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holiday drinks

Spiced Apple Cider, Mulled Cider- Instant Pot / Pressure Cooker

Spiced Apple Cider– fresh, sweet and tart apples, cooked with sugar and warm spices like cinnamon, cloves and ginger, strained through a sieve a few times to get a warm clear cider that can warm up your soul on a cold winter night.  It’s like having apple pie… in a mug!Spiced-Apple-Cider, Mulled Cider, Instant Pot, Pressure Cooker

My kids don’t really like a whole lot of sweet beverages. But, Apple cider is an exception.  In summers, they love a sparkling apple cider, and, in winters, this is their favorite recipe to make with me. They absolutely love fresh warm Spiced Apple Cider. The big bonus is, that the day we make it, the whole house smells like a giant apple pie, who can complain about that now! Can you tell how much we like apple pie 🙂

Spiced-Apple-Cider, Mulled Cider, Instant Pot, Pressure CookerMaking this Spiced Apple Cider is a breeze, or as my kids like to say, “it’s what you get when the sweet and tart apples hang out with the warm spices”.  I use Pink Lady or Gala apples for the sweetness, and the Granny Smith apples give it a slight tart bite.  The cinnamon, cloves, and ginger give it the warmth, almost as if you were curled up by the fireplace!

It is pretty easy to double-up this recipe and make it in large batches, which makes it perfect for serving during big get-togethers.

I used to make this Spiced Apple Cider on the stove-top till I got my electric pressure cooker, Instant Pot.  The great part about making it in the Instant Pot is that you can keep it warm for your guests by turning on the ‘Keep Warm’ mode.

Spiced-Apple-Cider, Mulled Cider, Instant Pot, Pressure CookerSmart tip: Don’t discard the pulp you get after straining the cider for the second time. We use that pulp to make Apple Spice Pancakes or in a Apple Spice cake and the flavors are amazing. You see how this recipe is quite a win-win! Try it- this may become your favorite family holiday beverage to make- it is ours for sure!

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Easy Mulled Wine | Gluhwein Recipe

On a cold winter evening, there is nothing better than curling up in front of the fireplace with a warm cup of tea, except, with a cup of hot Mulled Wine!

Mulled Wine Gluhwein recipe Instant Pot I use one medium orange with its peel and juice to add a slight citrus and tart flavor, and add whole spices like cinnamon, cloves and star anise.  Then, I add a bottle of dry red wine and let it steam and take on the flavors of the syrup. This way the alcohol doesn’t burn off and the wine gets infused with the wonderful flavors of citrus and spices. Many recipes use apple cider, but I feel that changes the flavor too much for my taste.

Smart Tip: I pierce the cloves into the orange peels, so that its easy to pick them out later.  Instead, you can use a spice cloth/cheese cloth to keep the cloves & star anise together and easily fish them out before serving.

Mulled wine is best made with the a full bodied red wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon, but you can use any good dry red wine that you like.  Save your expensive reserved wines for later though, and use a relatively inexpensive wine for this recipe, since its flavor gets modified completely.   I wouldn’t ever use ‘Cooking Wine’ in this, or any recipe for that matter. For an extra kick in the end, you can spike it with a shot of dark Rum, whiskey, bourbon, or Grand Marnier. This is totally optional, but, I personally prefer a small shot of Grand Marnier in my cup. It boosts the orange flavor and gives this drink a great rich flavor.

Important Tip# 1: The key to making Mulled Wine is to not ever boil it.  Alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water so you really have to watch the heat.  For that reason, I use boiling water to dissolve the sugar and infuse the spices in the beginning and then let it cool down to a warm temperature before adding the wine.

Important Tip #2: When you switch to the ‘Keep Warm’ mode, fish out the orange peels, star anise and cinnamon. This prevents the wine from getting overpowered by these spices, and sometimes, the spices can cause a slight bitter after-taste if left in there too long.

Mulled Wine Gluhwein recipe Instant PotYou can make this recipe on the stove-top too. But, you have to watch it like a hawk since you don’t want to over-heat your wine.  I used an Instant Pot in its SAUTE mode to make the Mulled wine, and later switched it to ‘Keep warm’ mode, so that it stays warm for my guests throughout the party.  I would not recommend using the pressure cooking mode for this recipe, since the temperature for pressure cooking will burn off all the alcohol. I prefer using the Instant Pot for this recipe, simply because I can follow the recipe on the SAUTE setting without having to monitor it continuously, AND, I can keep it warm without the stove being on, which is avoidable when I’m entertaining guests.

It’s very easy to scale this recipe. Simply double-up the ingredients and follow the instructions. The boiling time for the sugar syrup may go up by a minute or two due to increase in quantity. The rest of the time remains about the same. Feel free to taste in between and adjust the flavors to your taste (Chef’s privileges;-) Continue Reading…

Low Carb, No Guilt Gin Tonic Cocktail

Gin Tonic Cocktail, Party Drinks

My go-to, no-brainer cocktail is a Gin Tonic.   This classic and easy drink is light, refreshing, and perfect for any occasion. About a year ago, I had to switch to a low carb (carbohydrate) diet and I was bummed that I wouldn’t be able to drink my favorite cocktail.  Since carbs suddenly became precious, I didn’t want to exhaust my daily allowance in drinks:-)

Well, they say that necessity is the mother of all new cocktails (if I may twist the phrase a bit).   I tried several different options, including diet tonic (yuck) and using club soda instead.   Finally I came to this simple hack: start with a good quality Gin and just replace half the tonic with club soda, and you can barely tell the difference.

Gin Tonic Cocktail, Party Drinks

Fewer Carbs Than a Glass of Red Wine

In fact, with half the tonic, it turns out that a Gin Tonic has lower carbs and lower calories than a glass of red wine!

A regular Gin Tonic, with 3 ounces of tonic, is about 130 calories and 7.5 grams of carbs, all in the form of added sugar (as much carbs as half a slice of bread).   The recipe below has 1.5 ounces of tonic (one measure of the Standard Jigger) and 1 ounce of soda, leading to about ~110 calories, but only 3.75 grams of carbs.   A glass of red wine has about 125 calories and 3.8 grams of carbs.  See, I told ya! Continue Reading…