Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. Growing up in Jacksonville, FL, we’d always go out on our friend’s boat and watch the fireworks from the St. John’s River. We’d spend the whole day in water- water skiing, crabbing, and then back to the pool. Now that I live in Colorado, the 4th is a little different. Not much water around here and this year, we had a state wide ban on fireworks.
I needed to throw a killer party to make up for the lack of water sports and fireworks.
Watermelon Jello Shots
The biggest hit at the party were the watermelon jello shots. I’ve been out of college for five years now, and I just can’t say goodbye to jello shots… but they aren’t really grown up food. These were a perfect mix of the fun of college years, mixed with the sophistication needed now that I’m an “adult.”
They are surprisingly simple to make, and a good thing to prep the day before the party. You start with limes. Depending on the size of limes, you will likely need about 12-15 limes. Start by slicing them all in half longwise as seen in the picture below.
Then comes the most challenging part- coring the limes. Use a small knife with a serrated edge. Move slowly through this process or you’ll likely cut your thumb. And I know from experience that lime juice in a fresh cut hurts like crazy!
Make the jello exactly as described on the box with one exception- instead of using a cup of cold WATER, use a cup of cold VODKA. Once everything is mixed well, it’s time to pour it in the lime halves. I’d recommend using a container with a spout because you’ll need some precision when pouring.
Let it sit overnight in the fridge. It takes around four hours to fully set, but it won’t hurt to leave it in for more than that. Vodka has a lower freezing point than water so it takes longer to set and it will melt quickly.
When the jello has fully set, slice your halves down the middle so they will now be quarters. Do this step slowly and carefully, because you don’t want the jello to tear.
A staple on the agenda for every party is my dad’s world famous deviled eggs. My dad taught me how to make them when I was a little girl, and making them right is one of the elements of being a southern that I am most proud of. To start, you hard boil eggs. For the perfect hard-boiled egg, I put the eggs in a pot of cold water, with a splash of vinegar. Cover the pot, bring the water to a boil, and as soon as it reaches a boil, turn off the burner. Keep the lid on the pot and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 10-12 minutes. When you take them out, they should be nice and easy to peel.
For deviled eggs, slice the peeled egg in half longwise and pop out the yolk and put them in a separate bowl.
Now comes the fun part. You can be as creative and experimental with the yolk mixture as you want. A little bit of egg yolk is good for you, but there is so much cholesterol and saturated fat. like to take a little of the yolk out and throw it away. Now you can fill it with spicy mustard, tabasco sauce, mayo (also, something you want to use very sparingly) and spices. Some people also use garlic, bacon, celery, onion, curry powder, nuts, and the list goes on and on.
When you’ve tasted your mixture and it’s to your liking, its time to get your hands good and clean, because they are about to get really dirty. Sure, you could use a spoon, but it will make for so much extra work, and you won’t be as pleased with your results. I dig in and scoop out just the right amount to fill the hole left from the egg yolks, plus a little more. When all the eggs are stuffed and on your final presentation tray, sprinkle them with just a dash of paprika. It adds a little bit of flavor, but really just makes it look nice.
Eight Layer Bean Dip
Next up was the eight layer bean dip. I know it’s traditionally supposed to be seven layers, but I couldn’t decide on a layer to leave out! I made it in a 9×9 baking pan. Start by preheating the oven to 375 degrees.
The bottom layer, or layer #8, is the only thing I used from a can- refried beans. I just can’t make them on my own and have them taste as good.
Layer #7- chopped olives
Layer #6- sliced scallions
Layer #5- chopped tomatoes
Layer #4- mashed pinto beans (these I buy dry, and cook in my pressure cooker)
Layer #3- diced jalapeños
Layer #2- Shredded cheese. Unless you like ingesting wood pulp, always go with the block cheese and shred it yourself
Before adding layer #1, the whole bean dip goes in the oven for about 30 minutes. When it comes out, top with layer #1
Layer #1- Lettuce
What are your favorite Fourth of July recipes?