Tag Archives: food

Japanese Style Sesame and Furikake Pumpkin Seeds

28 Oct

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It’s Halloween time, which means the obligatory roasting of the pumpkin seeds after making jack-o-lanterns! I was trying to find some fun ideas for seasoning my pumpkin seeds, and I realized that seasoning these seeds is kind of like seasoning rice. You can dress it up to be sweet, salty, spicy, savory, anything. The rice (or the pumpkin seeds) are a blank slate ready to be whatever funky flavor you want.

My rice / pumpkin seed comparison made the lightbulb go off. Why not season the seeds with furikake?! (This is my favorite seasoning to put on onigiri – Japanese rice balls – you can see my recipe for those here.)

Furikake is the Japanese all purpose topping for foods. It consists mainly of seaweed flakes and sesame seeds, but different mixtures feature different flavors. In a Japanese household this is as common as salt and pepper. It’s used on eggs, pasta, salad, soups, and sushis / rice… anything really. So why not try it on one of my favorite Halloween time treats?

And OMGee did I hit this one out of the park. I don’t think I will ever roast my pumpkin seeds any other way. These have a very classic and traditional Japanese flavor. If you are a fan of miso soup or soba noodles, you’ll love this recipe, since it uses the basic ingredients to make the broth base for those two dishes.

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You Will Need:

Pumpkin Seeds

Sesame Oil

Mirin

Powdered Dashi

Furikake Seasoning

There are no precise measurements here, because each pumpkin will yield different amounts of seeds. So you gotta just eyeball it. SO! Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Next, wash your seeds under cold water, picking out all the pulp and goop and pumpkin entrails.

Put the seeds in a bowl, and lightly drizzle with sesame oil, gently tossing the seeds till they are coated. This will add flavor and ensure your seeds don’t burn.

Repeat the drizzle and toss process with the mirin. Mirin is a Japanese rice wine that is similar to sake, except it has a much lower alcohol content and a much higher sugar content. This will make your seeds kind of gooey and sticky as they heat up, and makes the furikake seasoning stick to the seeds and get lightly crusted on. The more seasoning you intend to crust your seeds with, the more mirin you’ll want to add. I added about equal part sesame oil and mirin to mine.

Next, take a single serving packet of powdered dashi stock (about 1 tablespoon) and sprinkle / toss it on the seeds. Dashi is considered one of the “five basic tastes” of Japanese cuisine and is made up of katsuobushi and kombu – basically powdered bonito fish stock and seaweed.

Next, sprinkle your furikake – as much as you’d like! – on the seeds. I used Urishima brand Traditional Blend Furikake, which is made up of white and black sesame seeds, salt, seaweed, sugar, soy sauce and green tea powder.

Once your seeds are all seasoned and evenly coated, pour them onto a greased baking sheet, and pop them in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, stirring the seeds up every 10 minutes.

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And voila! You have some Japanese-tastic roasted pumpkin seeds! Enjoy! (I’m munching on them now as I post this!) ^_^ Happy Halloween!

Gallery Night in Downtown Pensacola

22 Oct

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Jonathan and I took Tessa to the local Gallery Night at Downtown Pensacola… lots of live music, local art and al fresco dining by local businesses. I was amazed at how hoppin’ this place was. It was much more bustling than the Los Angeles Art Walk, and there was the added bonus of not having to worry about half dressed drunks peeing on the sidewalks.

I much preferred this cleaner, family friendly version, strolling along the brick sidewalks of Downtown Pensacola, with the festive, block-party atmosphere. This is gonna be our regular monthly thing as long as we’re here. I really need to stop falling in love with Pensacola. This spring, and Jonathan’s final orders, are only a couple months away. (Eeeep!)

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Maraschino and Rum Infused Body Chocolate Recipe

19 Oct


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This is a recipe that Jonathan and I tried out when I first moved to Pensacola. I hadn’t seen my husband in over two months, and I was a whopping 8 months pregnant. While my raging hormones wanted sexy fun time, my body was in beached whale mode and sex didn’t sound very sexy. Which called for some creative innovation on date nights with the hubby.

(No, I’m not going to talk about my sex life. Well, kind of.)

Date nights around the Freeman home usually involve some kind of amateur chef foodie concoction, followed by a make out session with a Mel Brooks film playing in the background. So we put our thinking caps on and…

Enter the booze infused body chocolate! There’s just something about drawing chocolate flavored doodles on your husband and then eating said doodles, that just appeals to my gluttonous sensual and foodie sides. Body chocolate is like a naughty dessert. And you can say “desserts on me!” and chuckle at your cleverness. Like twenty thousand times. I know I did.

Anyway, this recipe makes a chocolate that is a paint consistency, which is perfect for using actual paintbrushes. The chocolate paint only keeps for about a week or so, so I advise using it as an ice cream topping afterwards. ^_^

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YOU WILL NEED:

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 pinch kosher salt

3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon of rum

1 teaspoon of maraschino cherry syrup

Put sugar, salt and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Don’t stir, but wait for the mixture to come to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and watch the pan closely until all of the sugar granules have dissolved. Once it’s all gooey, remove the pan from the heat.

Next, add the butter and stir with a wire whisk until well mixed. Add the cocoa powder, vanilla, the rum and the maraschino cherry syrup and whisk until completely mixed. And voila! Use the paint as soon as it is cooled enough to be comfortable! (You can always reheat in the microwave too.)

Enjoy!

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The Original Gino’s East Deep Dish Pizza in Chicago

8 Aug

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When my sailor graduated from Navy Boot Camp last week on August 2, there was one thing he really really really wanted to try – Chicago’s famous deep dish pizzas. But not any! He wanted the original.

Now, the Chicago style deep dish pizza was invented at Pizzeria Uno in Chicago in 1943. A couple of years later, Gino’s East was opened in Chicago by a couple of cab drivers. They stole some cooks from Pizzeria Uno and went to war with the original deep dish location, fighting for the title of “best deep dish in Chicago”.

The controversy arises over who is the “original” deep dish and the “best” because no one knows WHO exactly invented the deep dish… we only know that it was someone in the kitchen of Pizzeria Uno. And when kitchen staff began to scatter and go their separate ways – like to Gino’s, claims began to vary as who held the “original recipe”, and different pizza joints employing original staff from Uno’s all try to point out their REAL claims of authenticity.

But historically, no ones knows who invented the deep dish. We only know I originated from Pizzeria Unos. So why did we try the deep dish at Gino’s East and not at Pizzera Uno’s? Well, while Pizzeria Uno has a stronger claim to the title of “Inventor of the Deep Dish”, Gino’s is almost universally acclaimed as the better tasting deep dish pizza of the two. In fact, it’s consistently rated one of the best tasting “original” deep dish pizzas in Chicago since it’s opening about seven decades ago.

Jonathan wanted an original, but he also wanted the best. So off to Gino’s East we went!

 

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The legendary restaurant is right off of Superior Street and Michigan Avenue and the joint is moody, eclectic and low lit cave of a place, with thousands of scribbles all over the walls from past guests. Autographed pictures of famous patrons from celebrities to politicians to musicians who have tried the famous pizza litter the walls. It’s a great atmosphere for a dinner in Chicago!

Now, a deep dish pizza differs from a normal pizza in that it has a buttery, flaky golden crust upwards of three inches tall, rising slightly higher than the ingredients, and is coated in a second “crust” of cheese, then topped with toppings swimming in sauce. The crust acts as a kind of bowl – the first time I tried deep dish pizza in Chicago I called it “pizza soup” and to date I’ve found it the most fitting description. You simply cannot eat a deep dish slice with your hands (without looking like a barbarian that is), it’s a dish that really needs a fork and knife.

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Seriously, you could plop some cooked pasta noodles in your deep dish, and the toppings would work as a perfect sauce – they are that consistency. While I enjoy a Chicago deep dish, I wouldn’t classify it as something better than a regular pizza. It’s too different to be lumped into that category, really. And while it is good, it’s nothing I’d go out of my way for back home. It’s just a cultural flavor that I’d indulge in while in the Chicago area. Jonathan felt about the same. It was delicious and definitely something we’d do again, but not a must-make dish for our kitchen back home. But all in all, it was a yummy excursion! And a fun graduation day dinner!

I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it again – I’m so very proud of my United States sailor!!!

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The Noah’s Ark Burger, or the “Abomination Burger”

21 Jul

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I’ve blogged before about the unique, nerdy chic gatherings and Friday night shindigs at my friend’s house in Tulare. Belle and Chris Morrow have a knack for hosting the most interesting ,and at times borderline blasphemous parties. And I can’t get enough of them.

The theme for this party, The Noah’s Ark Burger, was dreamed up by my lovely friend Spring. The gimmick? Everyone brought a unique animal meat, which was then ground up in a meat grinder, mixed together, and dished out into individual burger patties. While the imagery of consuming every animal in creation certainly appeals to me, gluttonous carnivore that I am, I prefer calling the them “Abomination Burgers”. While there is nothing abominable and everything awesome with a mixture of a dozen different animals in one bite, the title just rolls off the tongue and intrigues the palate, in my opinion. And it’s just really fun to say.

The grand tally of the ten different animals that went into these burgers? Cow, Chicken, Pig, Turkey, Lamb, Buffalo, Antelope, Kangaroo, Ostrich and Alligator.

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And now for the foodie review. Chris did an amazing job pairing a seasoning to the meat that suited the conglomeration of textures and flavors. And the burgers smelled phenomenal while cooking. Even more surprising? They tasted about as good as they smelled. The patties were dense and fairly dry, but they certainly did not lack in unique flavor. Of course there were occasional textural inconsistencies in the patties, but the overall flavor was appetizing and far tastier than any of us anticipated. Chris got a lovely char on these burgers, and everyone proclaimed them a success.  The pile of patties were practically inhaled the second they popped off the grill. The worst part about the burger? The slim likelihood (make that near impossibility) of re-creating this recipe again.

I was going to end this blog with a couple of carnivore, meat eating jokes, but in my quick Google search I found that Vegan jokes are so much more hilarious by virtue of their trying to be funny and just… not being very funny. So I leave you with the making of the Abomination Burger photos and some Vegan “jokes”.

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Q: How many carnivores does it take to change a light bulb? A: None. They prefer to stay in the dark about things!

Q: Why do people kill animals? A: Fur convenience steak.

Q: Why did the carnivore cross the road? A: Because a meat store was on the other side, and he had been conditioned by the system of carnism to believe that eating animals is normal, natural and necessary.

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road? A: To get away from the hungry carnivore.

Q: What will meat eaters have to say about us vegans in the next century? A: Nothing, because there will be none of them left.

(For the record, I eat meat and I feel bad for the animals, but I mean… run faster I guess and stop tasting good?)

Top 10 Places to Eat In and Around Lemoore, California

18 Jul

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This blog is primarily for the Navy wives and families that find themselves stationed at NAS Lemoore and are scoping out their new stomping grounds. When I started trolling the web for details on my husbands A School in Pensacola, Florida, I was relieved to see a number of “local favorites” guides by fellow Navy wives. But then it dawned on me that there aren’t any similar posts for the Lemoore area. So I thought I’d step up and remedy that. And I figure finding great places to eat is always a wonderful place to start!

First off, I was born and raised in this area, so the Central Valley holds a very special place in my heart. But I have been told by many Navy families that their arrival to this area was, shall we say, less than a joyous occasion. Lemoore can be a bit of a shock for those who heard they’d be stationed in California and pictured in their minds eye touristy snapshots of Los Angeles, or miles of gorgeous beaches and coastline. While these attractions aren’t *too* far away, the fact is that Lemoore is right in the dead center of an agricultural community. So you’ll be passing miles of crops, orchards and dairies on the way to your new Home Sweet Home. And that can be kind of scary (and can smell kind of rank at times).

But don’t get too freaked out. It’s a lovely community. It has all the charm and qualities of a small town (making for tight knit groups, easy connections and old fashioned family life fun), while big cities are only a day trip away. And we are ringed by any nature scene you could crave – forests, oceans, desserts, foothills – all are accessible for an easy weekend getaway. But I digress. I was going to talk about places to eat!

Compiling a top ten list of places to eat was a lot harder than I thought it would be. The list kept growing, and I kept wanting to throw more surrounding towns into the mix. To make things easier, the criteria I used for making it into the top ten are 1) My personal favorites; 2) Eateries in either Lemoore, Armona or Hanford (the three closest towns to the Navy Base) and lastly; 3) Hole in the wall places and hidden treasures that you would not otherwise find or try unless a local told you about it.

So without further ado, here’s my list of Top Ten Places to Eat In and Around Lemoore, California!

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Ethel Reds Chophouse

850 E D St in Lemoore

My friends would not shut up about this place. The food was so good! The portions are so huge! The prices are so amazing! Steakhouse food for fast food prices! Sometimes even cheaper than fast food when they run specials! I was like, yeah yeah yeah, sure. Then a friend dragged me out to the restaurant. And OMG. It’s like I’ve been infected by the Ethel Reds foodie zombies, and now I am one of the moaning horde, going after everyone I know to go eat at this place. The food *is* AMAZING. The portions *are* HUGE. The décor and atmosphere is homespun and high class. And my favorite? It really is as cheap as eating fast food. Cheaper, in fact, if you order the 5 lunches for $20 special. That’s right. Five people can eat at a steakhouse for $20. That includes 5 burgers, 5 steak fries and 5 drinks. You have to see it (and taste it) to believe it. I recommend the Bacon Burger!

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The Vineyard Restaurant

819 E Bush St in Lemoore

Right across the street from Ethel Reds, this American cuisine restaurant is relaxed enough for a casual meal, yet elegant enough for special occasions. Covered in beautiful landscaping, vineyard antiques and gorgeous murals and fountains, it’s a great place to sit out on the patio with a glass of wine. The owners are feline friendly and there’s usually stray cats out and about, sometimes begging for love and food in the outdoor dining areas, which being the crazy cat lady, I love. I recommend the Mushroom Patty Melt. Soooo good!

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Reyna’s Restaurant

333 E St in Lemoore

The best Mexican food in Lemoore, though given the choice I would personally wait for a weekend and eat at Tacos El Chilango at the Swap Meets in Hanford (more on that below!). But if you simply can’t wait and need Mexican food now, this would be the place. This little restaurant is a comfortable walking distance from the movie theater in Downtown Lemoore, so it’s a great choice for a dinner and movie date night. Sauces are yummy, they are generous with their cheeses, but be warned! Service can sometimes be lacking if they are really busy. I recommend the Carne Asada Burrito.

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Ravens Deli

10856 14th Ave in Armona

This is the first hole in the wall joint that is in a little hovel of a town. It’s kind of a running joke that Armona is the hillbilly town of the Central Valley, so don’t be daunted on your way to this deli. Yes, it’s a gross little street surrounded by gross little houses in a gross little community. But the food is fantastic. The best prepared meats by the pound you’ll find anywhere in the Valley. Also, Raven’s is kind of a local culinary celebrity around here. Their special seasonings and spices are sold at all major super markets, and is distributed state and nationwide. Go to any local BBQ and they’re most likely using Raven’s products on their meat. I especially liked stopping by this deli when I was doing the South Beach Diet. I’d buy Shredded Turkey and a Green Salad and top it with tons of the complimentary cheeses they offer. SO GOOD!

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Thai Kitchen

122 N 11th Ave in Hanford

This is my favorite favorite FAVORITE place to eat in Central California. It’s another hole in the wall joint, but it is THE best Thai food in the area. Authentic, (run by a family from Thailand), warm, friendly, and amazing cuisine. This is the place my husband and I go most often. They’ll see us getting out of the car and will start our food for us before we sit down, lol! While the entire menu is delicious (and yes, I have tried almost every single offering!) we always end up falling back on the Pad Kee Mao. The flat noodles are cooked to perfection here. Also, this is one of the only places that take you seriously when you ask for something “super spicy”! They also offer an assortment of complimentary thai chilis so you can tweak your dish to your liking spice-wise. My husband is also partial to the Thai Teas they serve here. If you like Thai food, expect to be one of the new regulars!

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Tacos El Chilango

801 10th Ave in Hanford on Saturdays and Sundays – 9am to 1pm

8967 Lacey Blvd in Hanford on Mondays – 9am to 1pm

This is THE BEST taco truck in the Valley. The truck is based out of Tulare, California but makes regular appearances at the Kings County Fair Grounds Swap Meet on the weekends, and at Alma’s Swap Meet on Mondays – both in Hanford. The truck is run by a wonderful family (the daughter is especially adorable… so young and already quite the little business woman!) and the portions are HUGE. The meat is always of a high quality – no excess fat or gristle like you get with other trucks – and everything is marinated in their signature family recipes, so it’s something unique and different than every other truck in the Valley. I recommend the Chorizo and Carne Asada Tacos. Oh, and did I forget to mention? Tacos are only $1, and a burrito that can feed two, is only $4! Their homemade salsa is also delicious and super hot. When you go, tell them the girl with the camera sent you.

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Hong Kong Chop Suey

481 E 7th St in Hanford

When it comes to eating Chinese food, I am a glutton for variety. So I usually opt for all you can eat joints, where the quality tends to go down by virtue of the mass production buffet style kitchen. That said, this is the only Chinese food restaurant that is NOT a buffet that I enjoy eating at for it’s variety and quality combined. The prices are so low, that you can afford to order multiple selections, eat your fill, and then take the rest home. We always plan on over ordering here so we can take a few boxes home, the food reheats nicely. The atmosphere is great, the tea is yummy, all the selections are flavorful (I am partial to the Egg Foo Yong and Kung Pao Chicken) and it is right across the street from the Historical China Alley in Downtown Hanford, so you can finish your meal with a stroll through some gorgeous turn of the century Chinese architecture and maybe stop by the refurbished L.T. Sue Company Tea Room and Emporium for some artisan Chinese teas.

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Superior Dairy

325 N Douty in Hanford

Growing up in Hanford, whenever people would ask me where I’m from and I’d mention my little town, if they recognized it at all it would be by saying, “Oh! That’s the town with the really good ice cream, right?!” People make regular excursions from across the state to come visit Superior Dairy. That’s not an exaggeration. This is quite literally the best, the freshest and the cheapest ice cream you will ever eat in your entire life, ever. I’m pretty sure you can do YouTube searches on Superior Dairy and find videos of people freaking out over the huge portions in the 1950’s style diner. My favorite is the SOS, that easily feeds 5-6 people for only $12. They also serve lunch (hence why it is on the “places to eat” list) but it’s main draw is the ice cream! I recommend the Chocolate Chip and Maplenut Ice Cream. With warm hot fudge and melted caramel and marshmellow… mmmmmm.

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Old Hanford Cantina

301 N Douty St in Hanford

Situated in the heart of Downtown Hanford, this little Mexican food restaurant is all about atmosphere, and is nestled into one of the original historic Hanford buildings from the turn of the century. Lots of antiques and memorabilia line the walls, and as a child I’ve always loved putting quarters into the self-playing piano. (I’m 28 and I still ask my dad for a quarter so I can go make it play!) It’s also right next door to some great sprawling antique shops – a great location for treasure hunting and lunch! My favorites are the Steak and Chicken Fajitas that come out on a still sizzling pan, and the Cheesy Stuffed Potato Skins. So good!

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La Fiesta Restaurant

106 N Green St in Hanford

One of the best sit down Mexican food restaurants in the area. When it comes to the food, I’d recommend it above the Old Hanford Cantina and Reyna’s listed above, but it’s sunk to the bottom of my list simply because the service has drastically gone down over the years. Don’t expect refills and prompt service (unless you demand them, they’re receptive to increasingly cranky patrons, haha). But the food really IS good enough to brave the shoddy service – and surprisingly the busier it is, the better the service. If you go when it’s empty, the staff gets lazy. But do check it out! Their complimentary fresh and homemade chips are delicious. As are their Shredded Beef Crunchy Tacos. The price is fantastic too!

So that’s it for my Top Ten Places to Eat In and Around Lemoore! There are tons and tons and tons of runners up, but these should be a good start to getting your feet wet in the Central California food scene. If you are looking for exceptionally fine dining, you’ll have to travel to Visalia or Fresno. The Central Valley does have a few restaurants that can compete on a statewide level for five star cuisine. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line!

Fresh Citrus and Strawberry Sangria Recipe

12 Jul

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I’m always aching for an excuse to make a sangria. Just saying, “Sangria” conjures up all kinds of classy outings – usually of a girly nature – in my minds eye. Bridal shower? Baby shower? Bachelorette party? Sangria!! It is just so visually alluring and appeals to my exhibitionist hostess side. So of course, when I found myself planning a last minute Girls Night to take my maternity photos and other pictures with the girls, I was chanting “Sangria and finger foods!!” till I’m sure my friends wanted to hurl fresh fruit at my head to shut me up.

Now, sangria is a concoction that originally hails from Spain and traditionally includes a dark wine chock full of chopped fruit. But when I make a sangria, I usually indulge in the American bastardizations of the recipe and use champagne. But being knocked up, loosely imbibing wine all night wasn’t an option for this outing. And substituting sparkling apple cider for champagne seemed to be just a cruel mockery of my usual. So after trolling the interwebs for some inspiration, I finally decided to just wing it and make up my own sangria concoction using a light fruit juice. Since I knew a lot of the girls would be interested in spiking my virgin sangria creation, I decided to opt for a nice light mixture that would serve as a fruity base for any wine additions.

I decided a citrus medley was a must, not just for the colorful presentation, but for it’s flavor. And with the Central Valley still in strawberry season full swing I decided: Fresh Citrus and Strawberry Sangria! I used white grape juice as my base and ginger ale as my fizz factor, and brought along a merlot juice box as the alcohol add on for the gals wanting something stronger.

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So! My on-the-fly Girls Night Fresh Citrus and Strawberry Sangria recipe breaks down like so:

3 oranges

4 lemons

5 limes

1 carton of strawberries

1 jug of white grape juice

2 liters of ginger ale

Pour the above mixtue into a half glass of merlot wine for a spiked drink

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The key to the sangria – and any sangria for that matter – is to thinly slice your fruits and citrus, and allow it to sit for at LEAST two hour, chilled, to allow the liquid to fully leech the flavor. Then scoop some of the fruity yum yums into your glass for a decadent drink! Easy peasy and it looks fantastic and festive!

This virgin sangria mixture paired well with a heavy merlot, but it would be equally tasty in a lighter wine – like a white zinfandel. The key is to mix and match, experiment and find a concoction to suit your tastes! Enjoy!