New York Times bestselling author, slow cooking expert and mommy blogger next door
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A Year of Slow Cooking

Monday, May 7, 2012

I Had A Cranberry Party

plateful of cranberry goodness

A few weeks ago I had a cranberry party. And I only had to make one thing with cranberry juice, but I'm a total over-achiever and made FIVE things. BOO-YAH!
(recipes below!)

The Back Story:

The Simply Cranberry Cocktail people (through BlogHer) contacted me and asked if I'd like to throw a dinner party and use their new Simply Cranberry Cocktail as a springboard for the menu-planning.

I was already familiar with the Simply Orange Juice Company--we like their orange and apple juice an awful lot, and I'm a complete and total sucker for a challenge.

Before I responded, I texted Adam:
"Hey, we need to have a cranberry juice party, sort of an Iron Chef thing. You cool with that?"
He wrote back: "a la cuisine!"

I love that man.

I was given coupons for Simply Cranberry Cocktail by the Simply Orange Juice Company, and BlogHer paid me for my time and to purchase supplies for our cranberry party.

I then set to work planning the menu: baked brie with cranberries, cranberry martinis, cranberry chicken, triple-threat cranberry brisket, and cranberry fluff for dessert (scroll down for all the recipes).

To round out the meal I also roasted asparagus and made mashed potatoes (out of a box! Capital K classy, I tell you...).

Just so you know: Simply Cranberry Cocktail can be found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store; it is kept chilled from the time it is blended with not-from-concentrate cranberry juice and gently pasteurized with no added preservatives. It's sweet and tart and unlike other cranberry juice cocktails in that you don't shudder after drinking it.

I decided this was a really good excuse to buy cranberry red tablecloths and retire the ecru tablecloths I usually dig out of the china cabinet. (I'm pretty sure stained and bleached and then stained and bleached tablecloths are ecru. Right?)

Since we were having our party on April Fool's Day, I also bought silly straws and nose glasses for everyone out of the dollar bins at Target.

I invited my two best friends (guess what their names are? did you guess? wait for it... wait for it...
JENNIFER and JENNIFER) and their families. This meant we had 6 adults and 9 children for our dinner party. I set up two tables, with the idea that the kids would be at one and the grownups could sit at the other, and we'd all sit down and have sparkling dinner conversation and lovely table manners.

Bree Van de Kamp Hodge would be so proud.
(of course she's on trial for murder right now, but I think Gaby is about to confess.)

It was wonderful.

I need to have dinner parties more often. I think sometimes in the name of saving money I forget it's the little things in life that matter--good friends, good food, and good fun.

Someone else picking up the bill is awfully nice, too.
Thank you Simply Cranberry Cocktail !!


I don't have any photos of the brie because I may have already had a cranberry martini (or 2? not sure) before I thought to take pictures, and by then we pretty much killed the whole thing.

I used the candied pecan and cranberry brie recipe I made back in 2008 but didn't use the pecans because one of our little friends has a nut allergy. I did, though, add a drop of balsamic vinegar to the brown sugar and a bit of rosemary they way I did with the balsamic apricot brie.

8 ounce-brie round
1 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon crushed rosemary

Stir topping together and place on top of the brie. Place the brie into an oven-safe bowl or dish and plop it into a slow cooker for about 2 hours, or until melty and gooey and delicious. Serve with apple slices and your favorite crackers. I'm not supposed to name brand names in this post, but we used the popular round gluten free crackers that come in the white box. Email me if you don't know what I'm talking about!

Cranberry Martinis

Since The Cocktail Lady was at our house I figured I'd use her expertise, and we came up with the most awesomest cranberry martini recipe ever. She also lent me her drink shaker because I accidentally gave away the one we got as a wedding present in one of our many moves.
Thanks, Jen! xoxo

Fill the drink shaker half-full or so with ice.
For each drink, add:
1 shot Simply Cranberry Cocktail
1 shot citrus flavored vodka
1/2 shot Triple Sec
1/2 shot Sweet and Sour Mix

Shake well and serve in chilled martini glasses with sugared rims. (Adam did the glasses by rubbing a cut lime on the edge then dipping the glasses in Baker's Sugar. He froze them for 2 hours or so before the party).
We were able to double this recipe and get two drinks in each shaker.

And they rocked.

Cranberry Glazed Chicken:
4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 large onion, peeled and diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons gluten free soy sauce
1 (16-ounce) can whole berry cranberry sauce
1/2 cup Simply Cranberry Cocktail
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water

Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Place the chicken into the bottom of your cooker (frozen is fine). Add diced onion and garlic. In a mixing bowl whisk together the soy sauce, cranberry sauce, and juices. Pour this mixture evenly over the top of your chicken. Cover, and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, or until chicken is fully cooked (if you cook it longer, it’ll shred—it’s up to you!)
With tongs, carefully remove the chicken and place on a serving platter. Whisk together the cornstarch and cold water to create a slurry. Stir this into your slow cooker to thicken, then serve over mashed potatoes or polenta.

Triple Threat Cranberry Brisket:
5 pound beef brisket
1 onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (16-ounce) can whole berry cranberry sauce
1/4 cup gluten free soy sauce
1/2 cup Simply Cranberry Cocktail
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Place the meat into the bottom of your slow cooker insert. Add onion and garlic. In a mixing bowl, mix together the can of cranberry sauce, soy sauce, juice, and dried cranberries. Pour this combination evenly over the top of the meat. Cover, and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or on high for about 6 hours. Your meat is finished when it has begun to lose it’s shape and can pull apart easily with a fork. Serve over mashed potatoes with a spoonful of sauce.

Cranberry Fluff Dessert

I was channeling TW from when I decided to serve this dessert. I knew I wanted something we could all eat together and didn't want a big production (think ice-cream bar) or a huge mess to deal with later (again, think ice-cream bar). But I wanted the kids to like it and the adults to at least give it a half-hearted thumbs up.

I was WAY SURPRISED. We licked the pyrex clean. All 6 adults and 9 children couldn't get enough.

2 cups boiling water
2 (4-ounce) packages cherry gelatin dessert
1 cup Simply Cranberry Cocktail
1 (8-ounce) container whipped dessert topping, room temperature, divided
1 (15-ounce) can whole berry cranberry sauce
1 package shortbread cookies (or something similar. Ours were gluten free, of course!)

Whisk the dried gelatin powder with the boiling water until it's completely dissolved. Whisk in the juice, and then refrigerate the mixing bowl for 90 minutes. You want the gelatin slightly set, but not really. 

Now stir in 2 cups of the dessert topping and the entire can of cranberry sauce. Pour this mixture into a 9 x 9 glass baking pan. Refrigerate for 4 hours, or until completely set. Spread on the additional whipped topping and dot with shortbread cookies.

Cranberry retro yumminess. It's tart, but not too tart, and sweet, but not too sweet.
It was the perfect end to a perfect night. And you know it was good when you wake up to this in the morning:

I had so much fun and feel so lucky to have the best friends ever. Thank you to Simply Cranberry Cocktail for giving me an excuse to have a party. And for the realization that I shouldn't have to have an excuse to have friends over--I should just do it!

 I'm pretty sure we're not going to have a UTI anytime soon...

Guess what? 

Simply Cranberry Cocktail understands that sometimes it's just not possible to have a spur-of-the moment party when you're busy living your life and all "extra" (HA on the extra!) income goes towards retirement, or college, or braces, or new tires. So they are offering to help out by giving one lucky winner a $100 Visa gift card to spend however you'd like.
Maybe you'd like to have a cranberry party of your very own?

What is your favorite way to make a party or get together at your home more festive? Tell me about it in the comments for a chance to win a $100 gift card.

P.S: I didn't make these up. 

No duplicate comments.
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
d) For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

I'll randomly select a winner from the responses (leave an email address or sign in so I can find you!) and will make sure the gift card gets sent out promptly.

The Official Rules are available here.
This sweepstakes runs from 5/7/2012 - 6/1/2012

updated 6/2/12: This CONTEST IS NOW OVER. A representative from BlogHer will contact the randomly selected winner. THANK YOU to all who entered!

Be sure to visit the Promotions & Prizes page on where you can read other bloggers’ reviews and find more chances to win!

"Simply Cranberry" is a trademark of Simply Orange Juice Company.

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Michelle @womenwwin said...

Tweeted it=

Wehaf said...

I love a mix of simple and fancy dishes - the fancy ones make the whole party more festive! Music helps, too.

urchiken at gmail dot com

Melissa O. said...

Homemade sangria, Mexican food, and music by Manu Chao always works!

wolverina401 at gmail dot com

cw said...

Can't do much entertaining in the home right now because our house is sooo tiny, but we do like to have BBQs in our back yard (when things warm up more). The perfect music helps things be more festive and I love to put xmas lights in the trees.

Tiffany Winner said...

i think almost every party or get-together needs a game of some kind

Melissa said...

We LOVE the Simply Lemonades and Orange Juice! The NEW Simply Cranberry will be delightful in our next meal, thanks to your wonderful recipes :)

wooliegirl said...

I break out all of my cake pedestals and serve the food on these. They make everything decorative, add dimension to keep the eye moving across the table, and are great conversation pieces (everyone likes to learn the history of the pieces).
And we usually have a kid friendly area, so the kids can get involved in cooking too.

AmyW said...

Thanks - I'm trying the cranberry chicken tomorrow!

Donna said...

We LOVE having a party and coming up with different themes. Sometimes it's mexican and everyone brings something to make tacos. Sometimes it's asian - or whatever the idea of moment happens to be. Anything to get people together to enjoy good food and make some memories!

St. Patrick's Holiday Craft Bazaar said...

We love to throw back yard get togethers and have a signature cocktail of the night. I almost always have cranberry juice on hand for them!

Melissa said...

I love Cranberry Juice in Adult beverages. My favorite is a little cranberry juice mixed with coconut rum. Amounts depend on how strong you want your drink to be!

I'd love to have a cranberry party and your recipes sound great... I'm going to have to make the brisket soon!

melissa71278 at aol dot com

Tabathia said...

I love plugging up the Wii and putting in Dance Revolution
tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

Tabathia said...

tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

snarkylawyer said...

I always make a signature cocktail, even for just a beach party or BBQ. It always makes people think I put way more work into it, especially if it's coordinated with a theme or color scheme.

Can't wait to try these recipes!

Kathryn Griffin said...

It has been a long time since my friends and I have had a party but the one thing that ALWAYS made our parties festive was a big bonfire. Our little "group" always loved to hang outside by the fire and have drinks, listen to music, enjoy each other's company and party the night away. Every once in a while, with major holidays and special occasions, our group would also make our parties festive and fun by centering them on holidays or themes to make them extra festive. We always knew that the parties that got their own special theme were extra special and you definitely wanted to be there. All in all though I think the main thing that makes a party festive is people...good friends together making good memories to last a life time. To me that is what truly makes a party festive and fun....

Carol Weaver said...

I like to put out flowers to make everything look more festive.

*****COSKI NATION***** said...

My husband just inherited a baby grand and that has been a major party boost! Now we pull out all the great broadway books and our friends go to town singing their favorite tunes with my husband on the keys!

Um... and the obvious as well. GREAT DESSERTS! :-)

akronugurl said...

I love all the Simply beverages!!

akronugurl said...!/akronugurl/status/204924763745951744

Karen said...

Games! Board games, card games, made-up games, whatever. Many times we will make a laid back dinner and eat around the games (which is why I love the crockpot). The grown ups are happy and the kids are happy. What more could you need?

Jeanne in Ohio said...

We try to keep things festive and people moving by separating the beverages from the food. People seem to talk and visit more when they are circulating.

Melissa said...

A little decorations always make the party more festive! Oh and some chips & salsa.

mary sorenson said...

Hi, To make parties fun...I pick a theme. I'd love the gift card for June for DAD's and GRAD'S day.
:) Mary S.

Anonymous said...

Darnit! I don't think my comment went through! Okay so, what I previously wrote was that I like to spice up a party with eye candy! I love colors and decorations and would love to win this! Oh and yummy on the Simply Cranberry *makes me pucker!* Lynn savvygreenmoms(at)

Squince said...

We have annual summer parties at our house for the family/friends and we always have a theme and we go all out. We've done a hobo theme and everyone dressed up as hobos around a campfire and we only used the campfire to cook.
We've done a hawaiin luau and went with that theme. We've done a sports theme. .. We're only a few years into it, but it's a fun tradition!

swizzle said...

Would love to try the cocktail this weekend :) I <3 cranberries, and so do my kidneys. Would love to win the VISA gift card too! Thanks for the contest, and all your lovely recipes.

adashofdomestic said...

My favorite way to make a party awesome is a great mix of foods. The guests and the music plus wonderful food makes for an awesome party.

The Alchemist said...

To make parties more festive I usually make one or 2 special drinks for the night. Like a strawberry or pineapple mojito. I also have a few fabulous appetizers sitting out, so my guests can start eating right away. And sometimes I do a theme. I love throwing parties, I think I should throw one soon!

Your cranberry party got me inspired!

Nancy said...

I like setting the table pretty, and bring out some nice china.

Nancy said...


Sandy Yagel said...

At our house, a specially decorated cake or cake pops always makes the occasional party special! birthdays, graduations, or just a holiday... lots of fun with family together!

kenna said...

To make a party more festive, I try to have a theme and incorporate it throughout my dishes, decorations, and take home goodies (if any)

Joyce B said...

Pick a theme such as Indianapolis 500 Race party. Decorate with cars, banners, driver memorabilia, etc.

Annie-Savor This Moment said...

The best get-togethers are all about the people involved! I like to have a little bit of something out to let everyone munch, but not too much that they won't be hungry for dinner; IE. chips and salsa.

I LOVE cranberries and buy them in bulk when they're in season, then freeze them. I add a handful of them to my morning smoothies and the kids don't even know they're in there!

Jennifer {jennifer-g} said...

This is AMAZING!! I can't wait to try every one of these recipes, thanks for sharing!

Lisa S said...

I like to have casual relaxed stress free parties. Everyone like to bring something to eat and drink. Good music gets the party going. And a signature cocktail!

Lisaandandre at yahoo dot com

Rachel Freeman said...

It looks like you guys had a blast! I am always too nervous that my parties won't turn out but I need to learn to relax. Maybe more alcohol ;)

jana said...

I always make my own cranberry sauce. I have dozens of recipes.

Jackie P said...

Love the cranberry theme for a party!
Last year added cranberries to every smoothie I made. Yum!

Feather Hen said...

I like to have lots of good food, but I like to have drinks that I would not usually have on hand. Different sodas, juices, alcoholic drinks make it more special. That and a really good dessert!

Viirginia said...

To make a party more festive, we like to play games. Everyone gets to laugh and this makes the party fun.

Anonymous said...

I love cranberry anything! And the no uti joke cracked me right up! Please enter me in the sweepstakes...

Tattin' Kat said...

The best way to have a great party is to invite your best friend :)

ms-texas said...

we don't entertain a lot but when we do - good food and music make it festive

debbiebellows (at) gmail (dot)com

ms-texas said...

i tweeted here:

debbiebellows (at) gmail (dot) com

Lisa Hough said...

A party is always more festive with good music and great friends. We made the Cranberry Martini recipe and they were a huge hit.

Alli said...

I enjoy throwing theme parties for my son! And I would love to win the giveaway!

Tobie said...

Good friends make a great party!

sassafras said...

Using dishware that is we don't use on a daily basis!

Andrea (ace1028) said...

I love making enough food for people to mix and match. Setting out enough variety for people to enjoy sampling things is the best kind of party I can throw. :)

Andrea (ace1028) said...

I tweeted:


kimz said...

I always make sure to have a couple packs of playing cards in the house. So many games to play and make a party better! That, and some beer in the fridge :)

kimz said...

I always make sure to have playing cards in the house. We love our board games! They always make a party better!

LaQuitaSaves said...

I like to put on music!

Jamie Newman said...

I love Cranberry juice and can't wait to try Simply Cranberry!
jamienewman79 at gmail dot com

Marissa said...

For my parties, there's always a yummy dessert and a drink to fit the occasion, whether it's strawberry lemonade for Easter or mango Margaritas for Cinco de Mayo.

Marissa said...

We always have a yummy dessert and a drink to fit the occasion.

Marissa said...

A yummy dessert and a drink to fit the occasion!

M Crawford said...

A party is more festive with season- or theme-appropriate background music!

Bonnie said...

I love tailoring my party to my guests. Favorite colors, favorite flowers, favorite foods - I have a tendency to pay attention to comments & then note them (or write them down) for future use. I throw a LOT of parties but actually? Not too many intimate dinner parties. After reading this post, I think I might have to do that more often!

cindythern said...

These are great recipes! Thinking of making the cranberry dessert and topping it with some blueberries for a perfect patriotic dish!

Jennifer Beach said...

We overload people with food. My grandmother taught me that there can never be too much food at a party - you don't want guests to feel self-conscious taking some!

And good music, of course.

Jen B mottcat AT yahoo DOT com

tara1965 said...


tara1965 said...

Candles help make a party

Heather H said...

Festive parties at my house always include signature cocktails, finger foods, and the perfect decorations. After reading your recipes I can't wait to get to the store and get some Simply Cranberry to try out!

Tiffany Winner said...


Anonymous said...

Bonnie Tadlock said...

Just noticed the "Anonymous" note above. Here is my Twitter:

Bonnie Tadlock said...

Making a dinner party festive depends on the theme or occasions. I think colors are definitely an integral part, so I try to make my menu selection match the festive colors (red/green for Christmas, Orange/Yellow/Green for Cinco de Mayo [even though flag colors are red, green, and white], red/white/blue for Memorial Day or Independence Day, etc).

Diana Betz said...

It's so hot here, the cranberry drink is just the thing to cool us down.

Natisha said...

MANDY83 said...

lots of desserts and decorations!
pokergrl8 at

MANDY83 said...
pokergrl8 at

Dee said...

I love making a party more festive by making cupcakes catered to the theme of the get together as well as themed ice cubes! :)

deeg131 at gmail dot com

Dee said...


deeg131 at gmail dot com

KatieB said...

My favorite way to make a party more festive is to get my guests to help in the kitchen. Someone always makes us laugh!

Kerry said...

I like to make sure I have a lot of different kinds of foods to suit everyone's taste.

Kerry said...


Christina said...

My favorite way to make a party or get-together at my home more festive is selecting a theme but with simple decorations. I love to prepare homemade finger food, nice dessert and drinks. Thanks for the giveaway.


Christina said...

I tweeted about this giveaway:


Angel Jacklyn said...

The only way is with family & food. Lot's of spicy dishes on a beautiful, breezy beach with all the kid's swimming & adults laughing!

Angel Jacklyn said...

2nd entry tweet

The Sunshyn said...

In warmer weather, we love to have a bonfire and do things like toast marshmallows to make gatherings more festive.
chainmail (at)iwon (dot) com

The Sunshyn said...

I tweeted this
chainmail (at)iwon (dot) com

Caria said...

Dinner parties are always fun with good friends. Will be trying out a couple of those recipes. Thanks.

MCantu1019 said...

I try to have different variety of foods and drinks.
MCantu1019 at aol dot com

Gina M Maddox said...

I love to add great music and lighting to make a gathering more festive.

gina.m.maddox (AT) gmail (DOT) com

Gina M Maddox said...


gina.m.maddox (AT) gmail (DOT) com

Carl J said...

Hello, I just stumbled upon your site today from a link about your slow cooker breakfast recipes which I will definitely try!
To make a party or get together more festive, number one is keep the wife happy! Offer to help, and then do so when asked. We have a small kitchen so sometimes it is better to get out of the way! This works both ways as I love to cook myself! Good food, good friends and a happy wife is a must!

Lindsey said...

That cranberry cocktail looks SUPER good!!

Angela W. said...

This is a perfect "prompt" for me because the way I try to add some fun to my get-togethers is by trying a new signature cocktail to match the mood/menu. People love trying new drinks and always beg for recipes. ALWAYS fun.

Karla said...

my idea of a good time is steak and corn on the barbeque, time to spend with my family and friends and lots of laughing.

jez said...

mmm Cranberry relish with pork. Better yet, boil down cranberry juice to make a thick sauce for vanilla ice cream! N

KJB10 said...

As a starving law student, I would love a $100 Visa Gift Card to host my own cranberry party! :)

The Beard's said...

I absolutely love cranberry juice. Excited to try a new one.

Bernadette said...

I like to set up my Pandora account attached to speakers and ask my guests who their favorite artist is or what their favorite song is and then get the party music going! It amazes people when I tell them I can play whatever their heart desires! Thanks Pandora an thanks Simply Cranberry!

DeniseL said...

I always like to have a theme for the food & drink. We did a taco bar one year for my daughter's birthday and all the appetizers and drinks were authentic Mexican too.
dmarie824 at aol dot com

DeniseL said...
dmarie824 at aol dot com

Alicia Segerson said...

I just happened upon this blog through Pinterest. As I'm strolling through these posts I see a familiar face!!! Is this Nicole S. in your photo on the left???? We went to school together!!! Small world.

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