7 festive hot and cold beverages for the holidays

As I write this post, a steaming cup of honey-sweetened roasted apple tisane perches on my desk, brewed from a couple of withering Cortlands plucked from my cold room stash.

It’s infused with ginger and a little tumeric because I’m fighting a mild cold, and the fragrant tisane is just the tonic I need to stay warm and hydrated while I work. ‘Tis the season for comforting hot drinks – and a few sparkling ones too.

Yesterday we had guests for Sunday dinner, and I served my classic winter sangria with slices of clementine and pomegranate seeds. This weekend my annual cookie swap is happening and I’ll be mixing up big pitchers of spiced eggnog and sparkling apple cider punch. And on the coldest days this week, I’ll have a fragrant pot of hot apple cider waiting for the boys when they arrive home from school.

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Sparking Vanilla-Scented Apple Cider Party Punch

Last week, I gave in to the chilly weather and started wearing socks and sweaters. I simmered two pots of soup, made a pie and roasted off a few butternut squash for future baking projects.

October arrived, as did a carpet of ochre oak and maple leaves on our forest floor. Yes, fall is here to stay, and it’s getting me in the mood for Canadian Thanksgiving next week.

Because of our large extended family, we will celebrate Thanksgiving with a couple of events here and there over the holiday long weekend. Then on Monday, Danny and I are hosting twenty people for a mid-day turkey dinner around our table. I’m still finalizing the full menu (so many favourite dishes to narrow down!) but I have settled on a punch to serve.

I have a go-to party punch for spring and summer – a raspberry rhubarb collins – and it serves me well for a range of warm weather occasions. But truth be told, I didn’t have a favourite punch for fall until I started testing in earnest quite recently.

Spices. Spirits. Syrups. Sweeteners. There are a dozen different directions one can go when it comes to creating a crowd pleasing drink. In the end, I stayed true to this blog’s mantra and kept things simple; today’s recipe for Sparking Vanilla-Scented Apple Cider Party Punch is my pick for pre-Thanksgiving dinner cocktail hour.

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Eat Seasonal: Strawberry and Preserved Lemon Lassi

These early March days have been bitterly cold, but brilliantly sunny. Spring still feels like a long way off, even though we are already making plans for Easter in a few short weeks.

The sunshine is a promise of good things to come: the sweetest season of all, where we boil our own maple syrup. The sap won’t run until the weather warms up though, so in the meantime we are hunkering down and eating the stores from the preserves pantry and the freezer.

Barbara Kingsolver called March “the hungry month” in her inspiring memoir, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life and it certainly is the least exciting month as far as produce goes. We must wait patiently for the ramps, rhubarb and asparagus, while trying to content ourselves with wrinkly apples, more winter squash and kale.

March is when I most frequently pop the lid off of a can of peaches or reach for a jar of pesto from the freezer. My palate needs an awakening and I am so grateful to my former self for making time to preserve the harvest.

Today’s simple recipe is a result of such planning; small Quebec strawberries, frozen in their prime, along with tangy preserved lemons marry in a sweet and salty lassi. It’s just the ticket to get me through the beginning of March.

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Hot Spiced Mulled Wine

Temperatures in Montreal are shockingly low today (-29C!) and I’m here with a suggestion on how to stay warm this Valentine’s Day – with a thermos of hot spiced mulled wine.

My first trip to London happened to be at Christmastime, when Fortnum & Mason displayed plum puddings on pedestals in their windows and Oxford Street was trimmed in holiday lights. I wandered around Borough Market, stopping to get a meat pie and an enormous cup of mulled wine. There were many firsts on my maiden UK trip, but that hot, sweet wine was the first thing I recreated at home.

It took a few tries, but I eventually came up with this recipe that is delicately spiced and not too sweet. The key is cooking a spiced syrup, then adding and gently heating the wine. You never want to boil the whole batch, or you will burn off the alcohol.

On weekend, we take two thermoses out to the sledding hill or the skating rink: hot spiced cocoa for the kids and mulled wine for the adults. Even on the coldest of days the robust drink warms us from the inside out.

Hot Spiced Mulled Wine || Simple Bites

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Herbal Homestead Gin & Tonic

The summer days are long and hot here on our homestead, filled with chores that never quite seem to finish. But occasionally in the late afternoon, when the sun has already drifted down into the trees and the footsteps of the children are starting to tire, Danny and I cool down with a cocktail.

We sit on the edge the garden and absentmindedly tug at the weeds while conversing about our respective days. Time seems to speed up all of a sudden and the moments slip away as quickly as our gin and tonics are depleted.

Lately I’ve been mixing our drinks right in the garden, with a handful of herbs and a warm, sun-ripened tomato. Today’s Herbal Homestead Gin & Tonic is undoubtedly our new summer cocktail of choice, thanks to its fragrant herbaceousness and cucumber sweetness.

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