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Lemonade Recipe photo by istockphoto.com

Lemons, sugar and water, it’s all you need to fight the summer heat…

Hi ya’ll — from Texas! My car thermometer hit 100 for the outdoor temp when I parked a second ago, and I have a hankering to make lemonade. And yes, I do actually use the term “hankering” on a regular basis, so this is authentic me — Texas bred, baby!

Homemade lemonade is really a snap to make… lemons, water, sugar, that’s it. But have you noticed not all homemade lemonades are created equal? I’ve had some great ones, and some really yuck-o ones — mainly due to sugar grit.  Here’s how to make sure your homemade lemonade is memorable — in a good way.

You’ll need:

6 lemons (or the equivalent in bottled lemon juice – about 3T = 1 medium lemon)

6 cups cold water

1 cup granulated sugar (to taste… this is a moderate sweetness)

Serve over ice

Yield: about 4-6 glasses (depending on the size!)

Most recipes will tell you to mix it all up and serve over ice – but it takes time and quite a bit of stirring for the sugar to dissolve and disperse into all 6 cups of water. Usually you end up with sugar on the bottom and a gritty texture.

Here’s the better way… the secret is to create a simple syrup by combining just 1 cup of water with the sugar first. You can boil this up together, let cool a bit then combine with the rest of the water and lemon — or put 1C water and the sugar into a jar or sealed container and shake to dissolve completely (much faster than stirring), then combine with the rest.

Avoiding sugar? You can certainly substitute the equivalent amounts of any alternative sweeteners you use for the sugar. Splenda, Agave nectar and stevia impart little flavor. Honey will add its own tang, but lemon and honey is a yummy combo.

Dress it up: Make it party perfect – slide a few thin slices of lemon along the sides of the pitcher and glasses, and try serving in trendy stemless wine glasses for a fun twist.

Variations: add a dash of maraschino cherry juice for cherry lemonade or a few mint leaves for color and a cool minty taste.