I depend on my slow cooker pretty heavily these days, because the fact that both of my kids start to get very tired very early in the evening means that trying to fix dinner at dinner time is usually a disaster that rivals the great tragedies of history. The Hindenburg. September 11. Highlander II. Anyway, as I was saying- it’s really a good idea for dinner to take care of itself during the mid-late afternoon period of the day.
Today, I needed to use up the mushrooms I bought on my last grocery shopping trip so I settled on this coq-au-vin inspired slow cooker recipe that only needed basic staples aside from the mushrooms. I started with frozen chicken and it cooked up beautifully in four hours on the high setting. Every slow cooker is just a little different, so rely on your experience with your cooker to tell you whether you should reduce the cooking time or check it after three-four hours so you don’t overcook it.
I will also confess that I did not have any chicken broth on hand. What I did have was an open bottle of white wine, so I threw in a cup of that as a substitute… and It. Was. Awesome.
On a recent visit to Virginia’s wine country (oh, yes, Virginia has wine. In fact, Virginia has some wine that is actually starting to make people take notice. But I digress.) I had occasion to try mulled wine for the first time. I’ve always loved mulled cider, but wine adds a richness and depth that blew me (and my palate) away. You can use any wine you like in this hot punch, and you will probably enjoy experimenting to find out which one you like most. The winery graciously gave me their recipe (handwritten, on a post-it note, for added charm) which I promptly lost, so I did some research and created this recipe based on what I could remember and on ideas from several other recipes for hot punches.
I enjoyed the little hint of tang added by the lemonade, but If you would prefer a less citrus-y punch, skip it.
A hot wine punch to cheer your guests inside and out.
1 bottle red wine (I used "three buck chuck" Cab Sav.)
2 quarts apple juice
1 can apple juice concentrate
1 can orange juice concentrate
1 can lemonade concentrate
1 sliced orange
1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice OR a "bouquet garni" of 3 cinnamon sticks and half a Tablespoon whole cloves
combine all ingredients
Simmer 2 hours or more.
Serve warm. Garnish with a cinnamon stick, if desired.
If you have a jumbo size crock pot, you can use it set on "low" for this recipe. Just set it up about 4 hours before your guests arrive. If you don't, use a large stock pot on the lowest setting on your stove. DO NOT LET THIS BOIL. This is very important, as it turns out that if you boil cinnamon it will make you pay. (Google it if you need more information, or you can just trust me.)
Being a mom is awesome, but there is still nothing much that beats taking a night off! And nobody knows how to have fun better than a bunch of off duty moms- all you need to do is put out some appetizers and an activity and you’ll all have a fine, delicious time! These meatballs fit the bill, and since they take care of themselves in the crock pot, they won’t interrupt your party prep.
In addition to being easy peasy, these are also hearty and delicious, so if your friends have had to come straight from work, they won’t have to try and fill up on crackers and too much wine- they will thank you in the morning!