Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Homemade Sodas and Party Planning tips:

Homemade Soda recipe and party planning tips from cherryteacakes.com
Homemade Soda: pomegranate clementine, lemon basil, and strawberry lime. 
A week ago, my friend Tyler and I started discussing the differences between the months of vacation given in European nations, compared to the standard two weeks of vacation in the US, and worse, the way we spend our vacations. I've been reading about how American's are so overstressed that we come back from vacation feeling more fried than when we left for it. We over-schedule ourselves with our "leisure activities," keep our smartphones in hand, and worry about our inbox awaiting us upon return. 

I realized that my vacation planning, my party planning, my life planning was. just. too. much. stress. So, I made the decision to enjoy summer the way it was meant to be: full of parties for one or more where I don't over schedule, where I enjoy good meals with good friends. I've decided to make my daily life more of a vacation. More time on the porch, more kicking back in the shade with lemonade, more games of bocce and creating little places of joy around my house.  

In the spirit of taking back my Summer Vacation from the grasp of the DC hustle and bustle and my ever loving desire to raise money for charity (cherry tea, get it?), I've decided to give my best tip for a good cause. Kelly Ripa and Electrolux have been raising money for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. If you give them a party planning tip, they'll donate one dollar, and enter you to win a pretty fancy refrigerator. Want to help? Visit Kelly Confidential and give them your best impromptu party planning tip!

My Tip: Be bubbly. Always have soda ingredients on hand: soda water, fruit juices, and simple syrups. 

I live by this tip. I currently have three flavors of simple syrup in my fridge: plain, basil, and cucumber. I have fresh fruits and juices all around the house and in one minute I can make up a large batch of homemade, fresh, flavorful soda. I also keep a stock of vintage soda bottles for serving! Next time you buy soda in glass bottles don't recycle! Reuse! Make you're own soda in adorable bottles and feel good about knowing each and every ingredient in your soda. I make a homemade soda for myself everyday. Yes. Every. Single. Day.  My current obsessions are shown above: pomegranate clementine, lemon basil, and strawberry lime.
Homemade Soda recipe and party planning tips from cherryteacakes.com
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water 

Boil the water and sugar together for five minutes. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. 

**To flavor the simple syrup, such as for basil, add a handful of torn basil before boiling. 
Homemade Soda recipe and party planning tips from cherryteacakes.com
1/2 part clementine juice
1/2 part pomegranate juice
1 part simple syrup
4 parts soda water. 

Homemade Soda recipe and party planning tips from cherryteacakes.com
1 part lemon juice
1 part basil simple syrup (see note above) 
4 parts soda water 

Mix it all together and drink. :)
Homemade Soda recipe and party planning tips from cherryteacakes.com
1 part lime juice
1 part simple syrup
4 parts soda water
2 strawberries sliced 

Mix it all together and drink. :)

Perhaps you noticed the trend: 1 part fruit juice, 1 part simple syrup and 4 parts soda water. You can make a batch for twenty, or a personal sized soda to kick back with. Add some fresh fruit, add some extract, some spices, some herbs, some this or that and anything else. That's the beauty, whatever you have around can make a fantastic homemade soda! My recommendation is that per person one part is equal to one fourth of a cup.

But that doesn't seem like enough. Here are a few more tips based on my little Memorial Day shin dig. 
Homemade Soda recipe and party planning tips from cherryteacakes.com

  • Tip: Take it outside! When I'm decorating in a hurry, my best tip is to take a few favorite things from inside the house and create a little homey space outside! On the left you'll see a few of my favorite things: sheer white curtains, paintings, picture frame collages, cucumber water, homemade paper flowers, all in bright vibrant colors! Total time: 20 minutes!  
Homemade Soda recipe and party planning tips from cherryteacakes.com

  • Tip: Chill Out. Now this tip I read in a magazine. Take hand towels, spritz them with lemon water and give them to your guests to cool off and refresh before sitting down to eat. After a few lawn games you'll want them. Their tip was to the heat the towels....but it's blazing hot, so my tip,is to stick them in the freezer for a few minutes to cool them off. If you want warm hand towels, microwave them for about ten seconds! 

Tip: Don't Make Lemonade. Take a non-toxic marker and make lemons into place holders instead make seating "cards." I go onto a free font site, pick a font, and make a custom preview of my friends names to copy onto their place cards...or place produce. Want to see some more of my examples? Check out my BBQ for all dinner. Scroll down till you see deviled eggs in bird nests. :)

The next best thing is, by using non toxic markers (and not eating the lemon peel!) you can still use the lemons later for lemon basil soda!

Now let's talk food!
Homemade Soda recipe and party planning tips from cherryteacakes.com
I'm from the Southwest, a good ol' Arizona girl. So my go quick meals are all Mexican food. My personal fave is making my own tortilla chips. It takes all of ten minutes and you can make anything from garlic and cayenne, to cilantro lime, or show off your fancy salt collection with some coconut lime salt chips (Thanks Mom!). 
corn tortillas
sprayable olive oil
seasonings (kosher salt, cayenne pepper, garlic salt, etc.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Spray each side of the tortillas with olive oil. Sprinkle with seasonings. Place into a stack and cut into fourths.

Arrange tortilla triangles on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake for 6 to 7 minutes or until crisp with curled brown edges.

Remove from oven to cool.

But what are chips without salsa? This is NOT a quick recipe, but worthwhile. :)
Homemade Soda recipe and party planning tips from cherryteacakes.com
3 pounds tomatillos, husked, rinsed
2 small serano peppers, stem removed
5 small garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
¾ bunches fresh cilantro (no stems)
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/6 cup fresh mint leaves
3 T. sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Mix tomatillos and peppers in large saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until soft, about 15 minutes. Occasionally roll the tomatillos around in the water so they cook evenly. Remove from heat; let stand 15 minutes. Drain.

Put all the ingredients, except vegetable oil and salt into a food processor and blend to your desired consistency.

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add salsa and simmer for a few minutes until your desired thickness. Stir in kosher salt.

Homemade Soda recipe and party planning tips from cherryteacakes.com
And last but not least it wouldn't be a Memorial Day BBQ without cheese burgers and fries. For the first time ever, I made a black bean burger.....Yep. If you know me, you know I'm a red meat and potatoes kinda woman so this was a big step for me (entirely out of love for my friend Thelma. Darn her).

Homemade Soda recipe and party planning tips from cherryteacakes.com
2 (14-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and WELL drained, divided
1/3 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1 small vidalia onion, diced and caramelized
1/3 of a Serrano pepper, seeds removed, diced
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 soft hamburger buns
6 slices of chipotle cheddar cheese
6 tablespoons salsa verde (see above)
other toppings, such as tomatoes or guacamole

Preheat oven to 350. 

Pulse 1 can beans in a food processor with bread crumbs, cilantro, lime juice, and garlic until a coarse purée forms. Transfer to a bowl and stir in cilantro, second can of beans, caramelized onions and serrano peppers. Form mixture into 6 patties.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Cook burgers until outsides are crisp and lightly browned, turning once, about 5 minutes total.

Bake for an additional five minutes in the oven with chipotle cheddar cheese slices on top. Cook until burgers are firm and cheese is melted. 

Serve on buns with salsa verde and additional toppings as desired.



  1. Great recipes and tips. Thanks for sharing!

  2. What an all-around great post this is! I love your soda flavors...and what a great touch to an everyday BBQ! Simple yet delicious.

  3. I want to come to a party at your house! So pretty! I have never made my own soda before, but the Pomegranate one sounds delicious! And some salsa verde - yum!

  4. beautifull pictures, beautifull post! and amaizing recipies! do you thinks that the same recipe can test good with regular water instade of soda?

  5. What a lovely party - and so right on about actually enjoying vacation. Great ideas - love sodas!

  6. I love homemade sodas! Thanks for posting these delicious fruit combination ideas!

  7. This is so cool!! I love soda. By the way, your backyard and patio are beautiful!

  8. Australia follows the European tradition of holidays, and many times if it is a holiday weekend the actual holiday means that everything is closed - not always, but definitely some days. It was a little bit of a shock to move to the US and find that you only get 2 weeks annual leave per year.

    I think your lemon basil soda would be my favorite, and would go wonderfully with the southwestern chipotle cheese burger.

  9. wonderful post! Loved the cheerfulness and whimsy... and I can't wait to make my own soda. Thanks for the inspiration!

  10. The visuals here are so inviting. You definitely know how to entertain.

  11. Such a cute post! I love the idea for homemade sodas! Fabulous pictures as well!

  12. What a great post!!!! I love all your tips; they're really good! I think my favoritest part about this, though, is the sodas! I love homemade sodas and can't wait to make some of my own. Thank you so much for sharing all of this awesomeness :-)

  13. I choose this cheese burger :)

  14. The chipotle burger looks amazing and I love that it is made with black beans! I think I'll be making these for my husband's July 4th birthday dinner, yum!

  15. Love the idea of making homemade sodas - yum! That lemon-basil one in particular sounds right up my alley! :)

  16. @juliana yes, they actually do go very well with plain water. it comes out more like a lemonade or a punch than a soda but it's still very charming. :) i use these same ratios for my lemonades and limeades all the time.

  17. I love these sodas!!! What a great idea! I am thinking that they could be amazing "spiked" with a little something, too! All of these ideas are fabulous. Love the cool towel idea, too! :)

  18. Stunning pictures and fantastic recipes and tips! : )

  19. Lovely pictures! I'll be right over for your next party!

  20. I completely agree with you on vacation styles. Coming from Italy and living in the US, I miss the long summers...
    This post is a joy for the eye. How beautiful. Everything!

  21. So cute! I love the pics and all the soda recipes. And I will be coming over for some coconut lime tortilla chips. Yes please!!

  22. Good photos! Love it!


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