Does the cold, gray post holiday weather have you down? Are you dreaming of warmer and sunnier days? I know I am but in the meantime I’m keeping myself warm with this rich and spicy hot chocolate adapted from my all time favorite food podcast, The Splendid Table.
The combination of cinnamon, vanilla and orange zest bring a warming comfort to this drink and the chocolate makes it simply rich and divine. I like to use a combination of Belgian chocolates in my drink. And to make this drink that much more decadent, I’d added a splash of heavy cream to this otherwise dairy free drink. You don’t have to but go ahead and do it. It is sure to cheer you up during this post holiday slump!
BOLOGNESE HOT CHOCOLATE
4 4-inch cinnamon sticks, crushed
2 to 4 8-inch long vanilla beans, split
zest of one small orange
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
2 quarts (8 cups) water
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1-1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream
- Combine all ingredients except chocolate, vanilla extract and heavy cream in a 4-quart pot.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer, cover, and cook 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, leave the spot covered, and let steep 15 to 20 minutes.
- Strain the mixture into an 8-quart pot.
- Return the pot to the stove setting it over medium heat.
- Add the chocolate to the mixture and stir until the chocolate has completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
- Whisk until just below the boil then stir in the vanilla and the cream.
- Serve immediately.
Here’s a twist on good old fashioned lemonade. Just add a lime instead! While I find limes considerably more difficult to juice than lemons, the results are so worth it so be sure to use fresh limes. The combination of lime juice, mint, and sparkling water is reminiscent of mojitos, which are my favorite adult summer beverage. Sometimes I’ll add the rum and other times I’ll leave it other. Whichever version you choose, pour yourself a tall drink, sit back, relax, and enjoy these hot lazy summer days.
LIMEY MOJITO SPRITZER
1 cup water
1 cup superfine sugar
1 1/2 liters Pellagrino or other sparkling water
1 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup light rum (optional)
In a small saucepan, bring the water and superfine sugar to a boil. Boil 3 minutes then remove from the heat. Allow to cool.
Using a wooden spoon, muddle the mint leaves in the bottom of a glass pitcher. Add the simple syrup and lime juice and stir to combine.
Pour in the sparkling water and rum, if using.
Serve in chilled glasses over ice.
I drink wine year around. As a rule I prefer red to white any day but depending on the meal a rich red or a crisp white is the perfect accompaniment to food. During the cooler months a warm and spicy gluhwein hits the spot. Gluhwein, or mulled wine, is a staple at Christmas markets throughout Europe and as I’ve discovered, each county–or region for that matter–puts their own twist on this winter staple. Some may be spicier and others may be sweeter. Regardless of the ingredients, each cup is sure to please. However, hot wine doesn’t excite me during the summer months. Hot weather calls for something lighter and cooler so for this wine drinker, that means sangria. As my recent trip to Spain showed me, there are just as many varieties of sangria as there are gluhwein. Within the greater Madrid area alone I sampled sangria that was sweet or spicy or sometimes both. And this was just the versions made with red wine.
I’ve long had a favorite sangria recipe. My red wine version includes oranges, lemons, and limes making for a citrus filled and refreshing drink. (Be on the lookout for my white wine version later this summer!) This recipe calls for a single liter of red wine but the recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, or more depending upon the size of your crowd. Any dry red wine works for this recipe. If you like it, use it. For larger quantities I used to use Trader Joe’s infamous “Two Buck Chuck” since it was drinkable without being too expensive. (Save your really good wine for drinking as is). Back in our Norfolk, Virginia days I would mix up a cooler full of sangria for our annual Belvedere block party. As the summer wore on I’d make up the same amount to enjoy during our long lazy weekends on our boat. Regardless of the quantity you make, the longer it sits the stronger it becomes. You can easily dilute it by adding more juice or ice. However you make it or where ever you drink it, it is sure to refresh. To me, sangria is the ultimate summer drink.
RED WINE SANGRIA
1 liter dry red wine
1/4 cup (or more) white sugar, depending on taste
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup Triple Sec or other orange liqueur
- Thoroughly scrub the rinds of the fruit to remove any waxes. Thinly slice the fruit taking care to remove any seeds.
- Place the fruit in a large pitcher. Add the sugar and using a wooden spoon, muddle to combine the sugar and fruit.
- Pour the wine, juice, and liqueur over the fruit; stir to combine.
- Let the sangria sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
- Before serving, add ice to the pitcher.
Egg nog, like the ubiquitous fruitcake, is so closely associated with Christmas that it is hard to imagine one without the other. Like the famous cake, people seem to either love or hate egg nog. Personally I was never a fan but then again I had only drank the thick and cloying sweet stuff that comes out of the carton. Then I had my first taste of the real stuff and I was a convert.
Egg nog is easy to make and chances are you already have all of the ingredients on hand. This recipe is adapted from the Yankee Kitchen Ninja blog. The Ninj’s version used skim milk but since I was feeling decadent, and I had some hard to find heavy cream on hand, I splurged and used a combination of milk and cream. My results were rich and thick but you can use all milk of any fat content if you prefer. The rum is also optional but I think it adds a nice kick to the drink. If you are serving the egg nog to a mixed crowd you can add a shot of rum to each glass instead of mixing it into the pitcher. However you drink it, egg nog means Christmas so Joy Noel!
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup dark rum (optional)
- Whisk together the eggs and sugar in a large saucepan until the sugar is dissolved.
- Whisk in the vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, milk, and cream until blended.
- Set the pan over medium heat and heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 160 degrees then let it simmer for 1 minute.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Pour into a pitcher and refrigerate until cold.
- Before serving mix in the rum if using and top with a dollop of whipped cream.
This very adult hot cocoa doesn’t even resemble the watery version made with powder and adorned with dehydrated marshmallows that I drank as a child. This is rich and creamy with a little kick of your choice. A little goes a long way; especially if you make it with whole milk. So sit back, relax, and enjoy your cup on a cold winter afternoon.
You can add whichever liqueur strikes your fancy. I experimented with Grand Marnier, Frangelico, and a Lilly coffee liqueur. Each was different but all three were good and we couldn’t decided which one we preferred.
BOOZY HOT CHOCOLATE (THREE WAYS)
2 cups 2 percent milk (or whole if your feeling indulgent)
3 1/2 ounces good quality dark chocolate
4 teaspoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons liqueur of your choice
Garnishes as desired (orange zest, whole coffee beans, cocoa powder, etc)
- Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Add to a medium sized saucepan with the brown sugar and milk.
- Stirring frequently, warm over medium low heat.
- Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of the liqueur of your choice in the bottom of each mug. Ladle in the cocoa and stir to combine.
- Top with a dollop of whipped cream and garnish, if desired. I used orange zest for the Grand Marnier version, a coffee bean for the coffee version, and a dusting of Dutch processed cocoa for the Frangelico version.
- Drink and enjoy!
The holiday is approaching and nothing says Christmas to me more than mulled red wine. Called by its German name of gluhwein, this warm spicy red wine is a staple of the holiday season throughout Europe. Regardless of where you are the base of the drink is the same; red wine is simmered with a variety of spices producing a warm and intoxicating drink that is sipped from small cups purchased from street vendors. Each country seems to have their own take on this traditional drink; in the Czech Republic slices of lemon float on top of the drink while orange is the citrus of choice in Slovenia and Croatia. Germany and Austria seem to forgo the the fruit but “class” up their presentation by servingthe hot beverage from commemorative mugs instead of paper cups. (This makes consumption so much more enjoyable). Look around a town square during the holiday season and groups of people will be standing around sipping their drinks and enjoying the holiday season.
I’ve been making my own version of gluhwein for many years. Whether it was served at our Christmas parties in Norfolk, VA or Tirana, Albania, every drop of the spicy warm goodness is inevitably gone by the end of the night. You can easily double or triple the following recipe if you are serving a crowd (or want a lot for yourself). For larger groups I like to make the gluhwein in a crock pot which makes it easy to serve and keeps it warm until the last drop has been drunk.
2 .75 liters dry red wine
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup white sugar-or more to taste
10 whole peppercorns
10 whole allspice
20 whole cloves
6 whole cinnamon sticks
zest of two oranges
- Toast spices in a small saucepan until fragrant being careful not to scorch them.
- Place smaller spices (peppercorns, allspice, and cloves) in a tea ball or cheesecloth bag. Place all of the spices into a large saucepan or crackpot.
- Add the wine, brandy, sugar, and orange zest to the pot.
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat being careful not to boil the liquid. Stir occasionally to make
sure sugar is dissolved.
- Reduce heat and let steep a minimum of 1 hour or longer.
- When using a crock pot, I will use the “warm” setting and allow the flavors to intensify for the duration of serving while keeping the gluhwein warm.
I had always heard that children were little germ factories and when they are in school they bring home every bug that is going around. I was slightly skeptical until my son joined the school masses and three days into his new school brought home a cold which he immediately passed along to me. Now I hate being sick. It makes me want to curl up and hibernate in a quarantined room. But since that just isn’t an option, I’ve learned to power through with a combination of medicines and staying hydrated.
And when I have a cold my favorite way to stay hydrated and warm, while soothing a scratchy throat, is by sipping mugs of hot honey and lemon tea. There actually isn’t any tea involved; rather hot water, fresh lemon juice, and honey combine to form a soothing drink that warms the body and the soul.
This recipe is more of a method rather than an exact recipe. All lemons are not created equal; some are larger and / or tarter than others. I like my tea to be on the tart side but remember, you can always add more honey as needed to reach your desired level of sweetness. I often start with a little less honey than the recipe calls for then gradually add more, one teaspoon at a time, until it tastes right to me. So the next time you’re feeling a bit under the weather, make yourself a cup of this tea, curl up with a blanket, and get better soon.
8 ounces water
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup honey, or more to taste
- Combine the water, lemon juice, and honey is a large mug.
- Heat in the microwave for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes or until hot. Stir well and adjust sweetener if necessary.