Guilt-free celebrations with alcohol-free sangria
Like so many people, I use the start of the new year to assess my life and zero in on all the things I want to change. For 2012, I want to focus on being healthier, continue exercising, maintain a healthy weight, and spend more time with family and friends.
And there's no need to wait for Jan. 1 to get working on them. Granted, the onslaught of holiday parties — and the many cocktails they offer — can make that a challenge. But I'm a big believer that you can make sensible choices and still enjoy a party.
That's why I came up with this recipe for alcohol-free sangria, which is based on the popular Spanish fruit and wine punch. It's darn delicious, and family and friends will knock you down to get second and third glasses. And at only 43 calories a glass — downsized from the average 170 calories for traditional recipes — there's nothing wrong with that.
My sangria's sweetness and hint of fruity flavor come from two good-for-you teas — pomegranate and hibiscus.
I also add tons of flavor with fruit — citrus, berries and melon. Feel free to add your favorite fruits. That's the versatility of sangria; it tastes delicious with any combination of fruit. And if you want an even lower-calorie drink, don't eat the fruit and the calories drop to 22 per serving, with just 5 grams of carbohydrate.
I've added aromatic bitters for a subtle flavor edge. There's a myth about bitters, that using them will make a drink, well, bitter. Not true. They're really just a seasoning for beverages. Bitters are made from an infusion of roots, barks, fruit peels and herbs. If you can't drink even the tiniest amount of alcohol, purchase alcohol-free bitters; they are a little difficult to find but taste just as good.
There's so much super-healthy stuff in this recipe, I'm beginning to think that it's less of a cocktail and more of a health drink. So fill your glass and enjoy!
— If you have a home carbonation appliance for making seltzer water and the manufacturer says it can be used to carbonate more than plain water (some appliances can do this, while others cannot), you can carbonate the sangria itself instead of making a concentrate and adding carbonated water to that.
To do this, prepare the tea as directed using 3 cups of water. After chilling, strain out the fruit; carbonate, then pour into glasses with ice and divide the fruit between the glasses.
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION SANGRIA
Start to finish: 15 minutes active, plus chilling
1 cup water
3 bags pomegranate tea (such as Yogi)
3 bags hibiscus and rosehip tea (such as Teekanne)
6 packets stevia sweetener powder
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon aromatic bitters (such as Angostura)
1 1/2 cups fresh cut up fruit (such as citrus, grapes, apples, berries and melon)
5 sprigs fresh mint
2 cups seltzer water
In a small saucepan, bring the 1 cup of water to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add all 6 tea bags. Cover and let steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags, pressing them to extract as much liquid as possible. Stir in the stevia, agave and bitters. Add the fruit and 1 sprig of the mint. Cover and chill 4 to 24 hours.
Fill 4 tumblers with a third of the way with ice, then divide the chilled tea between the glasses. Add 1/2 cup of seltzer water and 1 mint sprig to each cup.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 43 calories; 0 g fat (0 percent calories from fat) (0 g saturated); 0 mg cholesterol; 10 g carbohydrate; 0 g protein; 1 g fiber; 2 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rocco DiSpirito is author of the "Now Eat This!" and "Now Eat This! Diet" cookbooks.