Monday, June 23, 2008

Make a Healthy Hawaiian Punch Alternative that Everyone will Enjoy

Summer is a great time for iced drinks, but kids all too often reach for sugary drinks - usually with food dyes and artificial colors. Not to mention that the unhealthy options that are available in most stores are super expensive, and hardly worth the price of the container!

One of the most pleasing alternatives to fruit punch, tropical punch, or other fruity beverages, can be made at home for less than the cost of most of the store bought options. What is it? Well depending on where you live, the brilliant flowers may be referred to as rosella, hibiscus, jamaica, or perhaps even another name. Made as a "tea" from the dried flowers, this beverage is a s common as iced tea in many cultures, but with a vitamin-packed power punch!

Where to get it:
If you regularly shop at a health food store, dried hibiscus flowers can easily be purchased either in bulk, or prepackaged. Alternatively, you can head over to the Mexican foods section of the grocery store, which generally offers a selection of packaged dried herbs and spices (such as garlic, cumin, chili peppers, anise seeds, and various dried leaves). The dried dark red flowers should be labeled as Jamaica, which is pronounced ha-MIKE-ah. If you are lucky enough to have a Jamaican (Carribean) community in your area, you could also look for Jamaican Sorrel, or red sorrel flowers. The flavors of the different varieties of the flowers are sometimes significant, so when you find the variety you like - remember where you bought it! Each has it's own unique and powerful flavor, and all of them are loaded with vitamin C.

How to make it:
Bring a large pot of water to a full boil. Stir in about 2 ounces of the dried flowers, and continue to stir for one minute, then remove from heat. Cover, let steep for about two hours. Add honey, stevia syrup, or other sweetener to taste. If the tea is too strong or tart for your liking, try adding a small amount of water before sweetening it more, and alter your recipe for next time!

Now sit back, relax and enjoy the summer while you're sipping on a nice tall glass of good ole' fashioned red tea! Oh, and if the kids try to spoil your "vacation" time, just put theirs in a really awesome glass with a straw and one of those cool little umbrellas, drop in an orange slice - the kids will love the special drink. For an extra special "sunset" drink, fill the bottom of the glass with a small amount of orange or pineapple juice, then slowly pour in the hibiscus tea. Add a spritz of lemon-lime soda (or carbonated water and a splash of lemon.) Top with a bing cherry and a slice of orange to create a festive tropical drink!


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