Tag Archives: Summer

4 Ways to Beat the Heat

It’s been bloody hot the past few weeks. There were a few days when things cooled down a bit and I felt I could catch my breath, but otherwise I’ve been “perspie” as my Grammy Thompson used to say.  “Perspie” was her delicate way of saying perspire. Since we don’t have air conditioning I’ve come up with four great ways to beat the heat.

"swimming hole"

My favorite swimming hole

1. Clean your basement. Seriously, the basement is always cooler than upstairs. I’m not talking heavy lifting, just some rearranging, a few loads of laundry. You’ll cool down and be happier. Heck, just tell everyone you’re going down to clean the basement and instead grab a folding chair and a good book and read for a while.

2. Find a Swimming Hole. This tip is for folks in the country. There are several near and far from me (unfortunately nothing within walking distance). What you’re looking for is something on the icy side so you can bring your core temperature down. Don’t forget to put an extra towel on your car seat so you don’t fry your bottom when you leave.

3. Turn on the Brooklyn AC. When I lived in Brooklyn there were no swimming holes, and we couldn’t afford the electricity an AC unit sucked down so we made our own AC. First set up a chair with a towel on it. Beach or bath it doesn’t matter. Second position an oscillating fan in front of your chair. Third grab all the bandanas you own and soak them in cold water, wring out most but not all of the water. Fourth strip naked. Then sit on the chair, place the damp bandanas all over your body and turn the fan on high.  It will feel like you have AC. Re-wet the bandanas as they dry.

4. Make a pitcher of ice tea. I covered the basic concept for ice tea here. My friend Hilary Zaloom made this divine ice tea for our monthly knitting group when we were crazy enough to meet during a similar heat wave last summer. We ended up at Hilary’s house because she has AC (and not the Brooklyn kind) and she also makes the most delicious drinks. Needless to say between the beverages and the AC we were all happy to sit there for several hours chatting with a bunch of wool in our laps.

"Hilary's Ice Tea"

Hilary’s Herbal Ice Tea with Honey Water

Hilary’s Herbal Ice Tea

The genius of this ice tea isn’t just in the flavor combination, but in the sweetener. Instead of using a simple syrup (one part water to one part sugar) Hilary adds honey and some warm water to a squirt bottle. Once shaken to combine the honey water can be squirted into any cool beverage as a sweetener without clumping as it is want to do in cold drinks. Brilliant!

Red Zinger or Hibiscus tea

1 orange

2-4 spring mint

honey water* to taste (I make mine at a 1 part honey to 2-3 parts water)

Place teabags in a large pitcher of water and let soak 3+ hours or overnight. Remove bags and add mint sprigs.  Slice half the orange and  juice the remaining half. Add juice and slices to the tea. Sweeten to taste with honey water.

*Store honey water in the fridge if you don’t use it immediately, it will keep for a week or so.


Filed under 50 Recipes, In between

Not Sun Tea

This is one of those little tricks that I think of as so simple that I often don’t remember to pass it along. When I worked at Leaf ‘n Bean Cafe and the temperatures rose to the high 90s we sold a lot of ice tea. Literally gallons of the stuff. It wasn’t the sun tea that you often read about at this time of year. Nor did we pour boiling water over the 25 or so tea bags we used for 4 gallons of tea. We just filled up giant containers with cold water, added the teabags, and popped them into the fridge with a lid on. That was it. The next morning there was a fresh batch of ice tea ready to serve.

"fridge brewed ice tea"

The manager explained that when you use hot water (and to a lesser extent the sun) to make ice tea you release the tannins in tea, which can make tea bitter. Cold brewing means less tannins and a smoother brew. It doesn’t mean you can’t make a great glass of ice tea using hot water and then cooling it down, but when just stepping outside makes you perspire why not do things the cold way?

"fridge tea 1-2-3"

Fridge Tea, as easy as 1-2-3

It took about an hour and a half to go from clear water to the brown on the bottom right. Another couple of hours and I’ll just need a tall glass, wedge of lemon and a straw.


Filed under In between

The Holy Trinity of Fruit

It only happens once a year. In Massachusetts that usually means fourth of July weekend. Sometimes it’s a little sooner, sometimes it’s a tiny bit later. Occasionally the rain squirrels things up. Sometimes the weather is too hot or too cold. If things go well though there is a tiny window of agricultural overlap when local strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries are all available at the same time. It’s like the food planets and stars have aligned to create this once a year happening I call the Holy Trinity of Fruit weekend. Blink and you miss it. Sleep too late and everyone else will have beaten you to the farmer’s market. You have to be paying attention and be quick. If you are you will be rewarded. My bonus for waking  up with the birds (and doing the dump run) is that not only did I score the holy trinity of fruit, but I also scooped up the last two boxes of black raspberries. Delicious!!!

"holy trinity of fruit"

Holy Trinity of Fruit + 1

Post Script: After reading my post a few people have mentioned to me Roz Chast’s cartoon from the New Yorker last week–The Holy Trinity of Food. Perhaps I need one of those triptych too!


Filed under In between

Quenching the Burn

There are things I will spend money on and things I won’t and that list has changed over time. For instance  BK (before kids) my list of things I would indulge in included items like Peter Fox boots, going to Scotland for the weekend, and getting my hair colored, things that are definitely not on my current list of things I’ll spend my hard earned cash on. In fifty years I’ve come to realize that every person has one of these lists and no two people’s “will spend money on/won’t spend money on” lists are the same. My current list of things I will spend money on includes bees, books,  yarn, and glassware.

"glassware in pie cupboard"

Part of my glassware collection...

On my list of things I usually don’t splurge on is going out to eat. While I love having other people cook for me, if my family suggests that we go out to eat I often say no. I’d rather spend the same money towards many more equally delicious meals at home. My favorite local restaurant is definitely way too expensive to frequent on a regular basis and having worked in the food industry for much of my life I am acutely aware of the cost of what your are served when you dine out (both labor and ingredients). This is not to say that I think restaurants make much money from the food they serve (because they don’t for the most part) but I know if I were given the same ingredients and a little time I have all the skills to make the same dish at home, especially since I don’t charge my family for my time.

My two exceptions to this preference of not splurging on casually dining out are Indian and Chinese food. I have a few recipes from each cuisine which I love to make, but they are not things I make with any great frequency as they are time-consuming to prepare. Thinking about preparing an entire meal from those cuisines makes me want to crawl into bed and take a nap. So for those two particular cuisines eating out seems cost-effective (you might totally disagree with me–I’m just talking about my list of things I choose to spend my money on).

"mango lassis"

Mango Lassis

Of course there is always an exception with an exception. While I’ll happily go out to eat Indian food for dinner, I detest paying for Mango Lassis. It’s not that I don’t like mango lassis–I love mango lassis. I could drink four of them in one sitting. At $4 a pop. My kids could too. So could my Mom. The only one in my family who doesn’t long to swig Mango Lassis down by the gallon is my husband because he stays away from dairy. In the old days those of us mango lassi lovers used to nurse a single lassi through an Indian meal while dreaming of endless pitchers of the creamy sweet concoction.

"mango lassi ingredients"

The ingredients for mango lassis

Until I found out what exactly was in my favorite Indian restaurant drink–yogurt, pureed mango pulp and ice. That’s it. Some of the fancier Indian restaurants add a splash of rosewater, but I can live without that culinary flourish. Once I realized the trick of making them my challenge became how to track down mango puree. Initially I found a source in little India in New York City. I would go there with a backpack and $30 and stuff eleven cans into my backpack at which point I would proceed to stagger around the city until it was time to get on the train and take my treasure back to Massachusetts (the cost of shipping would have doubled what I paid for them hence my acting like a mango puree pack mule).

Fortunately the days of trekking to Little India are gone because the International Food Market in Hadley carries the main ingredient. It’s easy to load up on mango puree when I decide to cross water (the Connecticut River) on a loop to shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Target. Now I can have my own pitcher of mango lassi for less than it would cost me for two glasses in a restaurant. Life is sweet!

Mango Lassi

30 ounces Alphonso sweetened mango pulp (one can)*

16 ounces yogurt–I love Environ Acidophilus Yogurt, but any unsweetened yogurt will do

1 tray’s worth of ice cubes

This recipe makes more than will fit in my blender at one time so I do it in halves. I pour 1/2 the can of mango pulp, half the yogurt, and half the ice cubes into my blender. Push the ice crush button and cover your ears. When the ice cubes are no longer visible pour into glasses or a pitcher and repeat with the remaining ingredients.

"Mango Lassi in blender"

Ready to rip...

"russell drinking a mango lassi"

Russell enjoying a mango lassi

Note: The last few days have been the first royally brutal day of summer–94ºF and so humid I started to melt as soon as I walked out of our house. For truly hot days or truly hot dishes a mango lassi is a great way to beat the heat. When you eat something super hot you instinctively grab for a glass of water, but that will not help. If you are truly on fire from the inside-out water will not subdue the flames you have ingested–instead you need starch or dairy. So grab a bowl of rice or a mango lassi to quench the burn. A mango lassis also seems to work wonders counteracting those crazy hot days of summer though the same cannot be said of a bowl of rice.

*If I am shopping at an hour when the International Market is not open I will buy a few bags of frozen mango chunks from Trader Joe’s, then add some honey to sweeten the lassis as I puree everything in the blender. The texture will not be as creamy as with the alphonso mango pulp from a can, but it’s a respectable alternative.

"frozen mango chunks"

Trader Joe's frozen Mango Chunks


Filed under 50 Recipes