Food and Drink

Fun Halloween mocktail ideas

Throwing a Halloween party can be a lot of fun, and figuring out what to serve at your party can be a little intimidating.  A party would not be complete without mocktails so the non-alcoholic drinkers can have a fun, too!

To help you along the way, here are five Halloween non-alcoholic mocktail recipes to include in your party this year – ideal for adults and teens alike!

The simple, non-alcoholic fruit punch
For a fun twist on a classic fruit punch, mix half a gallon of sherbet ice cream and two litres of ginger ale.  This non-alcoholic fruit punch is a refreshing mocktail, full of bubbles and zest.

Pomegranate Bellini
Heat the pomegranate juice in a saucepan until hot, but not boiling.  Whisk in half-a-cup of blueberry jam until it is smooth and combined.  Strain the liquid through a pitcher.  Put the syrup into the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.

To serve, pour two or three teaspoons of syrup into champagne flutes and fill with non-alcoholic champagne.  Float a few blueberries on top to garnish, and enjoy.

“Monstermash smoothie”
In a blender, combine fresh strawberries with a splash of orange juice, set aside.  Blend a handful of blackberries and blueberries until you get a puree consistency.

To serve, pour one layer of strawberries, followed by a layer of blueberry/blackberry mash.  Top with a blended orange juice and vanilla yogurt mix.  This drink is thick, creamy, and refreshing.  Serve with a spoon so your guests can mix the drink, giving it a layered and marbled look.

“Zombie eye punch”
Pull out the stems of 10 cups of cherries, and insert a chocolate chip in each cherry.  These will represent your zombie eyes.  Add all of the zombie eyes into the bottom of a punch bowl.  Combine three cups of ginger ale, 10 cups of cherry cola, five cups of red fruit juice concentrate, and three cups of pineapple juice.
Chill and serve.

“The Vampire Bite”
In a large pitcher, combine two cups of cranberry juice, half-a-cup of apple juice, and a quarter-cup of grenadine.  Top it off with two cups of seltzer water.

Squeeze one tube of red candy gel on a plate.  Rim the edges of four low-ball glasses and pour the prepared drink evenly into the glasses.  Garnish with gummy vampire teeth and serve immediately.

Tech Toys for the Cottage – Breakfast Television

Product Show Notes

Tech toys courtesy of Best Buy Canada and Mountain Equipment Coop.

The Essentials

–       MEC Volt tent

–       MEC Sleeping bag

–       SolarFocus MagicStick Power Bank

–       Eton Mobius Rechargeable Battery Case iPhone 4S

–       Magma Wilderness Gas Grill

–       Gerber Steady MultiTool

–       UCO Original Candle Lantern Kit

–       GSI Bugaboo Camper Cookset

The Fun

–       Smart Planet Donut Maker

–       Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 iPhone-operated helicopter from The Source


–       Werx Universal Waterproof eBook Reader Case (WX-K2P-260-CN)

–       Lomography Diana F+ Mr. Pink Classic Vintage Film Camera

–       Panasonic iPod/iPhone Mini Speaker Dock with AirPlay (SCAP01K)

–       Acoustic Research Wireless Outdoor Speaker (AWS53)

How to be a Great Party Guest

The summer season tends to mean more socializing, especially in the form of backyard parties and BBQs. Before you head to the next event on your social calendar, why not brush up on your guest etiquette?Follow our suggestions to make sure you have a good time – and are invited back!

The Importance of RSVP’ing

RSVP – short for “Répondez, s’il vous plait” – means to “please respond.”  It is your invitation to let them know whether or not you plan on attending their function.  Not replying to an RSVP can be interpreted as rude as they’re busy planning the amount of food to serve to guests, party supplies, drinks, etc.  By withholding your RSVP, you’re preventing the host or hostess from accurately preparing for the function.

Being a Timely Guest

Party hosts often need to time out food service so that hors d’oeuvres are fresh and ready just when the guests are arriving.  Being on-time is crucial – you don’t want to arrive late.  You don’t want to add extra stress on the cook of having to keep the food warm.   Plus, if you arrive early, simply mingle with the other party guests.

Bring a Gift for the Host

Taking a bottle of sparkling wine or a few pre-mixed cocktails would be great choices for the host or hostess.  For more creative and fun host gift ideas, take a look at our feature, here.

Be Prepared to “Schmooze”

As the saying goes, don’t be a party pooper.  Prepare yourself by thinking of a few easy conversation topics – recent movies, funny work stories and recent news are great starting points.  Remember to avoid controversial topics like religion and politics.

Eat/Drink Responsibly

Don’t arrive at the party with an empty stomach.  You don’t want to arrive ready to devour everything in sight.  As a rule of thumb, when it comes to drinks, only grab two – a party with an intoxicated person is never fun.

Help with the Clean Up

Once the dinner party is done, offer to help clean up.  If someone has gone to the effort of cooking a delicious meal, they shouldn’t have to do the dishes, too.  Step in, and offer to assist – even if they protest against it.

Write a Thank You Note

Finally, remember to write a kind thank you note to the host or hostess for inviting you to their party.

What guest tips do you have?  Sound off in the comments below!

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Ten Tips for Grilling Success

With summer in full swing, give your oven a break and take advantage of the opportunity to cook your meals outdoors. Firing up the BBQ can be intimidating for some, but here are ten tips to lead you in the right direction for grilling success:

1.    Preheat your grill and keep the temperature just right!  In an interview with, celebrity chef and grilling guru Rob Rainford notes, “You must make sure that your heat source is not completely on high, but not completely on low either.”

2.    Have your tools on-hand. – Make sure you have everything close by before you start grilling.  You don’t want to be running back to the kitchen to get a pair of tongs while your steaks are burning.

3.    Marinate. – “Marinades can help you out with flavouring, they can also help to break down fibre,” Rainford says, adding, “If you want to infuse more flavour, you introduce smoke. Smoke is the best thing you can possibly think of – adding wood chips.”

4.    Maintain, maintain, maintain! – Cleaning your barbeque is key.  It’s important to take care of the grilling surface by scrubbing the grates at least once per barbeque season.  It takes off burnt soot, and allows you to re-grease your grates for optimal use.

5.    Grease it up! – By oiling your grates, you prevent food from sticking to the grill – especially fish – and it helps with post-cleanup, too!

6.    Grill now, sauce later. – If you brush your sauces on during the cooking process, the sugars will burn up by the time the food is ready to be removed from the grill.  As a rule of thumb, wait until your food is almost finished cooking before glazing them.

7.    Lid up on the veggies. – The lid on the barbeque traps moisture and smoke which can negatively impact the vegetables’ crunch and flavour.  If you’re grilling vegetables, keep the lid up to prevent a rubbery texture.  The lid should only be kept down for large winter squashes and potatoes.

8.    Timing. – When it comes to meat, tender cuts should be cooked for a short amount of time at a high temperature. Tougher cuts will take more time and should be cooked over lower heat.

9.    Let cooked meat rest.
– This allows the meat to redistribute all the juices (flavour) back to its connective tissues.  The end result: a juicier, more tender piece of meat.

10.    Don’t feel intimidated! – There’s no need to feel intimidated at the grill. First-timers should go for something nice and easy that doesn’t require much finesse – whether that’s burgers, a simple striploin steak, or some grilled vegetables. Then you can venture into various cuts of meat that require longer cooking time and more monitoring throughout.

Rainford told that, “We live in Canada, so we have literally three, three-and-a-half, maybe four months of this type of weather.  While you have the opportunity to outdoor entertain, you do it.”

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Day 10: Homeward Bound – Europe 2012

And the vacation comes to an end!  As I am writing this blog, I am once again flying over the Atlantic Ocean heading back to North America – Philadelphia to be exact – where we’ll be taking a connecting flight back to Toronto.

I am actually quite irritated right now, as the lady sitting in front of me – quite the ignorant one, might I add – has decided to recline the seat all the way back, jump in and out of her seat, rustle paper wrap, crush soda cans, and anything that will cause noise and/or discomfort to anyone around her.  All I am thinking about right now is five hours left until landing.  Clearly, I’ve blessed.  Did you catch my sarcasm?

I am saddened to be leaving Europe as it was quite the enjoyable “Amazing Race,” but I am also extremely thrilled to return home to my life, my friends, family, dogs, and work.  There, I said it – work.  I am, however, not excited to return home to the slew of emails sitting in my inbox.  All seven-hundred-and-thirty of them in my account alone.

Europe was a great experience for me personally.  As I have not been, I was able to learn quite a few things about European culture – something very different from the North American counterpart.

For example, Europeans love to live a relaxed lifestyle.  I mean, I know North Americans  do too, but Europeans know how to do it well!  I love the fact that most cities take Sundays as a day off – something I wish we as Torontonians would do more often.  We live in such a rushed society, we rarely get a moment to take a step back, reflect on our daily lives, and to count our blessings.  Europeans know how to have fun (*cough* eat *cough*), and make room for family.

Family brings me to my next point of information.  I found the people in Europe to be very proud of their country’s culture, traditions and heritage.  Now it may sound very cliche – and a great opportunity for the souvenir industry – but in all honesty, I love that a country is able to wear themselves proudly.  For example, Paris is proud of their arts and culture; Holland is proud of their countryside windmills/cheese making; and Germany is known for their love of beer.  Again they all sound very cliché, but it just shows the true power of tradition and heritage, as well as how it can be presented to visiting tourists.

I also really enjoyed the fact that Europe has a sense of unity.  The European Union brings together dozens of countries and bonds them together.  It creates a community that unites the continent into one.  Living in Toronto, it is not uncommon to see people speak other languages like Tamil, Urdu, Cantonese, Mandarin, and the list goes on.  What you rarely see is people speaking our other official language – French.  It amazed me that people in Europe are familiar with the multiple official languages of the country, and are able to communicate effectively with other locals.

I can go on and on about how much I enjoyed being a witness to European culture, and I’m also sure there’s a lot I’ve yet to learn.  I definitely plan on returning in the future on another journey, exploring a few other new countries, in addition to sharing them with you lovely readers once again.  The travel bug has bit me, and I look forward to my next adventure!

Thanks for coming along with me on my March-2012 journey through Europe!