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Archive for Beverages

TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Use Ginger Beer

Ginger beer is not alcoholic, but a stronger, spicier version of ginger ale. There are lots of cocktails made with ginger beer, the most famous of which are:

  • Dark And Stormy: ginger beer and Gosling’s Black Seal Rum (a black or dark rum).
  • Moscow Mule: ginger beer, lime juice, vodka (trivia lovers, it was the first vodka cocktail created in America, and is also called a Vodka Buck).
  • Other Mule Drinks: There’s quite a selection, from a Kentucky Mule with Bourbon to Swedish Mule with Aquavit (the different types of mule drinks).
  • Black and Tan Mocktail: a mix of ginger ale and ginger beer (after the Black and Tan beer cocktail, made from a blend of a pale ale or lager with a dark beer).
  • Ginger Beer Mojito: a mocktail or cocktail of ginger beer, fresh lime juice, fresh mint leaves and—for the cocktail—white rum (recipe).
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    We far prefer the heft and sizzle of ginger beer to the more pallid ginger ale.

    You can buy ginger beer in grocery stores, or you can easily make your own. Here’s a shortcut recipe from Chef Jamie Oliver, no fermenting required.

       

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    The Dark and Stormy is named for the “storm cloud” effect created by pouring dark rum into ginger beer. Photo courtesy MarcusSamuelsson.com.

     

    Ginger beer goes well with all spicy or highly-seasoned foods, as well as foods with sweet glazes and sauces, like barbecue or glazed ham. Find recipes below.

    WHY A MULE?

    Mule and buck are old names for mixed drinks made with ginger ale or ginger beer, plus citrus juice. They can be made with any base liquor.

    Some experts claim that a Buck is made with ginger ale, while a Mule uses the spicier ginger beer.

    Why buck? Why mule? That answer is lost to history, but here’s a detailed discussion.

    A bit of cocktail history: The Moscow Mule was invented in 1941 by John C. Hublein, importer of the than-not-well-known-or-popular Smirnof vodka. Here’s the history

    A Dark ‘n’ Stormy is traditionally made with Gosling’s Black Seal rum. Ginger beer was brought to the Caribbean by the English colonists, and full-bodied dark rum was first made by the Gosling family in 1860. It wasn’t a big jump to combine the two (one historian notes that Bermuda is only 20 square miles).

     

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    Avoid refined sugar and save calories with Gosling’s Stormy Diet Ginger Beer. It’s sweetened with sucralose and acesulfame potassium. (Stormy is the name of the seal mascot. the ginger beer is also available in the conventional sugar-sweetened form). Photo courtesy Gosling’s.

     

    GINGER BEER VS. GINGER ALE: THE DIFFERENCE

    The main differences between today’s ginger beer and ginger ale are the sweetness and spiciness. Ginger beer is less sweet than ginger ale and has a sizzling ginger kick. The spicier ginger beer provides a bite to cocktails, while the lighter ginger ale provides more sweetness and effervescence.

    Historically, both were fermented. Today only ginger beer is fermented, a reason for the higher price. Here’s more about fermented soft drinks.

    According to an enlightening article by Bill Norris, mass-produced ginger-based soft drinks began to appear in the U.S. by the mid-1800s. Back then, the ginger flavoring extract was aged in oak barrels for four years before use!

    Ginger ale was the most popular soft drink in the U.S. until the 1930s (Coca-Cola first was bottled for distribution in 1899 more).

    These early ginger ales were closer to what we now call ginger beer, described as “powerfully spicy.”

    Canada Dry ginger ale was introduced in 1907; the “dry” style prevails today. It gained favor around the time of Prohibition (1920-1933). Dry ginger ale has a more mellow ginger flavor and is easier drinking—what most Americans seek in a soft drink.

     
     
    COOKING WITH GINGER BEER

    Create a spicy, lightly sweet sauce for meat and poultry with a base of ginger beer. Try:

  • Corned Beef In Ginger Beer (recipe)
  • Ginger Beer And Tangerine Glazed Ham (recipe)
  • Grilled Chicken In Ginger Beer Sauce (recipe)
  • Pork Tenderloin With Pears & Ginger Beer Sauce (recipe)
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    TRENDS: Fall Beverages

    Are you anticipating a special beverage with the change of season…say, a certain latte?

    The Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL, to fans) has arrived at coffee shops, engendering peals of delight among a gaggle of young ladies in our neighborhood.

    But how do adults feel about fall beverages?

    Seasonal coffees are the most anticipated beverage for them, too, according to a KRC Pulse Poll.

    The results—in the photo—are from a nationwide survey conducted online by KRC Research in August 2015, among 507 American adults ages 18 and older.

    Our vote: fall’s seasonal beers!

     

    seasonal-beverage-preferences

    What’s your preference? Image courtesy KRC Research.

     

      

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    RECIPE: Blueberry Smoothie With Almond Milk

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    A smoothie with our favorite fruits plus almond milk. Photo courtesy Chef Ingrid Hoffmann.

     

    Having just published an article on why we love almond milk, we hasten to follow it up with an easy recipe.

    Your nutritionist would approve of this smoothie, from Chef Ingrid Hoffmann. She adds flaxseed meal for extra nutrition and enjoys it for breakfast. We enjoyed ours for mid-morning and mid- afternoon snacks.

    If you don’t have all the ingredients, just use what you have in proportion. Powdered ginger isn’t celestial like fresh ginger, but it will do.

    RECIPE: BLUEBERRY BANANA MANGO SMOOTHIE

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 1 banana, quartered and frozen
  • ½ cup frozen mango cubes
  • ½ cup blueberries, plus more for garnish
  • 1 cup nonfat plain kefir (drinkable yogurt)
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 one-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
  • 2 fresh mint sprigs for garnish
  • Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients except the mint in a blender and purée until smooth. Pour immediately into chilled tall glasses.

    2. GARNISH with a few berries and mint sprigs before serving.
     
     
    Find more delicious recipes at IngridHoffmann.com.
     
      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Folgers Iced Café For Homemade Lattes

    We love iced coffee, but have some challenges:

  • We never have enough room in the fridge to make and store a pitcher of it.
  • We can drink several a day, so buying it can run into money—plus a lot of plastic into the landfill.
  • Not every iced coffee we’ve bought has lived up to our taste standards.
  • Finally, with a lactose-free milk requirement, we have to drink our purchased coffee black.
     
    [Sidebar rant: Even Starbucks, which claims to be so customer-focused, offers only sweetened vanilla soy milk for those who can’t have cow’s milk, lactose, whey, are vegan, can’t digest soy, etc.

    Plain soy or almond milk would be acceptable to most people who can’t have cow’s milk. But if you don’t like sugar in your coffee, can’t have sugar, etc., well, as our dad would say, you’re SOL at Starbucks (and many other food service venues).

    Starbucks management: If you’re reading this, take a look at the moronic letter your customer service staff sends to people who suggest an unsweetened milk alternative.]

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    Iced Coffee Mason Jar

    For a refreshing iced latte, just squeeze two drops of concentrate into your favorite type of milk. Photo courtesy Folgers.

     
    FOLGERS HAS SOLVED OUR PROBLEMS!

    Now, all we need to make a truly delicious iced latte—in less than a minute—is our milk of choice and a bottle of the new Folgers Iced Café Coffee Drink Concentrate. The bottle is so small, it fits into a shirt pocket.

    Just fill a glass with milk (and ice, as desired), add two squeezes of coffee concentrate and stir.

    Make it with 2% milk and you have a drink that tastes like a milkshake without the ice cream: so creamy, it’s hard to believe this is a low-calorie drink. The drinks are called lattes, but if you’re used to a skim latte, as we are, the taste with 2% or almond milk approaches a milkshake.
     
    Folgers Iced Café Coffee Drink Concentrates debuted in four equally scrumptious flavors:

  • Original Latte Coffee
  • Caramel Macchiato
  • Hazelnut Latte
  • Vanilla Latte
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    We used the Folgers Vanilla Latte flavor plus almond milk for an instant latte treat. Photo courtesy Munchery.

     

    The two drops of concentrate (per eight ounces of milk) add just 10 calories to the milk calories. The suggested retail price for a squeeze bottle with 12 portions is $4.99.

    The flavors are very lightly sweetened with Sucralose. It was so light that we, who normally don’t add sugar to coffee, really enjoyed it. Along with the creaminess of the milk, it heightens the “milkshake factor.”

    You can glamorize your latte, of course, adding whipped cream, chocolate syrup, ice cream or whatever. But the drinks are just perfect as is.

    You can find Folgers Iced Café at retailers nationwide (store locator) and can buy it online.

    We’re adding this “instant latte” solution to our list of delicious stocking stuffers.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Fresh Lemonade

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    It’s easy add a hit of extra flavor to lemon-
    ade, from lavender to jalapeño. Photo
    courtesy The Great Pepper Cookbook by
    Melissa’s Produce.

     

    August 20th is National Lemonade Day. If the only lemonade you drink comes from a bottle, you’ve never experienced real lemonade.

    Bottled drinks are not only pasteurized, but typically use reconstituted lemon juice. If you’ve ever tasted bottled lemon juice, you know that the flavor is simply not bright and lemony like fresh-squeezed lemon juice.

    Lemonade “made from concentrate” and sold in cartons like orange juice is the far better choice (as are cans of frozen lemonade concentrate).

    But the best choice of all is to squeeze fresh lemons. It takes just five minutes to make a single glass, and you can adjust the sweetening to your own taste.

    Leave a pitcher of lemonade unsweetened to accommodate every family member or guest. For a party, set up a bar where guests can add their own sweeteners—agave*, honey, noncaloric, superfine sugar or simple syrup. You can buy or easily make the latter two, which, unlike granulated sugar, dissolve easily in cold drinks.

    For adults bottles of gin, tequila or vodka expand the options.

     

    You can also use this recipe to make fresh limeade. We have more lemonade (or limeade) tips below.

    LEMONADE RECIPE

    You don’t want ice cubes to dilute your lemonade. Ideally, freeze lemonade or a complementary fruit juice (we especially like blueberry and watermelon) in ice cube trays so regular ice cubes won’t dilute the flavor. And keep the lemonade as chilled as possible to use fewer cubes.

    Ingredients For 15 Glasses

  • 1.5 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice (6 large lemons)
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 1 cup of table sugar or equivalent sweetener
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: berries, cherries, lemon wheel, mint leaves, sprig of herbs, watermelon cubes
  • Optional: straws
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    Ingredients For 1 Glass Of Lemonade

  • 2 tablespoons sugar or equivalent sweetener
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • Ice
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    *Agave tends to be twice as sweet as the equivalent amount of other sweeteners, so use half as much.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the optional lemonade ice cubes a half day in advance or the night before. For the ice cubes, we save time by reconstituting frozen lemonade concentrate instead of making lemonade from scratch. When ready to make the lemonade…

    2. ROLL room temperature lemons on the counter top before squeezing. This maximizes the juice output.

    3. PREPARE the superfine sugar if you’re using granulated sugar. If you don’t have a box of superfine sugar, simply pulse regular table sugar to a superfine consistency in a food processor. The time you spend to do this is more than offset by the time it will take to get table sugar to dissolve. Another technique for dissolving table sugar is to boil the water several hours in advance, stir in the sugar to dissolve, and chill.

    4. COMBINE the water, lemon juice and three-quarters of the sweetener in a pitcher; mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust the sweetness bit by bit. Your goal is to keep the fresh lemon flavor first and foremost, and not make sugar the first thing you taste. It’s better to under-sweeten than over-sweeten: People can always add more sweetener to suit their individual tastes.

     

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    It’s easy to add a nuance of flavor to lemonade. Our favorites are ginger, lavender and lemongrass. Photo © Edith Frincu | Dreamstime.

     

    5. ADD ice to the glasses, fill with lemonade and garnish. Ideally, chill the lemonade prior to serving so it will be cold and require less ice.

    6. ADD the garnish: Slice extra lemons or contrasting limes into wheels, and cut notches so they sit on rim of glasses. You can also notch watermelon cubes or strawberries, place blueberries or raspberries on a cocktail pick, add a sprig of lavender or rosemary, etc.
     
    TO MAKE ONE GLASS AT A TIME

    1. COMBINE the sugar and hot water in a 16-ounce glass (we use a Pilsner glass) and stir until the sugar dissolves.

    2. ADD the the lemon juice and cold water. Fill the glass to the top with ice and serve.
     

    LEMONADE RECIPE TIPS

  • For a zero-calorie drink, use non-caloric sweetener.
  • For a low-glycemic drink, use agave nectar.
  • Varying the garnishes makes the recipe “new” each time.
  • A shot of gin, tequila or vodka turns lemonade into a splendid cocktail. Use citrus-flavored versions if you have them.
  • Infuse a second flavor by adding it to the pitcher of lemonade or infusing it in the simple syrup: fruit juice (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry), lychees, sliced chiles or ginger, organic lavender, etc.
  • If you don’t want to squeeze lemons every time you feel like lemonade, you can do a “bulk squeeze” and freeze the lemon juice in ice cube trays. Or, do what our busy mom did and use frozen lemonade concentrate.
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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Blossom Water

    For two years we’ve had our eye on Blossom Water, an innovative beverage in a crowded field that has not yet gotten the distribution we think it deserves. We keep checking the store locator, hoping for something near us.

    We drink it at the trade show where we first discovered it; and we do buy it online. A 4-bottle package that’s $12.00 has a shipping cost of $4.95.

    And we think it’s worth it. But we want to drink so much Blossom Water, that the shipping charges quickly add up. (Blossom Water folks: Can you put the product on Amazon so we can at least use Amazon Prime?)

    Perhaps by publishing a rave review, some retailers will take notice. So here it is:

    WHY DO WE LOVE BLOSSOM WATER?

    The flavors are perfectly blended:

  • Grapefruit Lilac
  • Lemon Rose
  • Plum Jasmine
  • Pomegranate Geranium
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    Lemon Rose Blossom Water. Photo courtesy Blossom Water.

     
    We have particular favorites, but every palate is different so please try them all.

    The flavors taste exactly as they sound: like a delicious sip of nature. We love each flavor as is, so we haven’t considered adding gin, which itself is made with botanicals that would complement those in Blossom Water.

    We’ll get around to it; but for 45 calories for an entire bottle of heaven, we’re not in a rush to add more calories.

     

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    Grapefruit Lilac Blossom Water. Photo courtesy Blossom Water.

     

    The delicately nuanced flavors are refreshing for every day drinking and for special occasions, including lawn parties, showers and weddings, holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

    The beautifully-designed bottles are also ready to serve as party favors.

    OK, men: You think it’s a chick product. But it’s a beverage for anyone whose palate seeks exciting new flavors.

    The only solution: Taste it for yourself.

    Discover more at DrinkBlossomWater.com, and ask your specialty store manager or supermarket beverage manager to bring some in. They, too, will never know until they try.

     

      

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    PRODUCT: Watermelon “Keg” Tap With Watermelon Agua Fresca

    A melon tap turns any large, seedless watermelon into an punch bowl, ideal for filling with watermelon-based beverages. Simply hollow out the melon, insert the tap and fill it with your beverage of choice. In addition to a refreshing drink, you give guests the fun of dispensing their drinks from a watermelon. (In the fall, you can do the same with a pumpkin.)

    For starters, fill your watermelon “punch bowl” with watermelon agua fresca. It’s a memorable finale to the summer.

    Agua fresca is Spanish for “fresh water.” In culinary terms, it refers to sweetened, fruit-flavored water. Like lemonade, it is noncarbonated and nonalcoholic.

    But you can keep a bottle of spirits next to the melon dispenser for guests who’d like a shot or two. May we suggest watermelon vodka? You can find watermelon-flavored vodka from Smirnoff, Three Olives, Pinnacle (Cucumber Watermelon), UV (Salty Watermelon) and others.

    The tap in the photo is the PROfreshionals Melon Tap, $9.99. It includes “feet” that insert into the bottom of the melon to keep it stable. Another variation, from Final Touch, is designed to look like a beer tap handle. It’s $19.99.

     

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    Turn a watermelon into a punch bowl. Photo of PROfessionals Melon Tap courtesy GoodCook.com.

     
    This agua fresca recipe was created by Cheeky Kitchen for Good Cook. Of course, you can also serve the drink from a standard pitcher.

    RECIPE: WATERMELON AGUA FRESCA

    Ingredients For 8-12 Drinks

  • 6 pounds seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons agave or honey
  • Fresh mint for garnish
  • Optional: gin, tequila, vodka
  • Ice
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    Preparation

    1. SLICE and discard a 2” piece from the top of a large, seedless watermelon. Carve out the red melon flesh from the inside of the watermelon and cut into large cubes (they can be as free-form as you like, as they’ll soon be puréed). Place in a large bowl and set aside.

    2. PREPARE the melon for serving by ensuring it can stand upright. Slice a small portion from the bottom of the melon to make it more stable. Place the tap about 3 inches from the bottom of the melon and push it through the rind to the inside. Set aside.

    3. PURÉE the watermelon flesh and all other ingredients in a blender in small batches, as needed. Pour the beverage into the prepared watermelon. Press the melon tap to dispense the drink into large glasses filled with ice.
     
    MORE AGUA FRESCA RECIPES

  • Agua Fresca recipes: horchata (creamy almond), lychee, mango and pineapple
  • Apple-Cucumber-Lime Agua Fresca Recipe
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    RECIPE: Salted Watermelon Milkshake

    For National Watermelon Day, August 3rd, try a salted watermelon milkshake.

    Salt with watermelon? Actually, as a pinch of salt helps most foods, it’s an old trick to bring out more flavor (here, sweetness) in the watermelon.

    This recipe is courtesy of The Milk Shake Factory in Pittsburgh. It requires watermelon sorbet; but if you can’t find it or don’t want to make it (here’s a watermelon sherbet recipe), substitute strawberry or raspberry sorbet.

    Or, make an easy watermelon granita with this watermelon granita recipe, minus the basil. No ice cream maker is used; just watermelon, sugar, water, lemon juice and an ice cube tray.

    Prep time for the milkshake is 10 minutes.

    RECIPE: SALTED WATERMELON MILKSHAKE

    Ingredients For 1 Large Or 2 Small Servings

  • 8 ounces watermelon sherbet
  • 4 ounces whole milk
  • Two 2-inch cubes seedless watermelon, rind removed
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 4 ounces soda water
  • Optional garnish: mini chocolate chips
  • Optional garnish: watermelon wedge
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    Salted watermelon milkshake. Photo courtesy The Milk Shake Factory | Pittsburgh.

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the watermelon sherbet, milk, watermelon slices and a pinch of sea salt in a blender. Blend until the sherbet and watermelon slices break down, approximately 45 seconds. Add the soda water and blend 10 seconds more.

    2. POUR the mixture into a 20-ounce drinking glass or two 10-ounce glasses. Garnish with mini chocolate chips and skewer the watermelon wedge, or notch it deeply and anchor it to the rim of the glass. Serve immediately.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Soda, Sangria Style

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    A “sangria soda” of Sprite and peaches. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     

    We were inspired by this photo from fine produce purveyor Melissa’s to make “sangria soda.” Instead of being wine-based, toss the fruit (as many varieties as you like) into a soft drink.

    We made ours with Diet Sprite and juicy Georgia peaches. Adding fresh fruit works best with ginger ale, lemon-lime and regular or flavored club sodas, which have more delicate flavors than fruit-flavored sodas, cola and root beer. The idea is to let a bit of fruit flavor infuse into the drink, as well as to have some fresh fruit with your pop.

    NAMES FOR SODA IN THE U.S.

    English scientist Joseph Priestley discovered the process of infusing water with carbonation in 1767. He served it to his friends as a refreshing drink.

    In 1783 J. J. Schweppe of Geneva developed a process to manufacture carbonated mineral water, based on the Priestley’s process discovered by Priestley. He founded the Schweppes Company, and carbonated water became available commercially

     

    It was a short step to flavoring the carbonated water, a drink enjoyed just about everywhere in the world.

    Names for soft drinks in the United States vary regionally. “Soda” and “pop” are the most common terms, although others are used. According to Wikipedia, “coke,” a genericized name for Coca-Cola, is used in the South to refer to soft drinks in general. In New England, it’s “tonic.”

    The word “soda” derives from the word sodium, a common mineral in natural springs. It has long referred to a household chemical: sodium carbonate, washing soda or soda ash.

    According to writer Andrew Schloss, “soda” was first used to describe carbonation in 1802. Here are dates that Schloss gives for the debut of the different terms:
     
    Different Names For Soda
    1798 Soda water
    1809 Ginger pop
    1812 Pop
    1863 Soda pop
    1880 Soft drink
    1909 Coke
    1920 Cola
    1939 Bubble tonic
    1951 Fizz water, fizzy water or fizz-wa

    Here’s more about which parts of the U.S. use which terms for their soft drinks.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Blueberry Mango Chile Smoothie

    July is National Blueberry Month and today is Smoothie Saturday. The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council recommends with this great-looking Blueberry Mango Chile Smoothie, a layered smoothie.

    RECIPE: BLUEBERRY MANGO CHILE SMOOTHIE

    Ingredients For 2 Smoothies

  • 2 cups blueberry compote (recipe below)
  • 12 ounces (1-1/2 cups) low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt, divided
  • 1 large mango, peeled, pitted, chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
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    Ingredients For The Blueberry Compote

  • 16 ounces frozen (unthawed) blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the blueberry compote, cover and chill.

       

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    Have you seen a more vivid smoothie? Photo courtesy BlueberryCouncil.org.

     

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    Blueberry compote, made with frozen blueberries. Photo courtesy BlueberryCouncil.org.

     

    2. PLACE 6 ounces of the yogurt, the mango, chili powder and cayenne in a blender; blend until smooth. Divide the mango mixture between two 16-ounce cups; set aside.

    3. RINSE the blender and place the Blueberry Compote and remaining yogurt in the blender; blend until smooth. Check the consistency and dilute with water or milk if needed.

    4. SLOWLY POUR half of the blueberry mixture on top of each of the mango smoothies for a two-layer effect.
     
    Preparation: Blueberry Compote

    1. TOSS the blueberries with the sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring; reduce the heat to low and simmer until the blueberries are heated through and the sauce is slightly thickened.

    2. TASTE and add more sugar if needed. Allow to cool, cover and chill.

     

      

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