Perfect Summer Lemonade

New York City in the summer just screams heat! The other day, I was sitting in my bed with sweat beads just falling down my head like nobodies business and I wasn’t even doing anything! The humidity never helps, but luckily NYC doesn’t often get to humid, just incredibly hot hot hot. I have been given the clear by my doctor to go into a pool now, so you know where I’ll be for the next three months.¬†I’m thinking that summer 2011 is going to be another one for the record books, but it’s only the beginning of June, so who knows!

I’ve been trying so hard to drink more water in this heat. I’ve been starting to run again, so that motviates me even more to drink, as I often get some pretty bad headaches if I exercise while dehydrated. But when I want to kick back and enjoy the summer days, there is no better way to do that than with a nice tall glass of fresh lemonade. If you’re used to buying lemonade from the supermarket, stop now. Making your own lemonade can be a little bit tedious, but it’s so worth it. You can make it as sweet or as sour as you like and nothing quite beats fresh squeezed lemons!

When I make lemonade, I just throw together a simple sugar syrup – adding in some basil or mint for a nice herby surprise – throw that in with some fresh lemon juice (and lime if you’d like), a bottle of seltzer, and voila – fresh lemonade! The most difficult part about this whole ordeal is squeezing the lemons, but don’t skimp on store bought stuff. That extra teaspoon of sweat from all your work gives the lemonade that extra boost ūüėČ You don’t need to add seltzer, nice cold water will work too. I always make mine as a mixture of lemons and limes, but picking one citrus of the other will work perfectly as well. Drop some fresh mint and sliced lemons into your final product for garnish and you are sure to have a crowd pleaser.

FRESH LEMONADE

(Recipe by Me)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups lemon/lime juice (15 or so lemons and limes, depending on size)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • fresh bunch of basil or mint
  • 2-4 cups cold water of seltzer
DIRECTIONS:
1) To make simple syrup, combine water, sugar, and basil or mint (or both) in a sauce pan. Simmer until sugar has dissolved – about 4 to 5 minutes. Allow mixture to cool. Discard herbs.
2) In a large glass measuring cup, squeeze lemons, until you have approximately two cups of juice.
3) In a large pitcher filled with ice, combine lemon juice, simple syrup and water or seltzer.
4) Add some fresh mint and sliced lemons to garnish and serve.
Advertisements

Pretzel Bites

Memorial Day Weekend – BBQ’s, summer, pool, sunshine, all sorts of things come to mind. For me, spending the weekend upstate means baking! Baking in my uncle’s kitchen is the best place – it has tons of work space, a nice big oven, and during a family vacation weekend, there are always enough people to sample my goods.

I’ve wanted to make pretzels for a long time. I always thought that to make big fluffy pretzels, one needed lye. What I discovered though, is a) lye is very dangerous for the home cook and b) a simple mixture of baking soda and water is the perfect replacement for lye, which makes the salt stick to the pretzels. After realizing I didn’t need to use lye, my plans of making pretzels seems much more in grasp than I had imagined.

If you like warm fluffy dough, these are for you. In all honesty, are not all that interesting, but with a sprinkle of salt and a bowl of mustard to accompany, these are a perfect afternoon snack. I made two full plates of these, and they were all finished long before dinner. If you wanted to make actual big fluffy pretzels, like the ones you buy from a street vendor, as opposed to just bites, this recipe could easily still be used, just increasing the bake time a few minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on these little guys once they get in the oven, because they’ll burn quickly if left in too long.

PRETZEL BITES

(Adapted from Let’s Dish)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant (or rapid rise) yeast
  • 1 cup¬†very warm water
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • Coarse salt (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

DIRECTIONS:

1) In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, place the flour, salt, sugar, yeast and 2 1/4 cups flour. Mix to just combine. Add the water and mix well, adding remaining flour, as needed, a bit at a time to form a soft, smooth dough that clears the sides and bottom of the bowl.

2) Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, until it is soft, smooth and quite slack. Lightly oil the dough and place it in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap.  Let it rise for 40-60 minutes.

3) Preheat your oven to 475 degrees.

4) Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper or lightly greasing them.

5) Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into about four equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope, about 1 inch in diameter.  Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

6) While the dough is resting, combine the 1/2 cup warm water and the baking soda in a liquid measuring cup (deep enough to dip the pretzel bites into). Stir until the baking soda is dissolved.

7) Cut each strip of dough into pieces, 1 to 1 1/2 inches in long.  Dip each pretzel bite in the baking soda solution and place them on the baking sheets. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

8 ) Bake one sheet at a time for 5-7 minutes or until the pretzels are golden brown. Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. If desired, sprinkle with coarse salt.  Pretzels can be reheated in the oven or microwave on low heat.