How to: Throw the Perfect Cocktail and Appetizer Party


I recently had a ladies night which had a fall theme and it was awesome! Over the past couple of years I’ve loved hosting tailgate brunches, St. Patty’s Day dinners or brunch, and Thanksgiving dinner. From all of these I’ve come up with the fool proof way to through the best party. Here is how you do it….

Step 1- Think of theme and menu

Think of a theme so you can decorate and create a meal around it. I picked just general fall so I wouldn’t have to get a lot of decorations but just a few items to jazz up the apartment. I got a few tiny pumpkins for decoration and orange flowers. I also picked fun Halloween straws and brown stripped plates.

When planning the menu always think less is more. After a week of searching different sites I decided to serve bahn mi meatballs, crostinis three different ways, and pumpkin doughnut holes. When picking recipes think about what needs to be cooked in the oven and your time frame. Also think of recipes that you could do most of the prep before hand.

I was originally planning on doing three savory apps and then one sweet but scaled it down to two because I knew people would bring stuff even if I said they didn’t have to. This was a great decision because there was plenty of food and I didn’t kill myself. For the cocktail I picked an apple cider old fashioned. Once again here I almost changed my plan because I found a cool recipe that added ginger beer and I thought it looked cooler with cranberries on toothpicks. In the end I went with what was budget friendly and didn’t make me have to get extra “stuff.” The orange and apple slices I had planned were just “fun” in the drinks.

This was my first party I really tried to focus on this and I will never go back to my old ways. I saved a few extra dollars and nobody else knew about the other cocktail with ginger beer or the other appetizer I was thinking about—they just saw the festive fun stuff in front of them.

Step 2-Prepare with a list

This seems like an easy step but I think it is one that is frequently missed. What I mean by “prepare with a list” is the week prior to your party break down each day and what needs to be done. A grocery store day, a cleaning day, a prep night. If you break it down this way it helps you see how easily you can maintain your normal week like and prep for a party. It helps keep the stress down from the get go. Take a look at my list and you’ll see how I do it.


Step 3- Prep night/morning

The night before the event, once the place is clean, put stuff out how you would for the party. I set up the bar and set up the table with the platters I would be using and the only things missing were food and ice. This way everything is set so you don’t have to worry about grabbing dishes and cleaning them or what to put where.



Step 5- Stay calm and cook/bake on

This is the key point; stay calm. I found it hard because I got out of work a little later than planned so I was behind schedule but when time came for the people to arrive at 7 pm they helped out with the final dishes being cooked. I was frazzled because my goal was to have everything done before people arrived which now that I look back and realize what I was trying to get done in an hour was not realistic. So set realistic goals so you aren’t stressed. It is very normal to be cooking while people are arriving so build that in if need. I also found that it was great to give someone bar duty so that kept people busy while I was finishing things up in the kitchen. I gave this duty to my sister Kara and it was easy for her take on because I printed out the recipe and directions so there were no questions. Also no matter how your dishes turn out remember what Julia Child said, “No Matter what happens in the kitchen never apologize.” So present your dishes proudly and enjoy a drink you deserve it!

The Perfect Fall Party Menu (Serves about 12 if others bring some things like cheese and wine)

Looking to have a party but don’t know what to make? I have you covered. This is the perfect menu for a 20 something’s fall party.

Apple Cider Old-Fashioned Cocktail

Banh Mi Bites

Crostini’s A la carte

For the crostini’s I cut two french baguettes into a two inch slices. I drizzled olive oil on each side and baked at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or golden brown. I topped each with a dollop of ricotta before adding the toppings below:

  1. Butternut squash and sage- I peeled and chopped butternut squash into cubes and coated with olive oil and salt and pepper. I roasted that for about 30 minutes or soft to a fork and then let cool. I did this the night before so the corseting was served at room temperature. I topped each with chopped sage.
  2. Roasted tomatoes- I drizzled olive oil and salt and pepper on cherry sized heirloom tomatoes and roasted them at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.
  3. Pear, prosciutto and honey- I sliced pear and added pieces of prosciutto then topped with a drizzle of honey.

Pumpkin Doughnut Holes

Cream cheese dipping sauce


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Camping Baked Goods


When I go camping I always want to bring a baked good. Actually whenever I’m going anywhere I want to bring a bake good so this isn’t that different. I decided to make something for breakfast and dessert when we went camping in Telluride in August (Telluride post to follow). I wanted to bake something that I hadn’t baked before and something kind of simple but fun—a pop tart was the winner. I made peach because that was in season and cinnamon brown sugar because that is one of my favorites. The recipe was an easy one and the end results were so cute—it was like adult pop tarts!



For dessert it was a no-brainer …s’mores. Instead of individual s’mores I decided to go bigger and make one large s’mores bar. Basically you put graham cracker batter at the bottom of a square pan then layer chocolate bars and marshmallow fluff and then seal it with the batter again and bake—bonfire camping heaven.



I finally found my way back to the kitchen and baked peach cobbler yesterday! This recipe was amazing. There is minced crystallized ginger in the biscuits and it gave it such an intense flavor.

There are lots of different options for peach desserts this time of year but I decided to go with a cobbler. A cobbler gets the name because the drop biscuits on top end up looking like cobblestone roads. Cobblers are not to be confused with a crisp which have a streusel toppings. A crisp should have oats which is why it has the name crisp. Just some cobbler/crisp facts for your Monday.



Awesome Buns


I’ve started following this blog, Woks of Life, and I love it. I made the Inside Out Hong Kong Buns this past weekend and the recipe was spot on; a little labor intensive but still awesome.

I got up early on Saturday to make these and didn’t want to wake my roommate so did most of it in my bedroom. Also for the long kneading I just sat on the couch and watched TV—kind of relaxing.






Notes Your Average Cookie

IMG_3807 Another one of my college roommates had a bachelorette party! And though I was not able to make it I was able to be there in spirit or in cookie. My friend Melissa is an amazing singer so I knew besides my inappropriate cookies I would go with musical notes for her! I themed them off of her color palette.

Cap Cake


When I wasn’t pretending to be 21 while visiting my little sister for her graduation, I was baking. One night I made cheesecake with strawberry sauce. I made an America’s Test Kitchen recipe and it was great. It almost had a soufflé consistency to it. As you can see in the pictures though the sides got a little burnt, luckily it didn’t change the flavor but it did make it not so pretty. As I continue to bake and test recipes I am learning an oven thermometor would come in handy and is starting to become necessary; the oven was clearly too hot. On graduation night I made a cake and it had to be graduation themed. With that thought I decided to make an upside down cap. I carried the cakes on the plane, standard, and then froze them. This made it easy to frost the the next day and kept the cakes fresh. The cake was a recipe I’ve done in the past, lemon poppy seed.




Easter in Denver

I hope everyone had an great Easter! I went to sunrise service with my sister and brother-in-law at Red Rocks and it was beautiful. We left at 5:15 AM and did not get parked till about 6:30 AM; the drive should normally take 25 minuets. We had to park 1.1 miles away because the lots were full but luckily, as you can see from the picture, we were still able to see the sun rising! If you ever go, leave about 45 minutes earlier than you plan.

The rest of the day was filled with mimosas, babka, deviled eggs, Polish Easter borscht, smoked chicken thighs, smoked ribs, and raspberry lemon cheesecake tart.





Moving the borscht from one house to another was an interesting experience.


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(Photo Credit: John Tagle)




To the Irish!

An Irish cheers for you-

May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow

and may trouble avoid you wherever you go.”

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

Sausage biscuit skillet with Guinness

Guinness cupcake recipe

Baileys cream cheese frosting – 8 oz Cream cheese, 1 stick room teperature butter, shot of baileys and powder sugar to taste.

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We All Scream for Paczki!


Tonight I made paczki‘s for Fat Tuesday tomorrow. Growing up in Michigan the grocery store and bakeries sell these treats like crazy this time of year and I absolutely love them! But out here in Denver its another story—nobody knows what they are!! I decided I won’t go another Fat Tuesday with out them so I made them myself. The process isn’t extremely hard but it is long, but the time was worth it because they turned out fabulous. I just had a raspberry filling with powder sugar, the absolute best variation of paczki, but I also made strawberry and blueberry filling with either a coating of granulated sugar or powder sugar.

Paczki Recipe


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