Category Archives: Recipes – Beverages

Lemons to Lemonade to Limoncello

Happy Independence Day everyone! I hope that you are having an enjoyable holiday weekend. This time of year presents a bit more time – for being outdoors, for enjoying visits with friends and family, and for changing up schedules from the normally hectic to something less so. And time is something you will need for these recipes, although the preparations are easy and only require a few ingredients. The results are refreshing and perfect for warm summer afternoons.

LemonsFor these two recipes I used lemons, similar to what is seen in my photograph. The lemon on the left is the conventional fruit found in most supermarkets. The middle lemon is organic, which is great for recipes that require the use of the skin. A Meyer lemon is pictured on the right, smaller than a regular lemon with an orange skin. Meyer lemons are a touch sweeter and have a bit of an orange flavor, and can be a nice complement to any of these recipes. For making lemonade, any combination of these lemons will do, but for the limoncello I would recommend the organic lemon or Meyer lemon, since the skins will be soaking for quite awhile and any pesticides that are on the skins would end up in the beverages.

Let’s start with the limoncello: I found a great recipe at The Kitchn and I used a combination of lemons: five Meyer lemons and five organic lemons. There are a number of ways to modify the beverage to make it sweeter or stronger with lemon depending on the ratio of sweet to water and how long the lemon peels steep in the alcohol. I let the lemon peels steep for a full month, but you can let them soak for as little as four days. And when making the simple syrup, you can create any ratio of sweet and water between one cup of each to four cups of each. So I tried two cups of each and we liked the result very much. Instead of using cane sugar, I used a light agave syrup, and the results were great. Once I peeled the lemons, I used the juice to make the lemonade recipe (recipe follows below).

Limoncello: Ingredients
10 organic lemons, washed and dried
1 750-ml bottle vodka (100-proof preferred, or 80-proof)
1 to 4 cups light agave nectar (I used 2 cups)
1 to 4 cups water (I used 2 cups)

Limoncello: Equipment
Vegetable peeler, microplane or zester
Paring knife
1 quart jar or other similar-sized container with a lid
Bowl with spout (or four-cup measuring cup)
Small funnel
2 clean 16-ounce bottles or several bottles equalling similar volume (I used three clean, empty Grolsch beer bottles)

Limoncello: Preparation
1. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peels from the lemons. Try to remove only the outer yellow skin and as little of the pith as possible.
Lemon Peels in Vodka2. Transfer the lemon peels to a 1-quart jar and cover with vodka. Screw on the lid. Let the vodka and lemon peels infuse somewhere out of the way and out of direct sunlight for at least four days or as long as one month. The longer the vodka infuses, the more lemony the limoncello.
3. After the lemon and vodka have infused, Set a strainer over a bowl with spout or four-cup measuring cup. Pour the vodka through the strainer so that the lemon peels are removed from the liquid.
4. Prepare a sweet syrup of at least 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar (I used two cups of each). Bring the water to a simmer and stir in the agave to dissolve; allow to cool.
5. Pour the cooled sweet syrup into the bowl with the strained vodka. Mix. Distribute the contents into your storage bottles. The limoncello keeps indefinitely in the freezer.

To make lemonade, you can use the juice from the lemons you just peeled to make limoncello, or bypass that step to only make this refreshing beverage. I substituted the cane sugar with light agave nectar and the results again were very nice.

Lemonade: Ingredients
1 cup light agave nectar
5 cups water, divided
6 to 8 lemons (about 1 cup of lemon juice)

Lemonade: Preparation
Lemonade1. Combine the agave and 1 cup of the water in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over low heat to dissolve the agave. Once the sweet is completely dissolved, remove from heat to cool.
2. Roll each lemon over a cutting board, pressing down as you do, to help them to release their juice. Cut in half and squeeze. Repeat until you have one cup.
3. Add the cooled sweet syrup to a pitcher, then the lemon juice and the remaining four cups of water. Stir. Taste and adjust – add a tablespoon of agave if you want it to be sweeter or the juice of 1/2 lemon if you prefer more tartness.
4. Add ice to pitcher if you think you will drink all the lemonade right away. Otherwise add ice to each glass.


Cool Blueberry Gazpacho for the Hot Summer Weather

Good day, everyone! Are you taking advantage of the very summery weather? I am enjoying all of the beach days although my air conditioner is cranked on full blast nearly all of the time.

When I saw this recipe for “Royal Blueberry” Gazpacho with Lemon and Mint in the July 2012 issue of Cooking Light, I have to admit, I was interested. The hot summer weather makes a cool fruity soup sound like a great idea. Plus I had a plethora of blueberries since I came home from the grocery store with two pints (who can pass by a “buy one, get one free” deal?), and then later that week I received another pint from my farm share. Needless to say, I was looking for a good blueberry recipe. This one pairs the blueberries nicely with red seedless grapes. I served the soup, as the recipe suggested, as a sweet starter to our dinner of grilled salmon, potatoes and vegetables. It was great! This mixture would also make a tasty popsicle – just freeze the liquid into some molds. SensitiveHusband and I also agreed that it would be a delicious simple syrup to add to a refreshing beverage with vodka and ice.

To make the recipe a bit simpler (it was just too hot to dirty a food processor), I stirred the mixture and directly poured into a mesh sieve. I was also sure to use 100% grape juice to exclude the cane sugar from this dish.

1 pound red seedless grapes
12 ounces fresh blueberries
1/3-1/2 cup white grape juice (100% juice)
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Remove stems from fruit. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Place fruit in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add grape juice and honey; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes.

2. Place blueberry mixture in a food processor; process until almost smooth. OR Stir the blueberry mixture briskly until all of the blueberries and grapes have split.

3. Strain; discard solids. Chill 2 hours.

4. Stir in rind, juice, and salt. Ladle about 1/2 cup into each of 5 chilled bowls.

I am sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Gastronomical Sovereignty, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage, Food Trip Friday and Cybele Pascal Allegen-Friendly Cook.

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

Awesome Agave Chocolate Milk

Although I, SensitiveHusband, don’t have any food sensitivities, I’ve come to embrace the use of natural, low glycemic index sweeteners.  I haven’t cut all refined sugar from my diet, but I have greatly reduced it since SensitiveEconomist discovered her food sensitivities.  I didn’t realize how much refined cane sugar was affecting me–a sugar high with higher heart rate and shallower breathing, followed by a sugar low tiredness–until I cut back and shifted my intake to predominantly low glycemic sweeteners.

As a cyclist and runner, I find it important to have a drink that combines something sweet and some protein after a workout.  Research emerging from Indiana University and the University of Connecticut over the last few years indicates that chocolate milk has the optimal ratio of carbohydrates and protein to act as an excellent post-workout recovery drink.  In fact, chocolate milk is as good or better than many of the name brand sport drinks with which you may be familiar.  As a result of reading this research and my pleasant experience with low glycemic sweeteners, I decided to create a chocolate milk recipe that is free of cane sugar.  I started with a recipe for homemade chocolate milk, and I adapted it to replace the cane sugar with agave nectar.  Honey can be used in a pinch, but agave nectar really works best in this recipe for dissolving in the milk and yielding an almost marshmallowy flavor.  While I occasionally have peanut butter and a “no sugar added” fruit juice instead, this Agave Chocolate Milk has become my go-to post-workout drink.

1 ounce water
1 level teaspoon cocoa powder
3 teaspoons agave nectar
9-10 ounces milk

Combine the first three ingredients in your glass and microwave for 30 seconds. 

When it comes out of the microwave, swirl the glass rapidly in your hand to insure the ingredients are fully mixed. 

At this point, you have a homemade chocolate syrup that can be used for other purposes in addition to chocolate milk (ice cream topping, dessert topping, etc.). 

Top off the syrup with milk, stir briskly, and enjoy a very tasty, low glycemic chocolate milk! 

The next time your children ask for chocolate milk, surprise them with this homemade recipe, and they might not be bouncing off the walls after drinking it!

For those who avoid cow’s milk, I would be curious to know if this recipe works well with goat’s milk, coconut, almond, rice, or soy milk.

This recipe is being shared with Joy of Desserts, Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage, Food Trip Friday and Sweet as Sugar Cookies.

Sweeten Your Water Naturally with Fruit

Today is spectacular with blue skies, low humidity and a light breeze. Summertime is still here! It is such a welcome from the past weekend’s weather. Much of the East Coast was affected by Hurricane Irene, and hundreds of thousands of households are still without power. SensitiveHusband and I are thankful to be just fine along with our family, friends and neighbors.

Since I have been making bags of ice for my family who are without power, I am less focused on cooking today and more on just how refreshing water really is. Most of us are fortunate to be able to turn on a tap for flowing water. However there are many people in the U.S. who cannot do that today after the hurricane. And there are also people in the world who don’t ever have access to clean water. A hurricane sure does put needs and wants into perspective.

Speaking of water…some people are inclined to buy soda and fruity waters to quench their thirst, but it is even fresher to sweeten water naturally. The photo above is simply of a glass of water with sliced strawberries and orange slices. The result was quite delightful! I also enjoy a cold glass of water filled with sliced cucumbers. There are many fruit or vegetable combinations from which to choose…instead of reaching for a can of soda, why not slip a sliced peach or frozen blueberries into your water? Let me know what other options you have used. Have a great day.