Northstar Cafe Fresh Ginger Ale: Version 2.0

I have spoken before of the wonders of The Northstar Cafe. It’s a true Columbus gem and every time I get to dine at this wonderful establishment, I am never let down. Whether it be their vegetarian burger, rustic tomato soup, barbecue chicken flatbread, chopped salads, or their voluptuous cookies, I am always so impressed with the flavors of their menu items. They have developed the perfect equation for showcasing fresh and organic foods without being overly complicated or too trendy.  The ingredients they select are the stars of the show and I really admire and appreciate the effort they put into their food.

Without a doubt, though, my favorite creation from Northstar is their fresh ginger ale. I first laid my lips on this sweet nectar two summers ago and I was never the same after that moment. It was a magnificent fusion of spicy ginger, tart lime juice, and a hint of refreshing mint. Pure genius.

I attempted to recreate the concoction at home several times and I finally found a method that I liked, but it was still missing that extra Northstar sparkle. The ginger just wasn’t as sharp as I knew it could be. Nonetheless, I made the ginger ale several times since settling on that recipe until I finally decided to try tweaking things to take the ginger flavor to the next level. All I did was allow myself more time for the flavors to develop. I put the chunks of ginger, water, and sugar in a pot on the stove to heat to a rolling boil. Then I turned off the stove, removed the pot from the heat, and let the syrup to steep overnight. The result? A much greater ginger punch without any hint of bitterness and a truly divine drink.

Cheers to the great people at Northstar Cafe for their fresh ginger ale! My heart is happy.

Fresh Ginger Ale

Yield: Approximately 12 drinks

Ingredients

  • 2 arms of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice (8-10 limes)
  • 5-6 sprigs fresh mint
  • 1 liter club soda

Directions

1. Place the water, chunks, of ginger, and sugar in a medium-sized pot and heat over medium heat on the stove. Bring to a rolling boil and then remove from heat and allow to steep for at least 2 hours (or overnight).

2.  In a separate small bowl, add the mint leaves and lime juice. Muddle the mint with a wooden spoon to incorporate the flavor into the lime juice.

3. Add the ginger syrup to a pitcher. Add in the lime/mint mixture and stir to combine. Chill and serve with club soda, to taste (I prefer 1 part ginger syrup to 2 parts club soda.

Source: Inspired by The Northstar Cafe

Homemade Vanilla Bean Creamer

I am a morning person more than I am a night owl, but I occasionally struggle to get out of bed in the morning. One of the main things that lures me out of a deep slumber is the promise of a fresh cup of coffee. Sometimes I drink my coffee black and other times I like to jazz it up by adding in creamer, especially if I am making iced coffee. When I am on a creamer kick, I usually use a vanilla version from the grocery store. However, I’ve been wanting to make my own version for a long time now and I finally decided it was time a week ago.

I don’t know why I didn’t do this earlier. It really can’t get much easier as there are only 3 ingredients in the creamer I made and there is minimal prep work. Plus I feel a little better drinking my sassed up (is that a verb?) coffee with minimal preservatives.

This recipe is very adaptable and would be great with cinnamon, almond extract, peppermint extract, chocolate sauce- the list goes on and on.

Happy Monday, everyone. I hope you are enjoying your cup of coffee as much as I am.

Vanilla Bean Creamer

Yield: About 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 3 cups half and half
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Directions

Pour the half and half and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add in the vanilla bean seeds and vanilla bean pod and allow the mixture to come to a low boil, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved.

Remove from heat and allow mixture to steep for 30 minutes. Pour the creamer through a sieve to remove the pod and other larger pieces. Store in an  airtight bottle in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Source: Lolly’s Sweet & Savory Treats

The Lollypalooza Cocktail

Have you ever had Chambord? Until this past weekend, I hadn’t; and boy was I missing out! Chambord is a black raspberry liqueur and it is absolutely scrumptious. I received it as a Christmas gift from my parents and, after our Christmas dinner, I whipped up a little cocktail that my dad aptly named The Lollypalooza. With Chambord, vodka, ginger ale, and fresh lime juice, it tastes like sherbet in a glass. It has officially become my new favorite cocktail, just in time to ring in the new year.

The Lollypalooza Cocktail

  • 1.5 fluid oz (1 shot) Chambord
  • 1.5 fluid oz (1 shot) vodka
  • 6 fluid oz (1/2 can) diet Ginger Ale
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Lime wedge, for garnish

Combine the chambord, vodka, ginger ale, and lime juice. Pour over ice. Garnish with a lime wedge. Enjoy.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Lattes


The weather in Ohio has been unseasonably cool the past couple of days and with the Labor Day weekend officially over, it’s safe to say Autumn is on its way. Every year I always look forward to the pumpkin spice lattes that pop at local coffee shops. Unfortunately, they can be a bit pricey. So you can imagine my excitement when I found this recipe for homemade pumpkin spice syrup. Could I, a mere mortal, create this heavenly drink at home!? The answer- YES! Making the syrup is as simple as it gets and the aroma that wafts throughout the kitchen when you do is magnificent. After the syrup’s taken care of, all you need is espresso and steamed milk.

Because I don’t have an espresso machine, I did a little research online and found a method for making quasi-espresso at home with my standard drip coffee maker. Basically, all you have to do is make an extremely strong cup of coffee at a 2:1 ratio of water and coffee grinds. Although many coffee experts may turn up their nose at this method, I thought this DIY creation tasted absolutely great.

Welcome, Fall. It’s good to see you again!

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Printable Version
Ingredients:
For the syrup

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons pumpkin purée

Directions:
In a small pot over medium heat, dissolve sugar in water. Once sugar is dissolved, add remaining ingredients.  Allow to cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently.  Do not boil. Pour mixture into a medium-sized bowl with a sieve or cheesecloth on top to strain the syrup. Let cool slightly and then pour into a small bottle that seals.

To make a pumpkin spice latte, you will need a shot of espresso and 1 cup milk. If you don’t have an espresso machine, you can make  “semi-espresso” with a standard coffee maker. Add one cup of cold water to your machine with 1/2 cup finely ground coffee. This will make about 3-4 shots of espresso. If you have a single serve, you can use 1/2 cup water with 1/4 cup coffee for 1-2 shots.

To froth the milk, heat 1 cup of milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat. For the maximum frothiness, blend with a hand/immersion blender. Combine 1 shot of espresso, the milk, and 2 Tbsp of the pumpkin spice syrup. Top with whipped cream and cinnamon, if desired.

Store the pumpkin spice syrup in the fridge. Enjoy! :)

Source: Cook Like a Champion

Fresh Ginger Ale

Attention all ginger lovers: this drink is for you!***

A few weeks ago Robert and I ate dinner at The Northstar Cafe downtown. If you live in the central Ohio area and haven’t eaten there yet, you should. It took us awhile to finally get around to dining at this glorious establishment and I wish it hadn’t- the food is wonderful. They use organic ingredients and most of their menu items are made from scratch, including their fresh ginger ale.  I am a ginger ale freak, so although I normally order water or unsweetened iced tea at restaurants, I excitedly jumped all over their delightful concoction without thinking twice. OMG- it was absolutely breathtaking! The spice of fresh ginger was infused with fresh lime and mint and just the right amount of sweetness. My actual dinner -an Asiago chicken sandwich with roasted red peppers and fresh arugula- was positively scrumptious as well, but this drink blew my mind. I immediately wanted to recreate it at home!

I did some research on the internet and read about different techniques. Some people used fresh lemon, others were serious about their ginger ale and added yeast and bottled it at home. I didn’t find anything all that similar to Northstar’s drink, so I had to experiment on my own. The first time I made it, I boiled chunks of fresh ginger with mint and lime peels (and too much sugar). The result was a rather bitter, excessively sweet drink . Disappointed  but not discouraged, I gave it a second (and third) go around until I finally found a method that resulted in a drink that (I think) tastes somewhat like Northstar’s wondrous creation.

This is a perfect summertime drink- it’s crisp, refreshing, and  a little spicy! It can also be transformed into a cocktail- add a little pear vodka and you have a tasty drink to help you unwind from a long day. I hope you enjoy this fresh ginger ale as much as I do. Thanks to The Northstar Cafe for the inspiration; and seriously- go try out their food if you can! They have three great locations in Columbus.

 

Fresh Ginger Ale***

*** I’ve changed this recipe and a new and improved homemade version can be found here

Ingredients:

  • 1 fresh ginger root
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (2 limes)
  • 4-5 sprigs of fresh mint
  • Club soda, chilled

Directions:

1.Peel the fresh ginger with a peeler (or a spoon). Rinse off any excess skin or dirt and chop it into course chunks. Place the chunks in a medium saucepan.

2. Add the 5 cups of water and turn the burner on high. Bring the mixture to a boil (watch it carefully- it can boil over quickly!).  Reduce the heat to medium and add the sugar, stirring until it has dissolved (about 2-3 minutes). Remove the mixture from heat and let it sit for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

3.Meanwhile, pluck the mint leaves of the springs and place them in a large bowl. Juice the limes and pour the juice onto the mint leaves. Gently crush the leaves with a wooden spoon to allow the oil from the mint to be released and blend with the lime juice.

4.After the ginger mixture has been sitting for 15 minutes, place a sieve over the bowl of the mint and lime juice and carefully pour the liquid into the bowl. Remove the sieve and discard the ginger chunks after they have cooled.Mix the concoction with a spoon. This is your ginger syrup. Allow it to chill in the fridge.

5. When you are ready to enjoy some fresh ginger ale, you can do it one of two ways: 1) for a single serving or 2) for a crowd. For the single serving, I keep the club soda and ginger mixture separate and combine 1/2 cup club soda with 1/2 cup of the syrup and then pour it over ice. When making it for a crowd, I combine 4 cups of the syrup and 4 cups of cold club soda into a pitcher and serve it over ice immediately. Either way, I found the 1:1 ratio of syrup and club soda to be a good combination, but you can certainly adjust it to your preference.

6. Garnish with  a lime wedge and a sprig of mint, if desired, and enjoy! :)

Source: Inspired by The Northstar Cafe