How to have the best lemonade stand in Chicago

As soon as the temperature passes 60 degrees, kid-staffed lemonade stands line the sidewalks of my suburban town. Dog-walkers, bikers and stroller-pushing parents are the prey and sickly sweet, powdered lemonade mix is the bait. Hand over your 50 cents and what do you get in return? A minuscule cup of watery, chemically sweetened liquid.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Imagine a lemonade stand that hearkens back to a simpler time—before the days of powdered drink mixes. Contemplate the satisfaction of serving your neighbors fresh-squeezed lemonade and homemade cookies hot out of the oven—lemonade and cookies that you and your children made together. In short, imagine having the best lemonade stand on your block.

When my children ask to have a lemonade stand, they know that it means, at the very least, making fresh-squeezed lemonade. I always keep my refrigerator stocked with plenty of lemons and I usually have simple syrup on hand as well. This easy-to-make concoction of equal parts sugar and water keeps for ages, so it’s worth it to make a big batch. (You will also find that simple syrup has all kinds of uses, including in cocktails.)

With the help of an electric citrus juicer—a handy small appliance that shouldn’t set you back more than —fresh-squeezed lemonade comes together in a matter of minutes. (But even squeezing the lemons by hand is not terribly difficult.) Real lemonade is only a little more work than the powder mix and the results are far superior, to say nothing of the benefit of knowing exactly what is in your lemonade: just lemon juice, sugar and water.

My family usually enhances our lemonade stand by selling cookies or Rice Krispie treats as well. I love to bake with my kids, but no family of four needs to eat that many desserts. So selling treats as part of our lemonade stand lets me indulge my inner pastry chef without too much damage to my waistline.

While this kind of a lemonade stand requires some effort and advance planning, it is a worthwhile project on many levels. By helping to make the lemonade and cookies that they sell, your kids will come a lot closer to earning whatever money they bring in.

And they will burst with pride when their efforts in the kitchen are met with lavish praise from their surprised customers.

My last piece of lemonade stand advice? Offer your homemade treats for free. In my experience, you will collect more in donations from your delighted neighbors than you will ever make by charging 50 cents or >. And talk with your kids about donating at least part of their proceeds to a charity of their choosing. My kids are usually pretty amenable to donating their earnings to the local animal shelter, especially if it means we can deliver the donation in person.

Emily Paster is a freelance writer who lives in River Forest with her husband and two kids. She writes about fitting ambitious food into family life on her blog, West of the Loop.


Strawberry Lemonade

For a special treat, make a seasonal berry-flavored lemonade!

  • 1 quart strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup simple syrup*
  • 4 cups cold water

Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender. Force the puree through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Pour the strawberry puree into a pitcher and add the lemon juice, the simple syrup and the cold water. Stir to combine. Serve cold. Because this is a thick concoction, you can serve it over ice or thin it with more cold water.

* To make simple syrup, combine equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan and heat it on the stovetop, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Simple syrup will keep for ages in your fridge, so make extra and save the remaining syrup for another use.


Halfway Cookies

These sinfully rich bar cookies are an old family recipe. While it may seem like extra work to make the meringue topping, the benefit of this recipe is that it makes one pan, rather than having to scoop out two dozen individual cookies. And these are truly irresistible.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature, separated
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease a jelly roll pan. Sift dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. In a standing mixer, cream the butter with the granulated sugar and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time and the vanilla extract and incorporate into the batter. Gradually add the dry ingredients. The resulting batter will be stiffer than a typical cookie dough. Press the dough evenly onto the greased jelly roll pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the dough and press into it slightly. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff using a handheld mixer. Gradually add the remaining cup of brown sugar and beat well until the mixture is stiff. Spread the meringue over the top of dough. Bake for about 20 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

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