Fresh Mint & Lemon Iced Tea

The mint in my garden is already 10″ tall and of course spreading with reckless abandon. I love mint and have decided to let it “own” a patch of ground by the porch, since it’s worth it to step outside and grab some whenever I need it. After all, what other herb grows by the square foot? (If you want to corral it – it also grows well in a low flat pot.)

Mojitos, anyone?

Another great way mint can be the star of the show is with Fresh Mint & Lemon Iced Tea, which is only lightly sweetened, but incredibly refreshing – especially on a hot day. Plus it’s caffeine free.


4 cups water
2 peppermint tea bags (we like Celestial Seasonings)
1-2 cups of fresh peppermint sprigs (stems and leaves are fine – no need to remove leaves)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice


Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the teabags, sugar and fresh mint and remove from heat. Cover and let steep 10 minutes or so. Stir and then strain into a pitcher. Add 2 Tbsp lemon juice and fill the pitcher with ice.

Stir again, then check the taste – adding more sugar or lemon to taste. Pour into glasses half-filled with ice and garnish with a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint if desired.

Ali’s Bourbon Milk Punch


Ali just made these classic New Orleans cocktails for us and they were incredibly good, even dangerously good, especially with his addition of a little maple syrup.

How have I never had these before?  I think this may just be my favorite cocktail of all time!


1/4 cup bourbon
1/2 cup milk or 5 Tbsp milk and 3 Tbsp 1/2 & 1/2
1 oz (2 Tbsp) real maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
crushed ice
freshly grated nutmeg

Add everything but the crushed ice into a cocktail shaker and stir well. Add a couple big spoonfuls of crushed ice, cover and shake vigorously.

Fill a glass halfway full of ice, and strain cocktail mixture over. Grate fresh nutmeg on top and enjoy. Makes two servings. (Or one big serving for Mom.)

The scent of the nutmeg combined with the light, sweet deliciousness of the milk punch is seriously good. Don’t wait – make these soon!

Honeydew & Cucumber Juice

On a hot summer day, when honeydew melons are in season, this is a wonderful juice to make.  It’s only slightly sweet with a really delicate flavor.  I used a good-sized melon, and it made about 4 cups of juice.

honeydew melon and cucumber juice


1 Honeydew melon, cut into chunks
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 cup sugar or 1/3 cup agave nectar
2 Tbsp lemon juice


Buzz the melon and cucumber in a blender. (We don’t have a blender, so I just used a buzzwand in a pitcher.) Add lemon juice and sugar and buzz a little longer.

Pour the juice through a strainer into a pitcher and serve with crushed ice. So easy, and so refreshing!


Perfect Home-made Lemonade

We had our Camper’s Packing Party Saturday and everyone loves lemonade, so I made a jug of lemonade that was just delicious. Home-made is pretty easy with organic lemon juice from Costco.

When I used to make lemonade, I’d always have to juggle lemon juice and sugar to get it right – and the sugar takes forever to dissolve. This recipe is really easy and perfect: not too sweet, not too sour and totally simple, using simple syrup.

3 1/2 cups simple syrup (recipe below)
1 1/2 cups lemon juice
6 cups water
2 1/2 cups ice

Mix syrup, lemon juice and water. Add ice.

For Pink Lemonade, add a drop of red food coloring.

Simple Syrup:

Add 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water in a saucepan. Heat until the syrup begins to boil, then turn down the heat. Simmer until the sugar is completely dissolve – just a few minutes should do it. Let it cool a bit, then pour into a mason jar. Keeps in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

If you have fresh strawberries or raspberries, you could buzz them in and just add a bit more simply syrup to taste.

Ginger Honey Syrup

We are crazy about Celestial Seasoning’s Jammin’ Lemon Ginger tea, and I created a honey syrup that goes with it. Caitlin suggested adding lemon juice after straining it – which would also be amazing.

1/2 cup fresh grated ginger
1 cup honey
1 cup water

Bring everything to the boil. Reduce heat and cook 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Strain into a mason jar, discarding ginger. (If you’d like you can add 3/4 cup lemon juice, too.)

Good with tea. Someone also mentioned a drink called a Panacea, which is:

2 oz. syrup
2 oz. Scotch

Blend these in a glass, and fill glass half full of ice. Stir well. Not sure how this would taste, but it’s interesting!

Louisa’s Wassail

I have to give thanks to my friend Louisa, who always has a pot of this amazing hot drink simmering on her stove on holidays, especially the Winter Solstice. She shared her recipe and I’ve made this for family get-togethers, Halloween parties, a very chilly block party one year, and of course for Christmas. (Our block party was on such a cold day one year that my neighbor Rachel saved the day by bringing out hot homemade chicken noodle soup in cups on a tray!)

2 bottles dry red wine (Trader Joe’s Three Buck Chuck is fine.)
10 cups fresh apple cider
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp whole cloves
2 tsp whole allspice
2 cinnamon sticks, broken up
2 oranges, sliced thickly and studded around the edge with whole cloves

Add wine, cider and sugar to a large pot or crockpot. Tie the spices in a sachet of cheesecloth, or a coffee filter loosely tied with a rubber band. Add to the pot along with the orange slices.

Bring to a low boil in the pot. Let simmer for 20 minutes and turn heat down. You can remove the spice bundle if you like, but I often just leave it in. Ladle into mugs.

Cowboy Coffee

blue coffee potIf there’s one thing I really appreciate,  it’s big old coffee pots – the kind you use on a campfire.

I’ve got a couple of my grandparents old coffee pots, and one of my mother’s and they’re a very quick and easy way to make good coffee for a crowd!

My note on the recipe says:  Full TTT group  – use big pot.  We drink a lot of coffee!

1 gallon water
1 1/2 cups fresh ground coffee
1 egg shell
1/2 cup ice water

Bring water to the boil in the coffee pot. Add coffee and eggshell, and bring back to full boil. Take off heat, cover and let sit for 2-3 minutes.  Stir coffee gently once to get the thickest grounds off the sides. Add 1/2 cup ice water and serve. (The eggshells help take away any bitterness, and the cold water pulls the grounds to the bottom of the pot.)

Maya’s Strawberry-Banana Yogurt Smoothi

Maya wrote this recipe down on February 16th, 2009 when she was just 10 years old.  It was President’s Day, so maybe she was home from school.  She and Samir used to make smoothies very often, and I’d often later find a mysterious colorful liquid in a glass in the refrigerator.  Somehow it’s hard to make just one glass of smoothie!

1 banana
6 ice cubes
3 big frozen strawberries
2 giant spoonfuls of strawberry yogurt
dash milk

Add banana and strawberry and yogurt. Mix. If thick add milk and ice.

(Note from Mom – I think she cut up the bananas, and used a buzzwand to blend. I am pretty sure you add the ice no matter what and only thin it with milk. The underlines are in her original recipe.)

Hot Cocoa Mix

We often try to do something fun for Christmas gifts for family members, so the kids can give gifts to their aunts, uncles, grandparents and special friends.  We’ve done soup mixes, muffin mixes and various other things, but this was one of our favorites – hot cocoa mix in mason jars, and it is a slight variation on Alton Brown’s recipe. We mixed up giant batches in a huge bowl and created a real assembly line and the kitchen was full of a kind of sweet,white haze. But it’s fun to keep on hand all winter long.

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/4 good cocoa
4 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cornstarch
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Mix all together and keep in an airtight container. To make cocoa, just add 3 Tbsp mix to a mug with hot water.

Hot Buttered Something , possibly Rum

Served at our 2006 office holiday party. It makes a nice large batch that keeps well in the freezer. Thanks to Cathy R for sharing her family’s recipe!

1 lb. butter
1 lb. brown sugar
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 qt vanilla ice cream
1 tsp instant coffee
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

Heat all together in a big pot until dissolved. Let cool a little, then pour into a freezer container.

For serving, add two big spoonfuls to a mug and fill with boiling water. It’s delicious this way, and if you’d like, just add a shot of rum.