Best, Most Authentic Sangría Recipe Ever!

I often make sangría for summer parties and this recipe is always a hit with guests. It’s based on a recipe my cousin Allison got from her host mother when she studied abroad in Spain. I added sugar because I like mine with a touch of sweetness…but the sugar is optional, really.

Ingredients

1 gallon jug of dry red wine, chilled
1/2 gallon juice, chilled (I use a juice medley like orange mango banana)
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup triple sec
1 cup brandy
2 cups lemon lime soda, chilled
4 oranges, sliced, divided
4 lemons, sliced, divided

Directions

Put the cinnamon sticks and sugar in a small saucepan. Add enough water to cover by a few inches. Bring the cinnamon sticks and water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer on low for ten minutes or until the sugar dissolves.

Pour the wine, juice, triple sec and brandy into a large container (cylindrical drink coolers work well). Add the cinnamon stick/sugar mixture and half the fruit slices and stir. Place in the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled.

Add the lemon lime soda right before you are ready to serve the sangría. Pour over ice and garnish with remaining fruit slices.

Tip: The sangría tastes best chilled, so I sometimes freeze the juice into ice cubes before I add it.

Variations

White Peach Sangría: Use dry white wine; substitute orange peach juice for the juice medley; peel and chop peaches instead of oranges and lemons for the garnish.

Sugar-free Sangría: Use diet lemon lime soda and substitute Splenda for the sugar (don’t boil the Splenda with the cinnamon sticks, just add it with the other ingredients to the container).

Homemade Yogurt

In keeping with my New Year’s resolution to reduce our reliance on packaged consumer foods, I’ve been doing yogurt at home. Yogurt is super easy to make–and very rewarding. The process is pretty straightforward: you put a quart of milk (whole works best) into a good heavy pan. Then slowly bring the milk up to 180F, stirring to prevent a skin from forming.

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When the milk is hot enough, turn off the burner and let it cool to 115F–again, stirring periodically to prevent a skin from forming. Then stir 1/2 cup of high-quality plain yogurt (I like Stonyfield Farm to start, but once you make yogurt at home you can use the previous batch to culture the next one, kind of like sourdough starter) into the milk and cover. The only challenging part is keeping the milk at 115F for 6-8 hours so that the yogurt cultures can do their work. My solution is to keep a few inches of water simmering in a big stock pot and place the other pot on top of it. I usually make yogurt before I go to bed and let it culture overnight.

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The finished product is great for recipes (tzatziki, anyone?) or for snacking, topped with honey and a few fresh berries.

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Corn Tortillas From Scratch!

In an attempt to cut down on the number of consumer-packaged food products I buy, I recently tried my hand at making corn tortillas from scratch. The results were amazing! See below (click on images to enlarge).

Beautiful Christmas Stockings from Antique Fortuny Fabric

Fortuny Christmas Stockings from Bremermann Designs

Fortuny Christmas Stockings from Bremermann Designs

When I discovered these gorgeous Christmas stockings from Bremerman designs I. WANTED. THEM. They were made from fabric designed by Mariano Fortuny, a Venetian fashion and textile designer who worked from the turn of the century until the 1930s.

Not only are these stockings gorgeous and affordable, but they remind me of one of the main characters in my very favorite novel, In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. Odette de Crécy, a beguiling courtesan who is also referred to as the lady in pink, was one of the most fashionable women in Paris and always wore gowns by Fortuny.

Fortuny Gown from VintageTextiles.com

Fortuny Gown from VintageTextiles.com

I have been obsessed with Proust ever since I was assigned to read In Search of Lost Time during my first year of college. Sounds pretentious to admit to being a Proust fanatic, but there it is. Since college, I have read the circa 1920 Scott-Moncrieff  translation twice more, and all of the volumes in Enright’s 1992 translation that are currently available in the US.

Proust’s treatment of memory, space, time and desire is absolutely brilliant. He captures petty social interactions like no author I’ve ever read. I once heard an interview with director Charlie Kaufman on the NPR program Fresh Air with Terry Gross. In the interview he describes a great artist as someone who is able to rearrange the furniture in your head so that you are different from having experienced his or her work. Proust is like that, too!

Incidentally, when I visited the Frick Collection in New York I was thrilled to get a chance to see Whistler’s Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux. Proust references the painting when he mentions “this harmony in pink and grey”; I can’t help but imagine that Odette looked something like this:

James McNeill Whistler, Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux (1881) Frick Collection, New York

James McNeill Whistler, "Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux" (1881) Frick Collection, New York