5 Best Cocktails To Serve At Your Christmas Party

The idea of having drinks and Christmas party and doing so cheaply is to make whatever it is that you are serving stretch as far as possible. However, one must allow the liquor used to be enjoyed. I have found that serving punches whether alcoholic or not is a great way to stretch your cocktail budget. Here are five ideas for some cocktails that will allow one to serve cocktails at a Christmas party inexpensively.

Champagne Punch

You need:

  • Frozen/slushy canned fruit juices (apple, pineapple, and even orange – preferably not concentrated – 20 to 24 ounces each)
  • Chilled champagne (the cheap stuff is better because the juice will mask the cheapness)

Take canned fruit juices and freeze them to the point where they are close to solid or at least slushy (approximately 4 to 6 hours). Place those into a punch bowl. Just prior to guest scheduled arrival add in 3-4 bottles of the chilled champagne to the mixture. Stir it around a bit to get everything mixed together, and you are done. As the party goes on you may add additional champagne and additional fruit juices to the mixture to stretch it out further.


Sherbet Punch

  • Single Flavored Sherbet (generic brand is fine)
  • Chilled ginger ale (generic is great)

Take the sherbet and empty it into the punch bowl. Pour the chilled ginger ale over the sherbet. Mix it up and bit to melt the sherbet slightly and you have a refreshing non-alcoholic cocktail.

Pina Colada Punch

  • Chilled ginger ale
  • Chilled Pina Colada drink mix
  • Frozen/slushy pineapple juice (24 ounce non-concentrated can)

Take the pineapple juice and the pina colada mix and place them into a punch bowl. Pour the ginger ale over the mixture. To make an alcoholic version, reduce the amount of ginger ale by about half and substitute run or your favorite spirit. Stir a bit and here is another drink that alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinkers will enjoy.

Pre-Mixed Drinks

Another method is to have all of your drinks pre-mixed. This keeps certain partygoers from drinking the liquor straight. Drinks like flavored-martinis, vodka/cranberry, or whiskey sours, can be pre mixed and then poured over ice or shaken with ice. This allows you to use lower priced liquors in your drinks being served and not have to worry about who’s going to see what name brand you’re serving.

Wine Spritzers

The last drink idea is to take your favorite wine and mix it with club soda to create a wine spritzer. Take 2 parts wine to 1 part club soda. By adding a little club soda to the drink you stretch out the wine further and it gives the wine a bit of a fizzy, zing.

Cool Summer Drinks For Low Carb Dieters

It’s nearly summer, time for barbecues and sunning on the patio. Here’s a number of low-carb drink choices to keep your summer cool and breezy.

Ah, summer! Time to chill out on the deck, kicking back with friends. But if you are not careful, you could undo an entire winter’s worth of low-carb weight loss in one or two drinks. Sodas, beers, wines, smoothies all contain a high amount of carbohydrates, and can add more than you would expect to your calorie intake from carbs. One 8oz serving of cola alone contains about 27-30g of carbohydrate. Add rum to that and… well, you see the problem.

‘So, I’ll drink diet, then,’ you think. But that in itself presents problems; high amounts of sodium and/or potassium. And frankly, wouldn’t anyone be bored with the same diet soft drink, all the time?

Here are some great new drinks that are sure to become your favorites.

Icy Almond Cappuccino

A summer tradition is an iced-coffee beverage served up by our best-known donut shop. But a single small serving (12 oz) of this yummy treat packs a walloping 32g of carbs, all from sugar. This low-carb substitute gives you all the Yummy, with none of the resulting tummy.

Recipe: Serves 2

 1 tbsp instant coffee or 2 tsp instant espresso crystals*
 1 tbsp (approx) boiling water
 1 ½ cups non-sweetened Almond Milk (e.g. Blue Diamond Almond Breeze)
 2 packets sugar substitute (stevia, Splenda, etc)
 1 cup ice
  1. In a small cup or bowl, combine coffee crystals with water to dissolve. Pour into blender.
  2. Add almond milk, sweetener, and ice.
  3. Blend for 2-3 minutes on high until ice is finely crushed. Serve in a chilled glass with a straw.
  4. To make it really special, add a little cocoa or cinnamon dusted on top, or a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. A mocha version can be made by using chocolate-flavor almond milk.

Flavoured Water – Cool as Cucumbers

Flavored waters are big hits at the moment – but if you have read the ingredients, you quickly realize there’s much more than was bargained for; a lot of artificial sweetener, artificial flavorings, and sometimes colorings and oil (which acts as a flavor carrier).

Make your own flavored waters quickly and easily. Simply slice 4-6 slices of any combination of the following ingredients, adding to a 2-quart pitcher (2-litre) of filtered tap water or carbonated filtered water:

 Strawberries - sliced
 Raspberries or blackberries (fresh, whole)

Some cool combinations: cucumber and limes, cranberries and lemons, grapefruit and raspberries.

Use organic where possible, and be sure to thoroughly wash the fruits or cucumber prior to slicing.

Teas for Two (or more)

Granny always said, never waste a good pot of tea… cold tea leftover in the pot was poured into a pitcher, ice and lemon juice added (about 1 tbsp per quart), and stored in the fridge for a cool drink the next day.

Iced teas can be made from many different types of herbal teas on the market today. The trick is to brew the preferred tea double-strength, let cool, then pour into the pitcher over ice. Lemon, lime or sweetener may be added to taste. Some great teas for icing: peppermint, rosehip, Constant Comment, chai, rooibos, green or ginger. Be brave and experiment a little! Add some almond milk for a full-bodied iced chai that is sure to wow family and friends at the next bbq. Combine peppermint with green tea for a spectacular beverage full of anti-oxidants.

Aqua-vitae: Low-carb Wines and Beers

No discussion about summer drinks would be complete without a discussion about alcohol, the main beverage of choice at many barbecues and picnics. Fortunately, low-carb’ers market demands have spurred breweries to create low-carb beers.

For oenophiles, a number of wineries are producing low-carb wines. Brown-Forman, for example, introduced a pair of California wines with names based on their carb counts; One.6 Chardonnay and One.9 Merlot. McWilliams Winery of Australia has released a sauvignon blanc and a shiraz called Balance, with 1.5g and 3g of carbs respectively. In large urban centers, your local liquor store or wine supplier can assist in finding other selections.

However, if your choices are limited in your region, an alternative is a wine spritzer. One ounce of wine, with 3-4 oz of soda water or sparkling mineral water, and a wedge of lemon or lime, creates a refreshing drink. True, the wine is diluted, but so are the carbs, making a little go a very long way. And the water works well to keep you hydrated during those warm summer evenings.

Low carb’ers rejoice! With a little research and a dash of creativity, a whole world of refreshing drinks awaits you!

Recipe For Chocolate Mud Cake

The least stressful way to make a wedding cake at home is to choose a cake that can be made and iced ahead of time. Fruit cakes can live happily for months under an airtight seal of fondant; sadly, fruit cake has fallen out of favor to some degree. A more popular flavor is chocolate mud cake. This recipe will not keep for months, but it will remain moist for several days and can be made further ahead and frozen if required. Because the cake is so dense and rich, it can be served in very small squares like a traditional fruit cake.

This recipe fills a 9-inch round tin but can easily be multiplied for larger tins. A handy maths-free way to determine the quantities needed is to fill a 9-inch round tin and pour the water into the desired cake tins. Three tinsful of water equal three times the recipe!


 250g butter, chopped
 1 Tbsp oil
 200g dark chocolate, broken or chopped
 1 ½ cups caster sugar
 1 cup hot fresh coffee
 2 eggs

 1 ½ cups self-raising flour
 ½ cup plain flour
 1/3 cup cocoa

How to Make the Chocolate Mud Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C (320F). Grease and line a deep 9-inch round tin.
  2. Mix the butter, oil, chocolate, sugar, and hot coffee in a medium-sized saucepan. Stir over low heat until the mixture is smooth and glossy.
  3. While the butter and chocolate are melting, sift the flour and cocoa into a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Using a large whisk, pour the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together thoroughly – the cake mixture is still hot, so any large strands of egg white may cook in the mixture! When the egg is well broken up, add to the mixture and whisk until just combined.
  5. Pour the thin batter into the cake tin and bake for two hours, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Leave in its tin until completely cold, then turn out. If freezing the cake, leave the baking paper on the bottom and sides of the cake and wrap it in several layers of brown paper, foil, and a plastic bag.

Variations on the Basic Chocolate Mud Cake

 If the cake has several tiers, it can be fun to change up the flavors a little. To easily tell the flavors apart, tint the marzipan layer (the under-layer) of the fondant with the appropriate colors – orange for a jaffa cake, green for peppermint, pink for cherry liqueur. The colors won’t be visible before the slices are cut.
 Add the grated zest of an orange and replace some of the water with orange juice for a chocolate orange cake.
 Chocolate goes well with liqueur – try a splash of Tia Maria, rum, brandy, whiskey, or even crème de menthe.
 Peppermint essence or peppermint chocolate can add a minty tang to the cake.

Tips for Baking a Large Chocolate Mud Cake

 A tripled or quadrupled recipe will take much longer to cook. Cover the top of the cake with foil to prevent burning.
 For very large quantities, heat the wet ingredients in a large saucepan or stockpot, and obtain a large clean heavy-duty plastic bucket to mix the dry ingredients. Nappy buckets or even plastic trash bins can be handy for this, as long as they are used only for cake-making!

How to Make Pudding Pie

Chocolate Pudding Pie Dessert

Whatever the occasion, the one dessert my cousin’s kids beg me to make is Chocolate Pudding Pie. Fortunately, it’s also very inexpensive and simple to prepare. Plus, it doesn’t take a lot of time, so if I’m short on desserts or having company last minute, I can whip it up pretty quickly.


  • 1 ready-made graham cracker pie crust
  • 1 box chocolate instant pudding (5.1 oz. size) – I often skip the vanilla pudding and just double the chocolate! But, you do you boo!
  • 1 box vanilla instant pudding (5.1 oz. size)
  • 5-6 cups of 2% or whole milk
  • 8-16 oz. heavy whipping cream (8 oz. makes 2 cups whipped cream, 16 oz. makes 4)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or sugar substitute)



  1. Prepare vanilla pudding by mixing the packet with 2 1/2 to 3 cups of cold milk. (The less milk you use the more mousse-like the consistency. I use 2 3/4 cup for more of a classic pudding texture).
  2. Prepare the chocolate pudding and keep separate from the vanilla pudding.
  3. Pour vanilla pudding into the ready-made graham cracker crust until halfway full.
  4. Cover vanilla pudding with chocolate pudding until crust is nearly full (leave about 1/4″ unfilled to make cutting easier later on and room for whipped cream)
  5. Cover pie and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (up to 24 hours)

Whipped Cream

  1. Pour one or two cups of heavy whipping cream into a cold metal or glass bowl
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat on high until soft peaks form
  3. Add sugar or sugar substitute to taste (1 tablespoon per 8 oz. heavy whipping cream is usually sufficient)
  4. Continue beating until desired consistency


I recommend allowing guests to put whipped cream on their own pie as everyone has different preferences. Putting the whipped cream on the pie in advance is not recommended as it can become runny in the refrigerator.

You will probably have extra vanilla and chocolate pudding. Pour the pudding into tall milkshake glasses (alternating vanilla and chocolate) and top with whipped cream for those who don’t like pie crust.

I use Keebler Ready Crust, which comes in several flavors and sizes. For a larger pie, buy the “two extra serving size.” No extra pudding is necessary, but you won’t have any leftover.

For a kids party, or just for fun, make extra pudding and buy the “mini graham cracker” crusts. Then let the kids fill the crusts themselves. You can also put out toppings like sprinkles, coconut, or chopped nuts for decoration.

Ready-made crusts can also be found in chocolate, shortbread, and fat-free varieties. The flavor makes no difference; use any kind.

Chocolate and vanilla are my family’s favorite, but pudding comes in different flavors too. Match two of your favorites, or for picky eaters, make one that is all chocolate or all vanilla.

Feature image credit: Photo credit: djwtwo on VisualHunt.com

3 Easy Casseroles

Three Easy Casserole Recipes-min

During a busy holiday season, nothing is more comforting than a trusted casserole. Loved ones will appreciate the aroma of the delicious food baking in the oven.

Casseroles were designed for convenience. They can be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen for baking later. Or they can be whipped up and cooked right away. Since many casseroles are also one-dish meals, cleanup is easy, so hosts can enjoy their guests.

Healthy Fish Casserole Recipe

Sometimes it’s nice to have something besides standard holiday turkey, ham, and roast beef. Fish is not only delicious; it’s healthy for the heart.


  • Cooking spray
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 1-1/2 pound of white fish fillets
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (Swiss or mild cheddar)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a skillet.
  3. Sauté the diced onion until translucent. Add the wine and cook until the wine is reduced to half.
  4. Pour sautéed onions and wine into the casserole dish. Layer it with the fish fillets.
  5. Bake in a 400-degree oven for approximately 12 to 15 minutes until the fish flakes with a fork.
  6. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning over the cod and add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. In a medium bowl, mix 1 tbsp. oil with the garlic powder. Gently fold the bread crumbs into the mixture. Sprinkle the bread mixture on top of the cod. Add the cheese.
  8. Return to the oven for approximately 5 to 10 more minutes, until the cheese has melted.

Holiday Vegetarian Casserole

Vegetarians will appreciate being thought of during holiday meals. This dish can be prepared in advance and baked right before the meal.


  • Cooking spray
  • 1 large package of ziti pasta
  • 1 14 ounces can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 ounces can of kidney beans
  • 1 15 ounces can of navy beans
  • 1 24 ounces jar of prepared spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Spray casserole dish with cooking spray.
  2. Cook pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain and put it back into the pot.
  3. Add diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, kidney beans, and navy beans.
  4. Pour the mixture into the casserole dish.
  5. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese over the top.
  6. Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 40 to 45 minutes.

Easy Potato Side Dish Casserole Recipe

Quick and inexpensive, potatoes are a favorite among adults and children. This potato casserole is filled with flavor and easy to make.


  • Cooking spray
  • 1 bag thawed hash brown potatoes
  • (Optional) 1 cup diced cooked ham
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken or cream of celery soup
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 diced onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Spray casserole dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine hash brown potatoes, ham if desired, soup, 1 cup of cheese, melted butter, diced onion, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
  3. Pour the mixture into the casserole dish.
  4. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese and the diced red bell pepper over the top.
  5. Cover and bake in 350-degree oven for approximately 1 hour.

Casseroles are perfect for the dinner menu at home, offering as a holiday food gift or bringing to a covered dish dinner. Attach a recipe card so others can make it later.

Wine Storage Tips

Proper Wine Storage Tips White Glasses
Proper Wine Storage Tips Red and White Glasses
How you store your wine can have a direct impact on its shelf life. This post features proper wine storage tips to improve your wine's shelf life.

The following is a guest post from Firstleaf wine membership club. This post is not sponsored, however they did send me a bottle of their wine to try.

The special occasion — a new job, an anniversary, a new addition to the family — is finally here. You’ve been saving a bottle of wine just for this. Maybe you got it at a long ago winery visit. Maybe it’s a bottle you’ve been saving from the day of your wedding. 

Now it’s time to finally open it. But wait! The cork has dropped into the wine! Or the liquid looks grainy and separated. Or has an off smell. What happened? Suddenly all the good vibes from the special day are gone.

Unfortunately, improper wine storage can lead to unhappy moments like these. The wine subscription service Firstleaf has put together a guide to make sure this never happens to you.

How to Build Wine Storage covers everything you need to know about keeping wine for longer than a few weeks.

  • The science behind wine storage
  • An overview of the main types
  • How to build your own

Why Is It So Important To Store Wine Correctly?

The flavor of wine is actually quite delicate. Even a few minutes in a hot car trunk could ruin it. But if you store wine properly, it will not only stay delicious, it will develop deeper flavor that you can enjoy when you drink it.

It’s okay to keep wine on the kitchen counter if you plan to drink it in the next few weeks, but any wine you plan on storing for more than six months requires some sort of refrigeration, or naturally cooled location like a basement. Wine must be kept close to 55 degrees Fahrenheit for long-term storage, and most of our homes are a lot warmer than that!

A few other things to know:

  • Avoid direct sunlight, which can quickly heat the wine up even on cool days
  • Keep the wine horizontal. This keeps the cork moist. If the cork dries out it shrinks and may drop into the wine. 

The Main Types of Wine Storage

There are three main types of wine storage. 

Wine Racks

A wine rack goes in your kitchen or bar area. It has space for 10-15 bottles to lay horizontally. A wine rack is for short-term storage of wine you plan to drink in the next few months. Wine racks must be hidden away from direct sunlight, and shouldn’t be kept next to anything that gets lot, like the stove or your toaster.

Wine Refrigerators

A wine refrigerator is the simplest option for long-term storage of wine. These appliances are designed especially for wine and will hold a certain number of bottles. They keep the wine at the proper temperature and humidity to ensure quality.

Wine Cellars

Traditionally wine was kept in underground cellars, which stayed cool year-round. But many of us live in homes without basements — or if we have them, we heat them. So a modern wine cellar is usually a room that is build especially for storing wine, with custom heating and cooling elements.

How to Build Your Own

There are a few interesting options for DIY wine storage, especially racks. They make a good beginning woodworking project. See Firstleaf’s guide for more details.

Wine Storage Tips From First Leaf

Ham & Cheese Sliders with Brown Sugar and Honey Glaze

Recipe for Ham & Cheese Sliders w a Brown Sugar and Honey Glaze

Prep: 2 minutes
Makes: 12 sliders
Cook Time: 15 minutes


  • 1 12 pack Hawaiian Dinner Rolls
  • 12 oz. of thick ham
  • 4-6 slices swiss cheese or similar
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp. honey


  • Place dinner rolls on a baking sheet and use a serrated knife to slice them half.
  • Place ham and cheese on the bottom buns and set the top half of the buns over the ham and cheese.
  • In a small bowl melt butter and whisk in the brown sugar and honey.
  • Brush the brown sugar glaze over top of the buns.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the buns are golden brown and cheese is melted.
  • Cut and serve

Absinthe Cocktail Recipes How To Dance With The Green Fairy

Because of the almost 100-year ban on the drink, the U.S. isn’t exactly brimming with absinthe recipes; expert mixologists are busy making up for the lost time.

Absinthe purists recommend La Louche as the one perfect way to drink absinthe: drip 2-3 ounces of ice-cold water over a sugar cube on a slotted spoon into the beverage until it turns cloudy, and enjoy.

Indeed, that’s the traditional European method of drinking absinthe; but Americans have never really been too enthusiastic about blindly sticking to European traditions. Those of us who can only sit around dreamily puffing Dunhills and misquoting Oscar Wilde for so long want a more “modern” experience. Thus the rebirth of the absinthe cocktail is forcing dancing with the Green Fairy to encompass more than a few new steps.

Absinthe and Fruit Cocktails

Sugary fruits balance the bitter or bittersweet flavor of absinthe without overpowering it. Recipes call for about 1-2 ounces of real absinthe and approximately 2 ounces (or to taste) of chilled fruit juice, limeade, or lemonade. Pour the absinthe into a glass first, add the mixer, and stir or shake vigorously in a cocktail shaker.

A couple of easy beginner absinthe-and-fruit cocktail recipes are as follows:

 Pour 1.5 ounces of clear absinthe, ¾ ounce lemon juice, and ¾ ounce simple sugar syrup into a shaker, and shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass and top off with soda water.

 Shake ½ ounce absinthe with 1.5-2 ounces passionfruit or mango puré e; strain into a champagne flute. 1 ounce dry sparkling wine or Brut Champagne may be added if desired.

Fresh pear nectar, grapefruit, or pomegranate juice are also highly recommended as delicious absinthe mixers.

Combining Absinthe with Other Spirits and Liqueurs

These are for the adventurous, as absinthe is definitely strong enough all by itself. Still, some drinkers will want to experiment and see how absinthe mixes with their other favorite alcohols. Just remember that one of these is almost always enough.

Sean S. Graves from Nantucket’s Brant Point Grill has invented the Green Monster: Shake 1 ounce absinthe with 1 ounce Crème de Menthe and 1 ounce heavy cream. Strain into an ice-filled cocktail glass; garnish with mint.

Champagne lovers may simply combine their favorite bubbly to taste with 1.5 ounces of absinthe in a flute. This potent concoction is from Vieux Carré Absinthe and is appropriately called Death in the Afternoon. A ½ ounce of Crème de Violette and/or some blackberry syrup is sometimes included in variations on this type of recipe, too.

Less gutsy drinkers may wish to start out merely rinsing their glass with absinthe before pouring in the French Champagne or sparkling wine. Simply pour some absinthe into a glass, swirl until the inside is coated with the liquid, and discard the alcohol itself. This imparts a nice anise flavor without overly intoxicating the consumer. Of course, few dashes of absinthe in place of full ounces may also be substituted in any of the above recipes to decrease a drink’s potency.

½ ounce of absinthe may also be added to any standard martini or another favorite cocktail recipe to yield an interesting flavor and powerful punch.

Absinthe and Coffee or Tea: Cocktails with Caffeine

A popular way to drink absinthe involves mixing it with coffee after a meal. Because of absinthe’s bitterness, absinthe-and-coffee drinks are usually sweetened and topped with a dollop of whipped cream. Absinthe contains a stimulant, to begin with, though, so combining it with caffeine is not for everyone.

Green Fairy Coffee combines 1-ounce absinthe with 1 cup of hot black coffee; top with sweetened whipped cream.

Tea aficionados will prefer ¼ oz. Absinthe in a glass of iced green tea with honey to taste; this blend is said to make a particularly refreshing summertime draught. Conversely, true absinthe-lovers note that substituting hot tea for iced will then produce the ideal warming winter’s eve beverage. In other words, for those who really like absinthe, there doesn’t seem to be any wrong way to drink it at all!

5 Foods That Ruin Your Diet

If you find that you are not losing weight, there are certain foods that may add calories to your diet every day. Here are 5 foods that hurt your diet.

It takes a lot of hard work to lose weight and keep it off. Most experts will tell you that the best way to stay fit is to exercise and eat healthily. However, eating healthy can be a problem if consumers buy and eat the wrong food, liquid, and snacks.

High-Calorie Liquids

Consumers do not count calories when they buy drinks. For instance, coffee and tea with sugar can add 200 extra calories to your diet. Add up the fact that some people drink multiple cups of coffee to stay alert at work, and your caffeine fix can an extra one thousand calories daily. Liquor, juice, and soda are also high in calories that are not counted.

Eating Multiple Snacks

To lose weight, we should eat a few small meals and snacks throughout the day to keep the metabolism going. However, you may eat more snacks than you should if you don’t pay attention to your daily amount. Write down what you have eaten, or set out a specific number of snacks each day. When those are done, know that eating any more will add extra calories to your diet.

Diet Snacks

Some snacks are marketed to people who are trying to lose weight. Due to the fact that they are low in calories, dieters may feel comfortable eating more than they should. Eat the recommended portion and no more.

Pre-Packaged Diet Bags

Companies have also created special snacks that contain 100 calories or less. However, consumers may still eat multiple bags because they think that these snacks are healthy. Eat a snack, but if you’re still hungry, try chewing on celery or carrot sticks to feed your hunger pains.

Fat-Free Food

Food that is fat-free may be high in calories and sugar. Always read the entire food label, and skip snacks that contain too many calories, sugar, and salt. These fat-free food items are often expensive and may hurt your diet instead.

Try to remember that anything besides pure water will contain calories. If the item is claimed to have 0 calories, look at the fat content. To make diet food taste great, companies will often smother it in sugar and salt. Not only are these harmful to your diet, but they are also worse for your blood pressure.

Always do your research when you are shopping for healthy food to lose weight. Candy and gum are also items that can add up to extra calories. The best way to lose weight is to pay attention to what you eat and the number of portions that are on your plate.

Simple Summer Drinks

Summer’s here: What better way to spend the afternoon than with a refreshing drink? Here are four simple cocktail recipes to enjoy – with or without alcohol.

Summer parties, evenings with friends, relaxing on a patio or at the cottage – when the weather warms up, it’s nice to have a sip of something cool. Put your inhibitions aside and let loose with these libations. The best part? You don’t have to be a bartender to master these simple sippers:

The Mimosa

This is a classic, refreshing drink that works any time of day: brunch, lunch, afternoon, or evening. It’s tame and great for those who don’t like the taste of alcohol. Bonus: it’s super simple to make.

In a flute, fill half with cold champagne/sparkling wine and, in the other half, add pulp-free orange juice. To kick it up a bit, play with portions – use three parts champagne to 1 part orange juice. For a fancier look, pour in some grenadine or add some berries. Note: this is a great drink for parties; make it ahead of time in a large pitcher for fast, easy pouring Mimosas.

Alcohol-free version: Swap out the champagne for alcohol-free sparkling wine or soda.

The Strawberry Daquiri

A favorite summertime slush. It’s cold, colorful, and fruity. There are many pre-made daiquiri mixes available at the liquor store, and true, they are delicious, but it’s just as easy to make this drink at home.

While many recipes suggest using frozen strawberries, if fresh berries are available, always use them. For each drink, you’ll need:

 4-5 ice cubes
 5-6 strawberries (remove stem)
 2 ounces of golden rum
 1 tbsp of lime juice
 ½ tsp of sugar
 Optional: add 1 ounce of triple sec

Using a blender or food processor, add all the ingredients together and blend until slushy. Pour into a tall glass and garnish with a strawberry.

Alcohol-free version: Remove all alcohol and replace it with soda or ginger ale.

The Mish Mash

Turn a backyard bash into the Caribbean with this delicious drink. Using a tall glass, fill ¾ with Sprite or 7Up.

Then, add the following ingredients:

 1 ounce of white rum
 1 ounce of coconut rum
 2 ounces of lime juice

A variation of this mish mash includes pineapple juice. Instead of filling the glass up entirely with Sprite/7Up, use two parts Sprite/7Up, 1 part pineapple.

Alcohol-free version: Remove the rum, add pineapple juice. To get the true taste of the Caribbean, you can add a drop of coconut flavoring or syrup.

The Sensational Sangria

This Spanish favorite is a perfect recipe for a party; it’s easy to make in advance, and many people will enjoy it. There are tons of Sangria recipes out there; some use white wine; others use juices. Feel free to substitute ingredients and make your own Sangria signature!

In a large pitcher, pour a whole bottle of red wine. Take ripe berries and toss them into the wine. This is a great time to clear out the fridge. Raspberries and blackberries work really well with this drink as they absorb the alcohol and break up nicely in the pitcher. You can use fresh strawberries as well. Cut two oranges and one lemon into slices, and toss those into the mix. Add 2 ounces of Triple Sec and a splash of lemon juice. Fill the remainder of the pitcher up with Sprite and add about 1 cup of ice.

It’s best to make the Sangria in advance and allow the fruit to sit in the juice. When it’s time to serve, scoop out some fruit for every guest and fill the glass with Sangria.

Alcohol-free version: Replace red wine with cranberry juice. Remove Triple Sec. The drink will have the same look, sans alcohol.