Easy Brunch Cocktail

This is the best cocktail for Christmas brunch, but it's also perfect for any party this season. It's great for a crowd too!

Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web-manager and friend, and I am thrilled to be guest posting today to bring you a festive holiday cocktail: pear prosecco punch.

In my house, I always make a huge Christmas brunch to enjoy after opening presents. The feast starts with sausage balls & pigs-in-a-blanket (oldies but goodies) and coffee for breakfast while we all tear through gifts. Late morning, I pop everything in the oven, and we sit down to a huge brunch complete with berry French toast, quiche, fruit, and of course, a festive cocktail. There are only three of us every year, but we always manage to have a full-fledged feast. This is the best cocktail for Christmas brunch.

One trick: freeze a bag of cranberries and keep them on hand in your freezer. Warm prosecco isn’t tasty. Frozen cranberries can be used in place of ice to keep your cocktails cold. They won’t water-down your beverage, and they’ll look festive, too!

Pear Prosecco Holiday Cocktail

Let me know if you give this a try! I’d love to hear what you think. Happy holidays!

xo, Nicole

Pear Prosecco Punch
serves 1

You will need:

– 2 oz Pear concentrate (I use Looza)
– 4 oz Prosecco
– Rosemary sprigs & frozen cranberries for garnish

To prepare:

Pour pear concentrate into a champagne or wine glass. Top with prosecco. Add a rosemary sprig and frozen cranberries for garnish.

photos by Nicole Letts

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It’s the Little Things

This year more than any other, I think that the holidays will be about the little things. We will all be staying home, and cooking for a small crowd. What better time to try new things, like new recipes, and new ways to make your table setting really special? Below, I’m sharing a few ways to really make the holiday season special.

Flower Arranging:
How about honing your flower arranging skills. I personally love combining grocery store flowers and pumpkins and gourds, with branches and herbs I forage from the garden every year. It’s a great time to use an unexpected vessel, like an old pitcher or a soup tureen.

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Here are some easy tips on flower arranging:

While it might seem like a daunting task, arranging your own flowers can be simple yet stunning, and honestly, nothing gives me more pleasure than to arrange flowers for my own home or parties. If you follow a few easy steps, you’ll be arranging your own flowers in no time!

When beginning the design process, I start with what’s available at my local market (and even Trader Joe’s!), and I try to select a strong color theme. Selecting just one color flower, but choosing several varieties in that same color, is an easy way to pack a punch without a lot of thought. It honestly cuts way down on the stress, especially if you’re not quite ready for combining colors.

Step one: clean the bottom of the stems, and make a fresh cut.

Step two: place all the fillers in your container. For this arrangement, I’ve chosen a pitcher for my container, and Queen Anne’s Lace and Baby’s Breath as fillers.

Step three: add in your larger blooms. Be sure to work your way around the vase or pitcher. Either move around the table as you work, or spin your container to make sure your stems are even.

Step four: step back and fluff your arrangement as needed. Try to change the water every 2-3 days, and cut the stems on a diagonal every few days, too. This will keep your arrangement fresh and pretty! You can add the gourds and pumpkins around the table, maybe add a few smaller vases as well strewn around the table. More is more and more is better.

Making a Charcuterie Board:

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Create a special Charcuterie Board for your family. I usually prepare this as lunch. It’s super fun to design and even more, fun to eat. You can nibble while your main course cooks. Great if you’re watching games or working on a puzzle.

Setting the Table:

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This is R. Woods Tablescape small but lovely

I think that setting the table with a glass of wine in hand the night before is always fun. I like to put on some festive music and take my time.

Some of my go-to affordable table sources are Zara Home, Ikea, and Pottery Barn. Every year I try to buy some little addition to my table. This year I bought more candlesticks just to make the table even more glowy and happy. I also ordered some new colorful table wares from my friend potter Rebecca Wood, she also offers Ikebana Floral Lessons if you’re interested.

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This a table from the Zara Home Collection

My takeaway message is to make it special even if this year is so much different than every other year. Count your blessings and stay safe. Next year will be a big year to celebrate all the sacrifices we made. Keep the faith and keep your distance. And use this extra time to learn a craft and next year you’ll be a decorating pro. Happy Holidays.

xx Annette

 

 

 

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Fancy Grilled Cheese

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Earlier this week, I shared my white bean chili recipe, so it’s only fair that I share a recipe for the most incredible grilled cheese: my fancy grilled cheese. This is another recipe from my first book, Picture Perfect Parties, and it’s one I bring back year after year because it’s just that good. Enjoy!

Fancy Grilled Cheese
serves 6

You will need:
– 1 loaf challah bread
– 6 pieces bacon cooked and crumbled
– 1 12 oz. wheel brie cheese
– 6 tablespoons apricot jam, 1 tablespoon per sandwich
– 6 tablespoons butter softened 1 tablespoon per sandwich

To prepare:

Cook bacon until crisp in the oven at 400 degrees F, drain set aside.

Slice challah into 12 slices. Assemble the sandwiches. Place crumbled bacon , thin slice of brie, and apricot jam on the bread, place another slice of bread on top forming a sandwich. Butter the top and repeat until you have made 6 sandwiches.

In a heated sauté pan place sandwiches butter side down, butter the top half. Cook until golden brown, flip and cook the other side. Continue until all the sandwiches are done. Let set for 1 minute and cut sandwiches into quarters.

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Easy Nibbles:: Marinated Olives

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With social distancing in full effect still, I’m finding that it’s just as fulfilling to put together fun snacks for one or two as it is for a full dinner party. These marinated olives fit that bill. They’re easy to put together, but really kick the humble olive up a notch.

This recipe also makes the perfect addition to a charcuterie platter. Trust me, though, once you have one, you’ll dig in for more!

Marinated Olives

You will need:
– 4 cups mixed olives
– 3 whole cloves of garlic, smashed
– ¼ cup of olive oil
– 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
– 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
– 2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
– 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

To prepare:

In a saute pan, warm the olives, garlic, peppers, and oil. Toss in the herbs with the olive mixture. Serve warm.

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Fire Up the Grill:: Lamb Burger

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Every now and then, I’m reminded of recipes from my previous books that are old favorites. One of them is this lamb burger. I don’t know about you, but I love burgers and I love lamb, so it seemed natural to add a lamb burger to my cookbook,  Picture Perfect Parties. What makes this burger even more unique is that is has a delicious Greek twist.

As our grilling days of summer get fewer and fewer, consider mixing things up with this lamb burger recipe. If you’re looking for a great recipe to include on your menu, look no further!

As an added stylist tip, I thought I’d share a little secret with you: I love serving burgers in a pita. It makes for a really pretty presentation and a clever twist to something that is perceived as a ho-hum burger. Plus, it contains all of the messy burger goodness to one neat little pocket. Genius!

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Photo from Picture Perfect Parties Rizzoli NY

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