If you spring into action as spring sprints into summer, what you are probably doing often is entertaining. Whether it's bridal or baby showers, weddings, graduations, picnics, potlucks or tea parties, both the weather and sensational seasonal fare lend themselves to memorable outdoor or indoor summer soirees.
One economical and easy homemade gourmet touch that's usually much more cost-effective than using similar amounts of prepared store-bought goods is concocting your own custom iced or hot teas.
Making a splash doesn't involve more than adding some fresh produce, herbs or spices to either plain tea or one of the hundreds of flavors on the market. An added bonus: Most teas are full of antioxidants and among the most healthful foods on the planet.
An easy step for a sophisticated flavor base is to combine equal parts of a plain tea (like black, green or white) with a flavored herbal tea (like peppermint, citrus or apple-cinnamon) before adding fresh ingredients.
Let your imagination run wild, or you can try a few of the following ideas. Either tea bags or loose-leaf tea is fine. These can be served over ice or hot. For flavorful iced tea, use one-and-a-half times the tea bags you would for hot tea. Serve sweeteners, like honey and natural stevia, on the side.
Fun fare like this also proves food and beverage preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun — and fast. They take just 10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since there are no right or wrong amounts. These are virtually can't-go-wrong combinations, so whatever you — or your kid helpers — choose to use can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
Citrus Soother: Combine brewed white tea and lemon tea with finely diced lemongrass, shaved fresh ginger and fresh tangerine juice.
Happily Singing the Blues: Combine brewed green tea and blueberry tea with blueberry pancake syrup into which you've fully mashed fresh blueberries and finely chopped basil.
Pep Squad in a Pitcher: Combine brewed black tea and peppermint tea with finely minced fresh mint, and pomegranate juice or cherry juice.
Apple Elixir: Combine green tea and apple-cinnamon tea with apple cider, allspice and almond extract (usually available in supermarket spice aisles where vanilla extract is sold).
Sum of Its Parts Summer "Sangria": Combine brewed hibiscus tea with chunks of strawberries, plums, nectarines, peaches, pineapples and finely chopped rosemary.
RASPBERRY-PEACH ICED TEA SMOOTHIES
1 cup frozen whole raspberries without syrup (about 4 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar-free peach iced tea mix
1 (6-ounce) container Yoplait Original 99 % Fat Free white-chocolate raspberry yogurt (or similar flavor, such as raspberry, cherry or strawberry)
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen sliced peaches without syrup, 2 slices reserved and thawed
Yields 4 servings.
In blender container, cover and blend raspberries, milk, tea mix and yogurt on high speed until smooth.
Add half of the peach slices; cover and blend on high speed until smooth. Add remaining peaches; cover and blend until smooth. Pour into glasses.
Cut reserved thawed peach slices in half crosswise. Garnish glasses with peach pieces.
Variation: Sprinkle smoothie with granola for a breakfast or dessert treat.
Photo courtesy of Pillsbury.com.
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." She also writes the Creators News Service "Cooks' Books" column. To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.