My kids pulled in quite the haul this year. My daughter got a real canvas painting kit, a lot of clothes (both wearing and dress-up), a new recorder, a music box, a harmonica, and a keyboard, among other things. My son got a toy tool kit and drill set, a stroller, a tea set and some faux condiments for his play kitchen, lots of clothes, a couple of books, art supplies, and a toddler basketball hoop. My daughter is painting her canvas right now (and has been for the past 2.5 hours). I can hear my husband and son playing basketball. My son yells, “Goal!” and then squeals, and I can hear his little feet running across the carpet.
During the annual Opening of the Presents, we had hot spiced cider for the kiddos and hot spiced brandy wine for my husband and myself.
My friend Jenny passed along her recipe for spiced brandy wine (from Martha Stewart. Apparently Jenny and Martha are pretty tight). It looked good, but I didn’t have any star anise and didn’t feel like going out to the store for any yesterday, so I found a different recipe. I was skeptical because it came from a chef in Fort Lauderdale (Is Florida known for its delicious, warming holiday beverages? I would have felt more confident about a recipe from someone in, say, Finland). But my worries were unfounded because it was very, very yummy, and perfect for sipping as the children tore open their gifts and strew the paper all over the living room.
Maybe next year I’ll work up a gluten-free, dairy-free figgy pudding recipe to go with the brandy wine.
Hot Spiced Brandy Wine
2 T brown sugar
1 oz lemon juice
1 c orange juice
3 to 4 whole cloves
8 to 10 whole peppercorns
5 whole cinnamon sticks (I only had three so I only used three)
4 cups red wine (preferably a Burgundy or Pinot Noir) (I lucked out and there was a Beaujolais on sale at the wine store the other day. Kind of wish I’d picked up two bottles now that I know how tasty this is.)
4 ozs brandy (Don’t waste the yummy stuff on this recipe. A less expensive, “good for cooking” variety works fine.)
In a four-quart saucepan, combine all ingredients except the wine and brandy. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes. Reduce by half. Lower heat and add the wine. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not boil a second time. Strain through a fine sieve, or just skim from the top and watch out for peppercorns while you’re sipping. Serve hot and garnish with a cinnamon stick.