Quick Fresh Ginger Ale

Quick Fresh Ginger AleSo this has been a week focused on digestion… yeah. It’s never a fun thing to have to think too much about, but such is my life. This morning I took a mental survey of anything that I could eat or drink that could possibly aid me in my gastro turmoil. It’s pretty well known that ginger does wondrous things for ailments, particularly the tummy. For some reason when I thought of ginger, I was reminded of an absolutely sublime fresh made ginger ale I had a restaurant a few weeks ago (I’ll tell you which restaurant in another post). As I gushed over the amazingness of the ginger ale, the adorable waiter we had was very proud to report that he had made it himself. Being unable to resist my overwhelming charm, he even told me how he made it. I was astonished by the simplicity of the process and warned him that I would steal it. Today, I have. And what I love is that it has all the freshness of real ginger, all the satisfaction of drinking a soda, and yet is perfectly healthy.

Here’s what you do. Take a giant chunk of ginger, about the size of the one pictured here, and run it through a juicer. Now I know not everyone has a juicer and for those who don’t…. I got nothing, sorry. Pour 1 ounce of the juice into a 16-ounce glass. Add one tablespoon of raw organic agave syrup and mix thoroughly. Fill the rest of the glass with cold sparkling water or club soda (I used Pellegrino because I’m super classy). Voila. The freshest most refreshing ginger ale you’ve ever had, sure to help that upset tummy.

And please be warned, freshly juiced ginger is really really potent stuff. Like, it burns. No joke. So start with the ratio I’ve given you and feel free to make adjustments based on your own tastes.

Also, I highly recommend adding fresh mint or some fresh lemon juice. Yum!

Quick and Rich Hot Chocolate with Mint

I realize that many of my east coast readers are experiencing their first taste of winter this week. What better time to whip out this classic.

Now when I talk about hot cocoa, I’m not talking about that packet you empty into your mug and fill with hot water. Please. I’m the starving artist – I don’t do packets. For me, hot chocolate is an art; the embodiment of winter comfort. It takes so little time, effort, and money to make it fresh. And there’s something about spending a few minutes at the stove to bring it together that brings such satisfaction. So put that packet down and let me show you the way.

All you really need to know for real homemade hot chocolate is the ratio 1:1:1. 1 cup of milk to 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder to 1 tablespoon of sugar. Perfect hot cocoa every time. Now if you’re like me, you never have milk in your fridge, so what I do is buy one of those little plastic pint bottles for 99 cents, which is two cups (let’s be serious, you’re going to want to drink two cups worth. Besides most mugs are well over 1 cup). I always have cocoa powder and sugar in my kitchen, so really I’m getting servings to hot cocoa for 99 cents – not too shabby.┬áTo make, I get the milk heating over medium heat in a saucepan and whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Keep an eye on it and stir frequently until it just comes to a boil.

Now you could stop here and you’d have decent hot cocoa, but I take it a few steps further to make it extra special. First, I take about two teaspoons of corn starch, place it in a small lidded container, add about 1 tablespoon of water, put the lid on and shake vigorously to combine. This is called a slurry and it is meant to thicken. So, just as the hot cocoa comes to a boil, I add in the slurry, then I add in one small handful of semi sweet chocolate chips. Whisk until combined and thickened. Kill the heat and you’re ready to serve… unless…

Again, you could stop here and have amazing hot cocoa, but this is where you can really spice it up. A shot or two of Baileys is always a good thing. A few drops of vanilla extract would also work well. You could put in some peppermint Schnapps or you could put in a pinch of cayenne pepper for some heat. For this batch, I had a very special ingredient on hand that I found in the farmer’s market last week: chocolate mint. It’s a legitimate herb that tastes legitimately like chocolate mint. It’s amazing. After killing the heat I stirred in about 10 leaves and let it steep for about 5 minutes before serving. It was outstanding. Now I’m not proposing you go on a quest for chocolate mint – regular old mint you find at the grocery store will work beautifully here as well. Or, you can take a shortcut and just add a few drops of peppermint extract. Lovely.

Hope this helps to combat the snow! Recipe is in PDF format below

Quick and Rich Hot Chocolate

Frozen Mint Lemonade

The obnoxiously hot summer weather has been inspiring me to dream up cold and classy concoctions that won’t empty my bank account. Yes, I know a lot of you live for hot weather, but I would personally take snow over 99 degree weather anyway. But, whatever floats your boat.

Yesterday I was mindlessly wandering around the grocery store (as I often do) when my eye caught a half gallon bottle of Simply Lemonade. Now I have to tell you, I never EVER drink lemonade. Like, ever. But for some reason, the idea of a clean, crisp, cold, citrus drink just sounded really good to me. Maybe the heat is effecting my brain… and apparently making me crave citrus… Anyway, I didn’t want “just” lemonade, I wanted something a bit more substantial. Something with a bit more pizzazz.

I knew I wanted to make it frozen, but throwing juice in a blender with ice cubes just doesn’t really do it for me. The blender I own (a Magic Bullet, thank you very much) is nowhere near powerful enough to adequately pulverize ice to make a homogenous frozen beverage. In fact I would venture to say most home blenders aren’t powerful enough to do that. And you know, even if they were, all it’s going to do in the end is water the drink down. Who wants that? Yes, one could make ice cubes out of the lemonade, but I didn’t really feel like waiting for them to freeze. So, to substitute ice I grabbed a pint of lemon sorbet. Good frozen texture with the taste of lemon built in. Delish.

Now one could easily just blend the lemonade with the sorbet and call it a day. But the starving artist wants to take it a step further. It needs something to give it an extra punch – a totally unique twist: fresh mint. I love fresh mint in any form, particularly in my ice tea. If you’ve never tried it, do it. It adds such an incredible effervescence. Blending it into frozen lemonade makes it a truly heavenly summer drink.

To make it, start with 2 scoops of sorbet, 1 cup of lemonade, and about 6 leaves of mint. I also added in a secret ingredient: I scoop of cool whip. Totally optional, but kind of fun. Makes it kind of like a “lemon julius”. Blend it up really good and see how it is. Too thick, add some more juice. Too thin, more sorbet. So. Effing. Amazing.

Here are some ideas to shake it up even more:

  • Add a few drops of vanilla to make a sort of “lemon julius”
  • Add a handful of fresh or frozen raspberries or blueberries
  • Add a shot (or two) of vodka, perhaps some Absolut Citron, for a lovely adult beverage for your next summer party
  • Instead of lemonade and lemon sorbet, try orange juice and orange sherbet, or perhaps some