Food — When nothing else will cool, Slurp it

An ode to that heavenly mix of crushed ice, sweet dreams and supreme syrup

By Amy Diaz     adiaz@hippopress.com

At about 85 degrees, all I want to eat is a Slurpee.

Icy, cold, available in a variety of flavors, the Slurpee was a principal part of my diet during my first post-college summer working in the 100-degree-plus weather of Southern California. It fit both my desire to cool down without over taxing my air conditioner and my limited budget. It probably wasn’t so good for my health or the enamel on my non-dental-insurance-having teeth.

So now, facing yet another hot summer, yet another not-so-energetic air-conditioner and yet another situation of limited dentist-going abilities, I both want and understand that I can’t have 90 days of nothing but Slurpees.

Organic Slurpees

First, a technical issue.

Like Kleenex or Xerox, Slurpee is a brand name for the slushy ice drink sold specifically at 7-Eleven. There are other brands — Icee, for example — and variations on the Slurpee now appear everywhere from Target to movie theaters to non-7-Eleven convenience stores. My experience with the spoon-ended-straw has led me to conclude that the original Slurpee brand offers the most flavor variety (in addition to all your standard popsicle fruit flavors, such as cherry and the like, you have just about every soda, non-alcoholic versions of frozen cocktails and a whole lot of flavors with the word “blue” in front of them). According to its online nutritional information, eight ounces of Slurpee holds about 100 calories and 27 grams of sugar.

To enjoy a Slurpee in my older, more health-conscious years, I have to both buy the genuine article with sad rarity and concoct my own Slurpees from less sugary ingredients.

The berries that are starting to show up at farm stands and markets this time of year are a perfect ingredient to serve as your Slurpee base. Refreshing and flavorful, berries are sweet without corn syrup. Their tartness gives them a pleasant bite that your 7-Eleven variety can only dream of. Berries — blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and even strawberries — all have a very short shelf life. A few days after being picked, they will start to dissolve into mushy lumps. Before they rot but after they are able to serve as handy snack foods, these soft berries are perfect for liquefying purposes. Fill your blender about half way to two-thirds full of ice. Pop in a pint of berries, a dash or two of lemon or lime juice (the juice of one fresh lime or lemon works best) and about a half a cup of soda water (for an extra bit of fizz, regular water also works). Blend until a smooth, Slurpee-like consistency, adding a bit more liquid if necessary. If this combination is a bit too tart for your tastes, replace the soda water with cranberry cocktail juice or one of the many low-sugar sodas that have recently hit the market. Add a couple of shots of vodka to turn your innocent summer snack into a party in a big cup.

Slurpeecino

What’s better than a Slurpee? A Slurpee with a caffeinated buzz.

Starbucks was just another place to grab some java until they started hooking us all on Frappuccinos and their evil, mocha cousins. Frappuccinos are to 3 p.m. in a dreary office place what Ecstasy was to electronica fans at a rave. It is not just a drug of choice, it is a drug of environmental necessity. On a hot day, a Frappuccino (and similar Dunkin Donuts and other coffee-house-provided drinks) gives you not just the refreshment of a cool drink but the pick-me-way-the-heck-up effects of coffee and sugar. Also, when you go all out, they come with whipped cream and sprinkles and swirled syrups on their tops — sigh, so pretty and so yummy.

Sadly, I as of yet do not have a Starbucks or similar coffee vendor in my kitchen (though, for all you would-be business owners out there, it would be a lucrative spot). So a Frappuccino is an only occasional delight. For those other times when I need both a buzz and a freeze, I turn again to my blender.

Start with half a blender’s worth of ice (the standard). Add three mugs’ worth of  coffee (the colder the better, so as not to melt the ice right away) and maybe 1/4 to 1/3 of a mug’s worth of cream or milk (depending on your personal tastes). If you like your coffee with sugar, add that in as well (about a teaspoon per mug) or try honey and a tiny bit of vanilla, for a richer flavor. Blend. Serve and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg. Add a little something something with a shot or two of Kahlua, Godiva liquour or Irish Cream.

Slurpeessert

On the other hand, forget low-calorie.

If all you’re eating are Slurpees you have to get your energy from somewhere.

Substitute the ice for ice cream, add in coffee (espresso if you can get your hands on it) and blend. Poof — the perfect chocolaty treat.

Or, for something a little more classic, substitute the coffee in your mocha milkshake for milk and you’ve got the beginnings of something Dairy Queen can only dream off — a few blueberries and some graham crackers give you a blueberry pie milkshake. Or, add some caramel for a little Dulce De Leche flavor. Vanilla ice cream, honey, pistachios and you have a very Mediterranean-tasting desert.

Then there’s that mall favorite, the Orange Julius. There are a variety of recipes attempting to copy the flavor, but try this simple one: 1 1/2 cups orange juice, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/3 cup sugar and one teaspoon of vanilla ice cream. Blend in for about 30 seconds. Then add about two cups of ice and blend until smooth.

Or, you can try to make your very own sugar-rich Slurpee. Crush ice, add a cup or so of lemonade or fruit punch and a shot of your favorite cappuccino-flavoring syrup (available now at most supermarkets in original and sugar-free varieties). Blend until smooth and slurp your heart out.

Trendy blending

Key to the frosty drink is, of course, the blender.

A reliable blender with all the standard abilities is available for about $25 at most discount stores and even the occasional supermarket. What’s surprising, however, is how many souped-up versions of the blender are floating around out there. Like anything else in the appliance world, the more extraordinary the blender, the more expensive it is and the more specialized. Here are a few of some of the more interesting ones, available on the Internet and at most discount and kitchen stores:

Braun PowerMax Jug Blend ($59.99)

The standard — this blender has a big enough jug to make drinks for a small party and blades that can crush about half a blender’s worth of ice.

Hamilton Beach Chrome Classic Drink Mixer ($29.99)

Very similar to the sort of equipment you’d find in an ice cream shop or at a soda fountain, the Drink Mixer is best at making milkshakes, yogurt-based smoothies and other things that don’t require ice-crushing. On the upside, you’ll be able to get that chocolate milkshake (or frappe, to you New England natives) to your perfect preferred consistency. On the downside, the Drink Mixer is just that: a mixer of one drink.

Villaware Smoothie Bar Blender and Server ($29.88)

Let’s say you’ve decided to take on the yogurt smoothie as your getting-healthy, losing-weight drink of choice. Let’s say you’ve conned a loved one to go along with you on this journey. The Smoothie Bar Blender and Server has a 7-cup pitcher (make enough smoothie for everyone) and an easy serving spout so you don’t have to be too coordinated early in the morning. Chopping blades help cut through fruit but two-speed make the blend unlikely to do all that well with ice. (A two-jug variant, capable of creating two separate smoothie flavors at once, is available for about $81.96, perfect for those couples who can never agree on anything.)

Back to Basics Smoothie Margarita Maker ($34.99)

Made for chopping ice and integrating it into your frozen drink, this snazzy party accessory comes in a lovely lime green and has an easy-to-serve-from spout.

 
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