Pumpkin Ale Spiked Cider

This cocktail recipe was created in collaboration with Dr. Oetker Virtuoso Pizza. Thank you for
supporting the sponsors that help make The Sweetest Occasion possible!

Pumpkin Ale Spiked Cider | Party appetizers, party cocktails, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

You’ve probably heard me preach before about pitcher cocktail recipes being the best way to go for parties. It’s true! If you mix up a big pitcher of cocktails before your guests arrive, it frees you up to mingle instead of acting as bartender. I served up this pumpkin ale spiked cider at our housewarming party and it was the perfect complement to the menu. Pizza from Dr. Oetker Virtuoso was the star of the show, which I paired with antipasto skewers and zucchini veggie balls. This spiked cider finished things off with the perfect taste of fall flair!

Pumpkin Ale Spiked Cider | Party appetizers, party cocktails, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Pumpkin Ale Spiked Cider | Party appetizers, party cocktails, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Pumpkin Ale Spiked Cider | Party appetizers, party cocktails, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Pumpkin Ale Spiked Cider | Party appetizers, party cocktails, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Pumpkin Ale Spiked Cider
Makes 12 servings

  • (3) 12 oz bottles of pumpkin ale
  • 8 cups fresh apple cider
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ¾ cup of bourbon
  • 1 oz orange bitters

Pour pumpkin ale into a large pitcher. Add apple cider, bourbon, bitters and stir gently. Squeeze in the juice from 1 lemon, being sure not to let the seeds fall into your drink mixture. Stir again. Serve in chilled mugs filled to the brim with ice. Sip and enjoy!

Pumpkin Ale Spiked Cider | Party appetizers, party cocktails, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Pumpkin Ale Spiked Cider | Party appetizers, party cocktails, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Pumpkin Ale Spiked Cider | Party appetizers, party cocktails, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Pumpkin Ale Spiked Cider | Party appetizers, party cocktails, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Pumpkin Ale Spiked Cider | Party appetizers, party cocktails, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Pumpkin Ale Spiked Cider | Party appetizers, party cocktails, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

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[Art direction + styling by Cyd Converse | Photos by Alice G. Patterson for The Sweetest Occasion.]

This cocktail recipe was created in collaboration with Dr. Oetker USA LLC as part of our housewarming party. Read more about our editorial policies.

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Zucchini Veggie Balls

This recipe was created in collaboration with Dr. Oetker Virtuoso Pizza. Thank you for supporting
the sponsors that 
help make The Sweetest Occasion possible!

Zucchini Veggie Balls | Party appetizers, entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

I’m a complete sucker for tasty party appetizers so when we hosted our recent housewarming party with Dr. Oetker Virtuoso Pizza, I made sure to serve our friends some super tasty apps to go with their pizza. These zucchini veggie balls are an adaptation of one of my mom’s recipes, made with zucchini and loads of freshly shredded parmesan cheese. They pair perfectly with the delicious pizza we served up and the antipasto skewers that our guests went crazy over. These are one of my favorite vegetarian appetizers, but they were just as big a hit with the meat lovers! Who needs meatballs when you have delicious veggie balls on the menu? Answer: no one.

Zucchini Veggie Balls | Party appetizers, entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Zucchini Veggie Balls | Party appetizers, entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Zucchini Veggie Balls
Makes approximately 50

  • 3 cups shredded zucchini, drained
  • 1 medium white onion finely diced
  • 4 cloves of fresh minced garlic
  • 6 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 5 cups seasoned stuffing bread
  • ¾ cup melted butter
  • 2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Begin by shredding the zucchini until you have roughly three cups. (Approximately 4 – 5 small zucchinis.) Spread out over paper towels, then wring out as much liquid as possible. Transfer to a sieve and allow to continue draining while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Melt the butter over low heat, then transfer to a mixing bowl and combine with all ingredients except the eggs. Once combined, add the eggs and zucchini and mix well. Let the mixture rest for 15 minutes. Form into balls roughly 1/2″ in size. Bake at 350° for 14 – 16 minutes on a lightly greased baking sheet until slightly golden brown on top.

Zucchini Veggie Balls | Party appetizers, entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Zucchini Veggie Balls | Party appetizers, entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Zucchini Veggie Balls | Party appetizers, entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Zucchini Veggie Balls | Party appetizers, entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

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[Art direction + styling by Cyd Converse | Photos by Alice G. Patterson for The Sweetest Occasion.]

This recipe was created in collaboration with Dr. Oetker USA LLC as part of our housewarming party. Read more about our editorial policies.

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Homemade Halloween Candy Bark

Halloween Candy Bark Recipe | Halloween party ideas, Halloween recipes and entertaining tips from @cydconverse

In our new neighborhood we’re expecting trick or treaters measuring in the hundreds this year. Ours is the trick or treating route de rigueur and consistently has been even since I was a kid. My parents always drove us to this area of the city to amass our fortune of Twix and Kit Kat bars, and I kind of can’t wait to watch all the little ghosts and goblins come and go. In homage to my love for Halloween and the requisite candy, today I am over at the Maurices blog sharing my Halloween candy bark recipe! It’s the perfect way to use up your stash of leftover Halloween candy or a really festive party treat to serve your friends and family at your Halloween bash this upcoming weekend.

Halloween Candy Bark Recipe | Halloween party ideas, Halloween recipes and entertaining tips from @cydconverse

Halloween Candy Bark Recipe | Halloween party ideas, Halloween recipes and entertaining tips from @cydconverse

Halloween Candy Bark Recipe | Halloween party ideas, Halloween recipes and entertaining tips from @cydconverse

The best thing about this recipe is that it is so super simple. You don’t have to bake. You don’t have to mix. It’s even easy enough for the kids to help! Be sure to check out the recipe over at Maurices and check out my fun Halloween party ideas and tips while you’re there, too! We’re talking six quick and easy steps to setting up a seriously fun and slightly spooky Halloween party that won’t have you going crazy between now and the weekend trying to prep. In the meantime, I’ve got one more fun Halloween DIY idea coming up this week so stay tuned!

Halloween Candy Bark Recipe | Halloween party ideas, Halloween recipes and entertaining tips from @cydconverse

Halloween Candy Bark Recipe | Halloween party ideas, Halloween recipes and entertaining tips from @cydconverse

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[Recipe + art direction by Cyd Converse | Photos by Alice G. Patterson for The Sweetest Occasion.]

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Our Cozy Fall Housewarming Party

This post was sponsored by Dr. Oetker Virtuoso Pizza. Thank you for supporting
the sponsors that 
help make The Sweetest Occasion possible!

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Approximately a million years after closing on our house (or, you know, five months), we finally had a chance recently to host a sweet little housewarming party for a handful of good friends. We were thrilled to be able to team up with my good pals at Dr. Oetker Virtuoso (formerly Dr. Oetker Ristorante) to invite some of our best buds over for an afternoon of munching on delicious gourmet frozen pizza alongside a couple of great appetizers and cocktails, of course. (A few of our friends were even game enough to ham it up for the camera, too. Thanks, guys!) Dr. Oetker recently evolved their much-loved Ristorante pizza to introduce Virtuoso! After a year of research and much thoughtful consideration, they were passionate about choosing a fresh new name and brand new look that together give you a better glimpse at what’s in the box. Namely, best-in-class, premium quality pizza. The same amazingly delicious thin crust, gourmet toppings and flavor combinations, with a cool, sleek new look. All in all, it made for the perfect excuse to celebrate so celebrate we did!

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Because we’ve been so busy and we decided to have everyone over somewhat last minute, I wanted to keep things easy and casual, but still special. Pizza, two quick yet seriously crowd-pleasing appetizers, a killer cocktail and really simple decor. For me it’s always all about the presentation! Delicious frozen Virtuoso pizza becomes a thing of beauty when served up on a wooden tray. Antipasto skewers (the world’s simplest appetizer ever) look super chic when lined up along a long white tray. Cocktails? Make a big pitcher in advance and let guests sip from cool mugs or glasses. A big vase of flowers, a few pots of mums on the front porch and we were good to go. Entertaining shouldn’t be about stress or overly complicated set up. It should be about gathering with the ones you love and celebrating life. That’s why this is my very favorite kind of party!

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

For those of you who, like me, have become huge Dr. Oetker fans, no worries! Virtuoso is the same exact pizza you’ve come to know and love, it’s just packaged up in a fresh new way. The amazing flavors (like Seasoned Chicken, Pepperoni & Ham, Mozzarella & Pesto, Mushroom, Tomato & Goat Cheese and Pepperoni Pesto) are made with the same fresh ingredients and paired with Virtuoso’s signature thin, crispy crust. Just 12 minutes or so in the oven yields you a pizza that’s practically perfect in my book. You can find Virtuoso at loads of local grocers or check out the store locator to find out exactly where it is sold near you – or put in a request with the manager at your favorite store!

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

When we first walked into our house, way back in February, we knew it was going to become a hub for all of our friends and family to gather. A few months, several impromptu gatherings, a bunch of backyard barbecues, one cozy little housewarming party and an upcoming holiday season later, and we could not be happier to have that dreamy vision coming true. We’ve celebrated everything from various wedding festivities with my sister to Baby E’s baptism and soon we’ll be celebrating her first birthday and hosting our first Thanksgiving in this house. We can’t thank Virtuoso enough for helping us toast this home we’ve come to love so much already! Stay tuned because in a few days I’ll be sharing all the awesome recipes from our party. Your party recipe box is about to thank you.

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

A Cozy Fall Housewarming Party | Entertaining ideas, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

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[Art direction + styling by Cyd Converse | Photos by Alice G. Patterson for The Sweetest Occasion.]

This post was sponsored by Dr. Oetker USA LLC. I received compensation for this post, but all opinions are my own. Read more about our editorial policies. For more recipes, tips and entertaining ideas, follow Virtuoso on Facebook!

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DIY Bat Branch Halloween Centerpiece

DIY Bat Branch Halloween Centerpiece | Halloween decorations, Halloween party ideas and Halloween recipes from @cydconverse

I can’t believe that Halloween is just a couple of weeks out! This time last year we’d just had our baby shower and we were working hard to finish up and shoot Baby E’s nursery. At roughly 35 weeks pregnant, I was officially in the home stretch. I had already planned, prepped and photographed countless holiday season posts and I was racing the clock to do do do as much as possible before a little baby appeared in our lives. Being back in this season, with Halloween candy already stock piling in the pantry for the hundreds of trick or treaters we’re expecting, is kind of mind boggling. That said, I love good, simple Halloween decorations and DIY ideas so I have a few new ones up my sleeve to share with you this year. Today we’re kicking things off with a cool Halloween centerpiece that most closely resembles a plume of bats flying out of a bunch of branches. It’s a quick, easy craft that anyone can make in 20 minutes or less. Yes, anyone. Even those of you who think you aren’t crafty.

DIY Bat Branch Halloween Centerpiece | Halloween decorations, Halloween party ideas and Halloween recipes from @cydconverse

DIY Bat Branch Halloween Centerpiece | Halloween decorations, Halloween party ideas and Halloween recipes from @cydconverse

supplies2-600x24

  • Thin branches, 3 – 4′ tall
  • Bat cut-outs (or use a stencil/template to cut from card stock)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hot glue sticks
  • Cylinder vase

DIY Bat Branch Halloween Centerpiece | Halloween decorations, Halloween party ideas and Halloween recipes from @cydconverse

DIY Bat Branch Halloween Centerpiece | Halloween decorations, Halloween party ideas and Halloween recipes from @cydconverse

To get started you’ll need small bat shaped cut-outs of some kind. I found these glittery bats at Michaels and saw similar ones at Jo-Ann. Alternately, you could do a search online for a bat template or bat clip art to trace and cut out of black card stock. You’ll also need a bundle of thin, scraggly branches. I found birch branches at the craft store that happened to be painted black and were perfect for the centerpiece I had in mine. Try to find something at least 3′ tall to create a large, dramatic centerpiece to instantly add a little Halloween ambiance to your party.

DIY Bat Branch Halloween Centerpiece | Halloween decorations, Halloween party ideas and Halloween recipes from @cydconverse

DIY Bat Branch Halloween Centerpiece | Halloween decorations, Halloween party ideas and Halloween recipes from @cydconverse

Arrange your branches in a tall glass cylinder vase until you find the arrangement you like best. Then run a thin bead of hot glue along the backside of the center of the bats and carefully press each one onto a branch to secure. Be careful not to burn yourself with the hot glue! As you’re working, disperse your bats and make sure they’re pointed in slightly different directions to give them the appearance of a flock of bats that have been disturbed and are flying up and out of the branches in a hurry. For reference, my centerpiece used 24 bats that were just shy of 3″ across the widest part of the wings.

DIY Bat Branch Halloween Centerpiece | Halloween decorations, Halloween party ideas and Halloween recipes from @cydconverse

DIY Bat Branch Halloween Centerpiece | Halloween decorations, Halloween party ideas and Halloween recipes from @cydconverse

And that’s that, friends! A fun, slightly spooky, simple Halloween decor idea for your repertoire. If you’re still feeling crafty, take a few minutes to check out more of my favorite easy Halloween ideas.

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[Art direction + styling by Cyd Converse | Photos by Alice G. Patterson for The Sweetest Occasion.]

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