Recent health studies have noted (with a sigh of relief from us all) that drinking eight full glasses of water a day is not a true requirement for good health as long as you consume that much liquid through other foods and beverages. Still, during the summer season, we all need a greater intake of liquids to keep our bodies hydrated and to avoid overheating our internal systems. When hot-weather thirst kicks in, though, it's tempting to grab the closest cold drink in sight, regardless of the nutritional value, sugar-content or healthiness of the beverage. Hence, we drink gallons of sodas, ice teas, etc., over the three to five months of early-to-late summer. Sodas (even diet ones) are especially bad for us. Like iceberg lettuce, they offer no nutritional value at all but, moreover, most sodas contain high levels of sugar and additives.
This week's Epicure is dedicated to some refreshingly healthy drinks or what I lovingly call summer "coolers." They are easy to blend at the moment or make ahead and freeze for serving later; ingredients can be easily adjusted for one or a dozen imbibers. Think: icy-cold-all-the-way-down-the-throat-to-the-tummy liquid refreshment! No time to create a "cooler"? Add lemon, lime or cucumber slices to a tall glass of ice water. Whatever you do, drink often and stay cool.
Low-fat Watermelon & Mint Cooler (6 servings)
6 cups seeded watermelon, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1 cup boiling water
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup skim milk
Watermelon balls on skewers, or watermelon wedges, tips dipped in finely minced mint (for garnish)
1. Prepare watermelon and spread on cookie sheet. Place in freezer till frozen, 1-2 hours. Meanwhile, place mint leaves in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Cover and let steep 10 minutes. Drain mint leaves and place reserved liquid in refrigerator to chill. Discard leaves.
2. Place frozen watermelon cubes in blender with cool mint liquid, cinnamon and milk. Blend on highest speed till smooth, about 15 seconds. Serve in tall glasses garnished with skewered watermelon balls or wedges.
Raspberry Refueler (2 servings)
1 cup diced mango
1 cup orange-flavored sports drink
1 frozen banana, sliced
1/2 cup frozen unsweetened raspberries
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Coconut Mango Lassi (2 servings)
2 large ripe mangoes
2 cups non-fat plain yogurt
2 packages Splenda sweetener
3 drops coconut flavoring extract
Peel mangoes and puree/blend in blender with the yogurt until smooth. Add extract and blend again. Serve ice cold.
Lemon-Lime Ginger Ale Cooler (1 serving)
1 handful grapes
1 apple, cored and sliced
1/2-inch fresh ginger (or less)
Sparkling mineral water
1. Remove the grapes from the stem. Juice the apple and ginger together, then juice the rest of the fruit.
2. Pour the juice in a large glass and fill to the top with sparkling water; serve with ice.
Strawberry Lemonade Slush (makes 3 quarts)
2 containers (16 oz) fresh strawberries, sliced
1-1/2 cup sugar
2 cups water
1-1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
4 cups ice cubes
1. Stir together sliced strawberries and sugar; let stand 30 minutes.
2. Process half of strawberry mixture, 1 cup water, 3/4 cup lemon juice, and 2 cups ice in a blender until smooth. Repeat procedure with remaining ingredients. Serve at once.
Summer Fruit Cooler (1 serving)
6 ice cubes
1/2 cup cubed cantaloupe
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/3 cup sliced banana
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 Tbsp honey
3/4 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp grated lemon peel
Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.
Sunshine Cooler (1 serving)
3 oz pineapple juice
3 oz orange juice
1/2 oz superfine sugar
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz grenadine
2 oz lemon-lime soda
Combine in a tall glass, stir; serve with ice.
Jacqui lives in San Ramon with her pug, Nina Simone, and volumes of cookbooks and recipes. Her column runs every other week. E-mail her at email@example.com.