Top 10 Summer Beverages

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Even though June 21 did not officially kick off summer, at my house, it’s summer once the fresh mint is ready to cut and stuff in a glass! My mint is ready for harvesting and my automatic ice maker is churning out cubes on a regular basis come 5 o’clock. If you are entertaining guests this summer on the back deck, I hope one or two of these drinks will add a pleasant kick to your menu!

Rather than working my way from least favorite to most favorite, I thought I would start out with the ones I like the most at the top of my list! Enjoy.

1. Pimms
First produced back in 1823, Pimms was first introduced to me several years ago by a colleague from London. Thank you Kathryn, wherever you are now! It has a sweet, slightly spicy aroma. I serve it exactly as directed on the back of the bottle.

1/4 cup Pimms
3/4 cups fizzy lemonade
1 sprig fresh mint
2-3 slices fresh cucumber
1 sliced strawberry
1 slice fresh orange
1 tall glass and fresh ice

2. Bobby Flay’s Red Sangria
I’ve tried a number of sangria recipes over the years and I always come back to this one from Chef Bobby Flay. I keep the key ingredients in my pantry at all times. It is a beverage my dinner guests ask for now. I switch up the fruits a bit depending upon what I have handy, but the base remains the same. Give it a try the next time you cook out!

3. Chef Roblé’s Cucumber Lemonade
This one is alcohol-free and may sound a little wonky. But trust me. You will want to add this drink to your summertime rotation. For some reason the cucumber adds this subtle refreshing flavor to homemade lemonade that is unbelievable. Buy yourself a citrus squeezer and give this recipe a try!

4. Citrus Slush
This was a popular drink back in the ’70s. Hard to believe it is still around, but it is one of my summer party favorites. It packs a hidden punch since it tastes like a fizzy fruit drink, so watch out if you are sipping these poolside! You will be the hit of the day if you take this as your dish to pass at the next neighborhood cookout, I promise!

5. Margaritas
A summer list of adult beverages would not be complete without the Margarita! The nice thing about the Bon Appétit article I linked to above is that they break down the ingredients with a bit more detail.

6. Frozen Strawberry Daiquiris

My neighbor always made this version growing up. Of course I was of legal age the first time I ever tried them!

1 box frozen strawberries (or 1/2 bag)
1 small can frozen limeade
1/2 cup rum
1/4 cup strawberry liquor
2 cups ice

Blend well. If you do not like seeds in your drinks, use a high quality blender like a Vitamix.

7. Mojito
If you find yourself grilling up some fajitas or roasting a cuban-spiced pork roast, pull out a few more sprigs of mint and mix up a pitcher of Cuban Mojitos. This refreshing summer beverage was originally “consumed for medical purposes!” Who am I to argue with the healing properties of a refreshing summer concoction?!?

8. Mimosa
You cannot go wrong with a good, old-fashioned and simple-to-make mimosa! Mix orange juice and champagne for a refreshing summer drink any time of the day. I like one part OJ to 3 parts bubbly, but feel free to use your own favorite ratio. Some people shy away from using good champagne for this cocktail, but I disagree. While I would not recommend diluting a Dom Perignon with anything, I never go for the bargain bin sparkling wine either.

9. Gin and Tonic
Like the mimosa above, the key to a decent gin & tonic is use of a decent gin. I recommend you give Fords Gin or Anchor Old Tom a try. Using a rocks glass, stir about 2 ounces gin with a splash of tonic, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice over ice. Substitute the tonic with Sprite or 7-Up and you’ve got yourself a Lime Rickey.

10. Trappistes Rochefort Beer
Brewed by the Trappist Monks inside the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy, Belgium, these guys know how to make awesome beer. After all, they’ve been brewing it since 1595 so they’ve had a lot of practice! If you like a full bodied and delicious beer, give this one a try. Choose between the 6, 8, or 10, depending upon the percentage of alcohol you prefer. I’d say give the 8 a try if you can find it. It’s my favorite!

It turns out, it’s not easy narrowing this list of my favorite summer drinks down to just 10. I hope you’ll help me out here folks by adding links to your faves in the comments section!

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Four Pantry Items Home Cooks Can’t Live Without

Four Pantry Items Home Cooks Can’t Live Without

I participate in a couple of Facebook groups for self-proclaimed home chefs. I really enjoy seeing what other home cooks are putting on the dinner table. To be honest, most of them put me to shame! One of my favorite groups is The Home Chef’s hangout. The members are very positive and encouraging. I asked them to be my research sample for this blog post and they responded with gusto.

My question to them was: What are your three go-to pantry items you cannot live without as a home cook?

As you can imagine, it was not easy for many to keep their list down to three. 50 home cooks participated. These four items were leaders by a wide margin: olive oil, garlic, pasta, and tomato products. I am beginning to confirm my suspicions that by and large, the group prefers Italian cuisine!

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It makes sense when you consider how many dishes you incorporate at least one of these components into. I start nearly every savory dish with a splash of olive oil!

Of course, any home cook knows you need more than four items at the ready when cooking. Take a look through your pantry and fridge and make sure you have at least the ones listed below. (Please excuse the mess. These were not staged, but probably should have been!)

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Dry Goods
various rices, pastas, flour, sugar, grains, oats, crackers, beans, bread crumbs

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Canned Goods
olive oil, stock, beans, tomato products, tuna, peanut butter, olives, hot sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, artichoke hearts, anchovies, roasted red peppers, various vinegars, coconut milk, evaporated milk, Sriracha, chili paste

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Seasonings
salts, black peppercorns, various dried seasonings/spices dry rubs, creole seasoning, crushed red pepper, pure vanilla

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Fresh Goods
carrots, onions, celery, peppers, jalapeños, potatoes, eggs, lemons, limes, fresh herbs, butter, plantains, avocados, cheeses, frozen peas

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Baking
baking powder, baking soda, yeast, pure vanilla, cocoa powder, brown sugar, powdered sugar, baking chips, honey, raisins

Another day I will highlight a few pantry items I think you should have to really enhance your home cooked meals! Stay tuned. And, feel free to add your three favorite must-have pantry items in the comments below!