We all know how harried we can become during the holiday season, and settling into cozy cushions in front of a fireplace is where many of our hearts long to be. If you’re trying to hunker down and create some order in the next month, these dishes will help.
It’s all in the planning. These recipes come to you ahead of the season so that you can be sure to get your party plans in order—and ready to just pull out, heat, and serve. Once your recipes are prepared and stashed safely away, all that’s needed is to plump up your pillows in front of the fire and answer the phone: “Sure! Come on over, I have a delicious curry warming up.”
The mocktail trend is blossoming with people embracing healthier beverages that are both refreshing and nonalcoholic. Sugary sodas have taken a dive in popularity for more than a decade among certain demographics. Replacing them are carbonated and sparkling waters with mere hints of natural herbs and fruits. And restaurants have jumped onboard to meet the demand by providing delicious mocktails using intriguing flavors from fresh herbs and fruit to hints of botanicals, like juniper, lavender, geranium, and oak.
Using these fresh ingredients often starts with “muddling,” a technique that uses a blunt kitchen tool like a wooden spoon to release the juices and essential oils of fresh herbs and/or fruits Simply muddle, muddle, and let it rest for a few minutes. Muddle again. Then strain, pressing out all the delicious oils and juices into a glass filled with ice. Top it with flat or sparkling water. Yumm.
In our feature story we’ve suggested flavorful mocktails to serve with each dish. But should you wish to explore other flavors, the following are some helpful tips and ingredients.
Looking to avoid the typical simple syrup or white sugar water treacle for added sweetening, the following are some alternatives.
Agave syrup Combine 1/2 cup agave syrup and 1 cup water in a saucepan and gently heat to blend. Cool and store in a jar for up to 1 month.
Honey syrup Combine 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan and gently heat to blend. Cool and store in a jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Maple syrup It’s great all by itself, adding rich flavor to a warm beverage. A tablespoon here or there is all that’s needed.
When muddling fruit or herbs for hot or cold mocktails, think seasonal and local—or frozen, but thawed. Although fresh botanicals are best as flavor enhancers, in the off season they can be found in tinctures (make sure they’re organic and food safe) with only a “mini-drop” needed for flavor.