When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Warm drinks, warm hearts (Spicy mulled cider mix)

When I was in university, my mom received a Canadian Living Christmas Book from her mom as a gift.  The book was full of pretty holiday craft ideas, delicious sounding recipes for Christmas-y dishes and baked goods, and instructions for creating thoughtful handmade gifts.  I used to love looking through that book when I came home at Christmastime, and every year I would choose a project or two for myself to make and give away.  It made me really happy to share something I had crafted on my own with people who were special to me.

I had long forgotten about that book until a couple of years ago, when my aunt Christina and I were packing up my grandma's apartment for a move and we came across her personal copy of it.  Inside the front cover was a handwritten note from my grandpa:

Sadly, my grandpa passed away a few years ago, but I'm very glad now to have my grandma's copy of the Christmas book on my own bookshelf.  Each year during the holidays, I read my grandpa's inscription and hear his voice, and I remember the many wonderful Christmases our extended family shared together over the years.  These kinds of warm memories are always a meaningful part of each new holiday season for me.

In looking through the Christmas book this year, I was drawn once again to a recipe for a spicy mulled cider mix that I remember making often years ago.  It's a simple combination of spices and dried orange rind that packages up very prettily in glass jars or stainless steel tins, and makes a delightful warm drink when simmered with apple juice (or red wine, if you prefer a more adult version!).  The original recipe calls for cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, but when I was in the bulk section buying these ingredients, I noticed the bin of star anise and couldn't resist adding some of that to this year's version of the cider mix.  The combination of ingredients looks and smells really beautiful!

Spicy Mulled Cider Mix

3/4 cup crushed cinnamon sticks
3/4 cup chopped dried orange rind
1/3 cup whole allspice
1/4 cup whole cloves
1/3 cup star anise

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and gently mix.  Package cider mix in glass jars or stainless steel tins.

To make spicy mulled cider:

In a saucepan, combine 4 cups of apple juice (or a mixture of apple and cranberry juices) with 2 tablespoons of the spicy mulled cider mix.  Cover mixture and bring to a simmer.  Gently simmer for 20 minutes; strain into mugs.  Makes 4 servings.

For an alcoholic version of a spicy mulled drink, substitute red wine for the fruit juice and add honey to taste.

Share a little warmth with the ones you love this winter, in the form of a pretty tin of mulling spices or a steaming mug of mulled cider or wine.  This treat's fragrant, spicy goodness is sure to become a part of some new happy holiday memories.

Merry Christmas to all of you!  May your homes be blessed with lots of love and laughter this holiday season and throughout the new year.  xo

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