Labor Day Lavender Mint Lemonade…and Lemon Vinegar Cleaner

Labor Day is that day when we all realize that summer is pretty much over…sigh.  But in honor of our national day of rest, I cooked up a batch of my favorite lemonade…and (because my little cherubs at school are all starting to be sick) I used the lemon peels to make a citrus surface cleaner.  I love multi-tasking.  For about $3 I got a delicious pitcher of lemonade and enough spray cleaner to last me into the new year.  Wanna know how?  Let’s go!

The first step involves your herbs – you can use fresh or dried.  I had fresh lavender in the garden, but wanted to use up some of last year’s dried peppermint.  I gave my lavender a bit of a haircut.  Once the leaves were stripped from the stalk (just like with rosemary, invert and scrape) I had about a quarter cup of little lavender needles and a few flowers.  I grabbed about a cup (not packed too hard) of peppermint leaves from their jar – with dried you always want to use more to make up for the potency lost during the drying process.

Put 5 cups of water in a saucepan – if you’re using sugar, put 2.5 cups of sugar in with it and boil until the sugar dissolves.  If you’re using honey, which I do – I use about a cup and a half of honey and *never* boil honey, it destroys the lovely enzymes in it and is just not necessary.   So for honey – heat the water to almost boiling, remove from heat add the honey and stir until it dissolves.  Then (for both versions) add the herbs, stir until they’re saturated in the syrup, cover and leave covered until cooled.  As with many recipes of this nature, it may only take 30 minutes to cool to room temperature, but the longer you leave it, the stronger the syrup.  I always recommend leaving it overnight.

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Next we make the lemonade part!  You’ll need about a 2lbs of lemons (about a dozen).  Usually when it comes to citrus, you don’t really need to wash them…but because we’re using the peels – I like to give the outsides a little scrub (and take the stickers off).  Halve them and juice them.  I love any excuse to use my vintage citrus juicer!

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Strain the seeds and pulp out of the lemon juice and pour it into a pitcher.  Once the herbal concoction has cooled, strain that into the same pitcher, add 4-5 more cups of water (you might want to spot check it for strength as you go), stir and serve over ice.

If you’re feeling extra fancy, add a shot or so of gin to the mix and garnish with fresh mint. 🙂

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Pictured with my favorite gin….that I will need to figure out where to procure now that I’m not in the northeast!

Making the cleaner is the easy part – pack a mason jar (or jars) with the peels, pour vinegar into jar and let steep for two weeks.  I periodically check to make sure that the vinegar is covering the peels and to agitate it slightly.  Once you’re ready to use it – fill a spray bottle 1/4 full with the infused vinegar and the remaining 3/4 with water (or half and half if you’ve got a really dirty mess on your hands, but I find 1:3 works great).  You can also use citrus vinegar as a base for salad dressing or in cooking.  It’s useful stuff! 🙂

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Sunburn Central!

So it’s the 7th of July, and everyone in the house managed to get at least a spot of sunburn over the holiday.

I forgot the correct order of operations and put on sunscreen after I had my swimsuit already on, so there’s a funny burn band along my décolletage where it must have shifted. Summer has officially begun.

Between us, there are 3 aloe plants in the house, but it’s hard for me to commit an entire plant to this project, so I decided to make something a little broader spectrum.

Herbal Skin Cooler
6 Plantain Leaves*
2 Bags of Green Tea (organic preferred)
6 Healthy Sized Branches of Peppermint (not spearmint!) or 5-6 Bags of Peppermint Tea
4-6 Meaty Aloe Leaves

*Plantain here does not necessitate a trip to a Caribbean market, it is a common weed in your yard and looks like this:

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Do this:
* Put the kettle on!

*Gently wash the plantain leaves (more of a rinse, really) and crumple/mush them into the bottom of a quart sized mason jar.

*Cut the green tea bags (and peppermint if you’re using tea bags) and empty the tea into the jar.

*Smush the peppermint branches (stems and all) into the jar (if using branches).

*Fill the jar about halfway (should cover at least most of your plant material) with hot but not boiling water.

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*Set the jar on the counter to cool for 2 hours, shaking occasionally once it becomes cool enough to handle.

*Get the goo out of your aloe leaves. After some trial and error, I decided on slitting the leaf up the middle, cutting off about a 2-3 inch section at a time, flattening the section out, and then using the side of the jar to scrape the goo into the cooled tea. For good measure, I threw the aloe leaf husk parts into the tea as well.

*Cool/steep that in the fridge for at least an hour, shaking occasionally.

*Strain the cooler into a separate jar (or spray bottle) and then store in the fridge for up to 10 days.

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You can dab or spritz this refreshing cooler on any part of your body, but definitely hit up the sunburn spots first.

Plantain has amazing healing properties, peppermint has a cooling kick, green tea is soothing and antioxidant, and aloe does what aloe does…

I was just out watering the garden and when I came back, I spritzed it on my face, neck, and pulse points and felt instantly cooler.

Enjoy!