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Warmer temps translate into cooler drinks

We've had a few really nice days this week, so I decided to sift through my drink recipes and share a few favorites in anticipation of outdoor entertaining when temperatures finally do hit the 70 and 80 degree range.

Nothing is more refreshing than a pitcher of homemade lemonade, served up in a tall ice-filled glass. If you want to make your ice cubes even a little more decorative and flavorful, make your own instead of using the convenient icemaker ones, filling each with a fresh lemon twist before freezing. This not only enhances the lemon taste, but looks beautiful served in a clear glass.

The Mock Sangria is great when you are entertaining a large group. Serve either ice cold or for an even icier refresher, freeze the sangria, and then let it stand at room temperature for about an hour before serving, so it's slushy.

If you are into coconut and pineapple, the Pina Colada is sure to be a real crowd-pleaser, high on tropical flavor and accented by its rich, creamy texture.

Iced coffee drinks are also extremely popular. The Iced Vanilla version is an excellent choice as a nightcap dessert drink, at the conclusion of any meal. The recipe calls for Hazelnut, but any flavored coffee would work well.

The Spiced Tea Mix is an excellent pantry staple and one that I've thrown in if you are looking for a hot drink to cap off a meal. Once mixed up, you can turn to it anytime.

So bring out the blender, and make sure you have plenty of ice and fresh fruit on hand so you're able to whip up a batch of any of these refreshing drinks on a moment's notice. Your guests will be glad you did.

Until next time, from my kitchen to yours, happy cooking.

Pina Colada

1 ½ cups unsweetened pineapple juice, chilled

¼ cup powdered sugar

1 tbsp. lime juice

¾ tsp. coconut flavoring

½ tsp. rum flavoring

1 (20-ounce) can unsweetened pineapple chunks, undrained

1 (8-ounce) carton pineapple yogurt

10 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in blender. Cover and process until smooth. Serve immediately. Yield six cups.

Mock Sangria

1 (3/4 pound) bunch seedless green grapes, separated into small clusters

2 limes, each cut into 8 wedges

1 medium-size orange, cut into eight wedges

5 cups unsweetened white grape juice, chilled

½ cup lime juice, chilled

1 (33.8-ounce) bottle club soda, chilled

1 (32-ounce) bottle apple-cherry juice, chilled

Arrange the first three ingredients in a single layer in a shallow pan, cover and freeze at least three hours.

Combine white grape juice and remaining three ingredients in a large punch bowl, stir well. Add frozen fruit, serve immediately. Yield 3 ½ quarts.

Spiced Tea Mix

½ cup sugar

½ cup orange-flavored breakfast drink mix (Tang)

¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. instant tea

¾ tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground cloves

½ tsp. ground allspice

Combine all ingredients, stirring well. Store mixture in an airtight container. To serve, spoon 1 tbsp. tea mix into a cup. Add ¾ cup boiling water, stir well. Yield 1 ¼ cups mix.

Creamy Raspberry Sipper

1 ¼ cups fresh raspberries

1 ¼ cups unsweetened white grape juice

1 ½ cups raspberry sherbet

¼ cup water

1 tbsp. lemon juice

10 ice cubes

Fresh mint sprigs (optional)

Combine raspberries and grape juice in blender. Cover and process until smooth, stopping once to scrape down sides. Combine this with sherbet, water, and lemon juice in blender. Cover and process until smooth. Add ice cubes, cover and process until frothy. Serve immediately. Garnish with fresh mint. Yield 4 cups.

Fresh Citrus Cooler

1 cup fresh orange juice

½ cup fresh lemon juice

½ cup fresh lime juice

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup sparkling water

Lime wedges, optional

Combine orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice and sugar in a pitcher. Stir mixture until sugar dissolves. Add chilled sparkling water and stir. Serve immediately over ice. Garnish with lime wedges, if desired. Yield three cups.

Homemade Lemonade

1 ¼ cups fresh lemon juice

¾ cup sugar

4 ¼ cups cold water

Combine lemon juice and sugar in a large pitcher, stir until sugar dissolves. Add water and lemon slices, stir well, and chill. Serve lemonade over ice. Yield 1 ½ quarts.

Iced Vanilla Coffee

We prefer hazelnut flavored coffee, but any flavor would be delicious in this sweet drink

8 cups hot brewed hazelnut flavored coffee

½ cup sugar

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

2 cups milk

2/3 cup vanilla frozen yogurt, softened

Combine first three ingredients, stirring until sugar dissolves. Stir in milk, cover and chill. To serve, pour one cup coffee mixture into each glass, and top with 1 tbsp. yogurt. Yield ten cups.