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Frozen Lemon Sparklers

Frozen Lemon Sparkler in a martini glassDear Reader,

First and foremost, I totally ripped off the origins of this recipe from here. I think my improvements make it a better drink though. :)

I live in Paradise. Ok, Jupiter, FL but it might as well be paradise. On any given afternoon, I can drag my chair out into the commons, sit and watch the golfers and squirrels curse. Really, the only downside of paradise, it is on the warm side here. Not stifling hot, but yes, it’s warm. So creative Floridians like me are always looking for new ways to stay cool. I think I have found a great one in “Frozen Lemon Sparklers”.

tl;dr

  • 1 and 1/2 cup of vanaillia flavored Greek Yougurt
  • 1 cup of vodka (the cheap stuff will do)
  • The juice from 3 lemons
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of Vanilla extract
  • Ice

Throw them all in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour in glasses and drink.

For those not in a hurry

Ok, if you have a little patience, there are some things you can do to make this drink a standout at your next party. Let’s take a look at a couple of ideas.

Fresh tops frozen every time

lemonsThe original recipe that I blatantly ripped off called for frozen lemonade. Stop that…just stop. That’s just frozen sugar water. Yes, we are drinking alcohol, but there is nothing wrong with having fresh ingredients. So the first thing I did was to get rid of that and add in 3 lemons. After you have made this recipe a couple of times, you can adjust the number of lemons to taste. However, start with 3.

Sweeten the pot

Since we are doing away with all that sugar from the concentrate, you will want to add a little vanilla extract to sweeten things up a bit. Not a lot. Vanilla extract is strong stuff, a little goes a long way.

Shaved, not bludgeoned

The average blender breaks up ice with brute force. This means that at best your are going to get tiny chunks of ice. We’ve got a Ninja blender with three sets of blades and even it can’t give a smooth consistent crushed ice. Therefore, I highly recommend shaved ice. You can go with a simple ice shaver like this one Hawaiian Shaved Ice S900A Electric Shaved Ice Machine. It will get the job done. Take your shaved ice and add it into your blender and blend.

Me personally, I kicked it up a notch and got a Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker. I make several drinks that call for shaved ice and besides…MARGARITAVILLE! :)

Either way, you go, you will get a much smoother drink experience with shaved ice over using your blender to crush ice.

Presentation

Trying to impress someone? This drink makes a great after dinner desert if presented correctly. When I make these, they usually go in old McDonalds glasses that I keep in the freezer for just such occasions. These Disney themed containers are wonderful for cold drinks but are for family only. If I am preparing to impress – Valentine’s Day dinner for the wonderful and talented Kathy, or dinner with our wonderful friends, Paul & Anna Jones – I kick it up a notch.

First, I chill martini glasses. Again, not the high-end Ridell glasses, I use Libby Martini Glasses 4 for $15 glasses. You can find them at WalMart. They work just as well and won’t break your bank.

Presentation Part II

graham cracker crumbs in a ziplock baggieThe yogurt in this drink gives it a creamy texture, almost like a meringue. What goes better with lemon meringue and a graham cracker crust? In our case, we are going to dust the rim.

I was surprised to find that crushing graham crackers into dust is a lot messier than I thought. Take it from me, put 3 graham crackers in a zip lock baggie and crush them in that. :) A rolling pin or other round instrument will help you crush them and get them to a consistent powder. (I used my muddler) Pour the resulting power into a saucer larger than the mouth of the glasses you are using.

Just before you are ready to pour, dampen the rim of your glasses and set it in the cracker power. I found that I needed to tip the glass a little and roll it to get a god solid coating. Now, pour and serve.

Frozen

No, not the movie. STOP SINGING “LET IT GO”!

Ok, want to kick it up a notch? These make great frozen drinks…well, semi-frozen.

Frozen yogurt and vodka slurry

You use the same ingredients as above, the instructions are just a little out of order.

  • In a mixing bowl put the yogurt and vodka.
  • Stir until the mixture is consistent.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer.

A couple of hours in the freezer should do the trick. The mixture will not freeze, it will become a slurry. You can prepare this in advance and leave it in the freezer longer, it won’t hurt anything.

When you are ready to serve, take out of the freezer and use a spoon to stir it up a bit. This will help loosen it up.

Place the mixture in your blender, add the vanilla, lemon juice, and ice. Blend. Don’t be surprised if your blender can’t deal with something this thick. You can thin it out by adding water (or vodka, depending on you taste) a quarter cup at a time until your blender will blend it. The goal here is thick, so don’t add too much thinning agent.

Once your blender will blend it, it should be able to pour as well. You are looking for something the consistency of running soft-serve ice-cream. When you get there, you know it’s ready. From here, follow the rest of the instructions. Make sure you serve with a spoon as this is usually too think to drink comfortably.

If you are paying attention, you will notice that the first picture is actually of a frozen version. Notice how it is frozen enough to stand up in the glass.

:Conclusion

Make up a batch of these and serve them at your next backyard BBQ or block party. Be prepared, if serve them once, you may quickly become knowns as “The frozen drink person”. This may lead you to spending most of your parties behind the blender. :)

Until next time,
I <3 |<
=C=

Tequila Fruit Smoothies Recipe

Dear Reader,

Not that I drink a lot, but when I do, I am usually drinking with my wife, the lovely and talented Kathy. Last summer, I added a new drink to the list that she likes to drink. She does love a good Banana Banshee but that recipe is very high in fat and she’s on this health kick. So I started looking into new drinks.

Kathy loves a good strawberry margarita but again, there is a lot of sugar in margaritas so she doesn’t often drink them. Then a thought hit me, fruit is good, tequila makes everything better, why not mix the two but leave out all the artificial sugar and stuff. So, after spending no small amount of time mixing and matching fruits, I present you with the recipe for Kathy’s current favorite drink.
(more…)

iTunes vs. Xbox vs. Tivo for Movie Rentals

Dear Reader,

I use iTunes every now and then to rent a movie for my iTouch; usually when I’m traveling. Last night I rented a movie via my XBox 360 from Microsoft and previously, I’ve rented movies from Amazon’s Unbox from my Tivo. Here is a chart laying out the basics of each of the three options. Below it I’ll discuss my thoughts on them.

  XBox 360 iTunes Tivo
Minimum
Hardware Price
$349 $229 $99
HD Yes * Yes No
Monthly Fee $5 $0 $12.95
Movie Price 480 Points (aprox $6.95) $.99 – $3.99 $1.99 – $3.99
Terms Expires 15 days (24 hrs after you click play) Expires 30 days (24 hrs after you click play) Expires 30 days (24 hrs after you click play)
Mobile Device None iPod family Windows Based Laptop

Ok, first my thoughts on each service:

XBox 3060

I love my XBox for gaming; I even use it for watching DVDs. However, I don’t see myself renting many movies from them. First, they are the most expensive option, per-movie for new releases. I bought 500 “points” from them for $6.95 and “3:10 to Yuma” was 480. Maybe it’s cheaper if I buy more points at a time but honestly, I hate the whole points system. Why should I buy up a bunch of points and let MS hold onto my money? Microsoft needs to grow up and let adults use currency for our transactions, this isn’t NeoPets. Finally, while rumors abound of being able to download movies to a portable player (Zune, which I don’t have and probably won’t be getting any time soon), Microsoft doesn’t yet have a strategy in place. You watch it on your XBox…period. Honestly, that’s probably fine for a lot of people, but not for me.

XBox 360 Summary

Reduce the price of movies, let me rent them using hard currency instead of your company scrip, and let me move them to my portable device.

iTunes

I am not an Apple fanboi. There are parts of Apple (like their horrid customer service after the sale) that I deplore and makes me wary of purchasing from them. However, I do believe they have got it right this time around. The Apple TV can be added to any entertainment syste for $329. There are no monthly fees for usage and you can download damn near anything to it. I don’t yet have one but I’m a big enough iTunes fan to see the potential here. I have rented movies from iTunes for my iTouch and can say that the experience is painless. I’ve probably bought 5 movies from them and rented 1. It’s always very easy and the price for rentals isn’t bad. The only negative I have is in the licensing but that really applies to everyone so I’ll save it for a special section below.

ITunes Summary

It’s the winner, hands down. They have cheap hardware, no monthly fees, reasonable prices and a portable device strategy. Really the only downside is the stupid licensing…which I discuss later.

Tivo/Unbox

I’ve had a Tivo since they first came out. I currently have 2 and love moving things between them. When Tivo announced their deal with Amazon unbox, I was excited. I’ve now rented 2 movies from them and overall, I am happy with the experience. The downside is unless you catch them on a special deal, you have to pay a monthly fee for your Tivo service. I waited till they put them on special then bought my HD with Lifetime service so I don’t have a monthly fee. (Given my history with Tivo devices, I do actually save money buying the lifetime.) I have 2 problems with Tivo/Unbox though.

  1. I like the ability to move things to my iTouch. Tivo/Unbox won’t let you do that.
  2. You currently can’t rent HD movies. That’s a huge negative in my book.

You can rent movies and download them to your laptop via Amazon Unbox. This may give some small comfort to travelers. I’ve not tested this though so I don’t know if you can watch the content untethered from the Net. (i.e. in an airplane)

Tivo/Unbox Summary

It’s not a reason to buy a Tivo but if you already have one and can live without HD, it’s a good system.

Wishlist

Ok, here are the things that none of them get right and I wish they would.

NetFlix/Microsoft

Rumor has it that Microsoft and NetFlix may be working on a deal. I don’t see why Microsoft would be interested in this deal as it would kill their rental revenue but if they did, and I could pay my monthly NetFlix fee and have my queue downloaded straight to my XBox, that would rock. They would have to work out the licensing issues as right now I can watch a movie an unlimited number of times and that’s an important feature. This union, if it happened in the right way, may make my XBox the most important piece of equipment in my entertainment system.

Microsoft/iTunes

I’m dreaming here but the best of all worlds would be for Microsoft to cut a deal with Apple and let me use iTunes on my XBox like I can on my PC. This would totally rock because I get Apple’s pricing, downloads to my iTouch AND my XBox too. There are just too many reasons why this won’t happen (the main one is you can’t fit Jobs’ and Gates’ ego in the same room.) but it would be awesome if it did.

Better Licensing Terms

Now that I can rent movies from iTunes, I won’t be buying anymore. Mainly because I can only play them on one of 5 iTunes devices listed on my account. The reason I LIKE DVDs is I can give it to my son, he can take it upstairs and watch it, I can take it over to the neighbors and we can watch it with friends, heck, I can even use Handbreak, rip it and stuff it on my iTouch. This “You have x days to watch it and it expires 24 hours after you press play” is bad. Get rid of it now and I’m much more interested in rentals and downloads.

Summary

Downloads and rentals will kill physical media in the next 2-3 years. Most of that is thanks to Apple and Amazon. Overall, I think this is a good thing. However, I’m one of those weird people who can live without the content produced by the major television and movie studios. There has not been a movie produced in the last ten years that was “must see” for me. So if the hardware/software industry is going to keep treating me like a criminal (with abominations like Vista) and the studios are going to keep trying harder and harder to make me pay for their content each and every time I watch it or for each devices I want to watch it on, I’ll just watch less and less of it. There’s enough good stuff being produced out there independently to keep me entertained. However, if you let me watch my content where ever and whenever I want, I’ll keep paying you.

Until next time,
(l)(k)(bunny)
=C=

People Who Block FireFox Are Just Stupid

Dear Reader,

A while back a blogger named John wrote a snarky review of my review of Professional Search Engine Optimization with PHP. While his review was a bit on the “untrue” side and prompted me to write Just Say No to SEO, his blog was interesting enough to put in my feed reader and follow. Heck, from time to time, I even clicked through and read an entire entry and believe I even commented once.

Sadly, those days are now over. See John feels that just because it is possible for me to block ads from FireFox that I must be a criminal and stealing his content. This, by the way, is the same asinine logic that makes the NAB feel that if we don’t watch each and every commercial in a television show that we are stealing their content. (I’ve got news for you John, for 5 years now, I’ve blocked ads at my router! FireFox, IE, Opera, hell, even Lynx…I don’t read ads unless I want to.)

So yea, by all means please do continue blocking a good chunk of your audience. Maybe, like me they will realize that your content is well, just not that great and move on to things more important…like Lindsy or Paris or even Britteny’s latest escapades. Should you actually produce something compelling enough to warrant an extra 5 seconds of work, we (FireFox users) can always just switch FireFox’s useragent. (yeah, boy, you showed us…)

So thanks John, this is now twice you’ve inspired me to blog and I’m the better for it. Sorry I won’t be reading your blog anymore. Like NBC’s move away from iTunes, the only one you are hurting is yourself. If I can live without NBC’s content, I’m pretty sure I can live without yours.

Just so you know John, I’m not picking on you. I feel the same way about anyone who feels that the content they produce is so damed important that they get to dictate to me how, when or where I consume it. Drop me a line if you drop this idiocy, I’ll add you back into my reader.

Until next time,
(l)(k)(bunny)
=C=

p.s. Just say not to crap like this. My current useragent is “o noes, I haz UR blog wif da fox.” when that gets blocked, I’ll get more creative. I encourage every FireFox user (you thievn’ bastards) to change the useragent string. Get creative, have fun with it.