Real-Food ‘Kool-Aid’

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My son loves junk food. Several times since the weather warmed up Col as asked me to make Kool-Aid. Sorry kid, not going to do it. Not only is the sugar atrocious, but kool-aid is way to artificial to make a showing in our house; The artificial colors and flavors, not good.  Col gets enough artificial foods when he is at school, his friends house, when we go out (yes I often will purchase junk when we are out to dinner or a movie, as a treat…guilty as charged) but I don’t like to keep junk-food or beverages in the house and I don’t want to start.

So with the warm weather quickly coming along, I started thinking of alternatives.

I love hibiscus, so does Col. One day as I was preparing some sweet hibiscus tea for my kombucha second fermentation, I had a little left over.  I handed the extra hibiscus tea to Col to drink. He LOVED it. He thought it was fruit punch. Ding….a light went off in my head.

Hibiscus is awesome, achieving the crazy red color of a fake fruit punch, but with natural polyphenols.  These natural polyphenols are believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.   Other benefits include improved glucose regulation, and lower blood-pressure. Hibiscus is naturally high in vitamin C and minerals.

So I started thinking about how to make hibiscus tea taste a little more like ‘Kool-Aid’. To me, the tea needs just a little more tartness, and lemon juice should provide that tart kick.

For my kombucha I use an organic sugar made from evaporated cane juice. Yep its pretty much a beige colored white sugar. That is fine for my SCOBY to eat but I try and use whole sugars such as sucanat, maple syrup, or honey when I am making things for our direct consumption.

Sucanat and maple syrup both impart a brown color and unique flavor to whatever you are using it in, so that wasn’t going to cut it for real-food ‘Kool-Aid’. I chose honey.

Here is how I made ‘Kool-Aid’:

Ingredients
1-1/3 cup organic dried hibiscus flowers
8 cups water
1/2 – 3/4 cup raw local honey
1/2 cup organic lemon juice

The process is very similar to making aqua fresca with hibiscus, only I omitted the ginger (I love ginger but I have yet to encounter ginger flavored Kool-Aid), I used honey, and added lemon juice to give it more tang.

Directions

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil.  Don’t watch the pot (you know, or it will not boil), go measure 1-1/3 cup dried organic hibiscus flowers.

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When the water boils, turn off the burner and add your hibiscus flowers to the hot water.

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Let the flowers steep in the hot water for 20-30 minutes.   I let mine steep for 20 minutes because I am impatient.  Using a mesh strainer, strain the hibiscus flowers so you are left with a very concentrated and red hibiscus tea.

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While the water is still warm add a half cup of honey (raw and local is preferred, that way you know it is real along with all the great benefits that come with local honey)

Aw snap, I am almost out, gotta dig deep.

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Stir until the honey is dissolved, then add a 1/2 cup lemon juice.  You can juice your own lemons or use store bought lemon juice.   I always look for organic lemon juice with only one ingredient – lemon juice.  Many commercial lemon juices are made from concentrate and contain one or more types of preservatives.   You don’t need that in your life.

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For those of you local to me, the only place I have found this amazing organic lemon juice is at Rhubarb Market.  If you can’t find organic lemon juice locally, you can stock up here.

Next add 5 cups of cold water and mix.

Grab some ice and enjoy a glass.

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My real-food ‘Kool-Aid’ passed the 7-year old taste test….sweet.   Speaking of ‘sweet’, with only a half cup honey, its not.   As made, this real-food ‘Kool-Aid’ is pretty tart.   If you find it is too tart for your (or your child’s) liking you can add more honey (consider 3/4 cup) – or add a little stevia extract until the desired sweetness is achieved.  It is definitely not as sweet a Kool-Aid. But way better for you.

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