Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wine Tasting In Fashion

I know that after the Twelve Days of Christmas Cocktails you might be ready for a detox, but as I see it, it is the holidays and you should enjoy yourself.  Christmastime for me means time well spent not just with family but with friends as well,  gathering around a great bottle of wine makes it all the merrier.  

I am so fortunate to have such amazing friends in my life.  No matter how far apart we are in distance we are always there for each other and just a phone call and a glass of wine (or cocktail) away.  So this holiday season in honor of fabulous friends I have teamed up with a great friend of mine Erica Deputy from Conflicted Pixie.  She is an amazing blogger with outstanding style and will always keep your budget in mind.  So to brighten your holiday season I bring to you great wines for under $15 (all purchased at World Market) to serve at a tasting party, bring as a hostess gift or just share with a close friend.  To find the perfect outfit to wear this season check out Erica's suggestions on holiday party fashion.

Foodies Chardonnay 
I know this seems a bit cliche for a foodie to suggest this wine but I couldn't pass it up, besides this is such a cute gift idea for your foodie friend without the gourmet price.  It is a beautiful easy drinking wine that has a fruity aroma with a buttery smooth taste, finishing clean on the palate.  Foodies Chardonnay is a perfect pair for your Christmas dinner of turkey and mashed potatoes.

Amberhill Secret Blend
This is a perfect middle of the road, not to light and not too bold, wine everyone can enjoy.  Greg and I served this at our wedding in October and let's just say there weren't too many bottles left behind.

Barbed Wire Meritage
An amazing Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Savingon and Merlot.  This is my husband's favorite because it is a full body wine with a great lingering finish! 

Lodi Old Vine Zin
This one is a new favorite for me!  It has a smokey like aroma and taste.   Followed by a raspberry jam flavor with a wonderful mocha finish.  It is a fantastic wine and perfect for the wine drinker who loves interesting things and up for a wine adventure.

Wine tasting note: If you are planning to serve these for a tasting I suggest to serve them in the order as listed above.  Starting with light fruit flavors to bold and interesting.  Also, fresh glasses for the red is preferred along with water for your guests to cleanse their palates in between wines.

Mulled Spiced Wine

Now as the temperatures are dropping even more, including here in Southern California, you may want to warm up with a delicious mulled spiced wine served hot.  I first had this served to me by my sister two Christmases ago.  I love how the spices infused with the wine warm you up and give off a lovely aroma that will fill your house as it cooks on the stove. I researched many different ways to make this and have come up with my own twist including substituting bourbon for brandy (for all my bourbon lovers) and adding peppercorns for a kick.

Mulling Spice Ingredients
2 teaspoons ground or whole allspice
1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon whole peppercorns (I use rainbow peppercorns)
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 small strips of orange rind
1 sachet

Place all ingredients into the sachet.  Close the sachet tight and secure.

Mulled Spiced Wine Ingredients
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup bourbon
1 750-ml bottle Cabernet Sauvignon (I use 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon which is also great on its own)
1 sachet mulling spice
Cinnamon stick for garnish

In a large saucepan combine the honey, bourbon, cabernet savignon, and sachet of mulling spices.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally to make sure all the ingredients are combined and evenly distributed.  Discard the sachet and serve hot.  Garnish with a cinnamon stick.  Makes 4-6 servings.

Sauteed Swiss Chard and Prosciutto 

Now to soak up all that wine, I thought I would share this appetizer that I recently created using rainbow swiss chard from my box of Farm Fresh To You.  Lately, I have been obsessed with Trader Joe's Rosemary Italian Style Crackers.  The sauteed swiss chard and onions with a little prosciutto for a finishing touch on this cracker makes this appetizer perfect for any holiday party.  

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil (I used lemon olive oil from 41 Olives)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium sweet yellow onion, sliced thin
1 small bunch of swiss chard, cut off thick stems and discarded, cut out center ribs and chop, chop leaves separately
1/4 cup white wine (I used Foodies Chardonnay)
salt and pepper to taste
1 box Trader Joe's Rosemary Italian Style Crackers 
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto cut into pieces
4-6 ounces cream cheese

First prepare your crackers by breaking them into smaller appetizer pieces, about 4 small pieces per cracker.  Spread cream cheese on each cracker and top with prosciutto and set aside.

In a large skillet melt the butter and olive oil together over medium heat.  Stir in the garlic and onions until slightly browned and fragrant.  Add the center chard ribs and wine.  Simmer until the the swiss chard begins to soften and the wine is absorbed.  Stir in the swiss chard leaves and cook until wilted.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Using a fork place about 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons of the sauteed swiss chard onto the prepared crackers and serve.  Makes 20-25 servings.  

Alternative options:  Substitute the cream cheese for goat cheese, brie or even gorgonzola for a bolder flavor.  Exchange the prosciutto for crispy crumbled bacon mixed with the sauteed swiss chard or leave out the meat altogether.  Replace the crackers with a crusty french bread.  Instead of swiss chard you could try tuscan kale which is another one of my latest obsessions or simply serve this dish as a side dish and pair with a grilled salmon or juicy steak.  For a spicy kick add 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 12: The Twelve Days of Christmas Cocktails

On The Twelfth Day of Christmas...

Grown Up Hot Cocoa is something I know my family will be drinking all winter long, including my nephews who can enjoy the non-alcoholic version of this delightful cup of chocolaty goodness.  There are so many options and preferences when it comes to hot cocoa but I felt it was best to just keep it simple.  You know, the way we all remember it as kids during Christmastime.

Hot Cocoa
4 cups milk (whole, 2%, 1% or skim, whichever you drink)
8 ounces dark chocolate chopped
3 teaspoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1-3 large marshmallows
Dash of cinnamon 

In a medium sauce pan heat the milk on low heat to a simmer.  Whisk the milk occasionally so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.  Do not boil. Add the vanilla extract, powdered sugar, sea salt and dark chocolate.  Whisk until ingredients are combined and chocolate is completely dissolved, about 4-5 minutes.  Serve hot and top with marshmallows and dash with cinnamon.

Grown Up Hot Cocoa
Pour 1-1/2 ounces of your favorite liqueur.  I suggest Baileys Irish Cream, Amaretto, Kahlua, and my favorite, Frangelico.  Follow the directions to Hot Cocoa recipe and serve.  Cheers!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 11: The Twelve Days of Christmas Cocktails

On The Eleventh Day of Christmas...

Pumpkin Martini is the perfect dessert in a glass.  So if you saved some pumpkin puree from Thanksgiving, break it out of the freezer and let it thaw for this decedent cocktail.  If not there are still some cans of pumpkin puree on the shelves at the grocery store ready for this cocktail.  Using real pumpkin puree makes this martini a bit more authentic than those holiday cocktails that most restaurants and bars put on their seasonal menus.  Along with pear-infused vodka and the dark brown sugar simple syrup this cocktail is full of sweet and fresh flavors.  The aroma and taste will bring you back to the holidays of when you were a kid but with a grown up kick.

1-1/2 ounces pear-infused vodka (see recipe and instructions below)
1 ounce pumpkin puree
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon brown sugar simple syrup (See recipe and instructions below)
1 dash of Angostura Bitters
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of Cinnamon

Pear-Infused Vodka
750 ml vodka
3 fresh pears sliced into quarters

Pour a 750ml bottle of vodka into a large airtight container.  Add sliced pears, close container and let it steep for about 1 week.  The pears will brown as the vodka becomes infused.  Strain the vodka back into the original bottle and discard the pears.

Brown Sugar Simple Syrup
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup water

In a small sauce pan heat the dark brown sugar and water until sugar has dissolved completely.  Do not boil.  Cool and store in and airtight container or jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Pumpkin Martini
Pour the pear-infused vodka, pumpkin puree, Grand Marnier, brown sugar simple syrup and Angostura Bitters into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.  Shake vigorously to mix all ingredients, especially the pumpkin puree.  Pour the cocktail into the martini glass and garnish with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 10: The Twelve Days of Christmas Cocktails

On The Tenth Day Of Christmas...

Spiced Cranberry Mimosa is how every Sunday or Christmas brunch should begin.  As for my sister and I, we have been sharing this cocktail for the last few years every Christmas Eve morning.  We have made it a tradition that I spend the night on the 23rd and we watch a movie, drink wine and I help her wrap the presents for my nephews.  In the morning she makes a wonderful breakfast while I pour us these delicious drinks.  We spend the day sipping our cocktails and playing board games with my nephews relaxing a bit before the craziness of Christmas Day comes.

1 bottle prosecco ( Or champagne but I prefer prosecco)
1-2 ounces spiced apple cider (I bought mine at Trader Joe's)
Splash of pure cranberry juice
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of cinnamon
1 cinnamon stick

Fill the champagne glass about half full with prosecco.  Add the spiced apple cider and splash with cranberry juice.  Dash the cocktail with the nutmeg and cinnamon and drop the cinnamon stick in for garnish and extra flavor.  

Note: This recipe is based upon our (mine and my sister's) taste but feel free to adjust the amount of prosecco, spiced apple cider and cranberry juice to yours.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Day 9: The Twelved Days of Christmas Cocktails

On The Ninth Day Of Christmas...

With my huge obsession with bourbon I had to add this Holiday Spiced Manhattan to the list.  I'm in love with the mulled sweet vermouth with my favorite spices of the season giving this cocktail the perfect blend of a classic drink with a festive cheer.  
I first did a test run of the Holiday Spiced Manhattan on my husband and a couple who are great friends of ours, serving them up in a martini glass as pictured below.  Then I served the same cocktail on the rocks prepped in a large pitcher at a southern themed party to pair with AMC's The Walking Dead mid-season finale.  You wouldn't believe how great this cocktail is with southern fried chicken and The Walking Dead, my other obsession.  Not only will this cocktail spice up your holiday season but may help you ward off some zombies as well.

Mulled Sweet Vermouth
2 cups sweet vermouth
3 cinnamon sticks
 4 whole cloves
2-4 dashes cayenne pepper
2-4 dashes salt

In a small saucepan heat the sweet vermouth just before boiling.  Turn off heat and add the cinnamon sticks, cloves, cayenne pepper, and salt.  Cover with a lid and let it steep for 6-8 hours.  Strain sweet vermouth into a jar and discard solids.  This can be stored in an air tight container for up to 6 months.

Holiday Spiced Manhattan
2-1/2 ounces bourbon (I prefer Maker's Mark with this recipe)
3/4 ounce mulled sweet vermouth
2-3 dashes of Angostura Bitters
Dash of nutmeg
Orange peel for twist

Pour the bourbon, mulled sweet vermouth and the Angostura Bitters into an ice filled shaker.  Shake well and pour into a martini glass. Peal a small piece of the orange rind and moisten the rim with it.  Give the orange peel a twist over the glass and drop it into the cocktail.  Dash nutmeg into the cocktail and take in the amazing aroma.  Cheers!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Day 8: The Twelve Days of Christmas Cocktails

On The Eighth Day Of Christmas...

Christmas Cranberry Margarita is a great holiday twist on one of my all time favorite cocktails.  It is going to be the perfect cocktail to serve with appetizers before Christmas dinner this year.  I love how the tartness of the cranberry juice is complemented with the sweet and spice of the cinnamon-sugar rim.  Not only is this margarita eye catching but I love this wintery take on a summertime favorite.

1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 ounces of tequila (silver is best with this even though I am an anejo lover)
1 ounce cranberry juice
1-1/2 teaspoons agave nectar
2 lime wedges

Cinnamon-Sugar Rim
Mix the cinnamon and sugar on a plate.  Moisten the rim of a martini glass with a lime wedge. Dip the glass in the cinnamon and sugar mix. Set aside

Christmas Cranberry Margarita
Pour tequila, cranberry juice, agave nectar and squeeze the lime wedges into an iced filled shaker.  Shake well and strain into the cinnamon-sugar rimmed martini glass.  Garnish with a lime wedge if desired.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Day 7: The Twelve Days of Christmas Cocktails

On The Seventh Day Of Christmas...

This Gingerbread Cookie Cocktail is not for wussies.  Although it may actually taste like a cookie, don't be fooled by its yummy sweetness and cute name.  I made this cocktail for the first time a few years ago for some co-workers who couldn't stop raving about it and how wonderfully delicious it was.  Since then it has become a part of my holiday tradition and has definitely spread some good cheer!

1-1/2 ounces Stoli Vanilla Vodka
1-1/2 ounces Frangelico Liqueur
3/4 ounce Butterscotch Schnapps
4 ounces ginger beer (I prefer Reeds Extra Ginger Brew which is a bit spicier)
Myer's Rum Original Dark for float

Mix the Stoli Vanilla Vodka, Frangelico Liqueur, and Butterscotch Schnapps in a mixing glass.  Pour the mix in to a tall glass filled with ice.  Add the ginger beer and carefully float with Myer's Dark Rum.  Drink this cocktail in layers or use a festive straw to stir and mix the flavors together.  Cheers!

Day 6: The Twelve Days of Christmas Cocktails

On The Sixth Day of Christmas...

Maple-Bacon Old Fashion is a cocktail that I found at a wonderful barbecue restaurant, Boneyard Bistro.  I fell in love and it had me coming back again and again.  However, with much sadness they have recently taken it off the menu and although they don't serve my favorite cocktail we still go there because the ribs are just that good, not to mention the fried mac n' cheese.  With such a strong love for this twist on a classic I had to make my own.  So if you love bacon dipped in maple syrup with pancakes and or breakfast for dinner this will soon become your new favorite cocktail.  The aroma alone will make you want to savor every sip and this sweet and savory old fashion will be sure to warm you up this winter.

I made a smaller batch of this using 1 cup of bourbon and 1 bacon slice
Bacon-Bourbon Infusion
750 ml bourbon
4 slices of cooked bacon

Place 4 slices of cooked bacon in a jar.  Pour the bourbon in the bacon filled jar.  Let it stand for 1-3 days at room temperature to infuse.  Strain the bourbon and discard the bacon.  Return the strained bourbon to its original bottle.

Maple-Bacon Old Fashion
3 ounces bacon infused-bourbon
1/4 ounce maple syrup 
2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters
Orange peel 

Fill a bourbon glass with ice.  Add bacon-infused bourbon, maple syrup, Angostura Bitters and stir.  Rim the glass with the orange peel and then twist it over the glass and drop it in.

Note: Another option is to infuse Tap 357 Canadian Maple Rye Whiskey, which is wonderful, and skip the maple syrup when making the cocktail.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Day 5: The Twelve Days of Christmas Cocktails

On The Fifth Day Of Christmas...

My husband and I can't stop raving over these Five Festive Beers.  We know that these are not cocktails but they were so good I couldn't pass them up.  Besides, I wanted those non-hard liquor drinkers to be able to have something to get them in the holiday spirit too. 

My Husband, Greg, recently got a new job as a bartender at Yard House which has 140 beers on tap.  So in order for him to learn all of the beers and be able to sell them well we decided that we would just have to try some which led us to these seasonal beers from some great breweries. Not only do we love the the rich flavors of these strong brews but the clever names and labels add a festive holiday touch.

Samuel Adams Merry Mischief Gingerbread Stout

This full bodied dark brew is perfect to start the season off right.  The spices of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger make this stout perfect to serve with appetizers or as a dessert. Ice cream beer float anyone?

Ale Smith Yule Smith Winter Holiday Ale

This imperial red ale's intense hops give it a floral aroma which brings you in immediately.  Then the rich caramel sweetness hits you ending with a subtle bitterness from the hops. I would pair this with a great cheese spread or just simply serve with a hearty dinner.

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

I am in love with this Belgian Abbey Ale!  Although this is a dark full beer it is easy to drink and has an amazing aroma of fruit with a creamy caramel flavor that keeps me coming back for more.  

Jewbelation He'brew The Chosen Beer

This beer is actually an anniversary ale, but we didn't want to leave our Jewish friends out in the cold with nothing to warm them up.  The chocolaty smoothness makes it easy to drink and love but watch out for this crazy strong beer.  Its high alcohol content, 16% to be exact, will be sure to keep you warm this winter.

Lump of Coal Dark Holiday Stout

With deep flavors of chocolate and coffee this dark and dreamy English Ale has become my holiday favorite.  This year I really do want a Lump of Coal in my stocking.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Day 4: The Twelve Days of Christmas Cocktails

On The Fourth Day of Christmas...

This Candy Cane Martini will be sure to give you a good kick to get you into the holiday spirit. After doing some research on candy cane and peppermint martinis I thought it might be best to concoct my own.  Most recipes call for Peppermint Schnapps but in order to keep most of my friends and sorority sisters from gagging I had to come up with an alternative.  So after many tastings, mixing and remixing, and the help of my husband and a wonderful friend this is what I give you for the Fourth Day of Christmas.

1 candy cane
1 tablespoon Hershey's Chocolate Syrup
3 ounces Stoli Vanilla Vodka
3/4 ounce Baily's Irish Cream
1 drop peppermint extract

Crush the candy cane and place on a small plate.  Pour the Hershey's Syrup on to a separate small plate.  Dip the rim of the martini glass first in the chocolate syrup and then into the crushed candy cane.  

Fill a shaker with ice and pour in the Stoli Vanilla Vodka, Baily's Irish Cream and the peppermint extract.  Give it a good shake and strain it into the candy cane rimmed martini glass.  Enjoy!

Day 3: The Twelve Days of Christmas Cocktails

On The Third Day Of Christmas...

Holiday Gin Fizz reminds me of the smell of a Christmas tree being brought into the house.  

Decorating the tree is my favorite time to spend with my husband during the holiday season. Although we may spend a couple of hours untangling lights and figuring out where all the ornaments will go (mine are in the front of course) we love listening to Christmas music and sipping on a cocktail as we go.  Holiday Gin Fizz will definitely be what we will be having this year as we put up our tree.  

3 one inch sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 small lemon, juiced (I used a Meyer lemon)
1/2 teaspoon honey
1-1/2 ounces gin (I prefer Bombay Sapphire)
3 ounces club soda

Muddle the fresh rosemary, lemon juice and honey in a small glass.  Fill the glass with ice, add the gin and club soda.  Stir and enjoy!

Day 2: The Twelve Days of Christmas Cocktails

On The Second Day Of Christmas...

Christmas in a Cup is the perfect way to end your day with something sweet or make a large batch for a holiday party.

3 scoops of vanilla bean ice cream
2 ounces Baily's Original Irish Cream
Peppermint stick (I found these at World Market)

Pour Baily's Irish Cream into a blender and add the vanilla ice cream.  Blend until smooth and creamy.  Pour mixture into a short glass, sprinkle cinnamon on top and garnish with a peppermint stick.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Twelved Days of Christmas Cocktails

December has always been a favorite time of year for our family.  For us it means  building a snowmen, putting up Christmas lights, setting up the nativity scene, and lots of family time around the dinner table with good food and a great drink.

Celebrating Christmas with our cousins and Aunt and Uncle has always been and will always be a personal favorite for me.  The day always includes a wonderful dinner, which usually last for over an hour, the tradition of opening gifts from youngest to oldest, really loud laughter, a Christmas song sung in harmony, many bottles of wine and a new tradition that we started a few years ago, a signature cocktail brought by me. 

This year will be no different but I thought I would share some great holiday cocktails to get everyone in the spirit and help us decide which one or two we will be having this Christmas

Be sure to check in for the next 12 days to get the recipes to each Christmas Cocktail!

On The First Day Of Christmas... 

This Super Spicy Bloody Mary has become one of my favorite weekend drinks and can always help cure the wine flu.

1 cup tomato juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
5 drops (or more) Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1-1/2 ounces of vodka (I prefer Ketel One)
Old Bay Seasoning
Lime wedge
Celery stalk

In a large liquid measuring cup mix together the tomato juice, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, prepared horseradish and celery salt.  This will make enough for about 2 drinks.

Rim the glass by moistening the rim with a lime wedge.  Shake the Old Bay seasoning on the moisten rim.  Add ice to your prepared glass. Add the vodka and top with the tomato mixture and stir.  Garnish with a celery stalk.  

Note:  There are many other ingredients you could add and garnish with such as steak sauce, pickled green beans, cocktail onions and cayenne pepper but this is my favorite way to enjoy.