June is here, and in our house that means we’ve moved our bedroom downstairs for the summer, away from the stifling heat of the attic, and cleared a shelf in the refrigerator to be stocked exclusively with cold beverages until autumn leaves start to fall. I love the long days of summer but start to melt above 75 degrees. The thought of triple digit heat makes me want to buy a chest freezer just to sit in and if you need me come August, I’ll be at the dentist/movie theater/DMV, or really any place with air conditioning that will have me. Until the day comes when we spring for central a/c at home, a steady supply of cold drinks is the best method I know of for surviving — and maybe even enjoying — the summer heat.
Punch is a favorite chilled drink of mine because at its simplest it’s an easy blend of fruit juice and a carbonated element — if you use sparkling water, like I usually do, it’s more hydrating than juice alone — but the sky’s the limit. I made this sparkling citrus and honeydew tea punch with four kinds of fresh-squeezed citrus and the new Sweet Honeydew Green Tea from Stash. It’s a unique blend of mild green tea and refreshing melon — really, it tastes exactly like a perfectly ripe honeydew — that was made to be served cold. Mixing the citrus juices and the honeydew tea results in an immensely flavorful sweet-tart drink that’s less sugary and more complex than plain juice. Don’t forget the sparkling water — is it just me, or do bubbles make drinks extra refreshing? Continue Reading
If you’ve spent much time around the blog, you probably know how much tea I consume. Coffee for me is an occasional treat; tea is the stuff of everyday sustenance. For most of the year I sip hot tea throughout the day to keep warm, and nibble tea-infused desserts to satisfy my sweet tooth. In the heat of summer, though, turning the oven on to bake sounds like torture and the last thing I want to drink is a steaming mug of anything. So instead of tea I drink…oh, wait, I still drink tea! And lots of it. In fact, I store away some of my favorite teas just for summer, because drinking them cold brings out all their tasty flavors.
Stash’s Organic Matcha Mate is one of those teas. When they came out with this tea – a smooth blend of Japanese matcha, green tea and yerba mate – earlier this year I liked it hot, but knew I’d love it cold come summer. It’s a nice, strong tea for early mornings and lazy afternoons when I need a little caffeine boost, but without the bitter flavor that sometimes accompanies robust teas. I’ve enjoyed it on its own several times, but I think the matcha and mate flavors are at their best in slightly sweetened latte form. I brew the tea hot and strong, then pour it over ice with a generous drizzle of honey and a splash of cold almond milk, resulting in a silky and immensely sippable tea latte that’s made for hot days. The distinct tea flavors come through and, if you ask me, they’re actually made stronger by the dash of sweetness in the latte.
I’ll happily eat a chocolate ganache tart anytime time of year. It’s one of the few desserts I’m happy to bake all year, too, even in the heat of summer. See, you just give the buttery pastry a quick bake ’til it’s golden – then you can turn the oven off! The ganache itself warms up on the stove then cools in the pastry shell, so you don’t have to worry about keeping anything heat-generating on for too long. If you’re like me and live in an old house without air conditioning, that’s enough to make this recipe a winner.
And I haven’t even gotten to the chocolate part yet. Ganache is one of those things that’s so decadent and utterly delicious it’s hard to believe it only has two ingredients. A silky, rich blend of cream and chocolate – and that’s it! I like to chill ganache tarts in the refrigerator before serving, so the ganache is cool and thoroughly set. Something about chilled chocolate makes it even tastier as it melts in your mouth! Make sure to use the best tasting dark chocolate you can find, and don’t forget the sprinkle of sea salt. It brings out the flavor of the chocolate and is a tasty foil for the creaminess of the ganache. Mmmm.
For all the people who felt left out after last week’s cat popsicle post – after all, the heat is hard on us humans, too – these roasted plum, strawberry and creamy coconut popsicles are for you. It seems like most of the country has been sweltering under the same heat wave as we have, so most of you know how I feel right now: my hair is sticky, my face is sticky and the air feels as thick and hot as soup. As such, eating soup, or anything else that requires turning on the stove for long periods of time, is out of the question. Our old electric range will be a great radiant heater come winter, but for now it’s just not possible to turn it on passed 9 am without making the whole apartment roast.
I don’t want to use the heat as an excuse to fill up on things that can be eaten straight out of the package, though. Eating super-processed ice cream was starting to sound pretty darn appealing, so I figured I should hurry and make something refreshing and sweet before I caved into the refined sugar dairy monster. Luckily for me, I had everything I needed on hand to make these wonderfully creamy, naturally sweetened and seasonally flavored popsicles. In fact, I based the recipe on what I had in my cupboard already (seriously, I needed something sweet with urgency) and it’s a flexible enough recipe that you can do the same. Any stone fruit or berry would work beautifully using the same basic recipe. Peach and blueberry, blackberry and nectarines, the possibilities are endless! Continue Reading
After an unusually cool July, August in Portland has felt much more like summer. Our garden is loving the sun and warmth; my tomato plants are towering over me at nearly eight feet tall and are loaded with green tomatoes, and we’ve been snacking on juicy red strawberries from the patio for the past week. But there’s someone who isn’t as keen about the heat: Bisou. She lays in the sun until her fur is so hot I need an oven mitt to pet her, then when it’s time to head to the shade to cool off, she looks absolutely miserable when she realizes her usual cool spots around the house are hot, too.
On days like this, we all need some extra hydration and cats are no exception. I started making Bisou cat popsicles to supplement her water intake when we had several 100º days in Portland last summer. They’re made of a blend of her favorite wet food and low-sodium chicken broth, so she feels like she’s enjoying a treat while she’s also getting some much-needed hydration. When she’s been laying in the hot sun, I pull one out of the freezer and let her lick it for a few minutes at a time. It makes her happy and hydrated, and it makes me happy, too. Because what’s cuter than a cat licking a popsicle?! One popsicle will last a while, so I usually make just one or two at a time. Continue Reading