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Tag Archives: wine

Triple Ginger Cookies and Holiday Sangria

This past weekend, I hosted my third annual cookie exchange party. Cookie party, for me, is quite simply an excuse to have a bunch of my friends over to my festively adorned house, so we can indulge in afternoon cocktails and eat cookies.

We eat cheese. We drink holiday sangria, pomegranate champagne cocktails, and cocoa. We trade cookies. The kids make holiday crafts. Everyone has grand time.

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This year’s party was apparently so grand and inviting, that perfect strangers decided to join us.

No joke.

My cookie party got crashed by three women wearing Santa hats.

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They walked up our driveway, let themselves in through the front door, sat on our stairs to remove their winter boots, coats, and hats, then proceeded to walk through the house in search of someone they knew.

One of my friends alerted me to the presence of my new guests, who were wandering my house at that very moment. I ran to my husband to find out what to do.

We were just about to greet our new guests as they walked into the living room and realized their mistake.

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One woman, who appeared to be the mother of the other two, mumbled an embarrassed apology, then made a hasty exit. The other two women sat on the stairs while they laced up what seemed like the tallest winter boots in creation. They then chased after their mom, who was already in her car driving down the road in search of their intended party.

Had it been me, standing there, eating a piece of cheese in the living room of a complete stranger, surrounded by that stranger’s family and friends, I would have run out of that house barefoot, into the foot and a half of snow on the ground.

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Had they brought cookies to share, I would have eagerly encouraged them to stay. But, as I always say, every time someone crashes my cookie party… No cookies? No cocktails!

Next year, I’m hiring a cookie bouncer for my party.

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These spicy, triple-ginger cookies were my contribution to the cookie buffet. They’re sweet and chewy and oozing with gingery flavor. The holiday sangria, which follows, is accented with festive flavors of orange, ginger, cinnamon, and pomegranate.

You’d have crashed my cookie party too, if you knew these cookies and sangria were waiting inside.

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Triple Ginger Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  •  1 2-ounce bottle crystallized ginger, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugar, eggs, and oil. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well blended. Roll into 1″ balls. Arrange the balls about 1 1/2″ apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until crackles form on the top. Remove the cookies from the oven, then give the baking sheet a little whack on the counter to flatten the cookies.

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Holiday Sangria

Ingredients

  • 1.5 liter bottle of sweet red wine (I used Sutter Home’s Sweet Red Wine)
  • 1/2 cup triple sec
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup ginger ale
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 pear, chopped
  • 1 pomegrante
  • 1 orange

Directions

Combine the wine, triple sec, orange juice, and ginger ale. Add the cinnamon stick and the chopped pear. Remove the arils from the pomegranate and add to the mixture. Remove the orange segments from the orange, chop into small pieces and add to the mixture. Remove the white pith from the orange peel, then slice the peel into small slivers. Add to the sangria. Chill and enjoy.

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Bacon-Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Bleu Cheese

A few weeks ago, my five year old comes out of the dining room holding a little recipe book of cocktails, which he found while rummaging through a drawer in the hutch…the hutch that he’s not supposed to be in, but that’s another story entirely. Liam was holding this little black book of beverages with a page open to a generic looking bit of cocktail clip art. The recipe on the page was for kir royales. Something about the name rang a bell, but I couldn’t have told you what sort of drink a kir royale was. My best guess would have involved whiskey, which isn’t really my thing.

I began uttering my normal line of questioning. Where’d you get that? Why are in the hutch? What other sorts of mischief are you doing in there? But, Liam interrupted me, “I think you should invite some of your friends over for your birthday and make them these drinks”. I smiled briefly, because he’s sweet to think up plans for my birthday. Then I took another glance at that kir royale recipe. Turns out that kir royales are a champagne cocktail, champagne mixed with a bit of creme de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur).

Visions of champagne cocktails, wine, and cheese began dancing in my head. I mean, is there any more heavenly combination than wine and cheese? Wine, cheese, and chocolate, perhaps??

Did you know that 1/3 of all milk produced in the U.S. is used to make cheese?? We certainly love our cheese in this country! During my recent farm-to-table dairy-themed getaway, hosted by the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, we had the opportunity to enjoy some of that delicious cheese in combination with some of New York’s tastiest wines.

After we returned from our morning at a local dairy farm, we were given a chance to clean off the eau de cow and change out of our farm attire. The group reunited at the New York Wine and Culinary Center, conveniently located next door to our accommodations at The Inn on the Lake in Canandaigua, NY. The New York Wine and Culinary Center is a really neat place. In addition to a bistro which showcases local ingredients, they have a wine tasting room where you can sample wines from all five of New York’s wine regions, a hands-on kitchen where they offer cooking classes, and an educational amphitheater for demonstration dinners.

New York Wine and Culinary Center

We began our experience in a private tasting room, where a personable wine instructor introduced us to the basics of wine tasting as we sampled a fantastic flight of New York wines. Then they brought out the cheese plate, a perfect way to make the farm to table connection during our dairy-themed adventure. We tasted each cheese on its own, then experimented with pairing each cheese with the variety of wines. Play with my food? Yes, please.

Following the wine and cheese tasting, we moved into the amphitheater, where a chef prepared a three-course meal before our eyes. We enjoyed ricotta and pancetta ravioli in a delicious cream sauce, bleu cheese port wine crusted beef tenderloin over root vegetables in a red wine reduction, and chocolate amaretto crème brûleé. Each course was perfectly paired with another New York wine. Wine, cheese, steak, and chocolate… I’d died and done to gastronomical heaven.

When I returned from my little dairy getaway, feeling fully inspired by cheese and wine, I began planning my kir royale birthday celebration. Pumped up with New York agricultural pride, I selected a few bottles of New York champagne. Then I set about planning the cheese selection…a little pepperjack and NY cheddar with crackers, some baked brie with marmalade on crostini, and a few simple bacon-wrapped, bleu cheese-stuffed dates. Liam was feeling pretty impressed with himself as he watched his brilliant idea become reality. I just barely caught him trying to sneak the cocktail recipe book into his backpack for kindergarten show and tell.

Focus on Technique – Entertaining with Cheese

Entertaining with a cheese-themed spread is effortlessly elegant and delicious.

A few tips for entertaining with cheese:

  • Keep it simple. Cheese has a way of speaking for itself.
  • Choose a variety of mild and pungent cheeses to please everyone’s palate. Try to serve a mix of aged (aged cheddar, gouda…), fresh (fresh mozzarella, chevre…), firm (provolone, monterey jack, gruyere, emmentaler…) and soft cheese (camembert, brie…). A creamy bleu cheese (stilton, gorgonzola, roquefort, maytag…) or spreadable port wine are other popular favorites.
  • Garnish your cheese plates with a variety of fresh and dried fruits, honey, nuts, and/or cured meats. Fresh mozzarella pleases the eyes and the taste buds when arranged on a platter with sliced tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette or basil pesto.
  • Serve the cheese with an attractive variety of crackers, baguette slices, and crostini.
  • Consider serving a few warm cheese dishes, such as a cheese dip, baked brie wrapped in puff pastry, or the bacon-wrapped stuffed dates featured in this post. All of these items can be prepared ahead of time and simply thrown in the oven when your guests arrive.
  • Serve with a selection of wine and have fun experimenting with the way each wine and cheese complements each other.

*** Don’t forget to enter the dairy themed giveaway! You have until noon on Saturday, November 3. To enter, simply leave a comment on the Delicious Dairy Round-Up post. I’ll assign each comment a number, then use a random number generator to pick a winner. Lots of cute stuff in that gift bag. Check it out HERE

Bacon-Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Bleu Cheese

Ingredients

  • 24 pitted dates
  • 2-3 ounces bleu cheese
  • 8-12 slices bacon

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stuffed a bit of bleu cheese into the center of each date. Cut the bacon slices in half or thirds, depending on the length. Wrap a piece of bacon around each date, so it overlaps just slightly. Secure the bacon with a toothpick, then place on a baking sheet. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until the bacon is cooked and crisp. Drain on a paper towel. Serve warm.

Birthday Kir Royales

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chocoflan

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I lied to you a little, about the whole not needing a wine rack because we drink our wine too fast. That statement is mostly true. We buy our regular wine in the big 1.5 liter bottles. It’s sold two for twenty bucks and it’s pretty darn tasty for that price. We are not wine snobs, as you can tell. I mean, we appreciate a fine wine, but we’ll gladly drink the cheap stuff too, as long as it doesn’t taste like grape juice mixed with well vodka. We pick up a few of those big bottles each week and we drink them promptly. Wine storage isn’t really a concern for us.

But we do actually have a small collection of wine in our wine cellar…errr, I mean the basement storage room, right next to the bins of Christmas decorations and miscellaneous crafting supplies. There are probably ten or so bottles down there; mostly wines we were given as gifts, a few mementos from our wedding, and some we picked up on wine tours. For the most part, they are white wines, which are spared from drinking due to our preference for red and the fact that they live unchilled in our basement.

There was a bottle of red down there. Was. I hadn’t forgotten about it. Many a night, I’ve thought about that bottle of wine. We bought it on a wine tour in Virginia, one weekend that we spent at this great little spa hotel. The concierge paired us with another couple and we shared a limo as we toured some the area’s wineries. We tasted several wines that day, including one with an aroma of tobacco that one of our new wine tour friends described as smelling of Colonial Williamsburg. Oddly, we all knew exactly what she meant. None of us purchased that wine. But we also tasted a delicious red called Ameritage Reserve at Pearmund Cellars; a blend of their best malbec, petite verdot and cabernet sauvignon. We were told it would be an ideal wine for aging. So we bought it and we aged it…for 9 years. We probably would have aged it forever if I hadn’t reminded my husband of its existence last night.

But, we were about to start the final episode of Downton Abbey’s second season and we’d exhausted our big bottle of cheapo red. We’d already watched two episodes that evening and were feeling quite regal by that point, as if we were destined for a life of fine wine. We do have a bottle of red, I heard myself say. Well, crack it open, was my husband’s response. And then we cracked open the bottle of 9 year old red. The cork practically crumbled as I pulled it from our precious aged wine. We traded in our standard drinking tumblers for actual wine glasses and took a sip. It was beautiful. It tasted as elegant as the halls of Downton Abbey. I may or may not have spoken with an English accent for the remainder of the evening.

It’s going to be hard to go back to drinking our budget wine this evening.

That wine was a special treat. No regrets.

I’ve got a treat for you too. Sometime in the weeks before our little Mexican fiesta, I picked up a Better Homes and Gardens magazine which featured all Mexican recipes. As I was flipping through the mag, I came across a recipe for a minted cake with a layer of dulce de leche flan on the top. Honestly, the combination of mint and dulce de leche did nothing to excite my taste buds, but in the description of this recipe, it mentioned something called chocoflan. Chocolate cake and creamy, caramelly flan??  Yup. I could get behind that idea. I found a recipe for chocoflan on the Food Network website and made it for my fiesta.

As far as baking goes, this is a pretty cool cake to make. The flan mixture gets poured over the cake mixture and sometime during the baking, the cake rises to the top, while the flan gently cooks in the bottom of the bundt pan. I followed the original recipe exactly as written, as I often do when I’m baking something unfamiliar. Baking is a much more exact process than cooking, so it’s a bit more important not to play around too much with ingredients and procedures until you have a better sense of what you’re working with. So, when the recipe instructed me to ‘giggle a little’, I giggled as told, even though I’m guessing the actual intention was to jiggle the cake.

The end result is delicious and show-stoppingly gorgeous. The cake is rich and dense, almost like a brownie. The flan is as decadent and satisfying as that aged wine; a perfect complement to the chocolatey cake. Though perfect as is, I toyed around with the recipe on my second attempt, substituting creamy melted peanut butter and warm fudge sauce for the dulce de leche in the original recipe. A handful of peanut butter chips, added to the cake batter, spreads peanut buttery flavor throughout the rich dessert.

This cake doesn’t really fall in line with my desire to lose a few pounds, but man is it worth the splurge! Just cut yourself a really, really skinny slice!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chocoflan

Adapted from Marcela Valladolid’s Chocoflan

 Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 10 tablespoons butter, softened (plus additional butter for pan)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter chips

For the Flan

  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Garnish

  • 1/3 cup peanut butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup prepared fudge sauce, warmed
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rub the inside of a 12-cup bundt pan with butter to prevent sticking.

To prepare the cake: Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat for another minute. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder. Beat a third of the flour mixture into the butter mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk, followed by another third of the flour mixture, then the remaining buttermilk, and ending with the remaining flour mixture. Stir in the peanut butter chips. Spread the cake mixture in an even layer on the bottom of the prepared bundt pan.

To prepare the flan: Combine all flan ingredients in a blender and blend until well-combined. Pour the flan mixture over the cake batter. (Don’t worry if the cake batter mixes a bit with the flan. They will separate during baking.)

Cover the bundt pan with foil. Place the bundt pan inside a larger roasting pan or large skillet. Carefully fill the roasting pan or skillet with about an inch or so of hot water. (The hot water bath will help the flan custard to cook gently.)

Place the pan on the middle oven rack and bake for about 90 minutes*, until the top of the cake is firm and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Carefully remove the pan from the oven, remove the bundt pan from the water bath, and cool for at least an hour at room temperature. Then, give the bundt pan a little jiggle to ensure the cake and flan are loosened. Place a large serving plate over the top and invert the cake onto the serving plate. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

To garnish, drizzle the top of the cake with the melted fudge sauce and peanut butter. Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts.

*The original recipe calls for a cooking length of one hour, but it actually takes a good 90 minutes, as I’ve noted in my adaptation of the recipe.

Water bath set-up

Grown-Up Fruity Sangria Popsicles

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As first time parents, we had it all figured out..or so we thought. We did our research, planned and applied strategies, and relished in our grand successes. Our baby was sleeping through the night by four months, a skilled walker by 10 months, and a calm communicator using our own made-up sign language by a year. My husband and I would pass by other toddlers in the midst of full-fledged tantrums, while our own sweet boy happily babbled on and delighted elderly passers-by. With a wordless glance, we’d silently pat ourselves on the back for our stellar parenting, because clearly we must be doing everything right. Our child would NEVER behave in such an appalling fashion. You see, even parents find themselves silently judging other parents’ parenting skills. You think we’d know better, but we’re human.

Turns out, we’re not the only parents who have been through this. I remember chatting with a neighbor a few years back, who jokingly commented that he and his wife were so swollen with pride over their exceptional parenting skills with their first born, that they’d considered writing a book. They had this parenting thing all figured out and were going to share their remarkable wisdom with the world. After countless discussions with other parents, there seems to be a trend that first children are deceptively ‘easy’ (or as easy as raising any child can be). I’ve yet to figure whether this is a biological trait or simply the result of having more undivided attention to devote towards the first born. But many (not all, of course) parents have a deceptively idyllic experience with their first.

Such was our experience. And then we had our second son. Our second son was (and continues to be) an entirely different animal. Though we held the same expectations and applied our proven expert parenting skills, the result was not the same, by far. Our second son slept in our bed for a good part of his first year. He woke often. He screamed a lot more often than used sign language. And suddenly WE were the parents with the tantruming child in the grocery store, despite all of our best intentions. It’s just what he did. And sometimes no amount of thoughtful parenting can prevent that. We know that now. We don’t judge as much now.

Our third son is just as unique as his brothers. We’ve learned that there is no one set of parenting strategies which is guaranteed to work with every child. They are all born with their own little unique personalities. And sometimes it takes a whole lot of experimentation, trial, and error to find what works. We parents are like scientists testing hypotheses. And sometimes you need to be the parent with the screaming kid in the grocery store until you figure out what works with your particular specimen.

And that 3-year-old drinking Kool-aid from a baby’s bottle while my own 13 month old peacefully nurses hands-free in his baby sling as I load my shopping cart with all organic fruits and vegetables and cage-free, grass-fed, golden-egg-laying, smiling-as-they’re-slaughtered meats (totally exaggerating)…I don’t judge. Ok, maybe I judge a little, but I also understand that perhaps that’s the first moment of silence that mom had all day. Perhaps that Kool-aid was simply an unfortunate compromise to get her through the shopping trip. Because sometimes parents just need to get through, even at the cost of our own parenting ideals. I didn’t get that when I had my first. You couldn’t have convinced me of it then. But I get it now. Most of us are just doing the best that we can. We’re muddling through and hoping that in the end, we produce a kind, thoughtful, intelligent, and responsible human. It’s hard work. And for that you deserve a treat.

That’s why I made you these grown-up sangria popsicles. Even if you don’t have any kids, these are for you, because everyone deserves an ice pop made with wine. I froze them in the kids’ popsicle molds, which gave me the same naughty feeling as when I use the cupholder in the stroller to hold my beer at the fair. Thank you, Graco, for your thoughtful stroller design. When you’re sitting outside, baking in the 90+ degree heat, as you watch your children play, go ahead and pull one of these out of the freezer.

Sangria is simply a cocktail made with wine and fruit. It can be made a million different ways. Simply start with any kind of wine, then add some fruit and perhaps some other liqueurs, juices, sweeteners or spices. It’s really hard to go wrong when making sangria. (Check out these recipes for Ginger Peach Sangria and Very Melony Sangria) For this popsicle, I made  a simple white sangria. You can use any white wine. Pick something you enjoy drinking. I selected a white table wine from one of my local Finger Lakes wineries. (I picked it because the winery shares a name with my snuggly second son.) To the wine, I added a little gingerale and some fresh cherries, blueberries, and orange segments. A touch of honey adds a little extra sweetness. Freeze and enjoy.

Fruity Sangria Popsicles

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white wine
  • 3/4 cup gingerale
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 cup chopped fruit

Directions

Combine the wine, gingerale, lemon juice, and honey. Taste and adjust sweetness with more honey and gingerale, as desired. Place a few spoonfuls of the chopped fruit in each popsicle mold. Fill the remainder of each popsicle mold with the wine mixture. Freeze for several hours. To remove, dip the molds into a bowl of hot water to loosen.

Makes about 8 popsicles

Cranberry Chipotle Cocktail Meatballs

I hosted a little cookie exchange this weekend. It was really just an excuse to engage in a bit of holiday cheer with a few of my best girl friends…as if we needed an excuse! We drank pomegranate champagne cocktails and warm mugs of mulled wine as we laughed by the light of the Christmas tree. Then we loaded up our trays with the assortment of delicious cookies and homemade bread before saying good night. I love the holiday season exactly for such festive gatherings.

Our evening was as educational as it was fun. We learned such things as:

  • When offering your guests mulled wine, it helps to say the word “mulled” slowly and clearly, so your guests do not believe you are offering them some sort of fancy French mold wine.
  • Carrots are not only delicious, but also an excellent source of small talk.
  • If your boot gets stuck on your foot as you pass through airport security, you will need to sit in the naughty passenger area until the boot can be pried from your foot. (Try to appear as if you’re ok with this situation.)
  • Alec Baldwin likes Word with Friends and Wegmans. And we still like Alec Baldwin.

I made a few snacks for my cookie party, including some spinach-gorgonzola triangles (think spanakopita, made with gorgonzola cheese instead of feta) and these cranberry meatballs. They’re inspired by a recipe I spotted in an advertisement for Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. Ocean Spray’s recipe calls for a combination of jellied cranberry sauce and chili sauce over frozen cocktail meatballs. It reminds me of the sweet and sour meatballs which my mom used to make with a combination of grape jelly and ketchup. It was one of her standard dishes to bring to potlucks and they were surprisingly delicious. You’d never have guessed the sauce was made from jelly and ketchup, of all things!

I knew there was something to this cranberry meatball idea. So, I made a few little tweaks to raise the homemade factor in the recipe and to kick up the flavor with a bit of chipotle heat. The result is sweet, savory, spicy, and surprisingly delicious. These tasty little meatballs are going to make a prompt reappearance on my Christmas Eve menu!

Cranberry Chipotle Cocktail Meatballs

Ingredients

For the meatballs:

  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1/2 medium onion, very finely diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper

For the sauce:

  • 2 cans jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers (from a can of chipotle in adobo)

Directions

To prepare the meatballs: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ground turkey, onions, eggs, bread crumbs, salt and pepper until well-blended. Form into 1″ balls. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet which has been lightly rubbed with oil. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until cooked through.

To prepare the sauce: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium/medium-low heat. (Use one chipotle pepper for mild/medium heat or two chipotle peppers for medium-hot.) Use a fork to smash up the cranberry sauce. Stir and cook for about 5-7 minutes until a sauce forms. Remove the sauce from heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree the mixture using a blender, immersion blender, or food processor. Pour the sauce over the cooked meatballs.

Meatballs and sauce can be refrigerated or frozen until use.

To reheat: Reheat the meatballs in a foil-covered baking dish in a 350 degrees oven, until the meatballs are heated through, about 25-30 minutes (frozen meatballs will take longer). Periodically stir the meatballs as they reheat. Alternately, the meatballs and sauce can be reheated in a saucepan over medium-low heat or in a slow-cooker.

Makes about 60 cocktail-sized meatballs

Tis the season for festive cocktails, like pomegranate champagne cocktails and mulled wine.

For the pomegranate champagne cocktails: Place a few pomegranate arils (the bright red seeds) into the bottom of a champagne glass. Pour a splash of pomegranate juice over the arils. Fill the glass with champagne. The arils sparkle like floating gems and are really fun to pop in your mouth as you enjoy your festive cocktail.

For the mulled wine: Mulled wine is warm, spiced and flavored wine…sort of a warm sangria. It’s typically made with red wine. The flavors and spices can vary. I combined 1.5 liters of Merlot with 1/4 cup honey, 1 cup of pomegranate juice, and two cinnamon sticks. Then, cut one navel orange in half. Squeeze the juice into the mixture, then place the orange halves into the liquid. Slowly warm the mixture to a very gentle simmer. Allow to gently simmer for about 20 minutes. Do not boil. Serve warm. You can prepare the wine on the stovetop in a saucepan or use a slow cooker.

Ginger Peach Sangria

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This week will forever be known as the week we got the windows replaced, the week we toured the Syracuse public restrooms, and the week mommy officially lost her mind.

It’s hard living the gypsy life with three very young children in 95 degrees weather. Even the fun adventures I’d planned to keep everyone engaged have gone wildly awry. Who even knew it was possible to not have fun while enjoying a picnic at a beautiful park on a sunny day with bubbles and a gigantic bouncy ball??? I’m here to tell you that it’s entirely possible.

In fact, the best part of today was the hour I drove the kids around in our air-conditioned Honda Pilot while two out of the three napped and the third watched Up on our second row DVD entertainment system. Did you know that gypsies drive well-equipped Honda Pilots?

To say that this has been a tiring week is an understatement. The level of exhaustion involved in caring for an extremely active preschooler, a potty-training toddler, and a breastfeeding newborn everyday, for an entire week, from the trunk of my car, is overwhelming. It’s akin to having taken the three of them through Disneyworld on a hot summer day, by myself, only a heck of a lot less fun. We’ve tried to make the best of a tricky situation, but it’s been tiring for us all.

The weather is expected to hit nearly 100 degrees tomorrow. I’m planning to keep the kids in the air-conditioned mall most of the day, since the outdoor activities I’d planned for today were such a bust. The new windows are almost completely installed. I think we’re going to make it through this odd week (with sanity partially intact).

In the mean time, mommy needs a drink. An iced cold drink. Something of the adult beverage variety. How about an icy pitcher of ginger peach sangria??

Yes, please!

(Oh, and in case you’re wondering…our local Wegmans takes the prize for best ambience in a public restroom.)

Ginger Peach Sangria

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, very finely grated
  • 3/4 cup peach schnapps
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1-2 white peaches, chopped
  • 1-2 granny smith apples, chopped
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 large (1.5 liter) bottle Pinot Grigio or other dry white wine

Directions

Combine the water, sugar, ginger, and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Stir until sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from heat and allow the liquid to cool to room temperature. Add the peach schnapps and the fruit. Transfer the mixture to a pitcher and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight. Add the white wine. Refrigerate until well-chilled. Pour over ice.

Cheese Please!

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It’s wine and cheese night over here! Family and friends have gathered and we’re ready to eat cheese! Earlier today I shared my recipes for three olive tapenade variations.

Enjoy the tapenades on their own or pair with cheese. Olive tapenade is especially delicious with feta cheese. Spread it on a baguette or make little tartlettes like these…

Simply buy a package of phyllo/fillo tartlette shells, fill with a bit of cheese, top with tapenade and bake in a 375 degrees oven for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is warm and delicious. You can make these tartlettes a hundred different ways. Try gorgonzola with finely diced dried apricots and prosciutto, brie with fig preserves or a cranberry chutney, or cheddar with poached pear and perhaps a piece of ham. The options are truly infinite. So easy and delicious!

Fresh Tomato and Mozzarella with Basil Pesto


Fresh tomato and mozzarella always works well for a wine and cheese night. There are many different ways to present the dish. Tonight, I arranged the tomato and mozzarella in overlapping rings. Then, I drizzled the plate with fresh basil pesto. Alternately, you can layer fresh basil leaves with the tomato and mozzarella and drizzle the dish with balsamic vinaigrette. Serve with a platter of sliced baguette and let your guests create their own Caprese appetizers.

For the basil pesto, I made a very slightly modified version of my regular pesto. This version simply contains a bit more olive oil and is blended longer so it has a consistency more like a dressing than a sauce. You can use the same recipe to create a spread or sauce for pasta by blending less and using a little less oil.

Basil Pesto Dressing

Ingredients

  • Big Bunch of Basil (about 2 cups Basil Leaves)
  • 1/4 cup Pine Nuts
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil (plus more, if necessary)
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

Pull the basil leaves off of the stem.  Place in a food processor and pulse slightly, giving the leaves a coarse chop. Add all other ingredients, except the oil, and mix until well blended. Gradually incorporate the oil until you reach your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Baked Brie en Croute


We’re big fans of brie around here. One of my favorite ways to serve brie when we have guests is wrapped in puff pastry. It’s a simple preparation which makes an elegant presentation. You can wrap the brie on its own or pair it with preserves, dried fruits, spreads or nuts. Simply thaw one puff pastry sheet, which you can usually find in the frozen foods section of your grocery store. Spread a small circle of preserves or the filling of your choice in the center. Place an 8 ounce round of brie on top of the preserves. It’s not necessary to remove the rind from the brie. Wrap the puff pastry around the brie. Cut off any excess pastry. Lightly beat an egg with a splash of water. Brush a little on the seam side. Place the wrapped brie seam-side down on a baking sheet. Brush with the egg mixture. Bake in a 400 degrees oven for about 20 minutes. Serve with baguette.


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