Thursday, August 30, 2007

Foiling flavor fairies

Every year at this time the swarm descends upon my kitchen and bathrooms, even my office where a lot of my colleagues and I eat lunch at our desks. Gnats, fruit flies, call them what you will -- my colleague Mark prefers "flavor fairies" -- flit within my line of vision seeking something sour: drying towels, anyone?

Last fall my friend Diane Hooie, a bright, well-traveled and adventurous cook, told me how to trap 'em. This really works:

Pour a half inch of apple cider vinegar in a small glass and add two drops of dishwashing liquid. Mix well, sit it out and the flies will be drawn to the cup and gone forever.

I misremembered her instructions and added water to the glass. It doesn't seem to affect the potion's desirability as dozens of gnats have perished in a watery grave.

Summer's last gasp -- cool it

It's cooler now in north-central West Virginia than this time last week when record-setting heat made my clothes feel like they were plastic shrink-wrapped to my body. This summer we discovered some low-calorie fruit slushes I make to keep cool. It's also a good and easy way to get in an extra serving of fruit. I'll be honest -- I use real sugar, cane sugar specifically, instead of Splenda. A little bit of natural sugar beats anything artificial, modified or engineered any day.

Our favorites are the cherry limeade, peach and watermelon lemonade. I love that they're all made with frozen fruits so I don't have to buy and keep fresh fruit onhand worrying if it's going to spoil before we use it up. The most labor-intensive part is de-seeding the watermelon -- don't be fooled, there ARE seeds in seedless watermelon. But one watermelon, once de-seeded and chunked, has lasted me all summer in the freezer. Whipping up the drinks is so easy I can even let 4-year-old Bella help by pouring the ingredients into the blender pitcher as I measure them. One tip: Smack the ice in a plastic bag with a meat mallet so your blender won't have to do so much work and you won't have to keep stopping it to free ice jams around the blade.

Clockwise from left: Cherry Limeade, Mixed Berry Slush and Watermelon Lemonade.

Kathy's Watermelon Lemonade
Serves 1.
Per serving: 52 calories, 14 carb grams, 2 mg sodium, 0.5 fat grams, 0.75 grams of fiber.
3/4 cup seedless watermelon chunks, frozen
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Splenda
1/2 cup ice
8 ounces sparkling water

Combine in a blender and process until smooth.

Kathy's Just Peachy Slush
Serves 1.
Per serving: 56 calories, 15 carb grams, 2.25 grams of fiber, no fat.
3/4 cup frozen peach slices
1/2 cup ice
8 ounces sparkling water

Combine in a blender and process until smooth.

Kathy's Mixed Berry Slush
Serves 1.
Per serving: 43 calories, 10 carb grams, 3 mg sodium, 0.25 fat grams, 2 grams of fiber.
1/4 cup frozen strawberries
1/4 cup frozen raspberries
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup ice
8 ounces sparkling water
Note: The original recipe doesn't call for sweetener, but my husband says this needs sugar.

Combine in a blender and process until smooth.

This last one is the only one we haven't tried.

Kathy's Cranberry-Raspberry Slush
Serves 1.
Per serving: 45 calories, 12 carb grams, 3 mg sodium, 1 gram fiber, no fat.
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
4 ounces light cranberry juice
1/2 cup ice
6 ounces sparkling water

Combine in a blender and process until smooth.

We found the recipes in The Wichita Eagle.


A longhaul trucker named Melvin gave us his recipe for a refreshing lemonade drink. I dubbed it Melvinade, which left a bad taste in my husband's mouth. But the drink itself is pretty tasty -- an orange offsets the tart lemon and it's sweet but not syrupy. It quenches thirst and finishes light and clean -- no "drag" on the on the palate from too much acid or sugar ... at least the way we made it. We didn't follow Melvin's formula to the letter. All props to truckers 'cause they move America and my uncle [and Melvin's girlfriend's father in fact,] rest his soul, was a trucker -- but we think Melvin's ratios are a little out of whack.

He said he puts the juice of three lemons and one orange and 1 1/2 cups of sugar in a two-quart pitcher and fills it with water. When we made it, to the citrus juice we added 3/4 cup of sugar and could probably have used even less. I measured the water exactly the first time we made it; the second time, my husband just topped off the pitcher and I thought it tasted weak. We decided we'd like to use more lemons and oranges when we make it again.

I went online looking to do better and found these recipes that we're sure to make before the snow flies.

Don't freak out at the amount of sugar vs. water. This is a starter that you'll add more water to before serving.

Lemonade With Fresh Mint
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup fresh mint leaves
juice of 2 oranges
juice of 6 lemons
4 teaspoons grated orange peel
fresh orange or lemon slices and sprigs of mint for garnish

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil and boil 5 minutes. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

Place mint leaves in a small bowl; add sugar syrup, orange juice, lemon juice, and grated orange peel. Cover and let steep for 1 hour. Strain into a 1-quart container; cover and keep refrigerated.

To serve, mix 1 part lemon mint mixture with 2 parts water. Serve over ice and garnish with lemon or orange slices and sprigs of mint if desired.

Makes about 1 quart syrup, or 3 quarts of lemonade.

Citrus Cooler
6 lemons
3 limes
6 oranges
3 quarts water
1 1/2 cups sugar, or more, to taste

Squeeze the juice from 5 of the lemons, 3 of the limes and 5 of the oranges; pour into a gallon container. Thinly slice the remaining orange and lemon and set aside. Add water and sugar to juices; mix well. Chill thoroughly and keep in refrigerator. Serve on ice with orange and lemon slices.

Makes about 1 gallon of citrus drink or lemonade.

Both recipes are from Diana Rattray on under Southern U.S. Cuisine.
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