When I met professional culinary mixologist, author, and avid home entertainer Jeremy J. Parsons, I was inspired to try “inventing” some of my own cocktails. Dreaming up drinks is much more difficult than I thought. My first concoction was rather tasty, which lulled me into a false sense of awesomeness. Turns out, I am not even remotely awesome—the next two drinks I tested on my spousal guinea pig were . . . sick (as in, hubby gagged and poured them down the sink)!
How To Host A Budget-Friendly Cocktail Party
I can assure you, none of Jeremy’s cocktails are sick, unless, of course, you’re going by the Urban Dictionary definition, in which case they are totally sick and ridiculous and stupid (yes, that means they’re great).
Jeremy transforms his garnishes into mini-appetizers. A pickle spear in a Caesar adds flavour, interest, and also makes a tasty snack.
Jeremy’s Autumn Press (recipe below) is not only delicious, it’s a work of art. The garnish is a prosciutto wrapped fig, with a dab of stilton cheese, on a thyme sprig. That makes my crappy lime wedge look pretty pathetic, doesn’t it? Ever thought about garnishing your cocktail with stilton cheese and roasted red pepper on a toasted pear chip? Me neither. I’m the lime wedge girl, remember?
My entertaining motto is: “cheap and easy,” but the holidays are an exception. It's the time to indulge in something extra special and fa, la, la, la, fancy. Here are three of Jeremy’s elegant cocktail creations that will add a little sparkle to your holiday party.
How To Open A Bottle Of Champagne Safely
¾ oz. McGuinness Exotic Pomegranate, 3 oz. sparkling wine or champagne, mango brunoise (fresh mango, diced into very small cubed bits)
Pour pomegranate juice into bottom of chilled champagne glass. Gently pour champagne down side of glass, so as not to disturb the juice. Add a good pinch of mango, and continue to fill glass with champagne.
1.5 oz. citrus vodka, 4 oz. Turkish Rose Nectar (available at Whole Foods), 2 oz. sparkling wine or champagne, strawberries for garnish
Shake vodka and rose nectar with ice. Pour into glass, and top with champagne. Garnish with strawberry.
Autumn Press (I think this cocktail should be called the “Autumn IMpress!” Just a thought.)
1 tbsp brown sugar, ¾ tsp fresh thyme, 3 medium-sized sliced figs, 1 oz. raspberry vodka, 4 oz. Elderflower water (available at Whole Foods), 1 oz. soda water
Muddle sugar, thyme, and figs in double rocks glass. Add ice and vodka, and mix. Top with Elderflower water and soda. Garnish with the prosciutto wrapped fig.
For more yummy cocktail recipes, click here.
I only have three recipes in my baking repertoire that are actually edible so a Christmas Cookie Exchange is perfect for the baking-challenged, like me.
Top Five Easiest Holiday Cookie Recipes
Here's the need to know info about hosting a Cookie Exchange Party:
Why: Isn’t it just as easy to bake your own cookies to give as gifts and offer to guests during the holiday season? No. (See aforementioned lame baking skills.) Also who wants to make dozens of DIFFERENT kinds of cookies? Not this flour dusted lady. Invite guests to bring their most prized cookie offerings and you'll end up with dozens of unique and delicious cookies to share with family and friends. It makes the holidays easier to manage, plus it’s a great opportunity to hang with your girlfriends before the hectic holiday season takes off.
When: Send out invites well in advance. We mamas are busy and during the holidays! If possible, hold the party during the last weekend of November—most festive get-togethers haven’t yet begun, so YOUR party will kick off the season and allow friends to stock up on their cookie needs for the fa la la la la, la weeks to come.
Who: The guys can hold down the fort while the ladies get their cookie on. Besides, husbands and children in attendance would be disastrous! The cookie table would be under siege from the get-go and that would be “crumby” so leave the cookie monsters AT HOME.
How: There are a few must-dos to make this thing run smoothly. Once the details are taken care of, this party is a piece of cake, or whatever baked good analogy you’d like to insert here. I’d like to insert a piece of cake...in my mouth...right now. Writing about cookies is making me peckish.
1. Send out invites with essential details. Request an RSVP by a specific date. Also let people know that store bought cookies are acceptable and there is a strict NO MOCKING policy. We're busy. It's all good.
2. Guests should each bring six dozen cookies. The cookies should be good quality and should travel and freeze well. Guests should also bring a Tupperware container labelled with their name and large enough to hold the six dozen cookies they will be bringing home with them.
How To Easily Organize Your Food Storage Containers
3. Cheesy Christmas sweaters, tinselly festive jewellery, glitter and anything that lights up is the dress code for the night. The tackier the better! Hand out a prize for the gaudiest getup.
4. As guests arrive, have them set their cookies on the dining room table. Offer them a festive cocktail or sparkling wine and let the mingling begin.
5. At a designated time, instruct guests to bring their containers to the dining room. Hold hands around the table and sway back and forth singing the Welcome Christmas song from the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Ok, that's optional. Begin circulating around the table, collecting a few cookies from each plate. Continue around until all of the cookies are gone and nary a crumb remains. Some people enjoy introducing their cookie recipe. You can definitely add a brief Show and Tell before the collecting begins. Or, you can skip the formality and make it snappy so you can get back to the drinks and appies!
6. Leave your labelled container on the table, with your cookie platter and carry on with the party. Remind guests to bring both with them when they leave.
Other: You may choose to provide the appetizers and drinks. Personally, I'd ask guests to bring a small appetizer—a bag of chips, a dip, some cheese and crackers, whatever. You can offer a welcome drink, plus soft drinks. Advise guests what will be served so if they'd like to enjoy some additional festive cheer, they can bring a favourite wine or holiday drink.
Added Touch: Ask each person to email you their cookie recipe and take a photo of each person’s cookies before the collecting begins. Compile the recipes and photos and possibly some funny stories or anecdotes from the night and send to guests as a keepsake from your party.
Have fun and nom, nom, nom...
We love our children, but sometimes it's necessary to poke fun at them. In the most gentle (without them knowing) kind of way of course. It's all about stress management people.
Eric Ruhalter has been cracking me up on Twitter with his creative kidisms. He's the author of The Kid Dictionary: Hilarious Words to Describe the Indescribable things Kids Do. It's a collection of silly new words he's made up to describe kids. The expression, "It's funny, 'cause it's true!" certainly applies.
This book would make a fun stocking stuffer any parent on your gift list this year.
Check it out!
For more info and videos visit: www.TheKidDictionary.com
Happy hilarious holidays everyone!