WATCH: Alejandra on Good Morning America!

Photo credit: ABC/ Heidi Gutman
I started my New Year's Eve celebration REALLY early today, with a live New Year's Eve party food segment on Good Morning America. It was an absolutely amazing experience, and the most perfect way ever to close out what has already been a truly incredible year for me!

The theme was Pinterest Perfect Parties, and the producers asked me to share three New Year's party recipes inspired by some current hot Pinterest trends.

These included Mini Chorizo Puff Pastry Bites (made with my DIY Puff Pastry Shells tutorial), Dark Chocolate Pudding Shooters, and a really fun mocktail that we called Lemon Sparklers (based on my virgin French 75 recipe).

I've linked to all the recipes and tutorials mentioned in the segment below, so scroll down for those!

If you missed the segment, you can watch the video here:


And be sure to check out the GMA + Always Order Dessert Pinterest page for more great party recipes and ideas!

Thank you so much for watching, and for your incredible support and community throughout this year. I hope that you have a very happy New Year's Eve, and that all your dreams come true in the coming year.

xoxo

Alejandra

Good Morning America New Year's Eve Pinterest Party Segment Details




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Puff Pastry Shells with Chorizo, Dates & Pine Nuts

Few things make me giddier than party appetizers.

Puffy little spicy things. Or salty things. Or cheesy things. Or filled with meat-y things.

Um...especially the filled with meat-y things...

They remind me of the frozen mini puff pastry appetizer trays my mom used to buy and bake for holiday parties when we were growing up. There were little spinach triangles and sauce something-or-others. I'd hang around near them from the minute they came out of the oven to when the leftovers were being put away.

Hot and puffed, they'd burn my fingertips and my tongue, but were fantastic.

Throughout the party, I'd make a point of drifting by, filling up a plate or my hands with 2 or 3...all casual, casual in my poofy party dress.

My mom telling me to stop eating them all. I'd deny it, though the flaky crumbs on my bodice always gave me away.

These Puff Pastry Shells with Chorizo, Dates & Pine Nuts bring that all back. The perfect easy party appetizer, they're like a slightly fancier version of those store-bought ones.

The shells you can buy frozen, or even make your own (super easy, and kind of super fun, too). Then the filling you just saute for a couple minutes and boom! Done.

The flavors here are total Spanish tapas-inspired: Spicy chorizo sausage. Sweet dates. Crunchy, slightly meaty pine nuts.

And, like always, you can totally customize these to make them your own or to fill out the appetizer tray.

Some Ideas: Swap in spicy Italian sausage or a Moroccan merguez made with lamb. The pine nuts could easily be replaced with chopped almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts.

The dates? Try apricots, cranberries or classic raisins.

I bet a vegetarian version using seasoned sauteed mushrooms would be fantastic, too...

You can't go wrong with these unless you eat them all before the guests arrive. (Not that I'd judge you for that.)

Happy Everything!

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Puff Pastry Shells with Chorizo, Dates & Pine Nuts
By Alejandra Ramos, AlwaysOrderDessert.com

Frozen puff pastry shells are baked then filled with an easy sweet and savory filling that’s reminiscent of Spanish tapas. The chorizo filling can be prepared up to 48 hours in advance, and then reheated just before assembling and serving the appetizers.

Yields 12 appetizers

Ingredients
12 puff pastry shells
1 pound (about 4 links) fresh chorizo sausage in casing
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
4 large medjool dates, pitted and diced
1 cup beef stock
¼ cup dry sherry
½ cup toasted pine nuts
Fresh thyme, flaky sea salt, for garnish

Directions
Bake puff pastry shells according to package directions. Push in or remove the centers to create a well.

Remove chorizo from casing, crumble into a saucepan over medium heat, and cook until browned. (If your chorizo is not very fatty, you may need to add 2 tablespoons of olive oil or other fat to the pan.) Add the smoked paprika, dates, beef stock, and sherry, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer 3-5 minutes, or until liquid has reduced and turned into a glaze. Stir in the pine nuts.

Divide filling into baked puff pastry shells, and garnish with a sprinkle of thyme and flaky sea salt.




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Dark Chocolate Pudding Shooters

Welcome to your new favorite easy chocolate party dessert.

This deep and luscious custard-style pudding is made almost entirely in a blender with no need for stirring over a hot stove. It takes literally about 5 minutes to prep and can be served immediately, or prepared in advance to serve one or two days later.

MUCH easier than any kind of instant chocolate pudding, and the taste goes far beyond anything you'd ever get out of a box. Your party guests will absolutely love this dessert.

Similar in style to my Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Blender Pudding and my Chocolate Guinness Pots de Creme, this version is served in shot glasses and topped with unsweetened whipped cream for an elegant and fun individual dessert to serve at cocktail or dinner parties.

This is a basic recipe that you should feel free to have fun with. Replace the vanilla extract with orange or mint extracts for a totally different twist.

The hot cream is boiled then immediately poured into the blender--this cooks the eggs and melts the chocolate, so you get a beautiful silky pudding without having to stand at the stove stirring. The blender does the work for you!

I also recommend playing around with the garnishes! I kept them simple here with just a sprinkle of flaky salt, but fresh raspberries, candied orange or ginger, or even small candies like m&m's or red hots would be fun additions to personalize for parties and events.

Oh and just as a tip, when serving desserts like this in small shot glasses, I recommend serving with mini espresso spoons that can easily fit inside the shot glasses.

You can find them at any kitchen supply store like Williams Sonoma or Sur la Table, or online.

**This recipe was featured on my segment on Good Morning America. Click here to watch the video + check out the other party recipes I shared on air!**



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Dark Chocolate Pudding Shooters
By Alejandra Ramos, AlwaysOrderDessert.com

The heat from the boiling hot cream cooks the eggs in this recipe sufficiently, but if you’d like to be extra-cautious, you can use pasteurized eggs (also known as “safe eggs”). Served in individual shot glasses with mini spoons, these make a perfect cocktail party dessert.

Yields 10 servings

Ingredients
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 large eggs (use good quality pastured eggs or pasteurized eggs)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cup heavy cream, divided
1/4 cup Kahlua (optional)
Flaky sea salt such as Maldon, for garnish (optional)

For serving: 10 tall shot glasses, 10 mini espresso spoons

Directions
Combine both kinds of chocolate chips, eggs, salt, and vanilla in a blender and puree for 2-3 minutes or until chocolate is finely chopped and combined well with other ingredients.

Heat 1 cup of the heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat just until bubbles start to form around the edges. Immediately pour hot cream into blender with chocolate (you want the cream to be hot to cook the eggs and melt the chocolate). Cover and puree 3 minutes, until pudding is smooth and silky.

Add the kahlua, if using, and puree again for 30 seconds. Divide pudding into shot glasses.

Whip remaining ½ cup heavy cream until it doubles in volume and holds stiff peaks. Top each shot glass with a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with flake sea salt, if desired.

NOTE: Pudding shooters can be served immediately, or covered and held in refrigerator for up to 24 hours. They will thicken when cool, and can be served that way, or let come back up to room temperature for an hour before serving for a softer pudding. Either way, wait until just before serving to add the whipped cream.
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5 Fabulous Last-Minute Gifts You Can Buy at the Grocery Store

DIY Gift Basket Ideas from the Grocery Store
So here's my little secret: one of my favorite places to buy last-minute gifts is the grocery store!

Even the most basic supermarket usually has tons of fun and inexpensive goodies that can easily be packaged into a great gift for those last few folks on your shopping list. And the best thing is that many grocery stores are open super late or even 24 hours, so you can run in at night long after all the other regular shops are closed.

And this isn't just for the holidays...this tip is also great all year long--baby showers, bachelorette parties, hostess gifts--the supermarket is your friend, friend!

Below are some awesome gifts you can give from items commonly found at a typical supermarket:

1. International Themed Dinner Basket
Spanish wine and cheese gift basket
So first you pick a country. Think something like "Italian Pasta Night" or "Spanish Paella Party." Then you stock up--grab a box of the fanciest looking dried pasta or a bag of Spanish rice.

 A couple jars from the spice aisle. Some dried chorizo or salami. A jar of artisan pasta sauce. A wedge of good cheese. A bar of dark chocolate or a box of biscotti.

Tuck them with tissue paper into a basket or an inexpensive ceramic bowl, and there you go!

2. Gift a Cozy Night In
DIY Books & Tea gift basket
Many grocery stores carry a pretty great selection of recent popular novels and nonfiction. Grab one or two books you think your friend might enjoy.

Pair it up with a few other goodies good for a cozy night in like a box of fancy tea, a bag of caramels or cookies, maybe even a cute mug and a pair of warm fuzzy socks.

Tuck it all into a paper gift bag from the greeting card aisle, and you're good to go!

3. The Gift of Nostalgia
DIY Childhood Favorites gift basket
This one is perfect for siblings or friends you've known since childhood. Think back to the favorite treats you enjoyed as kids, and pull together a selection of them!

If I were to do this for my brother, I'd probably grab things like those Chuckles gummy candies, Milano cookies, marshmallow-covered Sno-Balls, circus peanuts, those mini boxes of Fruity Pebbles, etc. You might even hit up the magazine aisle and grab a couple issues of the magazines you used to read as kids (think stuff like Highlights, Boy's Life or Archie).

To finish it off, check out the kid's toy aisle or those toy machines near the check-out: nothing like a sticky hand or funky monster finger puppets to make anyone feel like a kid again!

4. A DIY Spa Day
DIY Spa Day Gift Basket
From fancy soaps to pretty nail polishes, you can find just about everything you need to create a spa day at home for a special someone.

Grab some Epsom salts from the first aid aisle. A nice rich lotion. Some single-packet face masks. A jar of coconut oil. A loofah or set of scrubby gloves. One of those microwavable neck wraps. You can usually even find things like essential oils and scented candles.

Don't forget a few fun magazines!

Wrap it all up, and you'll have a pampering gift basket that rivals ones found at luxury department stores!

5. Impractical Goodies for the Cook or Baker
DIY Gourmet Goodies Gift Basket
So here's the thing, those of us who love to cook usually love the grocery store. It's a chance to browse around see all kinds of fun and fascinating products. But because we're usually at the store when we're shopping for specific items or on a budget, most of those other fun, but impractical, items usually never make it home with us.

So this is your chance to surprise your favorite kitchen maven with all the things she usually passes up!

Think things like luxurious spices (saffron! Vietnamese cinnamon! vanilla beans!). Bars of really great chocolate. Fun sprinkles or cake toppers. Fancy fruit spread or curds from the jam aisle. Flavored honey, oil, or vinegars. Luxury salts. Artisan crackers. The list is basically endless!

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French 75 Mocktail (non-alcoholic)

I can't remember the first time I tried a French 75 cocktail, but I do know it was love at first sip.

The sparkling combination of champagne with gin, fresh lemon juice, and just a hint of sugar is one of my favorite cocktails at parties or to enjoy as an aperitif at the start of the meal.

Named after the small, but powerful French 75 canon (aka the 75-millimeter M1897), the cocktail got it's name because its delicate look belies the strength of this champagne + gin combo.


In other words...they go down easy, but they pack a powerful punch!

Today, I'm sharing a little twist on that classic. This is a non-alcoholic French 75 mocktail, made with fresh lemon juice, sparkling tonic water, and a splash of citrus bitters. It has a similar flavor profile, but won't leave you flat on the floor at the end of the night.

Total win!

Because of the gin, real French 75s have a bit of an herbal taste that is mimicked by the combination of bitters and tonic. If you're making this cocktail at home, I recommend buying really good tonic.

This means STAY AWAY from the stuff that comes in the plastic 1-liter bottle at the grocery store; you want the fancy stuff in the pretty glass bottles.

(I promise. It's worth it!)

My favorite brand is Fever Tree; I always have a few bottles of their tonic and their club soda sitting in my home bar, but there are quite a few fancy brands out there now like Q Tonic or Fentiman's.

And about that sweetener!

Instead of adding superfine sugar, I used rock candy swizzle sticks. They're pretty and festive and would be perfect for a cocktail party.

I used clear ones here, but you could also have fun with different color rock candy sticks, using ones that are pink or red or even blue! That would be a lot of fun for a baby shower or a teen birthday party.

Just a quick note about bitters: You can find bitters at well-stocked grocery stores, gourmet shops, or liquor stores. They're also available on Amazon.

There are both alcoholic and non-alcoholic kinds available, but know that even the ones that do have some alcohol it's in such a negligible amount that it doesn't count as consuming any alcohol.

(It's about the same as something like vanilla or peppermint extract.)

Happy sipping!

Non-Alcoholic French 75 Mocktail

Recipe by Alejandra Ramos
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes
Total time: 2 minutes
Yield: 2 cocktails
Ingredients
  • 2 cups ice
  • 3 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • 4 dashes lemon or orange bitters
  • 2 (6-8oz) bottles premium tonic water (such as Fever Tree or Q Tonic)
  • 2 rock candy swizzle sticks
Instructions:
  1. Add fresh lemon juice and bitters to cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until frosty then divide into two champagne flutes or coupe glasses.
  2. Top off with tonic water until it reaches about 3/4 of the way up the glass.
  3. Garnish with the swizzle sticks and serve immediately.
  4. NOTE: Can't find rock candy? Add 1 teaspoon superfine sugar along with the lemon juice and bitters in the shaker.
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Inspired Entertaining: DIY Puff Pastry Shells

The other day, I went to three different grocery stores looking for frozen puff pastry shells. I needed them for an appetizer I wanted to make, but couldn't find them anywhere!

Finally, I decided to just grab a regular package of puff pastry dough with the intention of making my own shells.

Here's how you can do it, too:


Step 1. Prep the puff pastry:

NOTE: You want to start off with completely thawed puff pastry. 

  • If your box comes with two sheets of pastry (like the Pepperidge Farm kind), roll them out, lightly moisten one sheet, and then layer the second one on top, pressing down slightly with your hands and then a rolling pin to combine them a bit.
  • If your box comes with a single large sheet that's been folded up (like Dufour or other all-butter pastry) you want to unfold it, roll it out, moisten half of it, and fold it in half

Step. 2. Cut out rounds: 
  • Use a 2 1/2" round biscuit or cookie cutter to cut out as many circles as you can. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet, one inch apart. 
  • NOTE: This size is great for 1 or 2-bite hors d'oeuvres. If you want to make larger shells for desserts or appetizers, use a larger cutter to make bigger rounds.
  • Reroll any scraps and repeat until you use up all the pastry.

Step 3. Make the well:
  • Use a small cookie cutter OR a small round cap from a spice bottle (something approximately 1" in diameter) to make a circle impression in the center of each dough round. 
  • Go in as far as you can without cutting all the way through.

Step 4. Pierce the dough:
  • Use a fork to polk holes in the center circle. The idea is that this circle can easily be pressed down or removed to make a well to fill for your appetizer or dessert.

Step 5. Bake
  • Bake at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, or until shells are puffed and golden.

Step 6. Remove the center:
  • Let cool for a couple minutes, then use a muddler or the end of a spatula to press down the centers. 
  •  If you prefer, you can pull the centers out completely (I did a mix of both as some will come out more easily than others).

Step 7. Fill and serve
  • Now you can fill the shells with your preferred sweet or savory filling, and serve. Note that at this point you can only add a cooked filling (or one meant to be eaten raw).
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5 Holiday Baking Prep Tips


Chances are, you're baking up a storm these days. Whether you're preparing sweets for your party guests, or baking homemade goodies to give as holiday gifts, here are 5 ideas to make things a little bit easier for you (both this year, and the next!)


1. Stock up on hardware
Throughout the year, I often find myself thinking about how I really need to buy myself a new sheet pan, or how I have to replace that flimsy spring-form pan. You might also have some long-loved baking pans or utensils that have seen better days.

Stop thinking about it, and do it!

Go through your supplies, pulling out anything that needs to be replaced, and then head to the store for new ones. I recently went to Target and got myself 3 shiny new sheet pans (my old ones were warped and dented), a couple new square baking pans to replace the ones that had gotten a little rusty, some fresh new spatulas, and a cookie scoop.


2. Refresh your favorite recipes with new ingredients
You already know about the flour and butter and sugar, but think about what other things you can add to your holiday baked goods!

Some of my favorite garnishes and toppings include red hot candies, sprinkles, coconuts, cacao nibs, chopped nuts (like these fun pecan chips), candy bits, marshmallows, and dried or fresh fruit.

Think about ways you can mix up your old recipes with fun new simple swaps (like replacing raisins with dried cherries or candied orange bites, or adding chopped pecans to your favorite banana bread.) It's even a great way to make two completely different sweets from one recipe (just split up the dough and mix in different items.

Double the sweets without doubling the work!

3. Remember the wrapping paper
If you're planning to give away some of your baked goods as gifts, remember to buy items to wrap them up in. Sure you can do a simple paper plate covered in shrink wrap, but think about other fun ways to package up edible gifts.

I love raiding the Dollar Spot bins at Target (my favorite!!) for inexpensive tins and baskets. 

A pile of fudge on a plate is awesome, but a pile of fudge in a cute holiday tin? So much more thoughtful! 

Bonus Tip: I stock up on ones that could work outside of the holidays (like plain colors or ones with winter, but not specifically holiday themes) so that I can use them for easy hostess or birthday gifts throughout the year. 

They're also a great way to send people home with holiday or party leftovers!
Also remember things like ribbons, stickers, gift tags, and other embellishments to make your gifts look even more special. 

4. Double (or triple!) the recipe and freeze the extras
You're already in the kitchen, so why not help out your future self, by doubling the recipe. Anything you make, make two. The second batch can go in the freezer for quick treats during the holiday season (those Christmas cookies will also be awesome as a New Year's Eve party dessert!)

They're also great to pull out in case of surprise guests or last-minute invitations (aka instant hostess gift!). 

(Also a good reminder to stock up on freezer bags and containers to store your extra goodies).

5.  Shop the sales for next year
This is probably my favorite thing to do. Take advantage of those amazing post-holiday discounts to stock up on goodies for next year's baking

Load up on sprinkles, peppermint candies, and other treats that would be great for decorating. 

Also check out discounts on baking pans, silicon mats, and everything you need to wrap and decorate edible treat packages. 

You can package these all up, and next you're you'll be way ahead of the game!


What other things do you do to save yourself time when baking for the holidays?



**I was partially compensated for this post by Target, who provided me with a gift card to use at their store. All opinions and recommendations are my own.

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The Best Gift Ever

My best friend Ilana lives in Edinburgh, which is a gorgeous and absolutely wonderful place to live and visit, but really inconvenient for us when it comes to typical best friend activities like grabbing coffee or shopping or laying about watching movies in pajamas, or really just about anything that requires that we both be on the same continent.

We do make a point of meeting up about once or twice a year, either here in New York or somewhere else interesting. (Past locations include Portugal and Palm Springs; we're hoping for a Greek island next year!)

But, as amazing as those trips are, they're never quite enough.

Fortunately, Ilana also happens to be really amazing at surprises! They show up every so often: a postcard with a recipe for deep-fried Mars bars (a well-loved Scottish delicacy), a set of Kate Spade bangles inscribed with inspirational messages, and--most recently--the most wonderful gift ever:

A custom-made necklace featuring a perfect mini slice of my signature cake: The Italian Rainbow Cookie Cake!

Ilana found this wonderful shop on Etsy and had the artists custom make the charm.

And they did such an incredible job! They even got the detail of the snowflake design on the chocolate frosting!

The texture of the layers looks so realistic I really had to resist biting into it...

I'm, admittedly, nowhere near equal to Ilana when it comes to thoughtful surprises. I come up with great ideas, but then my ADD kicks in and I get distracted trying to make ice cream out of wine or researching mid-century gelatin salad recipes or trying to figure out how to turn an old t-shirt into a throw pillow, and then I can't really remember what the great plan was.

You guys have no idea how many unsent postcards I have in my desk.*

But, I do, fortunately have this blog! And that means that on this blog I can let the thousands and thousands of you who come here every day know how wonderful Ilana is.

(Very.)

I also wanted you all to know about the wonderful little Etsy shop she found!

It's called Inedible Jewelry and you can visit it here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/inediblejewelry/

If you have food lovers (or miniature lovers!) in your life--I bet they'd enjoy a sweet gift from there just as much as I did.

But hurry--Christmas orders have to be in by the 18th (aka...tomorrow!).

*I do have a good plan for Christmas this year, though I haven't quite made it to the post office yet. (Fortunately Ilana is Jewish, which I think gives me a bit of leeway in terms of the deadline.)


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