You know by now that the 4th of July is my favorite day of the year.  Every year, it gets better and better.  So I thought I’d share a recap of my favorite day, complete with my favorite 4th of July recipes.

10am Margaritas

Perhaps not the most patriotic beverage, I make my famous margaritas “to go” so we can drink them while watching the parade through town.  THAT seems patriotic.  I’ve been following the same recipe since it was shared with me by one of my college roommates.

The only change I’ve made is that I make my own sweet and sour mix using agave syrup.  A few years ago I was doing my 4th of July shopping at Whole Foods and discovered they didn’t have sweet and sour mix.  The helpful clerk told me that I could just make it myself.  Using my handy iPhone, I discovered that sweet and sour mix only has three ingredients – lime juice, lemon juice, and simple syrup.  Since tequila is made from agave, it seemed like a natural substitution for the sugar in the simple syrup.

Apparently you can improve on perfection – the homemade sweet and sour brought the margaritas to a whole new level.  I make it the night before.

Homemade Sweet and Sour Mix

Makes 4 cups

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup agave
  • 1 cup lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
  • 1 cup lime juice (fresh or bottled)

Combine the water and agave in a saucepan, and heat until boiling.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature, and then add the lemon and lime juices.  Stir to combine, refrigerate until ready to serve.


Martine’s Margaritas

margaritas to goI’ve got to give credit to Melanie for this one – it’s been 10 years and these are still my go-to margs.

  • Lime juice (I use a mix of fresh and bottled because I make such large quantities. If possible, use only fresh squeezed)
  • Sweet and sour mix
  • Triple Sec
  • Tequila

Using a measuring cup, mix equal parts of all the ingredients in a pitcher.  Serve over a lot of ice.

To Go Instructions:  Put all the ingredients in the freezer 3 hours prior to serving.  Mix margaritas in a pitcher and pour into to-go containers 1 hour prior to serving (fill approximately 2/3). Immediately before serving, fill with ice.


11am Parade

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My dad was asked to be the Grand Marshal of the parade this year for 15 years of service to the Fair Board of Directors and for coordinating our 4th of July parade for a decade.  He asked my sister and I to join him in the parade (we were his sidekicks when he was running the parade).  We brought margaritas to-go with us, which one of my sister’s friends cleverly coined “cargaritas.”

12pm Poolside Snacks

4th of july pool

For the next six (yes six) hours, we hang by the pool.  This year we had triple-digit weather, the hottest 4th of July we’d had in a few years.  We stay hydrated with margaritas, beer, and my hibiscus-lime iced tea and stay fueled with some yummy snacks.  My sister makes guacamole and a friend made salsa (again, so patriotic) and I serve a variety of dips like homemade hummus (plain and basil) and chunky artichoke and chickpea salad with crudites.

Hibiscus-Lime Iced Tea

Yield: 1 gallon

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup agave nectar
  • zest of four limes, peeled into strips
  • 16 cups cold water
  • 13 bags Tazo Passion tea

In a small saucepan, bring the agave, warm water and lime zest to a boil. Remove from the heat and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain into a measuring cup.

In a large saucepan, bring the cold water and tea to a boil. Remove from the heat; let steep for 5 minutes. Refrigerate until chilled.

Stir in lime syrup and serve over ice.

4th of july bbq plate

6pm BBQ

Even though we’ve been eating all day, we are somehow hungry for more around 6pm when it starts cooling off.  Since I’m a vegetarian, someone else handles the meat.  I take care of the rest – here’s my 4th of July BBQ menu:

Summer Potato Salad

Makes a ton – serves at least 20.  Vegan, gluten-free.  Adapted from Four Seasons of Potato Salad in Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.

  • 5 lbs. mix of blue, red, and white potatoes, cut in 1 inch chunks
  • 4 yellow or red bell peppers, cut in chunks
  • 1 lb. green beans (stringed and broken in 1-inch lengths)
  • 1 red onion, cut in 1 inch chunks
  • olive oil, salt and pepper

For the dressing:

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Salt and pepper

To serve:

  • 2 cups tomatoes cut in wedges (optional)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • Kernels from two ears of fresh corn

Preheat oven to 450°.

Toss potatoes with salt and oil and spread on baking sheet. Roast 20 minutes, stir, and then roast 20 more minutes or until tender.

Toss peppers,  green beans, and onions in olive oil and salt and roast for 10 minutes, stir, and roast for 10 more minutes. It may take two to three sheets to roast all of the vegetables.

Combine all roasted vegetables in a bowl.  Whisk together dressing, season to taste.  Toss roasted vegetables in dressing, adjust seasonings to taste.  Refrigerate until ready to serve (can be made the day before).

Remove from refrigerator 1-2 hours prior to serving.  Toss basil, tomatoes, and corn just prior to serving.


4th of july bbq

Whole Grain Salad

This salad is healthy and delicious – but incredibly easy.  I get asked for the recipe whenever I make it.

  • 1 bag Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Medley (or 3 cups any mixed grain blend)
  • 1 bunch head dinosaur kale (black cabbage), coarsely shredded
  • 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped candied ginger
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the grains according to instructions (2-1 grain-water ratio) and let cool in the pot.

Meanwhile, blanch kale for 1 minute in a pan with 1 inch of boiling water. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.

In a large bowl, combine grains, kale, almonds, ginger, and cranberries.

Whisk the oil, vinegar, and cinnamon together. Pour over the salad and toss gently. Season to taste and toss again. Serve at room temperature (Can be made the day before, bring to room temperature prior to serving).

7pm Flag Cake

The flag cake has been a tradition in my family for decades, ever since my mom saw the recipe for one in a Cool Whip ad.  Hers was made with Entenmann’s angel food cake loaves and Cool Whip.  Mine is made with white cake and two kinds of frosting.  I’m keeping this recipe a family secret, for now.  Maybe I’ll divulge it next year.

4th of july flag cake strawberries blueberries vegan

8pm Fair and 9pm Fireworks

My childhood home (where I host this party) is two blocks away from the county fairgrounds.  When I was a child, I would spend all day at the fair all five days.  Now I manage about 30 minutes before the fireworks.  Granted, it’s a lot smaller than it used to be.

The night ends with fireworks – still one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.  For a small town, Calistoga knows how to do fireworks right.  The fireworks are set off over a field, so you get to lay on your back and watch the fireworks explode towards you.  It’s amazing.

Pancake Breakfast Bar

pancake barAlmost every bit of floorspace is taken up by people the night of the 4th.  This year we even had several people camp out in the backyard.

By far the easiest breakfast to make for a crowd is a pancake bar.  I make a huge batch of pancake batter and have bowls of different mix-ins (chocolate chips, blueberries, walnuts, and bananas).  I heat up a few pans, and have people make their own pancakes.  There’s no worry about keeping all the pancakes warm (or drying them out in the oven) and – even better – I don’t even have to cook the pancakes myself.  My favorite pancake mix is from Food in Jars, which I make with gluten-free flour a few days ahead of time and make the batter as people start waking up.

The 5th of July has become my New Years Day.  After the crowd has left, I spend the rest of the day on the couch watching movies, perhaps taking a swim in the pool if I get some energy.  I try to shake my post 4th of July blues as quickly as I can, although I’m still a little bummed I have to wait a whole year for my favorite day again.  Although now I have Thanksgiving to look forward to.

You can see all my pics from the 4th of July on Instagram.