Drink

How to Make Sun Tea

A great way to make some tea without heating up your kitchen is to use the power of the sun to make sun tea.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 3 hours

As the mercury breaks 100°F on these hot summer days (or 38°C for those of you on a metric system) a great way to make some tea without heating up your kitchen is to use the power of the sun to make sun tea.

Ingredients

  • 4-8 tea bags

Ingredients

  • 4-8 tea bags

Method

Put 4 to 8 tea bags into a clean 2 quart or gallon glass container (4 teabags for a 2 quart container, 8 tea bags for a gallon container). Fill with water and cap. Place outside where the sunlight can strike the container for about 3 to 5 hours. Move the container if necessary to keep it in the sun. When the tea has reached its desired strength, remove from sun and put it in the refrigerator. You may or may not want to remove the tea bags at this point. I usually don’t.

The tea will probably taste more mellow than what you are used to from using boiling water. The slow steeping has a way of bringing out a slightly different flavor from the tea. Also, because you didn’t use boiling water, you should refrigerate the tea and drink it up pretty quickly – a day or two. It will not keep as well as iced tea made from boiling water.

I usually make sun tea with various forms of herbal tea. Sometimes you can put in a few sprigs of fresh mint as well.

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Chai

Traditional chai tea recipe, prepared with full-bodied black tea, star anise, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, white peppercorns, cardamom, whole milk and sugar.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Makes one pot of tea

The first time I had chai, I was in a small rented room in the Chungking Mansion in Hong Kong (notoriously cheap accommodations). Our little cel block area probably had 4 bedrooms, and one little old Chinese lady who sat in the entryway and managed them.

The morning after my arrival I was still reeling from the shock of my expectations when I booked the place (“Chungking Mansion, my that sounds quite nice”) compared to the reality of the place, when the little old lady asked me, “Chai?”, pointing to a pot on the stove.

“Sure,” I replied, not knowing exactly what was coming, perhaps tea?

Boy was I surprised, and in the best possible way. Chai is tea, black tea, but tea steeped in milk, flavored with spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and star anise, and sweetened with sugar or honey.

This wonderful chai was the best discovery in Hong Kong; I couldn’t wait to spend another night in the Mansion, just to have some more chai in the morning. That was over 20 years ago and since then chai has become much more popular here.

The other day my friend Suzanne served up some delicious chai and told me more of her experiences with it while in the Peace Corp in Africa. According to Suzanne, families have chai recipes the way they have curry recipes, every one a little different and each particular to a family.

It can conveniently be made all in one pot, and you can use sweetened condensed milk from a can – important in the tropics. If you really want the authentic experience, drink it from a tin cup. Here is the way that Suzanne makes her chai:

Ingredients

Spice ingredients for one pot of tea:

  • 1/2 of a star anise star
  • 10-12 whole cloves
  • 6-7 whole allspice
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamon bark (or 2 short sticks)
  • 6-7 whole white peppercorns
  • 1 cardamon pod opened to the seeds

Other ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of a high quality full-bodied broad-leaf black tea (Ceylon, or English Breakfast if a broad-leaf Ceylon is not available)
  • Sugar

Ingredients

Spice ingredients for one pot of tea:

  • 1/2 of a star anise star
  • 10-12 whole cloves
  • 6-7 whole allspice
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamon bark (or 2 short sticks)
  • 6-7 whole white peppercorns
  • 1 cardamon pod opened to the seeds

Other ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of a high quality full-bodied broad-leaf black tea (Ceylon, or English Breakfast if a broad-leaf Ceylon is not available)
  • Sugar

Method

1 In a 2-qt saucepan, add spices to 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil; remove from heat; let steep for 5-20 minutes, depending on how strong a spice flavor you want.

2 Add 4-6 cups of whole milk to the water and spices. If you don’t have whole milk, you can also use non-fat or low-fat milk, just add some cream to it, a few tablespoons. Bring the milk and spice mixture just to a boil and remove from heat.

3 Add the tea to the milk and let steep for 5 to 10 minutes to taste. (Option at this point – reheat to a simmer and remove from heat.) You can add sugar at this point, or serve without sugar and let people put the amount of sugar in they want. Traditionally, sugar is added before serving.

4 Strain into a pot. Serve. Add sugar to taste.

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Homemade Ginger Ale

Easy homemade ginger ale, with grated ginger, simple syrup, lime and club soda.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Makes four servings

Several years ago, I got together with a few other food bloggers for lunch at a terrific diner in San Francisco. Lunch was fabulous, truly. One menu item that struck my fancy was homemade ginger ale, which they made fresh to order.

After lunch, on my way out the door, I stopped the waitress to ask how they made it. She gave me a general idea, which I have attempted to recreate in the steps shown here.

The Canteen version included a little touch of ground clove and cardamon if I recall correctly. I didn’t add those spices, without them the ginger ale still turned out just great.

It’s quite easy to make. You may need to adjust the proportions depending on how intense or sweet you want your drink.

Ingredients

Ginger water

  • 1 cup peeled, finely chopped ginger
  • 2 cups water

Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Club soda
  • Lime juice
  • Lime wedges

Ingredients

Ginger water

  • 1 cup peeled, finely chopped ginger
  • 2 cups water

Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Club soda
  • Lime juice
  • Lime wedges

Method

1 Simmer ginger in water, strain: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add ginger. Reduce heat to medium low and let ginger sit in the simmering water for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain liquid through a fine mesh strainer. Discard ginger pieces.

2 Make simple syrup: In a separate saucepan, make the Simple Syrup by dissolving 1 cup granulated sugar into 1 cup of boiling water. Set aside.

3 Assemble: Make individual (tall) glasses of ginger ale by mixing 1/2 cup of ginger water with 1/3 cup of Simple Syrup and 1/2 cup of club soda. Add a few drops of fresh lime juice and a lime wedge to each glass.

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Hot Mulled Cider

Spicy hot mulled apple cider cooked with a clove-studded orange, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom and brown sugar.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 8 cups

Tis the season to be jolly, and to drink hot mulled cider!

This delicious hot apple cider drink is a specialty of New England.

Spiced with a clove-studded orange, nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon, hot mulled cider is the perfect drink to serve during the holidays.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon of fresh, unfiltered apple cider (non-alcoholic)
  • 1 orange
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 4 3-inch sticks of cinnamon
  • 15 allspice berries
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 7 pods of cardamom
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar (optional)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon of fresh, unfiltered apple cider (non-alcoholic)
  • 1 orange
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 4 3-inch sticks of cinnamon
  • 15 allspice berries
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 7 pods of cardamom
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar (optional)

Method

1 Simmer apple cider with orange and spices: Pour apple cider into a 3-quart saucepan, cover, turn the heat on medium-high.

While cider is heating up, take a vegetable peeler and peel away a couple thick strips of peel from the orange. Press about half of the cloves into the peeled part of the orange. (You can also just quarter the orange and add the slices and cloves separately. I just like seeing the orange bob up and down.)

Place orange, orange peel strips, the remaining cloves, and the rest of the ingredients into the sauce pan with the cider. Keep covered and heat the mulled cider mixture to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes on low heat.

2 Strain out the orange and spices: Use a fine mesh sieve to strain the hot mulled cider away from the orange, cloves, and other spices.

If you want, you can add a touch of bourbon, brandy, or rum to spike it up a bit.

Serve hot. Add a cinnamon stick to each cup if desired.

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Low Carb Cranberry Cooler

Cranberry cooler made low carb by using unsweetened cranberry juice, sweetened with liquid stevia, a naturally sweet herb.

Let me just say right up front, that in general I do not believe in diet-induced substitutes for the real thing. In other words, I use butter, not margarine, and sugar, not splenda. If I want to lose weight I eat less and avoid desserts.

That said, once in awhile it is nice to have a cool, sweet drink, without all the sugar and calories. Cranberry juice in particular needs a lot of sweetener to make it palatable.

Have you ever tasted pure, unsweetened cranberry juice? It is terrifically tart. That’s why supermarkets carry more cranberry “cocktail” than the unsweetened juice.

Yet pure cranberry juice is very good for you, especially if you are a woman. My doctor once explained to me that cranberries have a natural antiseptic that protect women from UTIs. She also explained that the juice with added sugar isn’t nearly as effective.

This cranberry cooler uses the herb stevia as its sweetener. Stevia is a South American herb that has been used for hundreds of years as a sweetener. Since the 70s, Japan has used stevia extensively for sweetening food products. It’s available in many forms – the dried herb, a liquid extract, and a powder.

You can find stevia at Whole Foods and most health food stores in the herbal supplements section. Stevia has zero carbs. This little recipe calls for 1 part pure cranberry juice to 3 parts soda water.

An 8-oz glass of the cooler would have a total of 4 grams of carbs (for those of you that count these things). The taste? Refreshing and satisfying, but honestly, not quite as good as sugar. Probably very similar to if you had used splenda in place of sugar.

That said, the carb count of 1 glass of the stevia sweetened cooler is 4 grams versus a typical glass of cranberry juice cocktail at 34 grams.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup pure, unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 3/4 cup club soda or sparkling mineral water
  • 10-15 drops (about 1/8 teaspoon) of liquid stevia extract (amount may vary depending on your specific brand of stevia)

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup pure, unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 3/4 cup club soda or sparkling mineral water
  • 10-15 drops (about 1/8 teaspoon) of liquid stevia extract (amount may vary depending on your specific brand of stevia)

Method

Stir the stevia into the cranberry juice. Add the club soda.

Makes one cup.

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Berry Banana Smoothie

Berry banana smoothie! So EASY – make a banana smoothie to your liking with fresh or frozen berries of your choice, banana, yogurt, honey, and ice. Lots more smoothie ideas in the comments!

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 2 smoothies

[Fill in the Blank] Banana Smoothie

One of my father’s favorite anytime indulgences is making a banana smoothie: one ripe banana, some of our homemade plum jam, plain yogurt, and honey. In the late fall, he’ll swap out the jam for ripe kiwi-fruit.

You can add any kind of berry you would like to this Banana smoothie.

A ripe banana adds most of the naturally occurring sugars you need, and it always seems you have a lonely remaining banana, making it a great candidate for a banana smoothie.

Personally, I’m a blueberry banana smoothie or strawberry smoothie fan. Actually, I can’t remember ever meeting a smoothie I didn’t like (have great plans for the papaya ripening on the counter).

Do you have a favorite smoothie recipe? If so, please let us know in the comments.

In the meantime, what follows is a super simple recipe for either a strawberry or blueberry banana smoothie.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana, cut into pieces
  • 2 cups of berries (fresh or frozen) – blueberries, strawberries (quartered if fresh), or other berries
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup honey

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana, cut into pieces
  • 2 cups of berries (fresh or frozen) – blueberries, strawberries (quartered if fresh), or other berries
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup honey

Method

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

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Old Fashioned Pink Lemonade

Old fashioned homemade pink lemonade with fresh squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup of sugar and water, and cranberry juice for color. This pink lemonade is the cherry top to summer days.

Ready in:

  • Yield: Serves 6

Why is pink lemonade so much more appealing than regular lemonade?

What makes pink lemonade pink? Doesn’t the canned stuff just has food dye in it to make it pink? I haven’t bought canned pink lemonade in decades so don’t really know. (But just in case you’re curious too, Joe Sevier at Epicurious has some theories.)

How to Make Pink Lemonade

I’m guessing the canned stuff we grew up with is pink only through the addition of artificial dyes. But we don’t need to do that.

You know the easiest way to make lemonade pink? Add some cranberry juice!

Unsweetened cranberry juice is tart, just like unsweetened lemon juice. All we need to do to turn our homemade lemonade pink is to incorporate some cranberry juice to the mix.

We make a simple syrup by heating water and sugar until the sugar dissolves, then we mix it with lemon juice, cranberry juice, and some more water. Add a few ice cubes and we’re done!

Isn’t it pretty? It’s the perfect refreshing cooler for a hot summer day.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup sugar (if using unsweetened cranberry juice, 1 cup if using sweetened)
  • 4 cups water (divided)
  • 1 cup cranberry juice
  • 1 cup lemon juice

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup sugar (if using unsweetened cranberry juice, 1 cup if using sweetened)
  • 4 cups water (divided)
  • 1 cup cranberry juice
  • 1 cup lemon juice

Method

1 Make simple syrup: Heat sugar and 1 cup of the water in a small saucepan until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat.

2 Stir together the remaining water, cranberry juice, lemon juice and simple syrup. Make adjustments to taste.

3 Chill for an hour, or add ice to cool.

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Mint Tea with Lemon Verbena

Refreshing herbal tea made with fresh lemon verbena and mint leaves.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 2 cups

A while ago I ordered some herbal tea at the Chez Panisse Café in Berkeley. The tea arrived in a large, clear, glass teapot, filled with green leaves and hot water.

The tea was lovely — light, lemony, minty.

After we finished it, my curiosity got the best of me and I started fishing out the leaves from the pot, wondering what was in this tea anyway?

Our server noticed this odd behavior and quickly came to the table offering to provide us with fresh leaves. “These leaves here are mint, but what are these long green ones?” I asked. “Lemon verbena,” was the answer and she happily addressed my battery of questions about this herb.

Lemon verbena is a bushy shrub that grows quite well in Northern California. It originally comes from South America, but has been cultivated in Europe since the 1600s.

Lemon Verbena

Lemon verbena has a strong lemon scent and is used to add a lemon flavor to many dishes.

In anticipation of making my own verbena mint tea, I planted some this spring. True to expectations, the not-yet-a-bush plant is thriving. Here’s the method for making simple mint tea with lemon verbena:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of fresh mint leaves (not the stems, they’re bitter), rinsed, lightly packed (about 20 leaves)
  • 1/2 cup of fresh lemon verbena leaves, rinsed, lightly packed (about 10-15 leaves)
  • 2 cups of water

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of fresh mint leaves (not the stems, they’re bitter), rinsed, lightly packed (about 20 leaves)
  • 1/2 cup of fresh lemon verbena leaves, rinsed, lightly packed (about 10-15 leaves)
  • 2 cups of water

Method

1 Heat water: Bring a pot of fresh water almost, but not quite to a boil.

2 Pour over mint and lemon verbena in tea pot: Put the mint and verbena leaves in a teapot. Pour the hot water over the leaves. Let sit for 3-5 minutes. Strain into tea cups.

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Mango Lassi

Sweet and rich mango lassi, with mango, milk, yogurt, sugar and a dash of cardamom.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Makes about 2 cups

Do you like mango lassis?

A favorite drink at Indian restaurants, they’re easy to make at home.

Lassis come in all kinds of flavors, some are salty, some are sweet, some have mint, some have fruit. A mango lassi is basically a yogurt based mango milkshake or smoothie.

You can use either canned mango pulp or cubed fresh or frozen mango. If you use fresh, you’ll want to use a ripe, sweet mango.

If your mango isn’t ripe enough it will be too tart and you’ll have to add more sugar or honey than you would like.

A little ground cardamom sprinkled on top is perfect!

Depending on how ripe and sweet your mango is, or if you are using canned and already sweetened mango pulp, you will need to add more or less honey or sugar to the lassi.

If you have cardamom pods, crush the pods to remove the seeds, then grind the seeds with a mortar and pestle.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup chopped very ripe mango (see how to peel and chop mango), frozen chopped mango, or a cup of canned mango pulp
  • 4 teaspoons honey or sugar, more or less to taste
  • A dash of ground cardamom (optional)
  • Ice (optional)

Method

Put mango, yogurt, milk, sugar and cardamom into a blender and blend for 2 minutes.

If you want a more milkshake consistency and it’s a hot day, either blend in some ice as well or serve over ice cubes.

Sprinkle with a tiny pinch of ground cardamom to serve.

The lassi can be kept refrigerated for up to 24 hours.

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Seville Orangeade

Totally delicious orangeade drink, made with sour Seville oranges.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 1 1/2 quarts

Remember Tang, the orange drink of astronauts?

This Seville Orangeade sort of reminds me of Tang, or what Tang would taste like if it were made from fresh, whole ingredients. Or for those of us who outgrew Tang, think, Orangina but without the carbonation.

What are Seville oranges?

Seville oranges are bitter-tasting oranges that are traditionally used to make orange marmalade. They are very sour, not sweet, and have a wonderful flavor. You can use them as a substitute for lemons in many recipes. They are also a defining flavor in many Mexican recipes.

Inspired by my colleague Marc’s recipe for whole lemon lemonade and I decided to try out the method with a bunch of leftover bitter Seville oranges I had from making marmalade.

Where to get Seville bitter oranges

Bitter or sour oranges are needed to make this orangeade recipe; it doesn’t really work with regular juice oranges. Where can you find bitter oranges?

  • You can order them online. Melissa’s Produce carries them in season (late winter and early spring).
  • Farmer’s Markets. In areas where citrus is grown, sometimes you can find farmers offering Seville oranges at local farmers markets, in season.
  • Local markets with good produce sections. In some areas some local grocery stores may sell Seville oranges when they are in season. Look out for them and ask your local grocer!
  • You can forage them. Seville orange trees have been used as ornamental trees in landscaping. Sometimes you can find the trees growing in old city street boulevards (in warm areas where citrus can be grown.) Here in California navel oranges are often grafted onto bitter orange root stock which is hardy. Sometimes the root stock takes over the orange tree and one year you find yourself with bitter seedy Seville oranges growing on your tree instead of sweet, seedless navel oranges.

Most people don’t have the patience for marmalade making, for which these oranges are ideally suited.

This Seville orangeade is an easy way to use up those otherwise ignored oranges and make a delicious, refreshing drink at the same time. They would work great for an orange sorbet as well!

Ingredients

  • 10-12 seville oranges, washed and scrubbed clean
  • 1 cup sugar
  • The juice from one large lemon
  • 5 cups cold, filtered water

Ingredients

  • 10-12 seville oranges, washed and scrubbed clean
  • 1 cup sugar
  • The juice from one large lemon
  • 5 cups cold, filtered water

Method

1 Prep the oranges: Cut the oranges in half lengthwise and then slice them into thin 1/8-inch slices.

2 Mash the slices with sugar: Put them in a large flat-bottomed non-reactive bowl. Stir in the sugar. Use a potato masher to mash the orange slices until most of the segments are juiced.

3 Add water and lemon juice: Pour water into the bowl of orange slices. Stir to mix gently, making sure that any undissolved sugar gets completely dissolved. Stir in the lemon juice.

4 Strain: Set a large fine mesh strainer over another large bowl and strain the orange mixture through it, pressing if necessary to get out as much of the juice as possible. Pour into a serving pitcher.

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