(Family Features) The elegance of the holidays starts at the table with meals, desserts and drinks shared among loved ones. This year, let grapes add easy elegance to seasonal recipes as a signature ingredient perfect for special occasions.
As a highly versatile addition to appetizers, snacks, main courses, sides and desserts, grapes are an essential ingredient to keep on hand. Thanks to their delicate sweetness and juicy texture, Grapes from California can be the star at the center of the meal in unique and tasty Braised Pork Chops with Spiced Honey and Grapes served with Spiked Grape Cider for a cozy adult beverage.
Finish the celebration by sharing Grape Basque-Style Cheesecake, where delicious, fresh grape juice is used in the cheesecake batter to lend natural sweetness and enhance flavor. Decorate the top with fresh, juicy grapes for a final festive touch.
Find more sweet ideas to celebrate the holidays at GrapesfromCalifornia.com.
A Sweet Party Starter
Set the stage for a delicious get-together by serving an easy, attractive appetizer like this Grape Party Tray with fresh grapes, prosciutto, cheeses, pistachios and more holiday favorites. Grapes are easy to include as they offer variety – different colors, shapes, sizes and textures – which makes them an ideal healthy snack or ingredient in tasty recipes.
Braised Pork Chops with Spiced Honey and Grapes
- 4 thick pork chops (about 3 pounds)
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
- 1 1/2 cups whole red or black Grapes from California
- 1/3 cup honey
- 2 small cinnamon sticks, broken
- 3-5 whole cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon dried ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint (optional)
- Preheat oven to 325 F.
- Heat heavy, lidded saute pan or casserole dish over medium-high heat. Dust pork chops with flour and brown slowly in melted butter. Do not let flour burn.
- Remove pan from heat and add grapes, honey, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, salt and pepper. Cover and place in oven. Braise slowly 50-60 minutes, or until pork is tender. Remove pork from pan and keep warm. Skim pan sauce of excess fat. Arrange pork chops on serving platter, spoon with sauce and sprinkle with chopped mint, if desired.
Nutritional information per serving: 569 calories; 54 g protein; 41 g carbohydrates; 21 g fat (33% calories from fat); 9 g saturated fat (14% calories from saturated fat); 33% calories from fat; 165 mg cholesterol; 407 mg sodium; 1.6 g fiber.
Grape Basque-Style Cheesecake
Prep time: 15 minutes, plus cooling and chilling
Bake time: 40 minutes
- 2 cups green Grapes from California, divided
- 1/4 cup, plus 2/3 cup, granulated sugar, divided
- 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 large pinches kosher salt
- 21 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur (optional)
- Heat oven to 425 F with rack in center. Use 12-by-16-inch sheet of parchment paper to line 9-inch springform pan in center. Press paper into bottom edge of pan and flatten creases around sides. Place pan on shallow baking sheet.
- In mini blender or food processor, blend 1 cup grapes, 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch and salt on high until smooth, about 1 minute.
- In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle, beat cream cheese and remaining sugar until fluffy, 1-2 minutes. With mixer on medium speed, gradually pour in heavy cream; scrape down and beat on high speed until mixture resembles soft whipped cream, about 1 minute. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down between additions. At medium speed, gradually add grape puree mixture; scrape and mix until well blended, 1 minute.
- Pour batter into prepared pan, transfer to oven and bake 38-40 minutes until cake is puffed and top is caramel brown. Cracks will appear around edges and cake will be wobbly when touched gently with finger. Set cake pan on baking sheet on rack to cool. Cake will sink to half its height. Cool to room temperature, 1-2 hours, then refrigerate uncovered. Do not unmold cake from pan until well chilled, at least 5 hours or overnight.
- Slice remaining grapes in halves or rounds. In small bowl, combine grapes with orange liqueur, if desired, and set aside.
- When ready to serve, remove side of pan. Carefully pull creased parchment away from side of cheesecake then transfer to serving platter by peeling parchment away from bottom of cake and underneath pan while gently tugging cake toward platter and off parchment.
- Garnish top of cheesecake with grape-liqueur mixture, if desired, or fresh grapes. Cut cake into wedges with thin, sharp knife.
- Note: Cheesecake can be made up to 2 days ahead. Once cake is well chilled, cover pan with plastic wrap until ready to serve
Nutritional information per serving: 350 calories; 6 g protein; 25 g carbohydrates; 26 g fat (67% calories from fat); 15 g saturated fat (39% calories from saturated fat); 135 mg cholesterol; 200 mg sodium; 0 g fiber.
Hot Spiked Grape Cider
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: about 1 hour
- 5 cups red Grapes from California, plus additional for garnish, divided
- 3 cups water
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 star anise (optional)
- 1 large navel orange
- 6 ounces amber rum
- In large saucepan, combine 5 cups grapes with water, honey, cinnamon and star anise, if desired. Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until grapes are tender, 50-60 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes.
- Lay medium mesh strainer over bowl and pour grape mixture through. Gently press on solids to remove juice from fruit for about 2 cups grape cider.
- With peeler, peel off large strip orange zest and add to warm juice. Let cool, cover and refrigerate.
- When ready to serve, gently warm cider over medium heat. Pour 1/2 cup cider into each cup. Add 1 1/2 ounces rum and garnish with twist of orange and small skewer of grapes.
Nutritional information per serving: 170 calories; 0 g protein; 18 g carbohydrates; 0 g fat (0% calories from fat); 0 g saturated fat (0% calories from saturated fat); 0 mg cholesterol; 5 mg sodium; 0 g fiber.
(Family Features) If you are looking to host an unforgettable holiday cocktail party, punch can make a memorable impression on your guests and bring your get-together to the next level.
Punch reached the height of its popularity during the Victorian Age. Originally made with alcohol, it ultimately became a non-alcoholic drink largely due to the preference of Queen Victoria. Over the following decades, it faded in popularity, briefly regaining favor in the 1920s when champagne punch was a hallmark of parties and celebrations.
Now, as new generations are reinvigorating old favorites and enjoying the art of mixology, punch is trending again.
Start by making punch a visual centerpiece at your holiday party. Consider a charming drink dispenser, an unusual punch bowl or an elegant glass pitcher. Let your personal and unique style shine through with your choice of glassware and table decorations and offer a variety of garnish selections for your guests to further personalize their glasses.
Typically, punches start with a blend of sweet and tangy, and you can get that "swangy" taste with an option like Tree Top's 100% Pure Pressed Sweet & Tart Apple Cider as a base. For inspiration, take a mixologist's approach to creating a memorable punch. Lemon, cinnamon and cloves not only spice up the flavor but can also double as decorations. Try ginger beer for a nice fizzle, and for an adult-only punch, consider adding vodka or rum.
Your punch table can be a place to gather and reconnect with loved ones while enjoying a trending holiday beverage. Find more recipes perfect for entertaining at treetop.com.
Swangy Cider Punch
Servings: 10 (8 ounces each)
- 1 bottle (64 ounces) Tree Top 100% Pure Pressed Sweet & Tart Apple Cider
- 16 ounces ginger beer
- 2 oranges, juice only
- 1 lime, juice only
- 1 lemon, juice only
- 1 cup vodka or light rum (optional)
- 1 sliced Granny Smith apple
- 6 star anise pieces, plus additional for garnish (optional)
- 6 whole cloves
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- frozen cranberries, for garnish (optional)
- colored sugars or ginger crystals, for garnish (optional)
- In punch container, combine apple cider, ginger beer, orange juice, lime juice, lemon juice and vodka or rum, if desired, for an alcoholic version.
- Decorate container with apple slices, star anise pieces, cloves and cinnamon sticks.
- Personalize each serving with additional star anise pieces, frozen cranberries and sugars or ginger crystals, as desired. Serve cold.
Photo courtesy of Alamy
Source: Tree Top
(Family Features) Cocktail trends may come and go, but one staple remains a fixture on drink menus two centuries after its invention – the Old Fashioned.
There are many competing stories about the origins of the “first” true cocktail recipe, but nearly all agree that the modern-day cocktail was first mixed in the early 1800s, and the recipe was generally the same Old Fashioned recipe still mixed in bars around the world today: liquor, sugar, water and bitters.
Bourbon is traditionally the spirit of choice for an Old Fashioned, but contemporary versions may substitute virtually any type of liquor, from rye whiskey to tequila to rum. Yesteryear’s sugar cube, served as a lump doused with bitters, has given way to simple syrup, which mixes more easily when served. A twist of citrus zest or a dark cherry are common garnishes in today’s Old Fashioned renditions.
No matter what spirit or style you prefer, there’s one constant that’s crucial to any drink bearing the Old Fashioned name: bitters. For a truly authentic experience, look to incorporate an option like Angostura bitters – an iconic brand that traces its roots as far back as the dawn of the Old Fashioned and has been closely intertwined with the history of the cocktail ever since.
Dr. Johann Siegert, the bitters’ inventor, created the elixir in 19th-century Venezuela while serving as a doctor to soldiers in Simon Bolivar’s army. By 1824, he perfected the formula for “amargo aromatico,” which he initially used to help alleviate the stomach issues of ailing soldiers.
By the mid-1800s, cocktails were steadily gaining favor, and nearly all the early recipes called for bitters. Siegert’s sons seized the opportunity and astutely developed a following for their formula among cocktail lovers.
Today, Angostura aromatic bitters are a classic and versatile ingredient in bars and kitchens alike for their flawless ability to balance a range of cocktails. Bitters provide layers of flavor and complexity through their expertly-crafted combination of aromatic herbs, bark, roots and other botanicals. When it comes to the ingredients in Angostura’s aromatic bitters, the exact formula is unknown, as the recipe has remained a closely-guarded secret since the bitters were created almost 200 years ago.
Consider these tried-and-true takes on the Old Fashioned with four recipes ideal for sipping. The traditional version features bourbon, while three twists on the timeless classic highlight alternative liquors: the Tequila Old Fashioned, the Rum Old Fashioned and the Wisconsin-Style Brandy Old Fashioned.
Pro Serving Tip
Serving an authentic Old Fashioned requires more than just the right ingredients: you need the proper bar glass, too. An Old Fashioned is almost always served in a rocks glass, which is a short glass, often with a weighted bottom, designed to hold a shot or two of liquor over ice (or “rocks”). Also known as a lowball, whisky or (aptly named) Old Fashioned glass, the rocks glass typically holds 4-10 ounces.
Simple Syrup at Home
A wide range of cocktails call for sweet syrup to enhance the flavor of the liquor, and one variety in particular lends a rich molasses note to drinks. Demerara syrup is made using Demerara sugar, a special variety of raw, unrefined cane sugar with large grains and a golden amber hue.
The sugar, which traces its origins to the South American country of Guyana, can be used in place of brown sugar. Though similar, Demerara generally lends stronger caramel, toffee and molasses notes than traditional brown sugar.
If you don’t have any Demerara syrup around, it’s quite easy to make at home and can be used to naturally sweeten a number of drinks, from coffee to cocktails. If Demerara isn’t on-hand, swap for turbinado sugar, brown sugar or table sugar.
1 part Demerara sugar
1 part hot water
Stir to dissolve. Let cool before use.
Find more recipes filled with good, old-fashioned flavor at AngosturaBitters.com.
Classic Bourbon Old Fashioned
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 1/4 ounce Demerara syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
- 1 dash Angostura orange bitters
- 1 splash water
- long orange peel, for garnish
- In rocks glass, stir bourbon, Demerara syrup, water, aromatic bitters and orange bitters with ice to incorporate ingredients.
- Add ice to fill glass to top. Garnish with orange peel.
Tequila Old Fashioned
- 2 ounces reposado tequila
- 1/4 ounce Demerara syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
- grapefruit swath (narrow strip of peel) or wedge, for garnish
- In ice-filled mixing glass, stir tequila, Demerara syrup and aromatic bitters. Strain into ice-filled rocks glass.
- Squeeze grapefruit swath over glass and insert into drink.
Wisconsin-Style Brandy Old Fashioned
- 3 ounces, plus 1 splash, lemon-lime soda
- 1 Demerara sugar cube
- 5 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters, divided
- 3 maraschino cherries
- 1 orange slice, plus peel, for garnish
- 2 ounces brandy
- 1 dash Angostura orange bitters
- skewered maraschino cherry, for garnish
- In rocks glass, muddle splash of lemon-lime soda, sugar cube, 2 dashes aromatic bitters, cherries and orange slice.
- Add ice and brandy then fill with remaining lemon-lime soda. Add remaining aromatic bitters and orange bitters. Garnish with skewered cherry and orange peel.
Rum Old Fashioned
- 1 Demerara sugar cube
- 4 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura orange bitters
- 1 splash soda water
- 2 ounces Angostura 1919 Rum*
- orange peel, for garnish
- Place sugar cube in rocks glass. Wet cube with aromatic bitters, orange bitters and soda water. Using muddler, crush sugar cube.
- Add ice, pour in rum and stir. Garnish by squeezing orange peel over glass.
*Distilled and bottled by Angostura Holdings, Port of Spain, Laventille, Trinidad. Imported by Terlato Wine and Spirits, Lake Bluff, IL. 40% Alc./Vol. © 2018
Photos courtesy of Getty Images (Classic Bourbon Old Fashioned, Tequila Old Fashioned, Rum Old Fashioned)