I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Kenwood Vineyards. I received product samples and a promotional item to thank me for my participation.
The countdown is officially on. T-minus 7 days til it’s turkey time people! And I don’t know about you, but I’ve already been dreaming up all of the goodness that I will be stuffing my face with. I mean, how could I not?! It’s the ultimate foodie day. Believe it or not, though, it’s not just the food that I want to gobble up this time of year. I also gobble up the chance to slow down and spend time with family and friends, or the opportunity to host holiday gatherings, and participate in holiday activities. To me, the holidays are more than just food. They are like warm, fuzzy blankets thick with memories, traditions, scents, and stories and I look forward to when I can wrap myself up in them every year, making them thicker with new memories and traditions each season. Mulled wine isn’t a holiday family tradition, per se, but the aromas that arise while making it are a part of my holiday “blanket”. It’s basically like liquid gingerbread, or, as some people say, Christmas in a cup. For me, the scents bring back memories of my Grandfather making his special turkey stuffing, or helping my Grandmother cook, or the first Thanksgiving where Mr. RC’s family and mine met for the first time. Wine and wonderful aromas were involved in all of those memories, memories which have now come full circle to me making mulled wine for the hubby and I to enjoy while we take in the holiday times. Fun and memories aside, remembering to give thanks and give back is always a crucial part of our holiday season, as well. It can be easy to take for granted the family we have by our side, the food we have on our tables, the roof over our heads, and the clothes keeping us warm. Whether it’s Thanksgiving or not, Mr. RC and I always make an effort to tell each other the things we are grateful for. I also keep a gratitude journal to write down three things I’m grateful for each day. And volunteering to those less fortunate has always been, and still is, a big part of my life. When I heard about Kenwood Vineyards, the wine I used in today's mulled wine recipe, I was intrigued, not only because we’re wine fanatics, but also because of their partnership with WhyHunger. Wine + a good cause? I’m all ears! WhyHunger is a leader in the movement to end hunger and poverty by connecting people to healthy, affordable food and also through grassroots solutions for self-reliance and community empowerment. Kenwood Vineyards, a winery located in the heart of the Sonoma Valley, is dedicated to making premium wines that truly represent the Sonoma’s world-renown vineyards. They source grapes from dozens of vineyards, many farmed sustainably, and their wine is madein a “small lot” or “cuvee” style, meaning each lot from each vineyard is kept separate the entire process to allow the wines to reach their fullest flavor potential. This Thanksgiving, Kenwood Vineyards has partnered with WhyHunger to do their part in ending hunger. Not only are they matching contributions made to the charity, but they will also be donating $25,000. Whether giving back is already a family tradition or not, I suggest mulling up some wine and then mulling (I had to, sorry!) over ways you can get involved. Here are a few ideas to get you started-
Make a donation to the Kenwood Vineyard/WhyHunger food drive.
Buy an extra turkey for Thanksgiving dinner and donate to a local soup kitchen who will be serving Thanksgiving meals.
Cook an extra turkey on Thanksgiving. Make it into sandwiches, then pass them out to homeless people.
Spend time as a family, either before or after your Thanksgiving dinner, serving dinner at a local soup kitchen.
Invite someone who has no family to dine with you and your family on the holiday.
How do you and your family give thanks and give back during this time of year?
EASY CROCKPOT MULLED WINE
1 bottle (750 ml) of red wine (I used Kenwood Vineyard's Pinot Noir)
1 cinnamon stick (about 4 inches long)
1 vanilla bean, sliced in half
15 grates of fresh nutmeg
5 whole cloves
1 large pinch of dried ginger
1 large pinch of allspice
2 grates of black pepper
1 tablespoon of brandy (see notes)
2 tablespoons of orange cognac (see notes)
1 tablespoon of molasses
4 tablespoons of honey
1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional; see notes)
Fresh fruit for garnish (optional; see notes)
In a large crockpot set on high heat place all the spices. Let them cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. This step will help the aromas to fully release before any liquids are added.
Next, add in the brandy, cognac, molasses, molasses, and honey. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
Lastly, add in the wine and the citrus fruit. For the orange and lemon, I like to peel them, cut them into sections, then squeeze the juice into the wine mixture, before tossing in the fruit as well as the peels.
Cook on high for 30 minutes. Add in the cranberries (if you are using them, which you definitely should, as they soak up all the spices and wine making one tasty treat at the bottom of your glass!), stir, then turn the heat to low and continue cooking for another 1- 1 1/2 hours. Serve immediately or turn the crockpot setting to "Keep Warm" until you are ready for the wine.
This is perfect for holiday festivities and parties. Not only does it smell great, but it serves a lot of people, it's easy to throw together and it doesn't require much effort or maintenance. It goes great with appetizers, as well as popcorn for those holiday movie nights.
This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for large gatherings.
Leftovers can be stored directly in the crockpot. Just place the lid on and keep it in the fridge for up to 2 days. This also makes it super easy to reheat.
You can prepare this up to a day in advance. Just start heating it about an hour before you're ready to serve it. If you are planning to serve this at a party or gathering, just make sure to turn the setting back to the "Keep Warm" once the drink is heated through.
For the dried fruit- Feel free to use whatever kind you like, cranberries, apples, apricots, etc are all good.
For the cognac and brandy- Feel free to use only one of them, just make sure to do a full 3 tablespoons of whichever one you choose. You can also omit the brandy and cognac entirely.
To make fruit garnishes, I used a pear, which I sliced into about 1/4 inch thick slices. I then used a mini cookie cutter to gently cut out shapes. You can either drop the fruit shapes directly into the mugs or you can place them on wooden skewers.