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Mint Cantaloupe Aguas Frescas

23 Sep

I know, I know; I just can’t seem to let summer go.  While I absolutely cannot wait to pull out my Fall arsenal of recipes (you will wonder how much more butternut squash you can possibly stand from me), I’m still sad to see all the fresh fruits and veggies go under a winter frost.  Luckily, my CSA veggie shipment still has some treats tucked in it, like one more beautiful cantaloupe for the season.  Wanting something special for a last hurrah to summer’s melons, I decided to try my hand at aguas frescas.  I’m pretty impressed with what came out of these ingredients and this is such a refreshing drink that I’m pretty bummed that I’ve gone the whole summer without it.  It’ll be great for those warm Indian Summer afternoons and evenings that may still pop up–and if you want to make it for a party, I’m sure adding vodka would make it fantastic.

Mint Cantaloupe Aguas Frescas

  • 1/2 cantaloupe, diced
  • handful of fresh mint leaves (package from my store was .66 oz)
  • 1 bottle (750 mL) sparkling water, such as San Pellegrino
  • 4 cups lemonade (click here for my favorite recipe)
  • ice
  1. Puree the cantaloupe and add to pitcher.
  2. Muddle the mint leaves in the bottom of the pitcher by crushing the leaves with a wooden spoon.  When it smells minty, you’re done.
  3. Pour sparkling water and lemonade into the pitcher and stir.
  4. Add ice cubes and serve with mint sprigs for decoration!
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Rather Sweet Sangria

15 Aug

For those who missed my post on Blueberry Pie Bars, I’ve joined Project Pastry Queen–a group of wonderful food bloggers who are baking their way through The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather.  We’ll post the results of the week’s recipe and this week we were assigned Rebecca’s Rather Sweet Sangria.  “Rather Sweet” is the name of her bakery & cafe in Texas, hence the name of the beverage.  Not your average sorority house sangria, this is a more adult version that leaves out the floating fruit on top (I’m allergic to apples so I can’t drink that kind anyway) and adds brandy for an extra kick.

Of course, I’m not going to make a whole huge batch of sangria and sit at home by myself on a Friday night and drink it on my own–no, that’s where girlfriends come in.  I split the recipe and made one half with the suggested red wine and one with white wine.  Even between 6 of us, we didn’t come close to finishing either batch, so I highly suggest just doing a half recipe unless you have a big party coming up.

That said, we certainly were refreshing glasses the whole evening, so I know the ladies enjoyed it!  It was a touch too sweet for me, but no one else thought so, so keep it in mind when making it to sweeten it to your own taste.

Some notes:  To sample both red and white sangrias, I split the below recipe equally into two bowls and added 1/2 a bottle of red wine to one bowl and 1/2 a bottle of of white wine to the other.  Be sure to start well ahead of time–you have to make the simple syrup first, which is super super easy, but takes 30 minutes plus cooling time.  The original recipe adds pomegranate seeds, which I left out.  Finally, I was apprehensive about having to do this recipe because who has ever seen pomegranate molasses at the store?  I was absolutely shocked to be casually wandering around my local Italian market, waiting for the boyfriend to pay for a sandwich and not actually paying attention to my surroundings, to look down and see a bottle of pomegranate molasses on the shelf (Rebecca’s suggested brand “Indo-European”, no less!).  If it’s that easy for me, it’s got to be easy for you!

Rather Sweet Sangria
From The Pastry Queen

Simple Syrup

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 lime, halved
  • 1 lemon, halved
  1. Simmer the water, sugar, lemon and lime in a saucepan for 30 minutes
  2. After 30 minutes, remove from heat and cool for another 30 minutes
  3. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and lime halves into the syrup and refrigerate until needed

Sangria

  • 1 bottle fruity red Spanish wine or 1 bottle fruity white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 2 cups brandy
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 2 bottles (16.9 oz) chilled sparkling water (or 1 bottle, 33 oz)
  • 1 lime sliced
  1. Combine the wine, brandy, pomegranate molasses, lime juice, and sparkling water in a large bowl and mix.  The recipe calls for 2 cups of simple syrup to be added, but as I mentioned, it was awfully sweet for me, so start with 1/2 cup and add more until it is to your liking, up to 2 cups.  Add the lime slices.
  2. If you are not serving immediately, refrigerate the mixture until ready to serve, but hold off on adding the sparkling water, simple syrup and lime slices until the last minute.
  3. Serve over ice and enjoy!  The sangria will keep in the fridge for a week but it will get progressively sweeter the longer it sits.  You will have to thin it down with some more sparkling water (about 1 cup) to dilute the sweetness and add some carbonation back in.

Fresh Lemonade

15 Jul

You know it’s truly Summer here in SoCal when I get in my car to leave work in the Valley at the end of the day and my car thermometer says “108”.  Then, as I drive down the 405 freeway over the hill towards home, it never fails to amaze me as I watch my thermometer tick down 30 degrees or more until it says “71” or so by the time I’m home in Beach-town.  What I wouldn’t give for an ice cold pitcher of lemonade while I’m at the office!  My friends scoffed at me using a recipe for lemonade (“It’s just water and lemons and sugar!”) but this recipe definitely includes a few key steps to making lemonade the best it can be.

This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks of all time: The Little House Cookbook.  If you are, or were ever, a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prarie series and you love cooking food or just reading about it, go find this book!  Part cookbook, part food history, part excerpts from the series, it’s held a cherished place on my bookshelf for as long as I can remember and sometimes I pull it down just to read for fun because, naturally, all of my favorite parts of that series had to do with food.

Fresh Lemonade
Recipe from The Little House Cookbook

  • 5 large lemons
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • Ice
  1. If you’re lucky enough to have lemons picked straight off a tree into your kitchen, just give them a good scrub down.  If you’ve bought supermarket lemons (no shame in that!), boil a pot of hot water, put the lemons in a bowl and pour the water over the lemons so they are covered.  Let stand for a few minutes.  This will do two things for your lemons: melt off the wax that the grocery store put on them to make them shiny and it will make them juicier.  No lie, I have NO idea how it makes them juicier, but I can say that it certainly does, because I’ve seen it with my own eyes.  After a few minutes, pull each lemon out, drying it by rolling it in a towel on your counter, pressing as you do it, to release more juice.
  2. Slice the lemons into thin slices–as thin as you can go without making yourself crazy, about 1/4″.  Try to use a cutting board that will catch the lemon juice so you can just pour it in to the bowl instead of losing all that deliciousness.
  3. In a large bowl or baking dish, arrange a layer of lemon slices, liberally pour sugar over the layer, then add another layer of lemon slices and repeat until all lemons and sugar are used up.  Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes (the time will go quickly, I promise!).
  4. Using a wooden spoon or wooden spatula, press down on the lemons as best you can without pulverizing the slices, so your lemonade isn’t full of pulp.
  5. Pour contents of bowl into a pitcher and fill pitcher with cold water.

Served over ice, it doesn’t get more refreshing than this!  Of course, you can tailor the recipe to be more more or less sweet or tart by adjusting the amount of sugar used.  Drink up!

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