The core of this recipe trio is honey. Supporting beekeeping is good for the bees, and honey is better for you than sugar. The Earl Grey flavor is subtle, so play with the tea quantities if you want a stronger bergamot flavor. These are all loose guides, so follow your palate and instincts. The Earl Grey Honey Simple Syrup really shines when paired with Prosecco or Champagne.
Next week, the flowering trees may be swaying against purely sunny skies, and high temperatures may call for margaritas, but while the cold lingers just a bit, here's a recipe in defense of drinking eggnog beyond the holiday season. Why do we reserve sipping a boozy, melted milkshake for but a few weeks around Christmas? Have another round on me!
Take a long look in a full-length mirror. Does your neck lurch forward? Do your shoulders slope to one side? When you see yourself in photos, do you think, “Damn girl, stand up straight,” only to realize you were standing at your straightest? Then you, my friends, might need a doctor… a spine doctor!
The above was my scenario. My many years of hunching over a drawing board, crouching over photo sets and then slouching into my computer had caught up with me- in a gnarly way. These poor posture habits had longer lasting and riskier effects than simply making me look slouchy in photos. We pay so little mind to our spine, and yet our very health and our very lives depend on its maintenance.
Lucky for me, chiropractics found me. The Urban Farmer’s brother once wanted to be a medical doctor, only to realize the main stream medical system doesn’t prioritize health and prevention, focusing rather on fixing. In chiropractics, he discovered the fundamentals and a means to helping people live their best lives. He found a world in which health, nutrition and fitness combined to serve people, so he devoted himself to the spine and became Dr. Alex Pattison. I believed his words and explanations, but more than anything, I believed the way I felt within a few adjustments.
If this sounds preachy, I can’t help it. When I find something good, something I believe in, I want to share it, want to sing it like Julie Andrews on those Austrian hills. Chiropractics often get a bad rap, as a scam or hoax, but I know Alex as a family member, as a doting father, as a loyal friend and as a doctor. I know him to be incredibly informed and earnest in his pursuit to make our city a healthy one. I also know Alex to be a whiskey aficionado.
This past Christmas, I drew Alex’s name from the hat for the family secret Santa. Rather than simply giving a bottle of whiskey, I played my graphic-designer-boyfriend card (did you know the Urban Farmer is also a design wiz?) to create a custom label to celebrate his love of whiskey and his devotion to spinal health. Introducing Doc Pattison’s Miracle Elixir…
To personalize the bottle even more, I concocted a Spice Infused Whiskey, a fiery flavor reminiscent of a fireball, derived from our forefathers.
Below you’ll find the historical reference for this “receipt,” as it was called in the day. (The “Dulcify” step is my favorite!) You’ll also find the modernized version, designed to be fun and not kill you, by Steven Grasse, author of Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History, and the man behind Art in the Age, a personal favorite of mine. So toast some spices, toast a glass, find yourself a chiropractor, and let’s all toast to health and longevity!
Here’s to you Doc Pattison!
p.s: If you’re interested in creating a custom bottle design to give as a gift, get in touch!
from Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History
The Historical Recipe
Take of cinnamon, ginger, and coriander seed, each 3 oz. – mace, cloves, and cubels, each 1 1/2 oz.- Add 11 gallons of proof spirit, and 2 gallons of water, and distil [sic]; now tie up 5 oz. of English saffron, – raisins (stoned) 4 1/2 lbs.- dates, 3 do.- liquorice root, 2 do.- Let these stand 12 hours in 2 gallons of water, strain, and add it to the above. – Dulcify the whole with fine sugar.
-From Five Thousand Receipts in All Useful and Domestic Arts
by Colin MacKenzie, 1825
The Danish word Hygge seems to be resurging with the voracity of a seasonal flu. Perhaps it’s because our weather has finally dipped into real winter temperatures or perhaps because my peer group is reaching the nesting age, the word has been hashtagged and hashtagged again. Despite my knee-jerk reaction to the word’s overuse, I can’t argue the intention: let’s all find better ways to stay home and be cozy without completely cutting ourselves off from society. Shall we?
Winter is one of my favorite times to entertain. Extra bodies in our home means extra warmth without having to crank up the heat- win win. Aside from diminishing my guests to mere heaters, I do enjoy the coziness and comfort of having friends come to my home. I love when friends come to play a round of Clue, or warm up with the antics of charades and sip something toasty- all while I’m in my slippers!
I recently started mapping out my goals for the year, trying to distill them to months and days, and I realized one missing link from the past year: I didn’t host friends as often as I would have liked. I could chalk it up to an unruly schedule, a work overload, a lack of planning, etc, but the more important takeaway is to let the invites flow and start penciling in that calendar!
I recently invited some of the Urban Farmer’s family, who I now am very fortunate to consider my family, for drinks and snacks. In the winter, I love a crock pot full of mulled wine. The scent of simmering spices hits guests before they hit the door, and then warms their hands as they sip. Red wine tends to get all the attention on the mulling front, so I switched to a white wine with hints of citrus, honey and anise.
I tend to go overboard when planning for guests. In order to push this winter cozy idea more, I’m constantly looking for that teetering balance of manageable and special. Homemade crackers ride that fine line. They’re easy to whip up, customize and make a spread feel more homemade.
The major holidays may be over, but the winter merriment should continue. There’s no reason to pack up the oven-dried citrus or the wintry greens. They can brighten the grayest of winter days.
Call it hibernation, call it hygge, or call it some mispronounced version of that word, but don’t call off the entertaining just because the holidays are over. Heat up the crock pot, whip up some crackers, arrange some fruits, and you have yourself a winter gathering to remember!
Mulled White Wine & Homemade Cracker Recipes for Winter Entertaining
This post is a twofer! Using a crock pot to make the mulled wine means it’s easier to devote attention to the cracker making and final preparations.
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.
“You can do anything for 20 seconds,” he shouts while leaping up and down like a frog. His springiness is comical, but his ‘give your all’ approach triggers the reserves inside the three people leaping in front of him. I watch this video, over and over again, while I sit and twist my spine. It’s all part of my new chiropractic routine, but that physical trainer’s message started to echo in my head long after I left the doctor’s office.
As I write this, I’m snuggled in a flannel and sipping a hot coffee, but my skin is still bronzed, and the forecast insists there will be days of sweaty inactivity. However, these flagship fall temperatures lead to a lot of universal grumblings, “where did summer goooooo?” the protesters wine. “Ugh…. I’m not ready,” they say while wilting into a pile of defeat (myself sadly included). This is the moment, like that last 20 seconds of grueling physical exercise, when we have to dig deep, commit and eek out every last drop of summer we can!
Summoning our last summer reserve might mean grilling more hamburgers, finally kayaking on the river, sleeping under a blanket of stars, taking a hike, or quite simply allowing more tan lines to form. It might mean the drive-in movie theater, a picnic on a sunny hillside, a last pencil-dive into the deep end or an impulse sunglasses purchase. Whatever it means for you, when you dig deep and truly try to appreciate this last leg of summer, I hope your plan includes popsicles.
In my zeal for homemade, healthified fudgesicles, I went a little overboard, overshooting the capacity of my popsicle molds. Since you can’t have too many fudgesicles, only not enough fudgesicle molds, experimentation mode commenced. Like a middle-aged lunching lady, I grabbed for the vodka bottle. The result is what happens when a Vegan Fudgesicle gets a little sloshy, but in a crowd-pleasing sort of way, not a “miss, we need you to leave” sort of way.
As the season begins to turn, let’s all commit to dig a little deeper and relish what’s left of summer. Let’s also agree to stretch our fudgesicle “batter” a little further.
Here’s to Summer!
Avocado Fudgesicles & Boyd & Blair Vodka Semifreddo (Vegan)
About This Recipe: I’ve separated the kid-friendly, non-boozy and the after-hours, boozy version into two recipes below for ease of making smaller batches. Essentially, the vodka version is the same, but poured into a loaf pan. You could pour the mixture into popsicle molds as well. I recommend Boyd & Blair Vodka. Not only is it made from high-quality ingredients, but it adds a sweet notes of vanilla. Plus, the vodka keeps the mixture just shy of frozen, resulting in a more spoonable, frozen treat!