubbles from the water and the floral essence from the St. Germaine. Such a yummy little burst of flavor when the lemonade is all gone.
Natalie's Orchid Island Squeezed Fresh Lemonade
One thing I really love about using Natalie’s Natural Lemonade is that it’s sweet, but not TOO sweet. You know how sometimes lemonade is so sugary you wonder where the lemon is? Not this lemonade. It’s sweet enough to balance out the lemon, but you definitely know the lemon is there. It’s tart and refreshing like lemonade should be.

Lemonade Sparkler with Blackberries-3

My recipe will serve 8. If you want a 1-2 servings, it’s easy enough to cut the recipe down. But I think it’s safe to say you’ll want a pitcher of this stuff. And it will last a few days in the fridge, if you leave out the ice and add the sparkling water just before serving. This is perfect for a party drink. Give the kids lemonade and give the grown-ups this stuff. They’ll love it.

Lemonade Sparkler with Blackberries-2

Lemonade Sparkler with Blackberries
Pitcher of Lemonade Sparkler for the 4th of July

Lemonade Sparkler (Sparkling St. Germaine Lemonade)

Ingredients:
Two 16-ounce bottles Natalie’s Orchid Island Natural Lemonade, chilled
8 ounces St. Germaine (elderflower liqueur), chilled
1 quart sparkling water or club soda, chilled
1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries
2 large lemons, thinly sliced
Crushed Ice

Instructions:
In a large pitcher (86 ounces or larger), stir together the Natural Lemonade and St. Germaine. Add 1 cup of the blackberries, one sliced lemon, and a few cups of ice, then add enough sparkling water to fill pitcher to the top. Fill glasses or jars with ice. Add a few blackberries and lemon slice to each glass, then fill with the lemonade. Serve immediately.

Serves 8.

Notes:
-To make this non-alcoholic, use 1/2 cup elderflower syrup (found at Ikea and in some specialty stores) and use extra sparkling water to dilute, or it will be too sweet.
-For a stronger drink (wink, wink) use your favorite sparkling wine in place of all or some of the sparkling water. Or add 1/2 cup of vodka to the pitcher.
-Other berries and fruit can be subbed for the blackberries – cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post and these recipes were developed in partnership with Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Ginger Lemon Creme Cookies-3

Gluten-Free Gingersnaps with Lemon Cream Filling

Gluten-Free Gingersnaps with Lemon Cream Filling

This is the first time I’ve actually been excited for January. Usually I’m like, “Ugh. Can we just fast forward through January, February, and March and get to the nice weather?” But then last year I fell hard for citrus of all kinds and citrus time is here once again! Nature’s gift to get us through the cold weather doldrums. In this month’s #EatSeasonal roundup, you’ll find quite a few citrusy recipes. Friends after my own citrus-loving heart. My contribution is a recipe for Gluten-Free Gingersnaps with Lemon Cream Filling. And holy moly are they tasty cookies!

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But first, the gorgeous recipes made with January’s cold weather produce. So many good things to love! Follow along on social media using #EatSeasonal.

EatSeasonal recipes for JanuaryOatmeal and Citrus Smoothie by Floating Kitchen
Butternut Squash, Carrot and Orange Detox Soup by Vintage Mixer
Winter Minestrone Soup with Pancetta by Flavor the Moments
Broiled Grapefruit by Bless This Mess
Gluten Free Gingersnaps with Lemon Cream Filling by Cafe Johnsonia
Meyer Lemon Tart by Kitchen Confidante
Potato and Leek Soup with Kale by Mountain Mama Cooks
Grapefruit and Avocado Green Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette by Food for My Family
Creamy Mushroom and Leek Chicken Breasts by Foodie Crush
Blood Orange Brûlée Upside Down Cake by Suitcase Foodist
Maple-Cayenne Sausage, Brussels Sprouts and Potato Sheet Dish by Project Domestication
Pink Grapefruit with Brunt Honey Custard by Letty’s Kitchen
Yogurt Brûlée with Winter Fruit by Completely Delicious
Grapefruit Pound Cake with Ginger Marshmallow Icing by Climbing Grier Mountain

And now about those cookies of mine. . .

Years ago I fell in love with Carr’s Ginger Lemon Cremes. They quickly became my very favorite store-bought cookie, a) but they are difficult to find and b) they are not gluten-free. I’ve actually never found a gluten-free equivalent, so it’s been quite a long while since I’ve enjoyed those cookies! This year I decided that I wanted to tackle finally making a homemade version. I’ve tried so many different recipes for ginger cookies over the years. I love a good ginger cookie whether they are light and crisp, dense, or chewy. It’s all about the molasses and ginger for me. I found a recipe from Martha Stewart that promised thin, crisp ginger cookies. I modified the recipe a bit and came up with a simple lemon cream filling that is perfectly tart and lemony.

Ginger Lemon Creme Cookies-5

It can be really difficult to make chewy gluten-free cookies. Almost impossible at times. It’s just the nature of gluten-free cookies. BUT these can be chewy or crisp. I discovered that under-baking just a bit left the cookies nice and chewy. And baking them a little longer gave me crisp cookies like the Carr’s Ginger Lemon Cremes. Woohoo!

candied and gresh ginger

I combined my favorite gluten-free all purpose flour mix and almond meal for the dry ingredients. I like using a really deep, dark blackstrap molasses. I feel like the deeper flavor is just a wee bit better, or more pronounced. And I like that. The other awesome thing these cookies have going for them is three kinds of ginger. Are you a fan of ginger? Because I don’t think it’s possible for these to have too much ginger, so I used ground, freshly grated, and chopped crystallized ginger. Also, I should mention that this recipe make A TON of cookies. Like 6 dozen which makes 3 dozen sandwiches. That’s a lot of cookies. But that’s a good thing if you need to make cookies for a crowd, or just want to keep your cupboard stocked up for a long time. (Unless you have three children who are equally addicted to ginger cookies like their mother.) ANYWAY.

lemon fillingginger cookies and lemon filling-2

The filling needs to be loved on a little bit too. Guys and gals, three ingredients are all you need. For reals. Just powdered sugar, good butter, and fresh lemon juice. I say “good butter” because not all butters are created equally. The flavor of the butter comes through. That goes for butter that’s been hanging around in the freezer too long.You know when you forget about a pack of butter and it’s been hanging out next to the salmon for a few months? Yeah, don’t use that. Get some fresh butter.

If I could only have one cookie for the rest of my life, I’d probably choose these.
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Gluten-Free Holiday Appetizer | Butternut Squash Goat Cheese Flatbread

Gluten-Free Holiday Appetizer: Flatbread with Roasted Butternut Squash

GF Butternut Squash Flatbread

When I catered holiday parties in the past, the menus usually centered around appetizers and salads. Those are my favorite party foods – always. And I think after all the sweets, people crave more savory party foods. I love, love, love using cheese in appetizers, especially for the holidays, for several reasons. First, most people love cheese. Or at least like it. Second, it creates a more filling, satisfying appetizer. And third, it goes well with just about everything. I’ve teamed up again with my friends at Pamela’s Products to create a gluten-free holiday appetizer using their fabulous pizza crust mix, and I create a simple Gluten-Free Butternut Squash Flatbread that uses fresh goat cheese, pomegranate seeds, almonds, and sprouts. (p.s. I’m giving away some of my favorite Pamela’s mixes – scroll down to enter!)

GF Butternut Squash Flatbread-9
The holidays are always my favorite time for entertaining. I always dream of having my own big, lavish holiday parties, but in reality: I’m not Martha Stewart. I have to bring it down a little bit and think in realistic terms. I’m actually pretty introverted, so I much prefer being behind the scenes doing the cooking. When you come to my house, it may not be spotless and I may not be mingling much, but you can be sure there is always something delicious to eat and drink! In any case, I love this time of year because there are so many delicious ingredients to use in all sorts of ways. But as is always true, simple food tastes the best. And this may seem like a complicated recipe, but it’s actually easy to make and focuses on seasonal ingredients that are in their prime.

GF Butternut Squash Flatbread-2
I’m calling this a flatbread, but it’s basically a fancy pizza. The gluten-free crust is super easy to make. I like being able to pull out a bag of Pamela’s when I’m making pizza or flatbread because it makes a delicious, chewy crust that is also sturdy enough to hold up to all those toppings!

GF Pamela's Products Pizza Crust Mix

This mix only requires warm water and olive oil – a yeast packet is included in the package. That hard work of coming up with the perfect blend of gluten-free flours and starches is done for you. All that’s left to do is mix it up, let it rise, and bake it. So it’s perfect for everyone, whether you are a master cook or a beginner! (more…)