A Cheap and Cheerful Staycation Party

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Entertaining made cheap and cheerful from Julie Albert, Lisa Gnat and Jane Apor, the experts behind BiteMeMore.com and two innovative cookbooks

At Bite Me More headquarters, every day is a holiday. While we rejoice in celebrating everything from Chocolate Day and Egg Day to Hairdresser Appreciation Day and Beatles Day, we find it tough to celebrate frostbitten fingers and the final dark days of winter.

Until now. We’re shucking our bulky winter wear and grabbing the lime and the coconut and stirring it all up to create this sweltering Surf-on-Home-Turf Staycation. That’s right – you can pack your (dollar store) bags and forget airport lineups, lost luggage and overpriced hotels because we are taking you, your family and your friends on what might be your best, most stress-free and inexpensive holiday ever, a holiday where slush will be transformed into sand and sleet into sunshine.

In keeping with the Bite Me More party philosophy (it shouldn’t break your back, your bank account or your spirit), we’ve pulled together some creative and delicious eating, feeding and entertaining tips and, while we lay out this easy-to-recreate party road map, you don’t have to follow it to the letter to bring fun (and sun) to the table. Take one idea and run with it (as simple as putting umbrellas in drinks and shells on the table). You can make it your own by adding personal touches, such as travel photos and souvenirs. Whatever you do, throwing this Beach Bash will serve up a bon voyage for you and your guests alike.

The Dollar-Store Shopping List
– Sand and shells found in the craft aisle.
– Paper umbrellas for cocktails, along with faux brightly coloured flowers.
– Beach accessories including Hawaiian leis, beach balls, pails, plastic (and in our case, flamingo) glasses, clear plastic plates and flip-flops.
– Passport holders for each place setting.
– Swim goggles or sunglasses for each guest.

The Party Prep
– Deliver invitations as a message in a bottle.
– Create a “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem” sign and hang it on the door.
– Transform your table with a roll of ocean-looking craft paper (from Michael’s Craft Store) or use simple brown kraft paper from the dollar store and sprinkle it with sand.
– Fill dollar-store vases with water and a few drops of blue food colouring – add a plastic fish or two to complete the look.
– Put out bowls of Swedish fish candy and Goldfish Crackers
– Whip up some boozy Popsicles or slushies.
– Create a themed Resort Rhythms playlist with songs such as “Two Tickets to Paradise,” “Caribbean Queen,” “Rock Lobster” and “Surf City.”
– Have Beach Blanket Bingo, Baywatch or Blue Hawaii on the TV.
– Greet guests wearing a wetsuit and snorkel.

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NEXT: Recipe for Jerk Cod with Pineapple Salsa & Coconut Rice

Jerk Cod with Pineapple Salsa & Coconut Rice

*Works well with chicken, too.

Jerk Fish Marinade

2 tsp.    brown sugar
1 tsp.    ground allspice
1 tsp.    kosher salt
½ tsp.    each ground cinnamon, basil, thyme, cayenne pepper and nutmeg
¼ tsp.    freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp.    each olive oil, soy sauce, red wine vinegar and fresh orange juice
1 tbsp.    fresh lime juice
2 thinly sliced green onions, green part only
1 tbsp.    finely minced shallots
2 tsp.    finely grated fresh ginger
2 tsp.    finely diced jalapeno peppers
6  pieces cod fillets (6 oz. each)

Note: Though super easy to make, we know that this seasoning mix has a long list of ingredients so if you’re looking to save time, we recommend Walkerswood Traditional Jamaican Jerk Seasoning or the jerk mixes from McCormick or Club House as a substitute.

Pineapple Salsa
1 ½ cups    diced fresh pineapple
2 tbsp.    diced red onion
¼ cup    diced red bell pepper
1 tbsp.    fresh mint, thinly sliced
1 tbsp.    fresh lime juice
1 tsp.    honey
Kosher salt

Coconut Rice
2 tsp.    vegetable oil
2 cups    basmati rice, rinsed and drained
2 cups    canned coconut milk
2 cups    water
1 tsp.    kosher salt

Jerk Fish Marinade

In a medium bowl, stir together brown sugar, allspice, salt, cinnamon, basil, thyme, cayenne pepper, nutmeg and black pepper. Whisk in olive oil, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, orange juice and lime juice. Stir in green onions, shallots, ginger and jalapenos. Pour marinade into a zip-lock bag and place fish in the marinade. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare Pineapple Salsa and Coconut Rice.

Pineapple Salsa

In a medium bowl, combine pineapple, red onion, red pepper, mint, lime juice and honey. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour to blend flavours.
Coconut Rice In a saucepan over medium heat, heat vegetable oil. Add rice and sauté for 2 minutes. Add milk, water and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed. Serve hot.

Remove fish from marinade. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with non-stick cooking spray. Bake in 375 F oven for 9 to 12 minutes or until fish is just cooked through. Serve fish over rice and top with pineapple salsa.

Serves 6

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NEXT: Recipe for Layered Key Lime Cake

Layered Key Lime Cake

Key Lime Cake
2 ½ cups    flour
1 tsp.    lime zest
1 ½ tsp.    baking powder
½ tsp.    baking soda
½ tsp.    kosher salt
¾ cup    butter (room temperature)
2 cups    granulated sugar
3    eggs
2 tsp.    vanilla extract
¼ cup    frozen limeade concentrate
1 cup    buttermilk
3 tbsp.    fresh key lime juice

Graham Cracker Crumble
1 ¼ cups    graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup    brown sugar
Pinch    kosher salt
¼ cup    butter, melted

Key Lime Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8 oz)    package cream cheese
¾ cup    butter, room temperature
2 tbsp.    key lime juice
2 tbsp.    limeade concentrate
1 tsp.    lime zest
6 ½ cups    icing sugar

Key Lime Cake

Combine flour, lime zest, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla and limeade concentrate. In a small bowl, combine buttermilk and key lime juice. Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to mixer, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix just until combined. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake in 350 F oven for 28 to 30 minutes or until slightly golden and cooked through. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing and let cool completely before frosting. Once layers have cooled, slice each cake in half for a total of 4 layers.
Graham Cracker Crumble Combine cracker crumbs, brown sugar, salt and butter. Spread mixture evenly on a baking sheet covered with parchment. Bake in 350 F oven for 8 minutes; stir and bake for 4 minutes longer. Let cool completely before assembling cake.

Key Lime Cream Cheese Frosting

With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until well combined. On low speed, add lime juice, limeade concentrate, lime zest and icing sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for 30 seconds on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
To assemble the cake, place 1 layer on a serving plate and spread with ½ cup frosting and sprinkle
¼ cup graham crumbs over the frosting. Top with a second layer and repeat with ½ cup frosting and ¼ cup graham crumbs. Place third layer on top and repeat. Top with final cake layer and spread remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Use the remaining graham cracker crumble to cover the sides of the cake.

Serves 10 to 12.

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NEXT: Recipe for Watermelon Mojito

Watermelon Mojito

8 fresh mint leaves, torn
3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
Ice cubes
2 ½ cups cubed watermelon, puréed in a blender
2 oz.    light rum
Mint sprigs and lime slices for garnish

In 2 tall glasses, muddle torn mint, lime juice and sugar. Add ice and pour in puréed watermelon and rum. Stir and garnish with mint and lime.