July 23, 2008

Herbal cooler

My friend Lorraine lives about an hour north of the city where I live so we don't get to see each other often enough. We met in design school and have been friends ever since. We have a lot in common, but some of our hobbies are quite disparate. For example, she's become a jock and I've become a blogger. In her spare time she trains for half marathons and triathlons and even organizes sporting events and competitions, and I tap at a keyboard. My idea of exercise is walking an hour a day. She's a wonderful artist and an fabulous cook and we both share an interest in vegan food. And resale shops. Our favorite thing to do together is to go shopping at second hand stores. We can shop and gab for hours, getting caught up on each others lives, finding unusual bargains and spending very little money! There's a great St. Vinnies (St. Vincent dePaul Society Resale Shop) about halfway between our houses where we like to meet on a Saturday, and while away the afternoon trying on funky clothes and seeking out glass jars for the pantry, and frames for artwork.

But last Sunday, after her 50-mile bike ride, Lorraine came to my house and I took her to the most amazing resale shop I've ever seen— The Pink Poodle. Ooh laa laa. It's mostly out of our price range (except for the stuff on sale) but everything is fantastic, including the ultra-funky decor. It's a visual feast that's hard to describe, filled with leopard print rugs (fake of course) and outrageous furniture. There are a dizzying number of rooms to explore, each stuffed with glorious fashions, jewelry, furniture and housewares. The unusual is the usual. The loot is really not priced so high considering its quality, but we're not used to paying $20 for a skirt when we usually pay about $4 in our usual haunts. (But I have bought stuff there.) Lorraine tried on the perfect skirt. It fit exquisitely and looked fabulous, but when she checked the tag, it was $49 and she most reluctantly left it behind. I tried on about 20 things but everything was either too big or too small, and I ended up with only a long, skinny black crocheted scarf that I love. And a wonderful deepest purple tablecloth with 12 matching napkins. Matching napkins—what a concept.

After our immersion in funky luxury, we continued on to a nearby (a block away but another universe) St. Vinnies where we felt distinctly let down. We recovered our balance quickly and found the requisite jars and frames, a rag rug and a couple of fetching tops. I tried on the most spectacular black lace dress that seemed to have been made for me, but couldn't think where to wear it, and left it behind. $10. Darn. Sometimes I am just too practical for my own good.

Anyway, after our exhausting afternoon of shopping and gabbing, we went to an open-house party at the new home of a mutual friend. It was a lovely house and yard and the table was spread with a wonderful assortment of FOOD WE COULD EAT. Sorry about the caps but I was so impressed. It was just the sort of food I love best—beautifully and simply prepared REAL food. There were assorted vegetables (new potatoes, roasted cauliflower, golden beets, steamed whole baby carrots with greens still attached, olive tapenade, etc.) These were accompanied by delicate sauces, delicious dips and spreads. I won't describe all the offerings—wish I'd had a camera—but will finally get to the subject of this post. I was offered an herbal tea that was so delicious and refreshing I couldn't stop drinking it. I asked for the recipe but was only given a general idea of what was in it, so I've tried to recreate it here. It had Red Zinger tea, cinnamon, ginger and white grape juice.

I recently discovered a new (to me) form of ginger at Penzey's, (which is near my house), and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it. It's dried slices. There's also a version called cracked ginger. I love the way the slices look and smell, but if I didn't have them, I would probably use grated or sliced fresh ginger and strain the tea. If I were feeling really ambitious, I might squeeze out the grated ginger and make ginger juice. But I was making a rather large quantity of tea, and I'm not all that ambitious.

Herbal cooler
  • three quarts of cool water
  • 12 bags of Red Zinger tea
  • six slices of dried ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 quart white grape juice, chilled
  1. Place the tea bags into a gallon jar and add the water, ginger and cinnamon. Stir to dissolve the cinnamon. 
  2. Steep in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Remove the bags, squeezing them into the jar. 
  3. Remove the ginger with a long handled spoon. 
  4. Add the grape juice and stir. 
  5. Serve with ice. This looks very pretty served from a clear glass pitcher. I should have put it into one and taken some better pictures but I didn't have time!
note: This summer we've been keeping a gallon jar of iced tea in the refrigerator at all times. I used to make sun tea, until I read an article about how it was dangerous to leave tea brewing in the heat, and could result in the growth of bacteria leading to food poisoning. Well, I've been making sun tea for 20 years and never had a problem. But still, a person who has experienced food poisoning once, never wants to experience it again, so I followed the advice and now brew it in the refrigerator. We either put tea bags and water into the jar before work or before bed, and let the tea brew in the cold. We usually use just herbal tea and water — nothing fancy. Sometimes I add lemon balm or mint from the garden. Adding fresh or dried herbs and spices bumps it up a notch but isn't necessary for everyday tea.


  1. You are reminding me that I am out of Red Zinger tea, my favorite for summer iced tea! Now I'd better go and get some and make that herbal cooler, now!

    I never knew about the warnings concerning sun tea and food poisoning. Like you, I have been doing it for years. But hey, I don't like getting sick either!

  2. What a lovely drink! And the dried ginger sounds very intriguing. . . never even heard of it before!

  3. I'm so glad to have this recipe. The tea was a treat, with mild sweetness and zingy refreshing ginger!


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