Happy Happy Holidays

And so now we get to the good part: Happy Hours food and the drinks, what we made and how we made it. The key word was easy because we were having this little shindig on a work night and had about 2-3 hours to prep before our guests arrived. We chose three appetizersPancetta Crisps with Pear and Goat Cheese, Portable Caprese, and Kors dOeuvres Spinach and Artichoke dip with crackers. All very delicious and deceptively simple. Our three drink options included Cherry-Lime Rickeys, Root n Gingers, and Ginger, Cranberry, Apple Punch.

Theres nothing easier than store-bought dips, but this is not your ordinary store-bought dip. ors dOeuvres is a line of dips and spreads handmade in New york and they are seriously next level. We had our first addictive taste(s) of ors dOeuvres at the New York Flea where he often hawks his goods. At the time he had six dips (the collection now features eight!) you could try with a pretzel, Frito, or chip from the pile laid out for sample dipping. It was love at first bite when we tried the Southern Blue Cheese and Herb spread, but it was love at second bite when we tasted the Spinach and Artichoke dip. Thats the one that did us in. We would’ve stood there all day, depleting his pile o chips and sampling all the dips but we didnt want to seem rude (or starving) so we hurriedly bought our own tub. Of course we had to hide it from ourselves to make sure we didnt snack it into oblivion before the get-together so if youre gonna spring for a dip yourself, we highly recommend springing for two (thisll set you back 16 bucks, but we consider it money well spent). One for your mouth, one for the party. The Spinach and Artichoke dip isnt too rich and when heated up a tad before serving, its like the taste of comfort in your mouth.

Were of the opinion that most everything tastes better with bacon so when we came across the recipe for these pancetta crisps topped with goat cheese in the new issue of Bon Appetit, we were sold. With just four ingredients, they were incredibly easy to make, but if you try them at home (which you totally should) be sure to keep an eye on the timer when baking your pancetta. The slices are so thin, a moment too long and they burn to a crisp. Once you top them with the cheese, a slice of pear, and a sprinkle of thyme, they are truly delectable. Not to mention kinda fancy and impressive-looking.

Now, these little suckers are genius. I mean all the makings of a caprese salad in one pop? Cmon, bite-sized creation was calling our names. Not to mention, serving an app on a toothpick felt radly retro.

We needed a sweet to finish off all the fun savories, so Jessica baked up a batch of mini red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Thanks to the help of Heather, they were all perfectly frosted.

Once we had the apps taken care of, we moved on to concocting cocktails. Wed made the GINger, cranberry, apple cider punch for our Thanksgiving day feast, and it was such a hit we decided to relive its glory. Its also great for entertaining because you can easily make it ahead of time and have something to pour for your guests without breaking out the cocktail shaker.

A Root n Ginger is another adult bevvie that doesnt require shaking. A little bit of Root (have you guys tasted this stuff? The sassafrassy organic liqueur came out last year from Philadelphia folks and it is taaaaasty) mixed with homemade ginger beer and ice and youve got something that tastes just like an extra delicious root beerroot beer that gets you tipsy, that is!

After sipping a black cherry rickey at our first venture to the Vanderbilt a few weeks back, we decided to tackle this old school cocktail on our own with a cherry lime twist. For these rickeys you gotta break out the shaker, but the extra work is well worth it. Theyre a perfect combination of sweet and sour and the grenadine makes them a festive shade of pink. We served em up with vintage paper straws for added awesomeness. Unfortunately, in all the prep and booziness, we forgot to take photos of Root (which is truly a travesty as the bottles design is as lovely as the liqueurs taste!) and the Cherry-Lime Rickeys. They were disappearing almost as soon as we made them, so youll just have to stock your home bar and have a happy hour of your own to see how pretty they are! To make your life, and your drinking, easy, here are all the recipes. Salud!

Appetizers:

Pancetta Crisps with Goat Cheese and Pear Slices (from Bon Appetit)

Makes 16

16 thin slices pancetta

16 teaspoons soft fresh goat cheese (from 5-ounce log)

2 very ripe small pears, halved, cored, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

Fresh thyme leaves

-Preheat oven to 450°F. Place pancetta slices in single layer on large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with pepper. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Using spatula, slide pancetta crisps onto platter. Top each with 1 teaspoon goat cheese and 1 pear slice. Sprinkle with thyme and serve.

Portable Caprese (from Mark Bittman/New York Times)

Skewer a small ball of mozzarella, a grape tomato and a bit of basil leaf. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil.

Red Velvet Cupcakes (from Paula Deen)

We suggest halving the frosting, we still have some left over!

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

2 large eggs, room temperature2 tablespoons red food coloring

1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Cream Cheese Frosting

1 pound cream cheese, softened

2 sticks butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups sifted confectioners sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For Cream Cheese Frosting:

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Cocktails:

GINger, Cranberry, Apple Cider Punch (from Martha Stewart)

1/3 cup fresh cranberries

2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 cups fresh apple cider

2/3 cup chilled ginger beer

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 1/2 ounces (1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons) gin, if desired

Muddle cranberries with sugar in a pitcher. Add apple cider, ginger beer, lemon juice, and gin if desired. Divide among 4 glasses. Serve chilled or over ice.

Root N Ginger (from Art in the Age)

You can purchase Root here.

2 oz ROOT
4 oz. ginger beer
ginger slice

Pour ROOT into a tall glass of chilled ginger beer. Garnish with sliced ginger.

Cherry-Lime Rickey

1 oz. cherry syrup (I used grenadine)

1/2 lime, cut into 3 slices

2 tsps of sugar

2 ozs vodka

4 ozs club soda

1 cup of crushed ice

Put lime and sugar into a cocktail shaker and muddle until juicy and fragrant. Add vodka, cherry syrup, and crushed ice. Cover the shaker and shake vigorously until combined and chilled. Pour into glass and add club soda.