Thursday, December 31, 2009


  • 1 bottle of good quality vodka, chilled in freezer for at least a few hours
  • 1/2 bottle of triple sec
  • 1 1/2 bottles of clear cranberry juice
  • 1 bag cranberries

Combine the vodka, triple sec and cranberry juice in a large container; shake to mix. Pour the bag of cranberries into mixture; they will float on the top. Serve in low ball glasses and garnish with lime and fresh mint if desired.

The dish: Retailers often get a bad rap around Christmas for their role in commercializing the Holiday. While this is most certainly true, the good news is that every year, like clockwork, they're there to remind us to spend some time with our family and friends. I'm not always good with routines, and the reinforcement of seeing trees and hearing carols in every store I walk into is all I need to get in the spirit. The non-commercial side of the season is up to each of us. This year, Kim and I decided to throw a last minute Christmas party for our friends. The shindig was only a conversation 48 hours prior to it being in full swing, but that didn't stop it from it being a success. All told we had about 45 or so people in our place, and everybody seemed to have a blast. We had plenty of good food and drink, including this cheerful cocktail. The cool dispenser was found in Kmart for about $7, but just a plain old pitcher would work fine. I think we started an annual tradition, not only for the party itself, but also for this cool drink. Next year please try to take a break from stomping other folks for tomorrow's obsolete electronics or standing in line to buy the hottest fashions with slavery stitched into them, and have a drink with those who matter to you. The stores will take of the carols and the decor, the heavy lifting is up to us. Whenever you're reading this, I hope your next Christmas is joyful and filled with moments that will become happy memories.

Bloody Mary shrimp cocktail

  • frozen cooked shrimp, peeled with tails on
  • prepared cocktail sauce
  • tomato juice
  • vodka (I used Bakon)
  • celery stalks
  • green olives
  • fresh parsley, chopped fine

Let shrimp thaw in the refrigerator. Boil equal parts tomato juice and vodka for 5 minutes. Pour juice over the shrimp and stir in parsley, marinate for no more than 20 minutes. Drain and discard the marinade. Best served in a large Martini glass with the shrimp built on the sauce. Garnish with celery and skewered olives.

The dish: There's an old saying that says "there's and ass for every seat". No matter how outlandish a product may seem, somebody somewhere will buy it. When I first heard of Bakon vodka I wondered what type of person would buy such a product, and yet knew that I was whatever type it was. I bought it not to drink, but rather to cook with. As part of a Bloody Mary type marinade it works great without being overpowering. This is a great way to dress up an ordinary shrimp cocktail and turn it into something of a show piece. Don't be afraid to try this recipe using regular vodka, I'm sure it will work just as well. The large martini glass isn't necessary either, but it really adds to the presentation. The glass can be bought at most craft stores for under $10.

Holiday cheeseball

  • 1 block of cream cheese
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
  • 2 cups shredded Monterrey jack
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup crumbled bleu cheese
  • poppy seeds
  • fresh parsley, chopped fine
  • chopped green onions
  • 4 strips good quality bacon

Cook the bacon over a medium flame until done. Pat the grease out using a paper towel and chop into fine pieces. In a large bowl whip together the 4 cheeses and milk. Once blended, stir in the green onions and half the parsley and bacon. When complete, form mix into two large bowls and refrigerate on a plate for at least 1/2 hour. Combine remaining parsley and bacon with poppy seeds and roll ball in mix to evenly coat.

The dish: One of my favorite things about the Holiday season is watching all the available retail space vanish from our otherwise dying mall. Among the "as seen on TV" stores and people peddling skin moisturizers from the Dead Sea is usually a young lady wearing a Santa hat standing behind a tray of cut up processed meats speared with toothpicks. I'm not one to offend by denying those hardworking Hickory Farms folks their gracious generosity, so I've eaten my fair share of pork butt (and leaner turkey pork butt???). It's difficult for me to get that close to edible treats without making a purchase, and I sampled pretty much all the offerings from the farms of hickory. Among my favorite things were the cheeseballs, covered in nuts and colored a slightly disturbing shade of pink. It was a few years ago that I offered to bring an appetizer to my mom's Thanksgiving dinner. I found a recipe for the cheeseball, but was a little nervous to try making it because I was such a fan of the ones that showed up at the mall. I took a chance and decided to give it a go. I was having one of those mornings where I felt I could do anything and the ball-o-cheese I created cemented my resolve that I would never buy another nutty, pink cheese sphere. The ball in the picture above was hurriedly made during a party where we crammed 45 or so folks into our tiny condo. Of the cheeseballs I've made this one is undoubtedly the ugliest, but still tastes way better the one you'd pick up after dodging the guy selling talking fish plaques.