I love hosting parties with guests of all ages — they’re the perfect opportunity to get creative, explore a fun theme, and add a touch of whimsy to the decor for an event. For this year’s Easter celebration, I wanted to create an outdoor event that would be fun for kids and parents alike. I didn’t have to look further than my daughter’s own nursery to find inspiration — the illustrated works of Beatrix Potter. The English author’s collection of sweetly illustrated children’s tales provided just the right tone for my backyard bash, and her Tale of Peter Rabbit was the perfect source of cotton tailed inspiration. With fun carrot-and-ranch snacks served in tiny terra-cotta pots, homemade bunny-tail bunting, and fresh centerpieces made from garden vegetables, this was one Easter celebration that we’re pretty sure Peter himself would approve of!
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We shove frosting in our soul mates’ faces on our wedding days and sing over flaming cakes on birthdays. No matter how many tiers are stacked or candles are lit, there’s something innately celebratory about a slice of homemade cake. And, as far as we’re concerned, there are so many reasons — both official and unofficial — to get together and party. Feast your eyes on our loveliest, fluffiest, most crowd-pleasing cakes, each fit for today’s special occasion. If you can’t think of a reason to celebrate, we can think of a few excuses.
Birthday Party – It’s on a person’s birthday that they definitively decide: chocolate or vanilla? Luckily, we have both covered. Bake the boxed version of Fluffy Confetti Birthday Cake from scratch this time, sprinkling in some color. And, if you have a constant hankering for chocolate, you won’t be able to wait another year for Ree’s Big Chocolate Birthday Cake.
We’ve all been there: Friends dropped by unexpectedly (yay!). You’ve nothing to serve them (boo!). Or do you? Odds are, tucked away in your cupboard or fridge are a few familiar ingredients that can easily be turned into tasty snacks. You just need to know what to look for. Here are simple ways to transform kitchen standbys into beyond-the-basics appetizers.
Meatballs were not a regular menu item in my childhood home. My mom thought they were overly fussy and opted to make meatloaf or meaty tomato sauce when confronted with a pound of ground beef.
Because meatballs were a rarity for me, of course I longed for them. When I was older and cooking for myself, I added a pair of meatball recipes to my dinnertime rotation.
The first recipe I made was with ground lamb, feta cheese, minced red onion and a splash of red wine vinegar. We eat those meatballs with big green salads topped with roasted peppers and onions.
The second recipe is one my friend Joy invented. It uses ground chicken, ricotta cheese and minced onions, and the resulting meatballs are gloriously tender. I like to eat them over a bed of sauteed kale and topped with buttery marinara sauce.
If you’re serving beer on game day but are still craving your favorite cocktail, look no further than these adults-only salsas. They’re inspired by mixed-drink classics like bloody marys and martinis and make a perfect pairing with the best brews. Food Network Kitchen even came up with the perfect dipper for each, like serving celery sticks instead of tortilla chips with a Bloody Mary Guajillo Salsa.
Even with boatloads of nachos, nonstop chicken wings and all the guacamole you can sink your chips into, there’s one game-day dish that a football fan — or commercial aficionado — can’t live without. It’s a little sandwich we like to call the slider. Champion of the happy hour menu and bite-size rendering of a national favorite, these wee sandwiches are a mandatory competitor in your big-game spread.
To keep it simple, kick it off with Ina Garten’s classic beef sliders. With only the kiss of a grill, these mini burgers don’t need a fancy sauce — just that obligatory squeeze of ketchup. If sauce is what you’re after, Bobby Flay’s Sliders with Chipotle Mayonnaise are finished with a semi-homemade swipe of smokiness.
How can the Neelys’ Triple Pork Sliders (pictured above) pack in three types of pork, you ask? Each little sandwich features ground pork, fresh Mexican chorizo and crisp, smoky bacon. Now that’s a combo worthy of a championship.
Whether you’re hosting a rowdy football-watching crowd or headed to a game day party, a snack mix is a great make-ahead option for guests. These inspired mixes can be stored in a container for up to three days, so you can focus on television come Sunday.
1. New York Deli Snack Mix (pictured above)
This concoction is inspired by the classic flavors of pastrami on rye with mustard. Crisp corn cereal, kettle cooked potato chips and lightly crushed rye melba toast serve as the crunchy base for a buttery mustard and brown sugar sauce. Bake the mixture until it’s dry before adding French-fried onions and bite-sized pieces of beef jerky.
Spend more time in front of the game and less time in the kitchen by making this seven-layer dip the day before the event. It’s a hearty option to serve with chips and is also vegetarian-friendly. See the step-by-step photo how-to below to ensure that each scoop will score big with your guests.
Punch is always a crowd-pleasing party drink, but keeping it chilled throughout the fun can be tricky. Individual ice cubes melt quickly and tend to water down the mix, while a large citrus-speckled ice mold stays frozen longer and imparts extra flavor to the punch. You can use any ring mold or Bundt pan to freeze the ice, which doubles as an eye-catching centerpiece. Get the party started by floating this ice ring in a big batch of Cosmopolitan Fizz Punch, which combines the cosmo — a favorite ’90s cocktail — with the classic ’50s ginger ale punch for a palate-pleasing mashup that will keep you cool as the game heats up.
Begin by layering lime and orange slices in a ring mold and scattering fresh (or frozen) cranberries in between. Then mix together 3/4 cup each cranberry juice, orange juice and water, and pour the liquid over the fruit. Freeze the ring mold until firm, about 6 hours.
In keeping with the spirit of the first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl next weekend, we rounded up a few grilled favorites that make great game-day eats no matter what the temperature. If you’re not down with donning gloves though, never fear; all these recipes can also be made indoors on a grill pan.
1. Texas Hold-ums Mini Chipotle Beef Burgers with Warm Fire Roasted Garlic Ketchup (pictured above)
Rachael’s mini burgers can feed a crowd and only take 16 minutes to come together. They’re spiced up with chipotle peppers, onions and grill seasoning, then topped with smoky cheddar cheese and a homemade fire-roasted ketchup.