WARM, SWEET, AND SPICY PUNCH FOR HAPPY HOLIDAY TOASTING

Latin-Twist-cover-300Authors' photo

 

As a food blogger, my aim is to share those tasty bites and sips I think you will find as delightful as I do. I recently had the pleasure of meeting two exceptional authors and food bloggers at a presentation at Melissa’s Produce in Los Angeles (Melissas.com). Vianney Rodriguez and Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack teamed up to create a true thirst-quencher, Latin Twist, a gorgeous book filled with 97 traditional cocktail recipes from 18 Latin countries plus Spain.

At Melissa’s I was sampling five delicious “mocktails,” that is, the cocktails without alcohol. After tasting Ponche Navideno, I was enthralled with the flavors imparted by the exceptional combination of fruits, some familiar and some exotic. Not only did this festive beverage taste great, but it also emitted irresistibly sweet, spicy, and fruity aromas throughout the room. This was a recipe I knew I must share.

Don’t let the 20 servings discourage you from making this wonderfully satisfying punch. If you’re not serving a large group, you’ll have plenty for a cozy gathering of celebrants to enjoy seconds and thirds. You’ll need a large stockpot, about an 8- to 10-quart size.

PONCHE NAVIDENO

Ponche Navideno(Mexican Christmas Fruit Punch)

 Ponche Navideño is a hot punch served with or without alcohol during the holiday season and most generally during Las Posadas. On those chilly nights this fragrant infusion warms you from the inside out. The intoxicating aroma and perfumed air in your home will certainly entice your guests to give the drink a try. After that, they’re hooked. Brandy or tequila can be added, making it Ponche con Piquete (punch with a sting).

Makes 20 servingsCinnamon sticks

16 cups water

2 cinnamon sticks

8 whole cloves

5 long tamarind pods, husk removed, and seededTamarind pods

1/2 pound tejocotes or crab apples, left whole

6 large guavas, peeled and cut into large bite-size chunks

2 red apples (of your choice), peeled, cored, and cut into small bite-size chunks

1 pear (of your choice), peeled, cored, and cut into small bite-size chunks

2 (4-inch) sugarcane sticks, peeled and cut into small chunks

1 cup pitted prunespiloncillo

1/2 cup dark raisins

1 orange, sliced

8 ounces piloncillo, chopped, or 1 cup dark brown sugar

1 ounce brandy or tequila per cup (optional)

Directions:

Ponche NavidenoPlace the water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, tamarind pods, and tejocotes or crab apples in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. After it starts to boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the tejocotes are soft.

Remove the tejocotes or crab apples from the pot with a slotted spoon, peel, remove hard ends, cut in half, and deseed. Return them to the pot.

Add the guavas, apples, pear, sugarcane, prunes, raisins, orange slices, and piloncillo. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring gently. Discard cinnamon sticks and cloves.

To serve, ladle into coffee cups or mugs, making sure each cup gets some chunks of fruit. If desired, add 1 ounce of brandy or tequila to each cup.

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The two charming authors generously shared another warm, fruit-filled punch recipe from from Latin Twist that’s typically enjoyed at Christmas. Ponche de Frutas is similar to Ponche Navideno but has a few additional exotic flavors such as coconut, plantain, and a hint of ginger. Both can be sipped and thoroughly enjoyed with or without alcohol.

PONCHE DE FRUTAS

Makes 15 servings

16 cups waterhandful allspice berries

3 cinnamon sticks

4 whole allspice

1-inch piece fresh ginger

5 whole cloves

2 (8-ounce) bags dried fruit mix

1 pineapple, husked, cored, and diced

1/2 medium papaya, diced

4 red apples, diced

1 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup prunesplantains

1/2 cup raisins

3 plantains, diced

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark rum (optional)

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil with the cinnamon sticks, allspice, ginger, and cloves.

Add dried fruit mix, pineapple, papaya, apples, and coconut. Follow with prunes, raisins, plantains, and sugar. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring gently. When the fruit is cooked and sugar dissolved, remove from the heat and pour in the rum (if using).

Serve hot with some of the diced fruit.

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ENJOY SOME VEGAN HEAVEN WITH A SIP OF CREAMY NOG!

 CHEF AJ’S HOLIDAY NOG Single nogAfter experiencing excellent health on a vegan diet for over 36 years, Chef AJ began developing delicious vegan and raw desserts for local Los Angeles restaurants. When people began asking for her recipes, she answered the call by teaching vegan cooking classes with a focus on from-scratch, low fat, no salt, no sugar, and no refined flour recipes.

UnprocessedChef AJ’s healthy cooking classes developed into the sensational Healthy Taste of LA (HTLA) all-day programs featuring well-known speakers like Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Michael Greger, and Dr. Neal Barnard along with cooking demonstrations by nationally known chefs: Eric Tucker from Millennium, Ann Gentry of Real Food Daily, Eric LeChasseur and Sanae Suzuki from Seed Kitchen, and many more.

To find more information about HTLA visit http://www.chefajshealthykitchen.com

This busy chef travels across the country speaking and doing cooking demonstrations to promote the health benefits of a plant-based diet. She is also known for the zesty, short video presentations she does with Julieanna Hever, RD–The Chef and the Dietitian. AJ’s cookbook Unprocessed created with Glen Merzer features many of the recipes she formulated to teach her cooking classes.

 CHEF AJ’S HOLIDAY NOGchefaj2

Chef AJ shares her ultra thick, rich, and creamy nog that makes the ideal welcome beverage for a holiday gathering. This delicious nog is also decadent enough to be served as dessert or as an accompaniment to dessert. Make it ahead and refrigerate it until ready to serve. Then, just before serving, give the nog a brief whirl in the blender to make it pleasantly airy.

Yield: 4 1/2 cups or 6 to 8 servings

3 cups almond milk

1 cup cashewsSingle nog

3/4 cup pitted dates, snipped in half

1 tablespoon alcohol-free vanilla

3/4 teaspoon rum extract

Ground nutmeg for garnish

6 to 8 three-inch cinnamon sticks

Mix in blender. Pour into serving cups and sprinkle a dash of nutmeg into each cup. Finish with a cinnamon stick in each cup. Put the nog-filled cups on an attractive tray and serve.

SPICE UP THE HOLIDAYS WITH A CREAMY NOG!

 

Nogs on platter closeupSPICED HOLIDAY NOG

Festive holiday gatherings beg for a celebratory nog with a spicy personality that measures up to the spirit of the season. What better way to welcome your guests to a holiday gathering than to hand them a small cup of silky smooth vegan nog as soon as they’ve taken off their coats.

Faces light up and smiles spread widely even before their first taste. You wait anxiously for their first sip, anticipating their positive reactions, and, then, sure enough, the mmmmmms and aaaaahhhhs begin to flow.

Far better than any commercial “eggnog” or should I say “eggnot” one can find in the grocery store, and much purer, too, this fragrant, homemade nog doesn’t have preservatives or artificial colors–just the richness of seasonal spices, a generous measure of cashews, and soymilk.

What makes this nog so aromatic is the abundant medley of spices I’ve included, making the spicy flavors jump to the forefront and bringing refreshing delight to the palate. By assembling just a few familiar ingredients and giving them a simple whirring in the blender, you’ll offer your guests a festive beverage that tastes extravagantly rich, feels satin-smooth and ultra thick and creamy, and offers a joyful moment as friends and family raise their glasses and toast the holiday.

If you’d like to pump up the holiday spirit just a bit, add 1/4 cup of brandy to the blender and give it a whirl. Enjoy the nog with or without the extra spirits. Now it’s time to raise your glass and wish everyone Holiday Cheers!.

Here’s an added bonus: You can make the nog up to two days ahead and refrigerate it. If you need to double or triple the recipe, prepare it in separate batches and store it in a pitcher. Just before serving, give the nog a whirl in the blender to give it a fluffier touch.

Nogs on platter w:candycanesSPICED HOLIDAY NOG

Yield: 6 (6-ounce) servings

2 cups vanilla soymilk, almond milk, or hemp milk

1 cup cashewsSingle nog

1/2 cup apple juice

3/4 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus more for garnish

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

6 extra-long cinnamon sticks

  1. Put 1 cup of the soymilk and the cashews in the blender. Process on high speed for 1 minute, or until smooth and creamy. If you have a high-speed blender, you can put all the ingredients into the blender at once and process until smooth.
  2. Add the remaining 1 cup of soymilk, the apple juice, maple syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves and process until thick and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender jar.
  3. To serve, pour the nog into glasses and sprinkle each with a pinch of nutmeg if desired. Add a cinnamon stick to each glass and serve. If preparing in advance, pour the nog into a 1 1/2-quart pitcher and refrigerate.

Note: The nog will thicken slightly and tends to separate when refrigerated. Refresh with a brief whirl in the blender or whisk vigorously just before serving. If needed, thin the nog with 1 or more tablespoons of soy milk or apple juice until you reach the desired consistency.

If any of your guests have an allergy to cashews, simply use almonds instead and blend a little longer.

A Welcoming Holiday Beverage

Spirited holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years beg for a celebratory cocktail with spicy personality that measures up to the energetic vitality of the season. The quantity of brandy in this nog is a gentle starting point.

Brandied Holiday Nog

I often serve a tiny pitcher of extra brandy with this so guests can crank up the holiday spirit a notch or two. You can also serve this tasty nog without the brandy and still enjoy a well-spiced festive beverage.

Pumpkin Apple Nog copy

This rich and satisfying nog is one of the delicious recipes in my Vegan for the Holidays cookbook.

 

Yield: 6 (6-ounce) servingsVegan Holidays highres

 

2 cups vanilla soymilk

1 cup cashews

1/2 cup apple juice

3/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup brandy

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus more for garnish

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

 

  1. Put 1 cup of the soymilk and the cashews in the blender. Process on high speed for 1 minute, or until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add the remaining 1 cup of soymilk, the apple juice, maple syrup, brandy, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves and process until thick and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender jar.
  3. To serve, pour the nog into glasses and sprinkle each with a pinch of nutmeg if desired. If preparing in advance, pour the nog into a 1 1/2-quart pitcher and refrigerate.

Note: The nog will thicken slightly and tends to separate when refrigerated. Refresh with a brief whirl in the blender or whisk vigorously just before serving.