Lemonade and Lemon Ice Pops

Cold, refreshing, lemonade!

As the summer gets hotter, we’re all looking for things that are cool and refreshing. There’s something about lemon that is bright and reviving on even the hottest days. Commercial lemonade tends to be too sweet for my taste. I like to taste the flavor of the lemon, and super sugary drinks don’t feel like they really quench thirst, especially since they leave my mouth sticky. So my formula for lemonade is a bright slightly tart one. If you want it sweeter, you can add make it sweeter, of course. A good idea is to make the basic batch that I make, then let everyone sweeten their glasses to their own taste if they they prefer something sweeter. I also use this same formula to make ice pops. After mixing it up, pour a bit into your favorite popsicle mold. Unless you’ve got a lot of popsicle molds, you’ll still have plenty left to drink because it makes 9 cups total.

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup Real Lemon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or equivalent of your preferred sweetener)

I use warm water to mix this up so that the sugar dissolves quickly and easily. If using something like honey or agave nectar, the temperature of the water wouldn’t be a factor. However, if you use something other than sugar, be sure to adjust the amount according to how sweet your sweetener is. A half cup of honey, for instance, will be sweeter than a half cup of sugar. So the amount of sweetener you use is dependent on what you use to sweeten the lemonade — as well as your own personal taste for how sweet you want it to be. My formula is a good starting place. It’s delicious as is, but is easily adjusted to suit individual tastes.

Stir the sugar into the warm water until dissolved. Add the lemon juice. Stir. The mixture will be cloudy. Chill thoroughly.

If making lemon ice popsicles, fill popsicle molds not quite to the top (liquid expands as it freezes). They’re ready to eat when they’re frozen solid. Honestly, I don’t know how long it will take to freeze. It depends on the size and shape (volume) of your popsicle molds. I typically don’t reach for a popsicle until the day after I put a batch into the freezer, but they should freeze faster than that! The sweet-tart flavor is perfect for a refreshing summer ice. Check out my Rocket Pops post for a different popsicle idea!

 

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Amok Tea

This was originally written in 2010.

Remember that Star Trek episode “Amok Time” where Spock, in the grip of raging hormones, throws a bowl of green plomeek soup at Nurse Chapel? I was forcibly reminded of it just now when I attempted to make Matcha in the blender only to have the top blow off (twice) spraying me and the kitchen in hot green liquid.

Why, you may ask, were you attempting to make a big pot of matcha in the blender? Well, I got the idea because a friend had given me a vortex mug which was sort of a mini blender travel mug. I used it for hot chocolate mostly, but also experimented with making matcha with it; afterall matcha is green tea powder that has to be whipped to a froth in hot water so I figured the mug would be an easy way to whip it, whip it good (apologies to Devo). It did OK, but the result was still a little gritty and tended to coagulate in the bottom of the mug. Then the mug gave up the ghost (a loose connection probably, that I haven’t been able to track down). So I was left with a small bag of unused matcha.

There’s not much I can do with it unless I get a bamboo whisk and do the whole tea ceremony thing…or I make it up using a much bigger, more powerful blender. Today I finally got around to trying it. When it erupted the first time, sending a hot green geyser up and out, spattering other appliances and the wall (not to mention me, yelping), I thought that I just didn’t have the little do-hickey in the top fastened down well. So it was with great surprise that the whole lid blew off when I fired it up again. 😯 Perhaps I filled it too full.

I was thankful that green tea is prepared at less than boiling temperature, because otherwise I would’ve been scalded. As it was I had difficulty holding the lid onto the blender with my fingers being burned by liquid frothing up around the top, even with a towel over the top. Of course, by then the towel was already pretty wet from mopping up the plomeek soup..sorry…green tea. I only guestimated the amount of water and tea I put in and I may have made it too strong. It looks thick, sitting there on the counter in the blender, but the consistency and flavor are pretty good and there’s not much in the way of dregs (yet).

Now that I’ve had a couple of mugs, it’s cooled off a bit—and I’ve cleaned up the kitchen, I think I’ll take it for another spin. My contemporary matcha experiments, I think, are in that Star Trek spirit of  seeking out new things…of  boldly going…of…ducking for cover when the hot green liquid hits the wall. 😉

Big Green Monster

Ever since seeing Rene Russo blithely drink down glasses of a thick lumpy green liquid in the wonderful remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, I’ve wondered just what she was drinking. I looked around online, but couldn’t find out exactly what was in the movie. A friend of mine, however, turned me on to the Classic Green Monster. Which is green, but not lumpy or disgusting. According to the author she developed this recipe ten years after the movie came out, but I’ve got a good imagination so I can make myself a Big Green Monster in the morning and pretend I’m Rene Russo, the woman who single-handedly, with that one performance, made middle age look hot. (And I’m not talkin’ flashes, here.) 😉

I call my version a Big Green Monster both to distinguish it from the original and because it makes a lot—and I sometimes double the recipe. I didn’t pay any attention to the amount the recipe said so the first time I made it I was surprised when I filled one glass and had more left! (One regular batch makes at least 20 ozs!)

The changes I made in the recipe are:

I use 2% milk instead of almond milk. She’s a vegan; I’m a vegetarian. If you have problems with dairy, go with her choice.

I sometimes forget to peel and freeze the bananas. Not a problem. It’s fine if you make it with a room temperature banana. When I do freeze the bananas I break them into more or less equal pieces before freezing because it just seems like it would be better in the blender than a big frozen banana icicle. If you want to keep a stash of bananas in the freezer so you can make Monsters every day, this works out fine: use whatever number of pieces equal one banana (depending on how many pieces you slice or break the banana into before freezing). If part of a banana is bad, break off the bad part and add the remaining pieces as a bit of extra banana to future batches. Use ripe bananas. If the banana doesn’t have spots on the peel, it isn’t ripe. In my house, when I was growing up, we called those “sugar spots”. The more spots, the sweeter the flavor.

I usually use organic spinach instead of kale, but kale is good, too. My hands are small, so two handfuls for me may be less than you (or the original). It’s not brain surgery; don’t worry about exactly how much two handfuls are or what size bananas. You’ll have a tasty Monster anyway. I thoroughly rinse the whole bunch of spinach and keep it in a sealed bag or container in the fridge so I don’t have to wash spinach every time I make a Monster. Discard any leaves that look like they’re going bad.

I use smooth peanut butter for the nut butter. (Peanut butter and banana sort of go together. My mother loves peanut butter and banana sandwiches. So did Elvis. May be a southern thing.) I skip the chia or flax seeds —because I don’t keep these on hand (though that could change). For the protein power I use unflavored whey protein. The brand I use comes which a scoop and that’s more than one-third of the recommended daily allowance, so one scoop is adequate for me. Check your brand; your mileage may vary.The protein powder can be added at any point in the blending, even as a last ingredient. Blend well.

I usually add 2 ice cubes, but I use 4 ice cubes if the banana isn’t frozen — just to get a bit more “chill” in the drink. I also sometimes add 1/2 – 1 tsp ground ginger to the milk (depending on how much ginger kick you want your Monster to have). When fruits like dewberries, peaches, strawberries, and blueberries come into season, I’m going to try them and I’ll experiment with nutmeg and cinnamon, too. I’ve been hung up on the banana monster for several months and I’m ready to branch out. 😀 (I tried mixed summer berries and also dewberries and though the flavor is fine, the color is disgusting. If you use blueberries, raspberries, dewberries, blackberries, etc, omit the spinach because the green will push the color of the drink close to grey Ugh!.)

Occasionally I’ve added a few spoonfuls of nonfat unflavored Greek yogurt to the Monster when I’ve got a small amount of yogurt left over. In small amounts it doesn’t seem to affect either flavor or texture and it’s a good way to finish up that last little bit of yogurt in the container. 🙂

If you want, you can make a double batch. I do this sometimes so I have a ready-made Monster the next morning. If you do this, it’s a good idea to whip it in the blender again because it tends to get a bit sludgy in the fridge over time. I don’t notice this if I drink half a regular batch and then drink the other half later that day, but the texture does change after a day in the fridge. Running the blender again, makes it good as new. 🙂

I don’t think I’m quite carrying off the Rene Russo vibe with the kicky glasses (see below) I use for the Big Green Monster. Really, I’m more of a Scooby Doo kinda girl. 😉

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Homemade Microwave Hot Chocolate

Why make hot chocolate from scratch when you can use little store-bought packets?

  1. You may not always have packets of mix on hand, but the ingredients for hot chocolate are staples most people always have in the cupboard or pantry.
  2. No additives or preservatives. Just fresh natural ingredients.
  3. You can tweak the recipe to suit your taste.
  4. It’s not any more difficult than using a packet. In fact, you can premix the cocoa and sugar in bulk, then scoop right from that into your mug. Just use the same number of total cocoa plus sugar measures per mug.

I’ve been working on the perfect homemade microwave hot chocolate and I think I’ve got it now. I don’t normally measure when I make it, but I have recently made mugs of hot cocoa in which I measured carefully based on many mugs of just “eyeballing” amounts. Once you make it a few times using your favorite mug(s) you’ll probably be able to just guestimate the liquid and use regular spoons for measuring, too. 😉

The main thing is the ingredient ratios. Once you get a feel for that you’ll be able to whip up hot cocoa in any size mug. People’s taste in hot chocolate varies quite a bit. Some people want very creamy cocoa, some like vending machine style hot cocoa, some want it sweet, some want more of a semi-sweet chocolate taste. Start with what’s below, then tweak the proportions to suit your own taste.

Here’s the main proportions:

1 part water to 3 parts milk
1 part cocoa to 2 parts sugar

To this is added a small amount of vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Amount of vanilla extract. For 10-12oz I wouldn’t use more than 1/8 tsp — a bit less would be better (to my taste). When making 8 oz. I’d shoot for something approximating 1/16 tsp. (I have a 1/8 tsp measure and there are even smaller measuring spoons. Most of the time I just pour a tiny amount into the cap of the vanilla extract bottle.) If you can taste vanilla, it’s too much; anything below the point where you distinctly taste vanilla is okay. If you think that vanishingly small amount of vanilla isn’t enough to matter, you will certainly taste the difference if you leave it out!

Pinch of salt (This is optional. Theoretically it makes the flavor stronger, but — unlike vanilla — it won’t hurt the flavor to leave it out.)

A Note About Cocoa: I usually use just plain ol’ Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa — the same thing I use for making brownies, but you can also get cocoa that’s been “dutched”; it’s sometimes sold as “European” style cocoa. So what’s the difference in flavor? The best way I can tell you is to think about the difference in flavor between hollow chocolate Easter bunnys and regular Hershey bars. Hollow Easter bunnys usually taste different: they taste like Dutch chocolate. You can use any kind of unsweetened cocoa powder: regular, Dutched, European, “gourmet”, etc. So if you have some kind of special cocoa powder that’s the secret ingredient in your chocolate cake or brownies, it can be the secret ingredient in your hot chocolate, too. 😀 It just needs to be unsweetened cocoa powder.

Do you know how much your favorite microwaveable mug holds? Get a liquid measure and find out. Do this once and you can probably fake it with your other mugs. The amount you need to know isn’t the total volume of the mug all the way up to the top, but about how high you usually fill it. My favorite mugs tend to be about 10 oz, which hold about 8 oz if they’re not over-filled. My regular travel mugs hold slightly over 12 oz and I usually fill them with about 11 oz. Your mileage may vary.

Below are the amounts for making up both 1 1/3 cups (slightly less than 11 oz) and 1 cup (8 oz). Both of these measures break down neatly for milk to water proportions.

For 11 oz in a 12oz (or larger) mug: Use 1/3 cup water to 1 cup milk. 1 Tbls unsweetened cocoa to 2 Tbls sugar. Add 1/8 tsp vanilla (maximum, slightly less may be better) and a pinch of salt.

For 8 ozs in a 10 oz mug: Use 1/4 cup water to 3/4 cups milk. 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa to 4 tsp sugar. Add 1/16 tsp vanilla (or anything less than 1/8 tsp). Pinch of salt.

Most regular spoons are actually close to 1 Tbls though we call them “teaspoons”, so you may be able to use the same spoon for measuring as for stirring when making the larger amount.

  1. Heat water in mug in microwave. I do this for 30-45 secs, depending on the amount of water, but it may be less or more depending on your microwave. It doesn’t need to be boiling, just good and hot.
  2. Add cocoa, sugar, vanilla and salt, stir well until it’s dissolved.
  3. Top off with milk. Stir. Heat in microwave 1 min (or to the temperature you want to drink it).

For a more semi-sweet drink, use less sugar. For a creamier drink, use more milk — or use milk with a higher fat content. This recipe was developed using 2% milk. Whole milk would give you a creamier drink (as would substituting a dollop of cream for part of the milk). For vending machine type hot chocolate, increase the amount of water in the water-to-milk ratio or use non-fat milk.

I haven’t yet tried the part-cream, whole milk, or non-fat milk variations, but it makes sense that a higher fat content would make the hot chocolate richer and creamier and since vending machine chocolate tends to be thin and water-based, using more water or lowering the fat content would probably approximate that. If you try these variations, let me know if I’m right. 🙂

Marshmallows, peppermint sticks or cinnamon sticks are embellishment serving options.

Enjoy this on cold winter days! 😀 I’d appreciate your comments here on the blog as this recipe is one of my originals. It’s not a very flashy recipe, but I consider it a necessity. I drink this year ’round! 😀