Autumn Sangria

The leaves in Oklahoma are brilliant hues of mustard, caramel, tangerine, and lime.

It’s time for fires in the fireplace and scarves around our necks.

As the landscape and temperature change, so does my palate. Isn’t it funny how the changing of the season imparts an inherent desire for certain flavors? For me, fall conjures up images of spicy cinnamon and nutmeg,  crisp, cidery apples and beautiful ruby red pomegranate jewels!

Last week I went to my friend Amy’s house for “TV Night”.  This summer a handful of us lovely and rambunctious ladies met once a week to watch Bachelor in Paradise.  Since ABC is torturing us until January to air another season of the Bachelor franchise, we’ve decided to meet anyway because we can’t wait that long for an excuse to indulge in wine, cheese platters, and girl talk. We watched Bridesmaids. I had forgotten how hilarious that movie is! I took a big ‘ol batch of my autumn sangria.

I love a good cocktail that you can make a big batch of that guests can easily pour for themselves. Several Halloweens ago, I decided to take a classic crowd-pleaser and enhance it with the festive flavors of fall, and thus, my autumn sangria was born!!! It began very simply with red wine, apple cider and an apple slice in each glass and has evolved from there. So, take this recipe and keep it simple or embellish it!

Here’s how I made it this time…

A bottle of red wine. I used merlot.

Huh. Well, that doesn’t seem like nearly enough wine. Looks a little lame in this giant jar. We need another bottle.

Look. Even the wine opener is happy about this decision. It’s saying Hooray!

That’s better. I definitely recommend doubling the recipe if you’re making it for a crowd. Now for the apple cider. My absolute favorite is the spiced cider from Trader Joe’s. It’s already loaded with holiday flavor. This measurement is really according to personal taste. I like my autumn sangria really appley, so I use at least a 1:2 ratio of apple cider to wine. Be cognizant of how sweet you want it.

In a pinch, you could stop there and be very happy.  But if you have the initiative, dice some apples.

A moment of keeping it real. Pouring wine and apple cider with one hand while operating a camera with the other is messy work.

Alright, dice those apples and let’s turn this into sangria!

If you have a few extra minutes for this next step, it’s a fun addition.  I just adore pomegranates. They are my favorite fall/winter fruit.

There are many different techniques for getting those beautiful little jewels out of the flesh- cutting it in half and whacking the peel with a wooden spoon, setting it in a bowl of water and allowing the arils to float to the surface… I, myself, like to put my fine motor skills to work here. I cut the pomegranate in half, score it with a knife in four places…

loosen those sections…

and gently separate the arils from the white membrane.

I find it oddly satisfying, like popping plastic packing bubbles. Add the apples and pomegranate to the sangria.

A note for later when you’re serving the sangria- the apples will stay afloat while the pomegranate arils will sink to the bottom. Do what you have to do for a perfectly balanced glass of fruited sangria!

Add a generous (or conservative) sprinkle of ground cinnamon, nutmeg (a little goes a long way) and ginger.

Stir, chill, and ladle yourself a glass! Not necessarily in that order.  Sometimes I like to add a splash of club soda upon serving for a little effervescence.

Doesn’t that just embody fall? Perfect for Halloween, Thanksgiving or a Tuesday afternoon. I mean evening.

I could leave well enough alone, but I’m honest to a fault. When I was leaving for Amy’s house and went to grab the sangria out of the fridge, I happened to notice the pears that Brady enjoys in his school lunch sitting on the shelf above the sangria.

I spontaneously grabbed two little containers and added them, juice and all, to the sangria. It got me thinking about all the ingredients I could add next time- diced fresh pears would be lovely. Pear or apple brandy, pomegranate juice, cinnamon sticks… This autumn sangria can be as simple or elaborate as desired and different every time you make it!

Ingredients

1 bottle red wine

2 cups apple cider

1 apple, diced

1 cup pomegranate arils

a sprinkle of ground cinnamon

a sprinkle of ground nutmeg

a sprinkle of ground ginger

Other Optional Ingredients

1 pear, diced

1/2 cup pear or apple brandy

1 cup pomegranate juice (if you use pomegranate juice, you may want to decrease the amount of apple cider so the sangria isn’t too sweet)

club soda

cinnamon sticks

Instructions

Simply mix the ingredients and chill.  Cheers!

Clean Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

With the school year in full swing, I wanted to make a healthy breakfast item that Isabel and Brady could enjoy before school for days to come. Since I was out of my usual boxed banana bread mix, which let’s face it, is glorified cake, I found a retro banana bread recipe from my beloved school recipe book, circa 1990, and gave it a healthy makeover.

I replaced the white flour with a combination of whole wheat flour and almond flour. I swapped out vegetable oil for apple sauce, which in addition to the mashed banana, makes the muffins so moist, I wonder why anyone would ever add oil! With a few added touches of nutritious ground flaxseed and irresistable chocolate chips, this recipe is the perfect balance of healthy and indulgent, and my kids love it! If you don’t happen to have the ground flaxseed, leave it out, but it adds a nice boost of nutrition. This is how I made the muffins.

I started by preheating the oven to 350 degrees.

Truth be told, this photo was an opportunity to show off my new kitchen towels gifted to me by my friend, Amy. Thank you, Amy, for seeing the potential in me to be a Real Housewife of Oklahoma. I am truly flattered! She also knows about my newfound love of cows.

Next, measure out the dry ingredients into a large bowl.

Whisk to combine.

In a small bowl, measure out the chocolate chips. In my world, that means don’t measure them and just pour a whole bunch of chocolate chips into the bowl. Eat a small handful.

Put a tablespoon of the dry mix into the bowl and stir. This will help prevent all of the chocolate chips from sinking to the bottom of the muffin tin while baking.

Time for the wet ingredients. Mash the ripe bananas.

Add the applesauce, brown sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla extract and cinnamon. True, brown sugar and cinnamon are not technically wet ingredients, but I like to mix them with the wet ingredients. The brown sugar melts into the wet ingredients and the cinnamon permeates through the mixture.

I’d like to point out the beautiful, sturdy Pyrex mixing bowls that I’m using. They were my Grandma Margie’s. Coincidentally, my Grandma Isabel had the exact same ones. I love that I think of them both when I’m using them.

I also feel like I should address the elephant in the room. My lighting is horrible in this post. Maybe there wasn’t enough ambient light outside today. Maybe I need to take a lighting class. Maybe I need to invest in some other lights. You would never know it, but I had every window shade open and every light on, yet it looks like I’m cooking in a cave.  I borrowed Isabel’s desk lamp to supplement all the other lights in the room, but to no avail.

Lighting has never been my forte. Back in my LMU film school days, Diana Cracknell, Brian Horn and Seamus Smith, to name a few, used to help me with my lighting on my student films. Do you think they’d fly out to Skiatook, Oklahoma for a zero budget blog?

Such is life. Back to the muffins.

Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients, and stir to combine.

Now, mix in the chocolate chips.

Spray two muffin tins with cooking spray, as well as a 1/4 cup measuring cup.  Distribute the batter easily using the measuring cup.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Do the toothpick test to make sure they’re baked through.

While still warm, run a knife around the muffins to loosen and remove. Allow to cool on a cooling rack.

After a  few days in a tupperware, I like to move them to the refrigerator to ensure freshness.

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup almond flour

¼ ground flaxseed

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

Chocolate chips

2 mashed ripe bananas

¼ cup applesauce

1 tablespoon stevia brown sugar (or ¼ cup regular brown sugar)

2 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degree.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon of the dry ingredient mixture.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients, starting with the mashed banana. Add to the dry ingredients.
  5. Add the chocolate chips and mix well.
  6. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray. Lightly spray a 1/3 measuring cup with cooking spray. Add 1/3 cup batter to each well.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Iced Peach Sweet Tea Latte

After telling the tale of mine and Brady’s adventure to the Porter Peach Festival, I had a hankering for something peachy. So I went into the pantry to see what I could conjure up spontaneously.

Behold! I discovered that my bottle of peach syrup had survived the move to Oklahoma. In the last panicked hours of move-out day, John had taken on the job of cleaning out the pantry. He’s one of those people that is ruthless when going through things (I, on the other hand, like to keep everything),  so this bottle of random flavored syrup in my new home was a happy surprise, indeed.

So, I had my main ingredient. A very quick and easy drink vision filled my mind. Packed with ripe summer peach flavor… southern sweet tea…an Iced Peach Sweet Tea Latte! So simple, I can hardly call this a recipe.

I began by brewing some black tea (I used English Breakfast) in hot water. You can use two tea bags if you’d like the tea to be stronger.

Next, I frothed some milk. I love, love, love my Nespresso milk frother. You can either froth cold milk for cold drinks or steam milk for hot drinks. The blue light indicates that there’s cold milk a’frothing!

Ooh, professional! If you don’t have a milk frother, you can just use cold milk.

Add ice in a tall glass. Aren’t mason jars adorable?

Fill it about 2/3 up with tea…

…add a little or big splash of peach syrup and stir. Maybe since it’s sugar-free peach syrup, it will offset all of the Bluebell icecream I’ve been eating all summer.

Top with frothed milk and spoon on some of the thick frothiness.

I garnished my tea latte with some fresh mint from my California-grown mint plant from our previous and beloved front porch. A souvenir from my past life.

Seriously, this photo go could in a museum. Dutch Impressionism? I’m proud of my amateur photography skills.

"Still Life with Fruit, 1871-72" by Gustave Courbet Painting Print on Canvas Trademark Fine Art Size: 18" H x 24" W x 2" D

“Still Life with Fruit, 1871-72” by Gustave.

I’m just saying, there’s some resemblance.

Add some nice weather and a great book and you’ve got yourself a lovely afternoon. I couldn’t help it, Tea with Isabel looks so pretty in this photo. Peach Tea with Isabel… come on. It’s perfect.

Ingredients

1 or 2 black tea bags (depending on desired tea flavor and caffeine)

Approximately 1 cup hot water

1 cup milk

Splash of peach syrup (to taste)

Mint for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Brew tea bags in about a cup of hot water.
  2. Froth some cold milk in a milk frother. Use the cold milk setting. (If you don’t have a milk frother, you can skip this step.)
  3. Fill a glass with ice.
  4. Fill about 2/3 with tea.
  5. Add desired amount of peach syrup.
  6. Top with cold milk and stir. Top with froth.
  7. Garnish with mint.

 

The Porter Peach Festival

Now that Isabel and Brady have started school, and days of sleeping in and lounging around lazily and unproductively are a thing of the past, I am recommitting to being a more motivated and diligent blogger. With that said, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on an adventure Brady and I experienced over summer vacation.

When we lived in  California, I would see on the KTLA news (I miss you, KTLA news) announcements of upcoming festivals such as the Oxnard Strawberry Festival, the Long Beach Greek Festival, and the Orange County Fair, to name a few. I would always think, “That sounds like fun! We should go!” But, because of other plans or hesitance of spending a Saturday driving in traffic, we never did.

So, being in Oklahoma without kids’ sporting events to work around (yet) or weekend traffic to fear, I heard news of the Porter Peach Festival and I got excited. Brady shared in my interest, John and Isabel did not, so Brady and I drove for an hour southeast through Tulsa and beautiful countryside to the tiny town of Porter.

In 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that Porter had a population of 606.

I learned some interesting facts about the town of Porter from the festival program. Ben Marshall planted the the first commercial peach orchard in Porter in 1890. In 1904, he took his peaches and apples to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis which caused the orchard to gain national attention.  Porter peaches were shipped by railroad to supply grocery stores in the early 1900’s. As a result of this history, Porter began promoting itself as “The Peach Capital of the World” in 1983.

I parked our car on the grassy side of the road, and Brady and I hopped onto this John Deere tractor shuttle which transported us to the festival down the street.

We really felt anticipation of doing something totally new in our new home of Oklahoma. The first thing we did was  get our faces painted. Brady chose a Minecraft Creeper and I chose a peach!

As we were in the face painting booth, I noticed a line gathering behind the booth. There were free peaches and ice cream at the fire station!!! The concept of a full serving of dessert free to the masses was astounding to me. So, that’s where we headed.

I haven’t yet mentioned how crazy hot it was outside. I’m guessing it was 100 degrees, throw in the element of humidity, and this California girl was wilting like a peach bud! So, with many other festival-goers, we hunkered down in the shade of the firehouse garage and ate our Porter peaches and vanilla ice cream. The combination of the two was so sweet, peachy and creamy. It was the best thing we ate all day.

Next, Brady and I bought some ride tickets and went down the slide together. It was faster than I thought it would be!

Then we saw it. (Cue the ominous music.)

I don’t remember the name of this ride. I think I’ve blocked it from my memory. It started out very fun as we swung around in a circle and spun occassionally. Weeeee!

It picked up speed and my giggles and wees became fun screams. My LMU baseball cap flew off and landed on the ground somewhere. As the little car whipped us around and flung us into the air, our limbs dangling and the tumultuous sound of rickety metal parts holding our fate, my screams of joy morphed into screams of… discontent? Terror? Brady started shouting, “No, I don’t want to!” and I was recalling previous stories on the news  about freak carnival ride accidents. While a new concern grew that I was going to throw up my free peaches and ice cream, Brady was next to me yelling, “This is not how I die!” As we whirled passed the man working the ride, I shouted in a voice that I forced to sound pleasant, “Okay, I think we’re done!” After a few more bloodcurdling revolutions, the ride slowed and stopped. When the man helped us off the ride, I attempted calmly, “I underestimated this ride.” He replied, “Most people do.”

Normally, I am a total daredevil. I will excitedly brave the craziest rollercoaster at any amusement park, but I think sketchy carnival rides might be a thing of my past. Brady and I agreed that we would only repeat the slide.

Brady threw darts at balloons and won a stuffed owl which he named “Porter”. Notice Brady’s peachy outfit. We both dressed festively in shades of orange.

It was hoooot. And humid. There would be bands playing later that evening right underneath the quaint and very Americana setting of the Porter water towers, but after a snow cone,  our purchase of Porter peaches to support the cause and some kettle corn to take back to Isabel and John, we were ready to take the John Deere tractor shuttle back to our air-conditioned car and make the drive back to Skiatook.

It was a sweet advenuture that Brady and I shared together. Until the next festival!

Listen to Good Directions by Billy Currington.  In my mind, the story of this charming song occurs in a little town just like Porter!