Whether you're hosting or attending, baked cranberry brie is an easy, crowd-pleasing appetizer to add to your menus this holiday season.
Beneath my permed hair and 80s-inspired poof of bangs, my eyes were wide with horror! My elementary school teacher had just reported a staggering statistic about how much food waste ended up in landfills. My miniature, environmentalist heart could hardly take it. Today, the statistic is even more staggering at 33 million TONS of food each year (source).
I’m not perfect, and mold still claims more of my refrigerator’s contents than I would like to admit, but thanks to the Urban Farmer, most of our scraps become compost and contribute to the soil remediation process on the farm. I know composting isn’t a possibility for a lot of urban dwellers, but this girl can dream of the day my city will take action to mitigate food waste (many cities already do!). In the meantime, I am constantly seeking ways to waste less such as this win-win idea for wasting less food this holiday season.
The first part of this resourceful idea requires wine drinking- specifically Mulled Wine drinking. As I mentioned in my recipe post, Mulled Wine is the perfect drink to serve this time of year. It fills the home with a welcoming aroma, it’s easy to serve to a group, it’s a sipper, and it warms your spirit! However, after the last mug of mulled wine has been poured, the crockpot usually still holds a substantial portion of fruit. I couldn’t bear to toss all the wine and spice-infused fruit, so this Mulled Wine Compote was born!
I call this “Grandmother-style kitchen work.” There’s no precise recipe. Just throw that flavorful fruit into the food processor or blender, and whirl away! For a hint of sweetness and creaminess, I added a heaping spoonful or two of Creamed Honey. This liquid gold is like creamy caramel (you can learn more about creamed honey here). Bedillion Honey Farm’s version is still raw, so it maintains the goodness of pollen, propolis and enzymes pasteurized honeys lose, and it’s creamed with cinnamon for an extra touch of spice in the compote.
I also added another spoonful or two of Chinese Five Spice to intensify the fall notes.
My leftover crock of fruit made about 2 quarts of Mulled Wine Compote, which I divided into jam jars to give as gifts and serve at future gatherings.
The compote makes a great accent on a cheeseboard, so for very little effort, you’ll be prepared for a few small, holiday gatherings. The tart compote pairs well with the slight sweetness of these Carr’s Whole Wheat Crackers or a dense, fruit & nut bread. It would also be delicious on pancakes or French toast if you’re hosting a holiday brunch.
Drink warmly, waste less and enjoy more!
Mulled Wine Compote
To make mulled wine compote, reserve whatever wine is left from a batch of mulled wine (recipe below), and set it aside. Use a food processor or blender to puree the wine-infused fruit remnants of mulled wine (but remove the cinnamon sticks first). Add honey and more Chinese Five Spice to taste. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. It also freezes well.
The Christmas ornaments decked the halls at a comedic scale, as if plucked from the set of Honey I Shrunk The Kids. Greens and lights and velvety ribbons seemed to swathe the entire city. The iconic ferris wheel glimmered with extra holiday spirit.
From their pop-up village of log cabins, Germans shared their merriment through juicy bratwursts and donuty sweets swirling on skewers to golden perfection. Some of the merrymakers kept warm by whipping around the ice rink to holiday carols. Others, like myself, turned to the warm cups of mulled wine. London knows how to celebrate the holidays!
Having journeyed to London from conservative Pennsylvania, where public displays of wine drinking only happen in conjunction with communion, I gazed at each sidewalk wine vendor like a child beholding a candy shop. I relished each cup of mulled wine as if it were my last. With a warm cup of mulled wine in my clutches, my hands warmed, my spirit warmed, and I felt inspired to roam the vibrant city long into the wintry night.
Though the street-vending of mulled wine is still a ways away (at least for us in Pennsylvania), this warm indulgence is perfect for stateside holiday gatherings. Mulled wine is easy to make, easy to serve, and the heat and spices make this a sipper. Since guests can serve themselves, it’s the perfect drink to offer with a wine and cheese style spread. Below are some of my favorite Market Street Grocery picks for hosting a small holiday gathering.
My love for baguettes is deep, but when it comes to a holiday party spread, I like to pick a heartier, more flavorful bread like this Raisin Walnut loaf from Allegro Hearth Bakery. The sweet accent of the raisins pairs perfectly with the creamy texture and sweet-tangy balance of Humbolt Fog cheese and fresh fruit. Additionally, the delicate, edible ash layer adds more visual interest than a simple brie or goat cheese would.
Balance the sweeter notes of the fruit, cheese and wine with an olive selection. The colorful Divina Organic Greek Olive Mix includes a little olive leaf, a small detail which makes for an impressive presentation.
Incorporating fresh fruits into a loose garland is a functional way to decorate your table, and if the festivities continue long into the night, you can always cut up the fruit and replenish the cheese.
For those who do not drink, I like to offer Pellegrino Sparkling Water or carbonated juices, and I keep gluten-free crackers on hand just in case. For all gatherings, but especially for holiday gatherings, I want all my guests to feel included and partake in the festivities.
Even after guests have finished their mulled wine and the party has concluded, you’re likely to have plenty of wine and spice-infused fruit still filling your crockpot. One of the secret ingredients in this Mulled Wine recipe is Chinese Five Spice, a fragrant combination of anise, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and ginger, so don’t let that flavorful fruit go to waste! Stay tuned, and I’ll share a recipe for leftover mulled fruit and spreading even more holiday cheer.
Much like a baby toddling on two legs for the very first time, the first steps toward a goal are often the heaviest, scariest, most daunting steps of all. However, once that toddler leaves the safety of leaning on the couch or clinging to grown-ups’ legs, that little one erupts with an unstoppable energy.
My inner perfectionist is like the hesitant toddler, leaning on ideas rather than taking that first scary step towards forward movement. I’m trying to change this, to really try for what I want and risk failing instead of risking regret. I just have to decide to do something, and so many times, I pass that first hurdle only to realize it was never a hurdle at all.
For so long, I lumped ceviche into the “that seems complicated” category, or the “leave it to the restaurants” category, but as my South American Inspired Picnic approached, I just decided to make ceviche. It turns out, it’s stupidly simple. The recipe practically prepares itself. Though my other ideas and dreams are not as hands-off, there is something to be said for just deciding to make something and taking that first step.
So here’s to plantain scoops of citrusy fish, with bursts of fresh, summer peaches and dreams of owning a venue, of farm events, of pickling classes, of healing gardens, chef dinners and floral crowns…. or whatever dream is keeping you clinging to a couch. Let’s all just go for it (and then remember to nudge each other along the way)!
Here’s to the first steps!