Zero-Calorie Lemonade

People  often ask me what’s the one thing I miss from the past that I can’t/don’t eat today. As time has gone on, this questions has become much more difficult to answer. I’ve adapted to my new life so much that I really don’t remember at this point what I once did eat and what I once enjoyed. I find more so that I tend to miss the idea of things rather than certain things themselves. I miss the idea of being able to get filled up off the bread basket at dinner, even though I usually regretted it those times I did. I miss the idea of going to a ballpark and being able to order something to snack on while watching the game (even though I wouldn’t touch most ballpark food items “with a ten-foot pole,” as my mom would say). I miss the idea of being able to share in a pitcher of beer while watching the game at a local sports bar, or being able to share a pizza at a pizza shop with friends. It’s not that I miss the pizza or the beer itself, but more that I like being part of the group. Sometimes, having a different diet can make you feel like an outsider looking in.

I felt this way recently when my parents threw a party for my brother, who recently returned home from his tour of duty in Iraq. We had his welcome-home party outdoors on a hot summer day, and I watched with envy as others quenched their thirst with the large pitcher of lemonade that looked so refreshing. I was tempted to risk whatever illness I might have to endure (and illness is almost inevitable when I start adding sugar back into my diet) just to partake. Lemonade on a hot summer day. Is there anything more refreshing? Yes, I definitely missed the idea of that.

Luckily, I figured out that it’s not too hard to replicate this one. If you can put up with the juicing, which is really the only semi time-consuming aspect of this recipe, the rest is a simple as stirring and adding ice, pretty much.

And O.K., maybe I miss tuna melts. Just a little bit.

Zero-Calorie Lemonade:

1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 6-7 lemons worth)

1 tablespoon lemon pulp, plus more if desired

8 cups water

5 handfuls of ice

1 1/2 -2 droppers Nunaturals liquid stevia*

lemon slices

Directions:

In a large pitcher, stir everything together and adjust stevia and/or pulp to taste. For variations, add strawberry slices or minced fresh mint leaves. Replace water with fresh brewed unsweetened iced tea for a healthy twist on the Arnold Palmer.

* Add less first, then adjust to taste

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Sparkling Pomagranate Sodas

Hi all. I’m guilt ridden because I’ve been neglecting all of your wonderful comments, which I solicited in my last post (shame on me!) The thing is, I read each and every one of them, and am always so grateful for your kind words and stories. It’s just that my husband’s good friend was in town over the weekend, and right after playing host for him, we were getting ready to take a 10 hour roadtrip back to Michigan for the holidays. We just touched down and 15 minutes later, I’m cutting out some time for a quick post. So, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for all the holiday memories, and for keeping me entertained with your stories and inspired with your holiday favorites over the weekend. Finally, congrats to our winner — and commenter #13 — Ashley on winning the ice cream machine. As I said before, I wish I could give one away to everyone. But alas, I do not have the means.

Here is a quick holiday-inspired recipe for a guiltless yet festive virgin cocktail. Truth is, I sip on these year round when I’m tired of water (which is rarely, because I fear I may have a water addiction). During the holidays, my logic is that the less I fill up on calorie-laden drinks, the more I can justify eating.

Pomagranate Sodas:

Per one serving

1 1/4 cup seltzer water

2 teaspoons 100% pomagranate juice (such as POM)

4 drops liquid vanilla stevia

Directions:

Pour ingredients over 3-4 ice cubes and gently stir. Serve.

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Cucumber Margaritas

I’ve been making an effort, over the last few years, to limit the amount of medicine I put into my body. It seems that with every doctor’s appointment, there’s a new presciption to be filled, a new ailment to treat. So when my muscle spasm medication ran out last month, I decided not to fill it. Instead, I would treat my chronic neck and back problems naturally. I’ve been stretching every day, doing yoga, breaking out the heating pad, even splurging on the occassional chair massage. But I was in especially a lot of pain last week. Instead of caving and seeking out some more meds, I stayed true to my determination to do things naturally. The last tool in my all-“natural” arsenal? You guessed it: tequila.

So, I really have no idea if tequila helps with muscle spasms. But I do know that stress is partially responsible for muscle spasms, and that most doctors and even online message boards will tell you that relaxation is key to treating these types of problems with your back. And I know that if I’m looking to relax a little bit, tequila can’t hurt, right? With the additional anti-inflamatory properties of cucumber, I think I’m well on my way here to the answer to all of my problems…(ok, I know that calling a cocktail “the answer to all of my problems” here is a little problematic. That part was a bit tongue-in-cheek. And, truth be told, I’m not sure it helped all that much, but it sure tasted yummy!)

Anyways, the hubs and I enjoyed a Friday night in watching some playoff baseball and sipping on margaritas (can we tell who’s the big Giants fan in the house? I only hopped on the bandwagon because my Tigers aren’t in it this year). I love cucumber in drinks, whether it’s cucumber water, my morning juice, or even a margarita. For this drink, I tried to make a margarita without Triple Sec, which is a very sugary alcohol (and truthfully, just another thing that would be sitting in my freezer forever. It would take a lot of margaritas to go through a whole bottle of Triple Sec). The margarita flavor is still there, with the cooling, refreshing addition of cucumber to balance out the sweet and sour flavors in the drink. This is a great drink to make for a crowd. Make sure you use a good, 100% agave tequila.

Cucumber Margaritas:

Makes: 1 margarita (you can make up to 4 servings in a large blender)

1/3 cup good tequila

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons agave nectar

7 1/4″ slices cucumber, peeled

1 large handful ice

Directions:

Blend all ingredients in a blender and serve immediately.

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Green Lemonade

Not to be all “I’m so busy and important this summer,” but….I am pretty darn busy these days. So if the frequency of my posts seems spotty at best, I assure you that it’s only temporary. Come September I’ll be an unemployed recent law grad with not a care in the world (other than finding a job…which may provide me with just a tad bit of anxiety). But now — a week away from the wedding — I’m a little busy. I would say no one tells you how much work planning a wedding is, but I have to admit, I’d been warned. Somewhere along the way, at least someone suggested I elope (words of experience). And when I visited my future sister-in-law and her husband before their wedding last May, I could help but think, as they frantically — and sleeplessly — worked to finish up the final details, that I should try to do things differently. Somehow, I thought I would be an exception to the rule. I was completely and utterly wrong. No matter how hard you try, wanting to have all of your family and friends there to celebrate one of the pivotal moments of your life is just one of those things that takes work. There is no avoiding it. Though I’m sure it will all be worth it in the end.

In all honesty, this whole process would have been a lot more Hellish had my mom not been so helpful early on (and now). From booking the venue, the band, the church to going to my tasting when I was stuck out in New York to designing, folding and sending out all my invitations, she has been a saint. But the last minute stress of working out seating arrangements, writing the program, figuring out the final head count and many other details along the way has taken a toll — one that rivals studying for the bar exam — on my ability to do much else.

I’m determined to stay healthy, however, in spite of all my stress (which really isn’t all that bad, really. There are much worse things I could be doing/worrying about). In fact, I’m determined to reverse my pre-bar trend of a pot of coffee a day and frozen (albeit vegan, gluten free and organic) dinners as late night snacks. I know there are millions of versions of green lemonade out there. Truthfully, mine probably isn’t all that different from others I’ve seen. But I thought it was worth sharing as a reminder of the refreshing, super-healthy variations and possibilities for all the beautiful summer vegetables available right now — a juice that will keep you going during those busy times. Or, as I like to say, a juice to give you some juice (ok, that was corny…it’s late and I’m tired). Plus, I couldn’t wait to share my first creation from the juicer that I’d rescued from my parents’ basement, where it had been collecting dust for way too long.

Green Lemonade:

Press through a juicer: 3 stalks kale, 1/2 of a lemon (washed; I left the peel on), 1/2 of a sweet, crisp apple (I used pink lady), 1/2 of a crisp cucumber, 1-2 stalks celery

You can add more of any of the above ingredients to your taste. I also like to add parsley or ginger as a variation. A green apple is also nice, but I would omit the lemon so your final product is not too sour.

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