Simple and Sweet

When it comes to holiday menus, I kind of forget about the drinks. I get so caught up in balancing the classic, “we have to have this because it’s TRADITION”  recipes and the new “this looks intriguing” recipes that I forget about having something to drink besides water. It’s not that I’m not into other beverage options; I just have more fun making food. Plus, it’s usually more fun to eat your calories, rather than drink them. (Fair warning if you come to our house – the beverage choices are probably rather limited.) 

We hosted several friends for Easter again this year, and I spent the week beforehand looking at ham recipes and trying to decide which type of rolls to bake. It wasn’t until Saturday afternoon, when the rolls were rising, that I realized I didn’t have anything to drink besides water. And I wasn’t going out to the grocery store the Saturday before Easter. No thank you.

After a quick survey of the fridge, freezer, and pantry, I decided that strawberry lemonade was the way to go. I still have a fair amount of strawberries in the freezer from last summer, and there were some lemons kicking around in the crisper drawer. Plus, the recipe I found got good reviews and was super easy to put together. Puree, strain, mix, and chill. The perfect amount of prep for a holiday weekend!

The original recipe says to mix the strawberry-lemon mixture with three cups of water, so that’s what I started with. I gave Andy a sample sip, and, well, you should have seen his face. 😀 I added an extra 1 1/2 cups of water, and we thought it was the perfect balance of sweet and tart. (Of course, you may feel differently… adjust to taste!) 

With as easy as this one is, I might start serving drinks more often!

StrawberryLemonade
The best part about this lemonade? It matches my pitcher. 🙂

Strawberry Lemonade 

1/2 pound frozen strawberries, thawed
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
1 cup sugar
3-5 cups cold water

Place the strawberries in a blender (or a deep bowl, if you’re using an immersion blender) and pour two tablespoons of lemon juice over the berries. Puree the strawberries until they are smooth.

Set a fine mesh strainer over a 4-cup measuring cup and pour the pureed strawberries through the strainer, straining out any seeds. Add the lemon juice to the strained strawberry juice. Add the sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves.

Pour the strawberry-lemon concentrate into a large pitcher. Add 3 cups of water to the concentrate and stir to combine. Taste the lemonade, and if it is too strong, add additional water until lemonade reaches your desired strength. Serve cold.

From Epicurious 

Click here for a printable version.

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Hello Summer!

So, I don’t really know where spring went, but it feels like we have jumped right in to summer. We are in the middle of a beautiful Memorial Day weekend, and I am loving it. Sunshine, dinner on the patio, bonfires, fresh air, windows open… it’s great. (A big thank you, by the way, to all of the men and women who have served our country. I appreciate your sacrifices, and I hope you feel honored this weekend!) 

I picked up a watermelon on my way home from work on Friday, and decided that today was a perfect day for some fresh lemonade. It was also the perfect day to not spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so I needed an easy recipe. Oh, and I discovered that there were only 2 lemons in my crisper drawer, so that meant that this recipe for rhubarb lemonade was out. (I’m definitely adding that recipe to my list for this spring/summer though. Just have to get some more lemons!) Then I remembered this recipe from an old issue of Everyday Food. It fit the bill.

Since my melon was especially sweet, I reduced the sugar to 1/3 of a cup. I also went light on the mint since my plant is still small. I didn’t measure out the how much melon it took me to get eight cups of juice. I sliced the watermelon, then pureed it in batches until I had enough juice. My guess is that it took just under half of my watermelon, leaving us plenty of melon to enjoy with our lemonade. And plenty of time left for fun. Because that’s what long weekends are made for, right?

watermelon lemonade

Watermelon Lemonade 

Half of a medium-sized seedless watermelon, rind removed and flesh cut in to large chunks
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 large lemons, quartered
handful of fresh mint (The original recipe calls for an entire cup of mint, which would have decimated my little plant, so I picked about six sprigs of mint.) 

Squeeze the lemon quarters into a large pitcher. Add the brown sugar and mint leaves. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves, bruising the mint leaves in the process. Add the lemon quarters to the mixture.

Meanwhile, puree the watermelon chunks in a blender. You need about 8 cups of watermelon puree, which is about three batches of watermelon chunks in my blender. Set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl or measuring cup. (I use my 8-cup Pyrex for this.) Pour the watermelon puree into the strainer and press on the pulp to extract all of the juice. Repeat the process until you have 8 cups of juice. Pour the juice into the pitcher with the lemon/mint mixture. Stir to combine.

Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve, or serve immediately over ice.

Adapted from Everyday Food Magazine, July/August 2008

Click here for a printable version.

Millions of peaches…

…peaches for me (come on, you know you’re singing the rest of the song with me now). You know that entire bushel of peaches I had? Well, I couldn’t let the summer go by without at least testing that peach wine cooler recipe I saw. And I knew that Karen would be more than willing to give this a try with me. (Side note: I realize that my posts make it sound like all we do is get together to try out new drinks. That’s not true. Sometimes we do other things, like frost cakes and eat ice cream.) 

The original recipe called for two ounces of peach schnapps. Well, I must not be familiar enough with the liquor section at my grocery store, because I was unable to find a bottle of schnapps. And after thinking about it some more, I decided that I didn’t want to buy an entire bottle for just a couple ounces. What would I do with the rest? It’s not like vodka, which I could turn into vanilla. (And yes, I do turn vodka into vanilla. It’s wonderful. More on that another day.) Instead, we decided to add some vanilla and a couple of extra peaches to the wine coolers instead of the schnapps. I also halved the recipe, and it was the perfect amount for four glasses. I’ve noted these changes below; head on over to Annie’s site to see the original recipe!

I realize it’s not the prettiest picture. I blame the lack of daylight and the fact that it was after 10 p.m. when we finally got around to drinking/photographing these.

Peach Wine Coolers

12 ounces of fresh peaches, peeled and halved
1 750ml bottle of semi-sweet white wine (I tried FlipFlop’s Riesling for this batch.) 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch salt
Extra peach slices for garnish

In a blender, combine the peaches, one cup of wine, vanilla and salt. Puree until the mixture is smooth. Add in the remaining wine and chill for an hour or two.

Serve over ice, garnished with peach slices.

From Annie’s Eats

Strawberry Wine (Coolers!)

Ahh, wine coolers. Those super-sweet, fruity-flavored, neon-hued beverages were the first “real” drinks I tasted. I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoyed them then. They’re not something I drink so much any more though – I tend to prefer a glass of wine instead. But then, I saw Annie’s post about homemade peach wine coolers, and then strawberry wine coolers, and I was intrigued. I knew that Karen would be willing to try them with me (especially since these are flamingo-colored!), so we whipped up a half batch last weekend.

Let’s just say that they were a success, and we’re definitely ready to try the peach variety in a few weeks when peaches are in season. (Plus, they’re easy to put together, which is a huge plus, considering the weather lately! Speedy, frosty beverages are a win-win when it’s 90+!)

Strawberry Wine Coolers

1/2 pound strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1 750ml bottle of semi-sweet white wine, well chilled (I used a Riesling from Yellow Tail.)
1 ounce of vodka
pinch of sea salt

In a blender, combine all but four of the strawberries, one cup of wine, the vodka and the sea salt. Pulse the mixture until the strawberries are pureed.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove any seeds and chunks. (We skipped this step, thinking that fruit chunks wouldn’t bother us, which was true. However, once we got to the bottom of our glasses, we had quite the collection of seeds. Learn from our mistake; strain the mixture.) 

If necessary, put the strawberry mixture back in the fridge (or freezer, to speed things up) to chill. Before serving, pour the rest of the wine into the strawberry mixture.

Garnish wine glasses with the remaining strawberries, and serve the wine coolers over ice. Enjoy!

From Annie’s Eats