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A la carte: Merry punch; espresso uses; Eat Your Books, maple syrup's benefits

| Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A Very Merry Punch

There was a time when every household had its own recipe for spiced hot-wine punch. Folks would roam from house to house testing each one. With the blend of flavors in this punch, revelers might never move on to other houses on the block. Here's a version from www.eatingwell.com:

1 12 cups water

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 bottles (750-milliliters each) hearty red wine, preferably cabernet sauvignon

1 apple, sliced

1 orange, halved and sliced

1 cup pineapple chunks, fresh or canned

4 whole star anise

12 cup orange Curacao

Place the water and brown sugar in a Dutch oven. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved, for about 2 minutes.

Add the wine, apple, orange, pineapple and star anise. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes.

Stir in the orange Curacao and cook for 5 minutes more. Discard the star anise. Serve the punch in heat-safe wineglasses or coffee cups, spooning a little fruit into each glass.

Makes 12 servings, about 34 cup each.

Espresso amps up sweet sauce

Dulce de leche fans, and there are many who love the caramel-like sauce made from slow-cooking milk with sugar to a lovely golden brown, should delight in two new flavored versions from Maine's Stonewall Kitchen. The specialty food-maker does a Maple Dulce de Leche, but it's the deep flavor of the Espresso Dulce de Leche that won testers over. Nibbled on its own is an option (2 tablespoons equals 110 calories), but it's also divine with ice cream, a simple cake or dabbed on a breakfast scone. A 12.5-ounce jar is $6.95.

Details: stonewallkitchen.com

Found recipes

If you're still thumbing through cookbooks on your shelves to find an eye-catching recipe that uses, say, broccoli and tofu, that's only because you haven't discovered Eat Your Books.

The website indexes printed books, magazines and even some newspapers, plus blogs and websites, so when you build your library, you can search your collection as easily as you can Google.

Membership is $25 a year. Holiday promotion: Buy one gift-certificate membership, get one free. Details: www.eatyourbooks.com

Maple syrup: A sweetener with health benefits

Two teaspoons of grade B pure maple syrup provide 22 percent of your daily requirement of manganese, a mineral essential to survival. Manganese is shown to build strong bones, keep our blood healthy and support antioxidant work. The zinc in maple syrup supports our immunity and heart.

A majority of shoppers purchase grade A maple syrup because it most resembles the highly processed versions made with corn syrup. Grade B is usually produced later in the season, tends to have a richer flavor, pours a bit thicker and is more nutrient-dense. In other words, B is a better choice.

Here's how to use it:

• Replace a cup of white sugar in recipes with a 13 to a 12 of maple syrup and reduce the recipe's liquid measurement by a 14 cup.

• Mix into a bowl of oatmeal, millet or quinoa for breakfast

• Add to yogurt and fruit

• Toast your own granola with olive oil and maple syrup

• Drizzle on roasted sweet potatoes and squash

• Combine with soy sauce and orange juice for a delicious chicken marinade

— Staff and wire reports

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