Introductory note: Oh, hello there. Jeanie here. I'm here to show you how to stress less and party more. I tried the whole perfection thing and frankly, I'm over it. Over the next couple of months I'll be introducing some of my favorite bloggers from around the web to give you quick, easy ways to entertain for every occasion. But I'm up first! Today's topic? March Madness.
I like to think of March Madness not so much in terms of the NCAA but more like an apt description of how I feel this month after a seemingly never ending winter. Luckily, you won’t need to do much more than put out some simple, easy snacks and drinks to host a great March Madness party.
The nice thing about hosting a party to watch a sporting event is that the entertainment is already taken care of and no one expects that much from the hostess. You can save the banner making and mood lighting for an Oscar party because a sports fete really only requires a clean bathroom and enough space for fans to gather around the TV.
For beverage options I firmly believe in the trinity of beer, wine and one special boozy cocktail made just for the occasion. For March, I make a super simple and super sugary (read: delicious) cranberry slush. If there isn’t room in your freezer to hold the bowl, stick it (covered!) on your fire escape and let Mother Nature and her polar vortex work their icy magic. Just remember to freeze the slush before work and it’s done when you get home.
Cranberry Slush Recipe:
*3oz box cherry gelatin (get the kosher kind for veggie friends)
*1 C boiling water
*2 C cold water
*2 C cranberry juice cocktail
*12oz frozen orange juice concentrate, slightly thawed
*12oz frozen lemonade, slightly thawed
*2 C vodka (plus more for finishing)
*2-liter bottle of any citrus flavored soda. You can buy diet, but at this point, who are we kidding?
1.) Dissolve the gelatin in one cup of boiling water on the stove
2.) Add the slightly cooled gelatin mixture into a large bowl with the cold water, juices, lemonade and vodka and stir together until just combined.
3.) Freeze at least 8 hours.
The vodka won’t allow the mix to freeze completely so the end result is a hot-pink icy slush that looks really pretty spooned into Aladdin mason jars, designed to keep drinks cold (not to mention durable and spill resistant if guests get a little too excited). Top the slush with citrus soda (or more vodka) and serve.
Friends usually bring beer and wine to parties (if they don’t, consider making new friends who were raised right). So now that the simple drinks are complete, move on to snacks. You’ve already wowed everyone with your magical alcohol slush, so no need to get crazy with the food. I like to put out anything with an “and” in the title for a nosh: chips and salsa, hummus and veggies, mustard and pretzels, cookies and...spcookies. Because this is a sports get together, why not include a spin on the classic sports snack: chicken wings. Keep things simple with this riff on the classic – a spicy dip served with crackers and celery sticks. You’ll have all the taste and heat of a chicken wing and no stained fingers
Chicken wing dip recipe:
*Package of cream cheese, softened (you already like this recipe)
*Bottle of wing sauce, like Franks Red Hot Wing Sauce or whatever kind the bodega on your corner stocks, though Tabasco may not have enough flavor to work well here
*Shredded chicken breast
*Sliced scallions and blue cheese crumbles (optional)
1.) Spread the cream cheese in an even layer on a tray or plate
2.) Top the cream cheese with a thin layer of hot sauce and sprinkle liberally with the shredded chicken.
3.) Garnish with scallions and blue cheese, or don’t.
If everyone is still starving, have pizzas delivered. Insist that you had the guys at the pizzas shop specially make the zas into basketball shapes and ignore those who claim that pizzas are inherently circular.
Folks who don’t really love basketball may still be inclined to come to the party; the more the merrier. March Madness is a great excuse to mix up your circle of friends; work acquaintances, your boyfriend’s friends and girls you went to high school with can meet and flirt. Which is why it’s good to have something to do besides watch the television, especially during the commercial breaks and seemingly never ending replays of the action.
It’s important to have ice-breakers that will keep everyone having fun throughout the party. Personally, I like Connect Four (yes, the game with checker pieces is an ideal icebreaker). But your icebreaker could be anything from creating your own March Madness “cheese bracket” to shooting three-pointers with grapes.
Last but not least, a party playlist is a must. Why spend so much time decorating something no one will notice when a great playlist is a surefire hit? Feel free to play some basketball themed musical inspiration from the one and only Lil Bow Wow and remember the golden rule of any party: if the hostess has fun, everyone else will too.