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Photo by gemmarose

I love any sort of hot drink — coffee, hot chocolate, chai tea lattes… If you add alcohol to any of those things, I am doubly happy. And if you know me, you know I also love wine. So how to put all of my favorite things into one glass? Mulled wine. It’s great for a cold afternoon, and a perfect end to a Thanksgiving day where you’ve eaten way too much and are too tired to chew. So don’t.

It’s super easy to make. Once it’s done, put in a crock pot to keep warm. I love that you can serve alcohol in mugs. (I mean, you can technically drink alcohol out of a shoe…) My husband and I got his/hers mugs for our wedding that say “His Better Half”, “Her Better Half”. I drink coffee every day. My husband doesn’t use his. I tell him that’s because he’s not my better half, I am. (He doesn’t care.)

Anyways, here’s the recipe. Everything is to taste, so tweak it to your taste.

You will need:

  • 1 bottle wine
  • 2 cups juice (I used cranberry, but apple works as well)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 oranges, rind removed, cut up
  • 1 lemon, rind removed, cut up
  • Spices: To taste, of course. 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 tsp whole peppercorns, 5 buds of cardamom, 1/2 vanilla bean, 1 tbsp fresh ginger and 1/2 tsp cloves (Whole Foods bulk spice section is a great place to get the spices you need without buying a ton.)

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients into a pot on stove.
  2. Let boil and then simmer for an hour.
  3. Strain spices out and put in crock pot to serve.  Option: Let everything sit, unstrained, overnight for the flavors to infuse more. Strain in the morning.
  4.  Heat in crock pot before serving in mugs

Enjoy!

~ Dana

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Dana and I discovered our mutual love of cooking and entertaining while we were roommates in NYC. We also discovered that we both tend to do what some would call “too much.” “Too much” can get you into trouble, especially if you’re throwing a party on your own, but we found some simple tricks and essentials along the way (that would be the hard way) that we want to share. So this will be the first of many posts about party planning and entertaining and of course we would love for you to share your tips and tricks with us as well.

We’re talking about party themes today. It’s a really good idea to have some sort of theme for your party because it can help focus your thoughts for every other aspect of the event, whether it’s food, cocktails, party favors, etc. Your theme doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or fancy. You can plan your party around an object that you love, even an article of clothing may inspire you. Dana and I once planned a ladies brunch so we decorated using “girly” items such as roses and we used a lot of pink (this is funny because you will rarely find either of us wearing pink). We already had the serving dishes but needed flowers, vases and paper supplies. We went to the dollar store and purchased small glass holders for the roses and the roses themselves were about $10 for 12 at one of the hundreds of bodegas in NYC. Then we went to Kate’s Paperie and bought a sheet of floral patterned paper as a table cover and construction paper to make name tags for the glasses. We didn’t spend more than maybe $35 on decorations.

If you have a favorite color or color scheme that you want to use as your theme it is pretty easy to find decorating items (as well as menu items) that complement each other. Below is an orange and blue theme which I like because it’s not the average pairing so it’s a little unexpected. But because blue and orange are both strong colors it is possible to go overboard and head into the tacky zone so proceed with caution.

Sources listed below

Look how simply the Phillips DeVeer table below is accented with blue and orange.

Source: Phillips DeVeer Interiors

Sources, clockwise from top left:

Orange and blue candy via Ellen Johnson for P Is for Party
Vanilla-Poached Oranges, MarthaStewart.com
Blood Orange Champagne Cocktail, MarthaStewart.com 
Coasters, Z Gallerie
Flowers and Vase, Real Simple
Blue appetizer plate, Crate and Barrel

~Christina

In the summertime, there’s nothing I love more than fresh picked berries. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. There are other things I love. Like drinking sangria outside, and drinking margaritas on the patio, and outdoor wine bars. And there happen to be a million farms that offer berry picking during the summer. We actually used to do this when I was little, and come back and make pies or fruit roll ups, or some other trick my mother had to make sure we weren’t eating processed foods.

So in the spirit of the summer, here is yet another berry tart recipe:

Berry Tart with Ginger-Orange Streusel Topping (from Bon Appetit)

For topping, you will need:

  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 cup sliced almonds

Mix all ingredients together until a coarse mixture is formed.

For the filling, you will need:

  • 3 cups fresh blueberries (17 ounces)
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries (9 to 10 ounces)
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries (5 to 6 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  1. Gently toss blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, 1/2 cup sugar, and lemon juice in large bowl.
  2. Let stand 10 minutes.
  3. Mix cornstarch and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in small bowl.
  4. Add to berry mixture and toss gently to coat.
  5. Transfer berry mixture to crust, mounding slightly in center.
  6. Sprinkle streusel topping evenly over berry pie filling.
  7. Bake 40 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

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