A holiday toast: Celebrate the season with a warm drink

December, 2008 Posted in Food And Drink

Hot apple punch warms a holiday party.

By Linda Whitmore

A holiday open house is a low-stress way to share lively conversation and festive treats with friends and relations.

Generally there’s a buffet of finger foods that are prepared ahead, making it easy on the host and hostess, who can mingle with their company instead of spending time in the kitchen.

This year why not plan to serve a selection of your favorite sweet and savory treats and a hot cider or punch?

Here are two recipes, one with alcohol and one without, that can be made as much as a week in advance. Serving cider or punch is less expensive than offering wine or mixed drinks, and these recipes, from the Light and Easy cookbook have fewer calories to count.

Whether poured from a silvery carafe or dipped from a crock pot, hot cider and punch will warm your guests and add to the festivity of the occasion.

Hot Apple-Rum Cider
2 quarts unsweetened apple cider
1 (6-ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed, not diluted
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
3 (3-inch) sticks cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves 1
teaspoon coriander seeds
1 whole nutmeg
1 1/2 cups dark rum or brandy Cinnamon sticks (optional)
Orange slices (optional)

Combine first eight ingredients in a large saucepan; cook over medium heat until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently. Reduce heat, simmer 15 minutes.

Using slotted spoon, remove and discard cinnamon sticks, cloves, coriander seeds and nutmeg. Stir in rum. Cook over medium heat until thoroughly heated (do not boil).

Pour into mugs. If desired, garnish with cinnamon sticks and orange slices. Serve warm. Yield: 2 1/2 quarts. About 148 calories per 1-cup serving.

Hot Apple Punch
6 cups unsweetened apple juice
2 cups water
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed
1 (3-inch) stick cinnamon
3 whole cloves

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat, tirring frequently.

Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Strain apple juice mixture, discarding cranberries and spices.

Yield: 2 quarts (about 93 calories per 1-cup serving).

Extra cider and punch can be refrigerated for a week in an air-tight container.

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