• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • RSS
25°
Friday November 28, 2014
View complete forecast
News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Local Business Search
Stock Summary
Dow17879.9352.18
Nasdaq4807.4520.13
S&P 5002072.26-0.57
AEP57.520.86
Comcast57.180.32
GE26.685-0.185
ITT Exelis17.935-0.045
LNC57.05-0.52
Navistar35.71-0.15
Raytheon107.270.6
SDI22.82-0.56
Verizon50.750.71

These light libations will set the holiday mood

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 11, 2012 - 12:01 am

Back during my days at Gourmet magazine, my many duties included teaching cooking classes. I used to tell my students — especially the cooking-impaired ones — that if they made sure to greet dinner party guests with a special homemade drink, they would always win, no matter what else happened.

Let them buy take-out food, rearrange it artfully on platters, then claim it as their own. Nobody would think twice as long as they were handed a special drink on their way in the door. Festive drinks scream, “Party!”

The holiday season boasts any number of festive libations. My favorite is eggnog. After all, if you're trying to crystallize holiday excess in liquid form, how better than to combine sweet cream with strong rum or brandy

But what if — just this once — you don't want to overdo it? How do you cut down the fat and calories in eggnog without losing the drink's signature richness? More precisely, is there a way to keep it creamy without cream?My daughter Ruthie, a connoisseur of cocktails, suggested losing the non-fat milk in favor of 2 percent milk, which is still much lighter than cream. That did the trick. Then I added Chai spices, which gave their own luxurious and exotic notes that work so nicely with the more traditional nutmeg.

My second concoction, Christmas sangria, required much less experimentation, if only because traditional sangria — a mix of wine and fruit — is a fairly healthy punch to begin with. Essentially, all I did was swap out the drink's usual summertime fruits for their wintertime counterparts — pomegranates, clementines and apples, along with some fresh fruit juice.

Chai eggnog

Start to finish: 2 hours 35 minutes (20 minutes active)

Servings: 4

2 cups 2 percent milk, divided

3 1/2 -inch stick cinnamon, smashed using the side of a knife

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

10 whole cloves

1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, coarsely crushed

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

4 cardamom pods, crushed (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom)

Kosher salt

2 large eggs

1/4 cup sugar

Brandy or rum, for flavoring (optional)

Grated nutmeg, to garnish

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 1/2 cups of the milk with the cinnamon, vanilla bean, cloves, peppercorns, ginger, cardamom pods and a hefty pinch of salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then turn off the heat and let it stand for 15 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a sieve, discarding all of the solids except for the vanilla bean. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk; discard the vanilla pod.

Wipe out the saucepan and return the milk to the pan over medium heat.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl beat the eggs with the sugar for 2 minutes, or until they are light and lemon colored. Add the heated milk in a stream, whisking gently. Return the egg-milk mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon, about 4 to 6 minutes. Do not let the mixture come to a simmer or the eggs will scramble.

Quickly add the remaining 1/2 cup of milk to the pan to stop the cooking. Transfer the mixture to a pitcher and chill for at least 2 hours or until very cold.

To serve, divide the eggnog among 4 chilled glasses, stir in a dash of brandy or rum, if desired, and top with a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg.

Christmas sangria

Start to finish: 8 hours 30 minutes (30 minutes active)

Servings: 8

750-milliliter bottle fruity red wine, such as Beaujolais

1/2 cup fresh clementine or orange juice

1/2 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice

1/2 cup Grand Marnier liqueur

1 firm pear with the skin, cored and cut into 1/2 -inch cubes (about 2 cups)

2 clementines or 1 orange, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise

Seeds from 1 pomegranate

2 tablespoons superfine sugar

In a large bowl combine all ingredients and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Chill, tightly covered, at least 8 hours before serving.