I hope everyone has had a great holiday season, regardless of the holiday you choose to celebrate. Myself, I have been sick since Christmas evening, when the “too much sugar” diagnosis I gave myself in the car on the way home from the parental homestead turned out to be wrong, or more likely, not the full story, and now I have a full-blown something-or-other that is not going away. I haven’t been sick in years, so I was a little surprised by this. For nearly a week, I’ve been lying around the house doing nothing but reading. Fortunately, my aunt gave me a bunch of books for Christmas that have kept me busy, including two cookbooks (Vegan Planet, which I feel like I should have had for years and Real Food Daily), although it has been frustrating to lack the energy or the appetite to make any of the 40 or so things I’ve marked in both of the cookbooks. (I have managed to make the mac and cheese and the veggie quinoa soup from RFD, both of which were good; Mark really liked the mac and cheese.)
One of the few times I crave soda is when I am sick. I usually like either water or wine with my meals, and water throughout the day. Most soda disgusts me. I used to like Coke as much as the next person, but now I really only like ginger ale (and birch beer, which is very hard to find for some reason). And it has to be real ginger ale, with actual ginger in it. And it can’t be overly sweet. Mark got me this Grown-Up Soda ginger ale, which I like, to help me feel better, and that was great while the 4-pack lasted. But since I was feeling well enough yesterday to finally make it to the grocery store and pick up some seltzer water, I decided I’d make my own ginger ale, which I like even better, today.
I’ve been making this for a while and I think it is the perfect soda. Others seem to like it as well, although it’s definitely tailored to my tastes and is not nearly as sweet as people may be expecting when I offer them a “soda”. But this is only a basic formula: you can certainly add more sweetener if you prefer. The only downside to it, that I can see, is that currently I still have to buy seltzer in bottles because the antique seltzer bottle I found still doesn’t work, even after I got the missing part. I think I need to replace a gasket or something. It’s on my list of things to do. I once tried carbonating on my own with yeast and that was…bad. So bottled seltzer it is for now.
I’ve made the vanilla optional because you should only use it if you have access to Trader Joe’s brand vanilla, which is alcohol-free. You may be able to substitute vanilla paste or whole vanilla beans, although I don’t know the quantities you’d use for either. What you don’t want to do is use an alcohol-based vanilla extract. I tried it once and it was NASTY, and it wasn’t because I have anything against alcohol, because trust me, I don’t.
Quick and Easy Ginger Ale
3 cups water
1 piece of fresh ginger, about 4.5 – 5 ounces
1 cup agave nectar
2 1/2 Tbsp non-alcohol based vanilla flavoring (such as Trader Joe’s) (optional)
Roughly chop the ginger. You don’t have to peel it.
Place in a pot with the water. Begin heating over medium-high heat.
Measure the agave nectar …
… and add to the pot, as well as the vanilla flavoring if using.
Bring to a fairly rapid boil.
Reduce heat somewhat so the boiling doesn’t get out of control and let cook at a steady simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes or until reduced by about one third.
Get a strainer and a receptacle ready …
… and strain the contents of the pot into the receptacle.
Don’t throw away the leftover ginger; you can use it again – more on that in a bit.
You should have about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of ginger syrup.
Transfer to a refrigerator-friendly container. I don’t like plastic, but it’s all I had and was the perfect size…
Store the syrup in the refrigerator until you are ready to make a glass of ginger ale. To prepare a glass of ginger ale, place some ice cubes in a glass. I used a lot here because the syrup was still warm.
Add 1/4 – 1/3 cup of the ginger syrup.
Top off with seltzer water.
Garnish with a lime round if you’d like. I only had lemons. Limes are much more picturesque.
And enjoy! As for the leftover ginger pieces, as I mentioned you can re-use them. What I will do with them today is make ginger tea, which I like all of the time, but particularly when I’m not feeling well. I’ll just simmer the ginger pieces in about a cup and a half of water, with some agave nectar to taste, for about 15 minutes, then strain and drink as a tea, perhaps with some lemon.
Mark and I have a long-standing tradition in which one of us is always sick on New Year’s Eve. In our early years together, it was always me, because my body would revolt at the end of a semester of working full-time, going to school nearly full-time, and commuting a few hours a day. Once I graduated, I never got sick again (until now), so in the following years it was Mark’s turn to end up sick for New Year’s for one reason or another. This year, I guess because I’ve been thinking about, and preparing for, going back to school, the illness pendulum has swung back towards me. I bought a bottle of champagne in case I made a miraculous recovery today, but since Mark doesn’t like champagne and I’ve been too sick to make plans with anyone else to share it with and I don’t think people who desperately want to stop being sick should necessarily drink an entire bottle of champagne by themselves, it looks like I may be having ginger ale at midnight. It’s better than water anyway!
And on that note, I’d like to wish everyone a very merry new year! I have some plans for revamping this site in the new year – at a minimum finding or creating a theme that displays all the tags I’ve been meticulously applying to each post and which you can’t see. I hope 2009 finds you all happy and well-fed!