Christmas - Healthy Holiday Punches

How about some healthy holiday punches that really pack a punch!

Pomegranate and Champagne Punch
Anti-oxidants in the punch bowl? Why not!

Makes about 16 (1/2 cup) servings

1 handful fresh mint (about 1 cup) left on tender stems (remove stems if woody)
1(32 oz.) bottle pomegranate juice (chilled)
1 (750 ml) bottle Asti Spumanti or extra dry champagne (chilled)

Wash and dry mint. Lightly crush mint between the palms of your hands and put into the punch bowl. At serving time, pour juice and wine over mint. Serve chilled.

Karla's tip: Brut champagne makes a tart punch but it can be used if preferred.

Chilled Almond Tea
A non alcoholic punch is most welcome at any holiday gathering and this one is yummy!

Makes about 24 (1/2 cup) servings

8 tea bags (plain, regular tea)
12 cups water (divided)
1/2 cup sugar
2 lemons (juiced- about 1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons almond extract

Bring 4 cups of water to a rolling boil. Add tea bags. Cover. Steep 10 minutes. Remove teas bags and squeeze. Stir in sugar till dissolved. Chill.
At serving time, put lemon juice, extract and remaining 8 cups (cold) water into a large pitcher or punch bowl. Stir in cooled tea mixture. Serve chilled.

Hot Swedish Spiced Wine
Make ahead, if desired. Reheat for serving.

Makes about 8 (1/2 cup) servings

Peel of 1 thick skinned orange (without white pith)
1(750 ml) bottle medium sweet red Virginia wine (like Beaujolais, merlot, or table wine)
1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)
3 (3 inch) cinnamon sticks
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup whole blanched almonds

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Cover and heat to steaming. Remove from heat and steep (covered) 5 minutes to blend flavors. Serve hot. Ladle into a chafing dish or slow cooker to keep warm, if desired.

Karla's tip: A vegetable peeler works well to remove peel from the orange. Try to keep the peel in 1 continuous spiral. It looks extra nice floating in the wine. Reserve the orange pulp for another use.

Steaming Cider and White Wine Punch
Can be made a day in advance and reheated at serving time.

Makes about 16 (1/2 cup) servings

1 1/2 cups dried apples (pieces, halves or rings)
1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 (750ml) bottle medium sweet, white Virginia wine
4 cups apple cider (1 quart)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
4 (3 inch) cinnamon sticks

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and heat, covered, until steaming. Do not boil. Cook 5 minutes to blend flavors. Serve hot. Ladle into a chafing dish or slow cooker to keep warm, if desired.

Karla's tip: Brown sugar, honey or maple syrup to taste may be used instead of granulated sugar. If you prefer, sugar may be omitted entirely.

Paula Luddy's Christmas Wassail
This festive libation is specialty of Paula Luddy, wife of the president of the Brandy Station Foundation, who makes it for their annual Christmas party.

The foundation is dedicated to the restoration of the Graffiti House, a Civil War era hospital at Brandy Station near Culpeper, Virginia.

Makes about 24 (6 oz.) portions

2 oranges
2 lemons
Whole cloves (about 2 tablespoons)
3 liters red Virginia wine (your favorite kind)
1 1/2 liters ginger ale (about 1 1/2 quarts)
3/4 cup sugar
8 small cinnamon sticks
Nutmeg to taste

Stud oranges and lemons with whole cloves. Slice into wedges. Stir remaining ingredients together in a slow cooker. Add studded citrus wedges. Add studded citrus wedges and put on lid. Set cooker on high. Cook one hour then reduce temperature to low and simmer "forever", Paula says, which will keep the wassail warm for serving right from the slow cooker.


Check back tomorrow as we count the days till Christmas with scrumptious recipes, festive holiday tips and gifts ideas from the kitchen.

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