A Brand-New Life

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Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven….

I PETER  1:3 The Message

That’s a great reason to celebrate Easter, isn’t it? Wishing you a joyful Easter Sunday!

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 20001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.
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A Spring Branch Bouquet

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Dogwood trees are starting to bloom where I live and their blooms are so pretty! The Redbud trees are also blooming and their rich color looks so striking against the other trees that are just starting to produce small leaves.

I decided to pick a few blooming branches and make a bouquet–something I had wanted to do last spring, but by the time I thought about doing it, the blooms were past their prime. So here’s how my “Branch Bouquet” turned out–I just combined 2 Dogwood branches with 3 Redbud branches and I think the different blooms look so pretty together! You could use other kinds of blooming branches, too–Forsythias, Pear Blossoms…whatever type of blooming branches that are growing around you. It brings a nice touch of the spring outdoors into your home or office.

You could also use this idea to make a pretty Easter centerpiece for your table!

Do you have any pretty blooming shrubs or trees in your yard?

I’m linking this to Fiesta Friday and Inspire Me Monday.

Very Lemony Raspberry Lemonade

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When I posted my Lemon Raspberry Muffins recipe recently, I promised you I’d share the recipe for the Raspberry Lemonade I made to go with them…well, here it is!

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It’s very, very lemony! And the frozen raspberries that are mixed in with it give this lemonade a rosy pink color. A perfect beverage to make in the spring and summer…or how about Easter weekend?

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I used a new favorite pitcher of mine to serve the lemonade in–and one thing I love about this pitcher is that it has a chalkboard decal, so you can write the name of the beverage you’re serving right on the pitcher! As I mentioned in my muffin post, this pitcher is part of the Daily Grace Collection by (in)courage  (sold at DaySpring.com) and each piece has some inspiring words about gratefulness and God’s grace in the design–so nice to look at when you’re enjoying a meal or snack at your table!

Like I said, this lemonade is very lemony, so if you’d like it a little less lemony you can just use 3 cups of lemon juice–or add more water (and maybe a little more sugar) to the mixture. You can easily adjust the amounts to suit your taste. Hope you get a chance to try it out!

VERY LEMONY RASPBERRY LEMONADE by NancyCreative, adapted from FoodNetwork.com and Ree Drummond

Makes about 12 to 13 cups

  • 4 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice (it takes about 7 to 8 lemons to yield 1 cup of lemon juice, so you will need 28 to 32 lemons! Or you could use 2 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice and 2 cups bottled lemon juice)
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 7 to 8 cups water, divided
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag frozen raspberries
  • 3 lemons, sliced into thin slices
  • ice cubes for pitcher and glasses

Squeeze the lemons and pour the juice into a pitcher. Mix together the sugar with 2 cups of water and stir to dissolve to make a syrup. add the syrup to the lemon juice and top it up with 5 to 6 cups of water. If this is too lemony for you, add another cup of water–you may also need to add a little extra sugar to taste. Then add the frozen raspberries. Mix the lemonade together and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least a half hour. Just before serving, add about 1 lemon’s worth of slices to the pitcher and stir (use the rest of the lemon slices in the glasses). Fill glasses or mason jars with ice cubes and a lemon slice; pour in the lemonade and serve.

You can halve this recipe, too, if you want to make a smaller amount. I also have a recipe for Fresh-Squeezed Lemonade, if you want to try that out. Do you have a favorite lemonade recipe?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday.

Lemon Raspberry Muffins: Sugar-Crusted or Lemon-Glazed

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Lemon is such a great springtime flavor and this past weekend seemed like the perfect time to make some lemon-flavored muffins!

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I found a recipe on Pinterest that inspired me, and it also inspired one of my friends to convince me to make them so she could taste-test them! :)  So I ended up making these Lemon-Raspberry Muffins with some changes of my own. I used Half and Half (light cream) and yogurt to make them a little more rich and creamy and used lemon extract instead of vanilla for a little extra lemony flavor. And I made two batches with different toppings–sugar-crusted, like the original recipe, and lemon-glazed, which gives the muffins an extra zing of lemon flavor. The glaze I used is the one from my Lemon Zucchini Loaf, which is another good recipe if you are a lemon-lover!

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These muffins are so moist and have a light, sweet lemon flavor. And they’re packed with lots of raspberries! If you decide to glaze the muffins (shown in the photo above), adding fresh raspberries as a garnish is a nice touch (just slice the berries in half lengthwise).

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I love this little bowl that holds some of the berries I used-it’s actually a sugar/candy bowl, but it works great for berries, too! It’s part of the Daily Grace Collection by (in)courage, sold on DaySpring.com. The platter, square salad plate and pitcher are also from this collection. I really like the clean simplicity of these pieces and the simple, sweet messages of grace and gratefulness!

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Here’s a close-up of the sugar-crusted muffins. Granulated sugar is all that’s needed as a topping for these. I can’t decide if I like the sugar crust or lemon glaze best…you may just have to try these muffins both ways and see what you think! :)

LEMON RASPBERRY MUFFINS: SUGAR CRUSTED OR LEMON-GLAZED by NancyCreative, adapted from Pink Polkadot Creations

Makes 12 muffins

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
  • 1/2 cup Half and Half (light cream)
  • 1/4 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • zest of 1 lemon, plus 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (use frozen raspberries with no sugar or syrup added and do not thaw)
  • For Sugar-Crusted muffins: use 2 to 2 1/2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of muffins before baking
  • For Lemon-Glazed muffins: see Lemon Glaze recipe below; use raspberries cut in half lengthwise as an optional garnish

Heat oven to 400˚F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners or spray with cooking spray.

In medium bowl, combine 1 3/4 cups of the flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add butter and stir to mix together (this will give you a crumbly-looking mixture).

In another medium bowl, whisk together the Half and Half, yogurt, egg, lemon extract, and lemon juice (you’ll add the lemon zest a little later). Gradually add this mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined (batter will be lumpy).

In small bowl, toss the raspberries and lemon zest with the remaining flour. Gently fold the berry mixture into the batter.

Divide batter evenly in the 12 muffin cups (they’ll be about 3/4 full). Then here’s what you do, depending on if you want sugar-crusted muffins or lemon-glazed muffins:

For Sugar-Crusted muffins: Using 2 to 3 Tablespoons of sugar, sprinkle tops of muffin batter before baking. Bake at 400˚F for 17 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before removing the muffins. Then you can serve the muffins warm or let  them cool completely–they taste great both ways!

For Lemon-Glazed muffins: Bake at 400˚F for 17 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then remove muffins from pan and cool completely on wire rack. Mix Lemon Glaze and drizzle over each muffin, then top with a fresh raspberry half if desired (raspberries should be cut in half lengthwise for garnish).

LEMON GLAZE

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon (or 2 Tablespoons lemon juice)

In small bowl, mix powdered sugar and lemon juice until well blended. Spoon glaze over cooled muffins (or loaf). Let glaze set, then serve.

These muffins are great for breakfast, brunch, an afternoon snack, or even dessert. And since I was in a lemon-raspberry mood, I also made a pitcher of Raspberry Lemonade to go with them. Yum! I’ll share that recipe with you in my next post!

Do you like lemon-flavored goodies, and what is your favorite lemony treat?

Linked to Anti-Procrastination Tuesdays at New Nostalgia and Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy.

Orange Pear Kale Green Smoothie

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I had some kale that I needed to use up, and smoothies are always great ways to use extra fruit and greens that you’re not sure what else to do with. :) So I began searching for kale smoothie recipes and found this one at Green Plate Rule. The site mentions that kale has 10 times the vitamin C, 4 times the vitamin A, almost 2 times the vitamin K, and more calcium and vitamin B6 than spinach does. Wow-I had no idea kale was so super-nutritious!

I did make a few small changes and I really liked the way this turned out! Usually I add honey to sweeten up my smoothies, but the 5 different kinds of fruit in this, especially the pineapple, make the smoothie sweet enough on it’s own. When you put all the ingredients in the blender, you might think that 1/4 cup orange juice is not enough liquid like I thought at first…

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…but it blends up into a really nice, thick smoothie–the perfect consistency!

ORANGE PEAR KALE GREEN SMOOTHIE by NancyCreative, adapted from Green Plate Rule

Makes about 24 ounces, or 3 (8-ounce) servings

  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup green grapes
  • 1 pear, cut into slices or chunks
  • 1 orange, peeled
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1 cup kale, well packed

Add all ingredients into a high-powered blender and blend until smooth, at least 1 minute. Pour into glasses and serve.

I’m starting to use kale a little more since it’s so healthy. I like it in smoothies and soups. I think it’s a little bitter for salads so I don’t use it that way much. What different ways have you tried using kale?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday.

Tennessee Cornbread Salad

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910239D2AThis Tennessee Cornbread Salad is a new favorite recipe of mine! I had heard of cornbread salad before, but never really thought about making it–after all, cornbread in a salad? I wasn’t sure what to think about that! Then Krusteaz sent me some of their mixes to try, one of which was Southern Cornbread. And they had a recipe on their site called Tennessee Cornbread Salad. It looked pretty good, so I decided to try it out. I made a few changes, using a little more crumbled cornbread in the recipe, adding 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, and substituting turkey bacon for regular bacon. I thought this salad was so good! It really surpassed my expectations. I was a little skeptical about the dressing–a mix of mayonnaise and sweet pickle juice–but it actually tastes great! I did make a little change to the dressing, substituting a small amount of plain Greek yogurt for the mayo. I also thought corn would be great in this, but didn’t have any to use at the time I was making the salad, so I listed it as an optional ingredient.

ncTnCrnbrdSal1nmI usually make cornbread from scratch, but a mix is convenient–especially when you’re making a recipe like this where you need to make the cornbread to use as an ingredient! It saves a little time, and this Krusteaz Southern Cornbread mix bakes up really nice and tastes like homemade. If you’re on the fence about making cornbread salad, I recommend trying this recipe out! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

 

TENNESSEE CORNBREAD SALAD adapted from Krusteaz

Makes 12 servings

Dressing:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise (I used 3/4 cup light mayonnaise and 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt)
  • 1/4 cup sweet pickle juice

Salad:

  • 4 cups crumbled, baked cornbread (I used Krusteaz Natural Southern Cornbread & Muffin Mix, 11.5 oz.)
  • 12 slices crisp cooked bacon, crumbled (I used turkey bacon)
  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet pickles
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Optional: 1 (15-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • Optional: some finely chopped celery and crumbled cornbread for garnish

For Dressing: Whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, and pickle juice; set aside.

For Salad: In large clear bowl, place half of the crumbled cornbread (2 cups).

In separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients and spoon half of the mixture over the cornbread.

Spread half of the dressing over the vegetables. Repeat layers. Instead of spreading the top layer of dressing over all the veggies, I heaped it in the center, as you can see in the photo. Then I added a little finely chopped celery and crumbled cornbread for a garnish.

Chill 2-3 hours before serving.

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I’m not sure why this is called TENNESSEE Cornbread Salad other than that it must be a popular way to make it in Tennessee. Are any of you from Tennessee and have you made cornbread salad this way before?

KrusteazSome other recipes you can make with Krusteaz mixes include Easter Egg Shortbread Cookies, Lemon Raspberry Tart, and Cinnamon Rolls–great treats for Easter weekend!

THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED Congratulations to commentor #10, Quinna, for winning!

Now for the Giveaway–Winner will receive 4 coupons for free Krusteaz product of their choice to redeem at a local grocer.  If you’d like to enter to win, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Sunday, April 13 at 8 p.m. (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! The winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced here on this post Sunday evening, April 13. Winner will be notified via email (if winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing). Because of product availability, giveaway is limited to readers in the Continental U.S.

First entry: Leave a comment on this post–it would be great to hear if you’ve ever made a cornbread salad or tried any Krusteaz mixes.

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following.

Picture 1Note: If your comment doesn’t show up right away, it just means I need to click on it to approve it before it’s visible–I do this because of spam comments that sometimes come through!

Congratulations to commentor #10, Quinna, for winning!

Linked to Inspire Me Monday.

A Taste of Provence-Tomatoes Provençal

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DownloadedFileHave you ever been to Provence? I have never been to France but if I have the chance to go, Provence will be one of the areas I want to visit! This region of southern France stretches from the Mediterranean to the hills of Haute Provence, and from the Rhone River valley to the Italian Alps. It was the site of the first Roman colony beyond Italy and today it’s known for fragrant lavender fields, beautiful beaches like Cannes, Saint-Tropez, and Nice, quaint small villages, and fine wines and food. The cuisine of this area includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, extra virgin olive oil, and nuts–basically the core of the healthy Mediterranean diet.

I learned these things and more about Provence as I was looking through my review copy of Provence Food and Wine: The Art of Living, by François Millo and Viktorija Todorovska. This softcover book introduces you to the geography, history, traditions, wines, and recipes of the region. Here are some images of Provence you’ll find in the book:

Provence

Above images used with permission © François Milo.

Isn’t it beautiful? You’ll find more full color photography of picturesque Provence as well as many of the 47 recipes in the book, which are traditional favorites of the region…like Niçoise Salad, Fougasse with Tomatoes, Olives, and Peppers, Artichokes Barigoule, Tapenade, Swiss Chard Tart, Mediterranean Cod with Caramelized Onions, and Lemon Tart. The recipes are organized by the different areas of Provence that they’re popular in–Aix-en-Provence and Haute Provence, Marseille, La Cote Varoise, and Nice and the Riviera.

I decided to try the recipe for Tomatoes Provençal, because I love tomatoes and this is a simple yet delicious way to fix them–fresh tomatoes topped with a mix of breadcrumbs, chopped fresh parsley, and minced garlic. This makes a great side dish and would even work nicely for a spring or summer brunch. The book recommends serving “as a light meal with other Provençal delicacies and some crusty bread, or with meat.” For best results, use fresh, sweet, ripe tomatoes!

 TOMATOES PROVENÇAL from Provence Food and Wine: The Art of Living

Makes 4 servings

This traditional Provençial dish relies on the quality of the tomatoes used; they must be fresh and ripe. It’s best to prepare this dish in the summer, when tomatoes are at the peak of ripeness, sweet, and full of flavor….

  • 4 small to medium ripe tomatoes, halved and stems removed
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (64 g) chopped fresh parsley (I used Italian flat leaf parsley)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs (I used the very fine breadcrumbs you purchase, but I think fresh breadcrumbs would be even better!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Optional: I added some additional chopped parsley for garnish

Lightly dust the cut sides of the tomatoes with the sugar.

In a large sauté pan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, cut sides down, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until they caramelize.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the parsley and garlic.

Flip the tomatoes and distribute the parsley and garlic mixture evenly onto them, pressing down so the mixture adheres to the tomato. Sprinkle with the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the black pepper. Distribute the breadcrumbs evenly among the tomatoes.

Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and fully cooked through. Remove from the heat. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

Transfer the tomatoes to a serving dish and serve warm. Note: I drizzled the remaining olive oil from the sauté pan over the tomatoes and garnished them with additional chopped parsley.

I thought the blend of parsley, garlic, olive oil, and touch of sea salt made a great flavor combination as a topping for the tomatoes.

Have you made or tasted this dish before? And are you ready to take a trip to Provence now? :)

Down-Home Tomatoes with Okra

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HealthySlowCookerCooking with a slow cooker is so convenient, and it’s even better when you can make healthy meals in it! I recently received a review copy of The Healthy Slow Cooker, Second Edition, and found that it not only includes lots of healthy gluten-free recipes, but also has additional information about the health benefits of many of the ingredients. The book starts off with helpful tips on using your slow cooker, and then you’ll find recipes for Breakfast, Starters and Snacks, Soups, Poultry, Fish and Seafood, Beef and Veal, Pork and Lamb, Vegetarian Mains, Sides and Sauces, and Desserts.

Some of the recipes include Warm Black Bean Salsa, Gingery Carrot Soup with Orange and Parsley, French Basil Chicken, Texas-Style Chili con Carne, Mixed Vegetables in Spicy Peanut Sauce, Creamy Polenta with Corn and Chiles, and Poached Pears in Chocolate Sauce. All recipes include information on Calories and Nutrients per serving, too.

I decided to try the Down-Home Tomatoes with Okra because I’ve never made an okra dish, and thought it was about time! I don’t eat okra that often, but learned from this book that it’s very good for you. Okra “…provides glutathione, an antioxidant that supports the immune system and assists your body with eliminating toxins (pg. 291)….”

Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it out! I was a little surprised to see that it had bacon in it, but the book points out which type of bacon is healthiest to use (see recipe below). I used turkey bacon because I already had some on hand.

DOWN-HOME TOMATOES WITH OKRA from The Healthy Slow Cooker, Second Edition

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil (15 mL)
  • 4 ounces chunk bacon, diced (125 g) I used turkey bacon–the book recommends using bacon without additives and synthetic nitrates and made from pigs that have been pastured, which is higher in omega-3 fatty acids
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (2 mL)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns (2 mL)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added tomatoes including juice (796 mL)
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 cups sliced (1/2 inch or 1 cm) okra, about 12 ounces (375 g)-I used a 12-ounce bag of sliced frozen okra, thawed

In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring, until nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, salt, and peppercorns and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juice and bring to a boil. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware.

Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 3 hours, until hot and bubbly. Add bell pepper and okra. Cover and cook on High for about 30 minutes, until okra is tender.

Nutrients Per Serving: Calories 101; Protein 4.4 g; Carbohydrates 12.2 g; Fat (Total) 4.5 g (Saturated Fat 1.1 g; Monounsaturated Fat 2.7 g; Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g); Dietary Fiber 3.0 g; Sodium 339 mg; Cholesterol 6 mg. Excellent source of vitamins C and K; Good source of potassium; Source of Vitamins A and B-6, folate, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and zinc; Contains a moderate amount of dietary fiber.

Courtesy The Healthy Slow Cooker, Second Edition by Judith Finlayson © 2014 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

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You may want to add some additional seasoning to taste before serving. Do you have a favorite way you like to prepare okra?

Living Life with a Passion

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God gives us different passions so everything He wants done in the world will get done.

RICK WARREN, pastor and author, from Daily Hope with Rick Warren

Rick Warren also writes, “God is a passionate God….As you grow closer to Him, He’ll give you a passion for something He cares about deeply so you can be a spokesperson for Him in the world. It may be a passion about a problem, a purpose, a principle, or a group of people. Whatever it is, you’ll feel compelled to speak up about it and do what you can to make a difference.”

What has God given you a passion for?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday.

Strawberry Orange Mint Cooler

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This is an easy, fruity drink to make–perfect for enjoying on a sunny spring day! This cooler has strawberries that you mash, or muddle, to release the juices, and then you add in the orange juice for a really great fruity combination! If you need to make a larger amount of servings, just multiply the ingredients by the number of servings you need–you could even mix up a large batch in a pitcher!

When I was mashing up my strawberries, I found it was easier to do that in a medium-size bowl, and I used a spoon to mash them. But you could also mash them right in the glass if that works best for you.

STRAWBERRY–ORANGE MINT COOLER by NancyCreative, adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 2 servings

  • Half a pint (8 ounces) of strawberries, hulled
  • 4 fresh mint leaves
  • 2 cups orange juice (or tangerine or mandarin juice)
  • mint springs for garnish, optional

Divide strawberries between 2 (10 or 12-ounce) glasses. Add 2 mint leaves to each glass. Muddle (or mash) strawberries until they are crushed and juicy (you can use a spoon or muddler to do this). Add 4 or 5 ice cubes to each glass, then fill each glass with 1 cup of orange juice. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.

If you want a slightly fizzy drink, use 1 cup juice mixed with 1 cup sparkling water. It will be less sweet, but the fizziness is nice!

This would be a great beverage to serve at a spring breakfast or brunch. Maybe even on Easter! What types of fruity beverages do you like to make?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday.