I’m not really used to wintery
celebrations. Last year when I traveled through Texas in mid-December, it was
85˚. At home it was in the
70s. Later this week, it will approach 70. But right now, it’s cold. That has
me wondering what sort of drinks I’ll serve on New Year’s Eve if the weather
outside is frightful.
In 2020, my most popular drink was half passion, half green,
unsweetened iced tea served in tall glasses over Sonic ice. I offered a wide
variety of hot tea, hot chocolate, wine, champagne, and liquor. But as midnight
approached, everyone preferred the slightly red, tangy tea.
I’m not sure if the color was part of the appeal, but red
drinks seem festive, and bubbly is a New Years tradition. That makes a
cranberry or pomegranate mimosa seem like an easy choice. But a cold drink when
it’s -15 ˚ doesn’t sound nearly as appealing as something warm.
If I pull out the slow cookers, I can offer Red Hot Cider
spiked with rum or spiced rum and a pot of Mexican Hot Chocolate. Since both feature
cinnamon, it should be easy to choose snacks that will work with either drink. A
pitcher of the 2020 tea and champagne for toasting will round out what I need.
The cider can be made on the stove or in a slow cooker. I
find serving from a slow cooker less distracting than running back and forth to
check a burner when I’m entertaining. If you have lots of guests coming, you
may want to have an extra batch or two waiting on the stove to refill the slow
Red Hot Cider
Combine ½ gallon of apple juice or apple cider with ½ cup
red hots. Heat on medium until the candy dissolves and the drink turns red,
stirring occasionally. You don’t want to let the mixture boil or it will turn
into syrup. Stir in 1 ½ ounces of rum or spiced rum.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
Combine 4 Abuelita™ hot chocolate drink tablets and 16 cups of
milk in a large pot. Heat over medium-high heat whisking constantly until the
mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and place in slow cooker to keep warm
for serving. This can be mixed in advance and stored in the refrigerator for
two or three days then reheated to serve. For the adult version, add Kahlua or
peppermint schnapps before serving.
I plan to serve the hot cider in clear glass punch cups so we can enjoy the color as well as the flavor. If you don’t have glass cups available, Smarty Had A Party stocks clear plastic coffee/tea cups. They also have white and black disposable mugs that would work nicely for hot chocolate. In fact, they’re my go-to when I need elegant disposable anything.
Now that I have a hot drink plan, I feel warmer already. And
putting a menu together is always easier when you have a starting point. I’ll
be ready for a wintery celebration just in time for New Year’s Eve!
of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this
post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I
have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade
Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements
and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Instead of cranberry relish, why
not cranberry salsa? Every Thanksgiving, my grandmother made cranberry/orange
relish. You know, the recipe from the back of the bag of cranberries? It looked
beautiful in her tall, cut-glass compote and added the perfect amount of tartness
to enhance the savory turkey and cornbread dressing.
My family doesn’t like gravy, so
cranberry relish is what we continue to use to add that little
somethin-somethin to our Thanksgiving plates. I serve it in a compote similar
to my grandmother’s. But this year, I’m making a change.
I found a recipe for cranberry
salsa when I was filing last week. I don’t remember printing it out, but there
it was on my desk. When my sister and I started planning the Thanksgiving menu,
I picked it up and read it. It’s served with tortilla chips so why not use it
as an appetizer?
I like to have something for
everyone to snack on in case I run long getting food on the table. Cranberry
salsa seems like a perfect choice because the leftovers can be served with our
meal in place of cranberry/orange relish.
Can the family weather a change
in tradition without being grumpy? I’m pretty sure they can as long as the
salsa tastes good. With that in mind, I made some this weekend to see.
Here’s what I combined:
2 jalapeño peppers
1 twelve-ounce bag of fresh
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup minced green onions
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh
1 tbsp fresh
squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lime
Remove stem and seeds from
peppers and finely chop. Set aside. Place cranberries in a food processor or
food chopper and pulse until finely chopped. You want small pieces, not a
Place chopped cranberries in a
medium bowl. Add sugar and stir together. Add jalapeno peppers, green onion, cilantro,
orange juice and lime juice. Stir until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate
Serve with tortilla chips.*
I served the salsa with
scoop-shaped tortilla chips. Half of the guests are gluten-free so having an
appetizer that paired well with corn chips worked great. We had plenty for
dipping and serving with a meal, plus a little left for later. As far as doing
double-duty as an appetizer and meal accoutrement, we will have plenty.
The taste profile of this salsa
relies primarily on the sour, bitter flavor of the cranberries tempered by
sugar. In this sense, it’s not that different from my grandmother’s relish. It
also contains some similar orange notes although those are less prominent. The
addition of green onion, jalapeno, and cilantro will not detract from my
turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, green beans, or black-eyed peas. From the
taste profile perspective, I can’t see a problem substituting salsa for relish.
I love it when a dish can do
double-duty! And I really don’t see any downside of using this salsa in place
of cranberry/orange relish.
So, the decision is made! This
year, our cranberries will be presented in the form of salsa! I mean, really,
*The recipe I found online for this was written by Kat Jeter & Melinda Caldwell.
When life gives you okra, make lemon gumbo. Life didn’t
give me lemons last week, but it gave me some HUGE okra pods. A mere two days
away from the garden and tiny pods grew so big my grandmother would have
disinherited me for not picking them sooner.
The pods weren’t really hard or dry, but they were large
and slightly tougher than anything I would want to fry. After the planting,
weeding, and watering, I don’t like to throw away anything I’ve grown unless I must.
I decided to use the pods in a stew.
Actually, I decided to use the pods in a stew made from
ingredients I had on hand. That turned out to be a lemon, some boneless/skinless
chicken breasts, chicken stock, brown rice, and seasonings.
While gumbo may technically be a stew thickened with okra, no one I know would call a dish gumbo unless it began with a roux. This did not. Maybe I should call it Coulda-Been-Gumbo.
Anyway, I began with a 32 oz box of ImagineR Organic Free
Range Chicken Broth and 2 quarts of water. Into that, I squeezed one fresh
I removed the ends of each okra pod and sliced them about 1/8” thick. I added the slices to the stock along with one shishito pepper with the non-stem end removed. Then I chopped a small carrot and threw it in. While this mixture was heating, I sprinkled salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper over the mixture.
I wanted to add a little more flavor to the broth, so I dug
around in the spice cabinet opening jars and smelling spices. I like to do this
while standing close enough to the boiling pot that I can smell the spice jar
and the broth in the same breath. Then I pick the best combination of aromas.
This time, I chose a blend from Penzeys Spices called Ruth
Ann’s Muskego Ave Seasoning. The aroma reminds me a little of the chicken bullion
cubes my mother used. It’s a blend of salt, black pepper, garlic, lemon peel,
and onion. I sprinkled in about a half teaspoon.
Unlike when I test recipes, when I cook like this I rarely
measure. That means I can’t tell you precisely how much I added. I can tell you
it smelled right after I stirred everything together.
By now, the mixture was boiling. I reduced the heat and
allowed it to simmer for 30 minutes. Then I removed the pepper.
Turning the heat back up, I added a cup of parboiled brown
rice and 4 thin sliced chicken breasts. I sprinkled the chicken breasts and
rice with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. I put on a lid, reduced
the heat to medium low, and set a timer for 25 minutes.
Once the timer alerted me, I turned off the heat and
allowed the gumbo to sit for about 5 minutes before I spooned some into a bowl.
After a little cooling, I was ready to sample.
The flavors were scrumptious and the texture was pleasing.
The lemon juice prevented the okra from making the broth slimy. The extra
cooking time caused the slices to break apart into tender pieces of green pod
and loose seeds. The chicken was moist and tender.
I was pleased enough that I want to try this again. Perhaps next time, I’ll use tilapia instead of chicken. And maybe I’ll add some lemongrass for added citrus zing.
I’m pretty sure the opportunity will present itself soon. Okra grows FAST!
It’s time again to plan some Super Bowl snacks (or Puppy
Bowl if you prefer). Most of us will probably be scaling back the parties. Who
am I kidding, it’s been years since I attended a SB party that ended with
someone puking on their shoes. I scaled back years ago.
The most popular contenders for Super Bowl menus vary depending on who you ask, but Buffalo chicken wings, chips & dip, chili, and pizza seem to be universal entries. But a pizza that you’d eat for dinner any ole day won’t make the evening feel festive. Here are a few ideas for easy, gluten-free snacks to fit the immediate family and still make it feel like a party.
If your family loves pizza, make party-style mini pizzas
using parmesan crisps as the crust. If you make your own crisps, go for a
football shape. The crunchy cheese will hold up to sauce and add even more
An easy way to play with variations is to start with Whisps. These cheese crisps are gluten-free, keto friendly, and come in many flavors including Hot & Spicy, Asiago and Pepper Jack, Tangy Ranch, Nacho, Cheddar, and Barbecue. Using cheese crisps as crusts will reduce carb consumption and add protein to your spread.
If you have young children, individual frittatas baked in
mini football cupcake pans are easy, healthy finger food. The ingredients can
be personalized for each child to reduce potential interruptive whining.
Chili (in dip, pie, or nachos)
Cooking a big pot of chili and then using it to make chili/cheese
dip, Fritos® chili pie or chili/cheese nachos appeals to me. I
can serve part of the chili as party food and save the rest for dinner later in
Microwave Snack Mix
Crunchy snack mix is always welcome, but if I make too much,
I eat too much. For smaller occasions, I make it gluten-free and in the microwave.
I’ve shared this recipe before, but here it is again so you won’t have to
Here’s the recipe:
1/4 cup butter
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3/4 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
2 cups Rice ChexTM
2 cups Corn ChexTM
1 cup Kix®
1 cup gluten-free pretzels
1 cup mixed nuts (optional)
In large microwave safe bowl, place butter, Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, garlic powder, and onion powder. Heat in microwave on high for 1 minute. If butter is fully melted, stir ingredients together until fully mixed. If butter is not melted, microwave in 30 second increments until it is.
Once spices and butter are mixed, add Rice Chex and Corn Chex. Mix making sure to spoon plenty of the spiced butter up from the bottom of the bowl. Add Kix and pretzels and mix again. Return bowl to microwave and cook on high for 6 minutes. Stop the microwave every two minutes and stir the mixture. Allow to cool.
For years, before I created
recipes or lived gluten-free, my favorite potluck contribution was mozzarella-stuffed
mushrooms. The recipe I used came from the 1982 Beta Sigma Phi International “Desserts
& Party Foods Cookbook: Entertaining with a Flair” and was submitted by
Miriam H. VanDermay of Lafayette, Indiana.
I have no idea how that cookbook
ended up in my hands, but I still have it and that’s good for you! Why? Because
I’m including the recipe…
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (substitute
1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp parsley flakes
1 tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
1/3 cup melted butter
Remove…stems from mushrooms.
Combine…remaining ingredients in bowl.
Stuff…mushrooms with cheese mixture.
Place…on baking sheet.
Bake…at 450 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.
Easy, peasy. And
you won’t believe how delicious! You could cut this recipe in half, but I’m not
sure that’s wise. You can always reheat leftovers the next day.
I never should
have pulled that cookbook out of the bookcase. Now, I can’t stop reading the
recipes. I’m not sharing any more because I haven’t tried them, but some
certainly sound interesting.
Okay, I lied. I’m
going to share one because I can’t envision it in my head so while I’m eating
chili, I want you to try it and get back to me. This one was submitted by
Janice E. Grover of Paradise, California.
4 cups sweetened
1 bar semisweet
1 cup whipping
Spread…applesauce in 8 x 8-inch dish.
Top…with whipped cream.
Chill…for 2 hours.
Garnish…with additional grated chocolate.
I also see a recipe for Ritz Cracker Pie in this book. My mother used to make a pie with Ritz crackers called Mock Apple Pie. I remember as a kid thinking it must be magic because it really tasted like apple pie.
That’s enough digression.
It’s nice to have dessert on the party table.
Cookies and Cupcakes
cookie can become a football. You just need the proper cookie cutter. It’s also
easy to turn a regular cupcake into a football by piping brown icing across the
top in the shape of a football, then adding white icing laces.
Cotton Candy & Cracker Jacks
If you don’t want the usual, but don’t want to cook, consider colorful containers of cotton candy and Cracker Jacks. These would go great with gluten-free corn dogs, hot dogs, and chili dogs, or cheese on a stick.
Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Cheesecake Bites
Daiya offers a variety of frozen, gluten-free, dairy-free cheesecake flavors: New York Cheesecake, Key Lime, Chocolate, Strawberry, and Pumpkin Spice. Buy two or three flavors, cut them in bite-sized cubes, add a fancy party pick and mix and match on a cute tray to thaw and serve.
I’m going to stop there. There are millions of options from which to choose and you won’t need much for a scaled back watch party. I’m hoping these suggestions will help you expand, or narrow down, the possibilities you consider. Now it’s time to choose a quarterback – the young guy or the younger guy or tune in to the Puppy Bowl. Happy snacking!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”