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Mother’s Day, like most of the national holidays, could always use a shake-up.

Whether your mom is a baby boomer or a millennial, a traditional gal or a thoroughly modern women, she will appreciate a spirited twist to her celebration, and we’re not talking about a Bloody Mary with brunch.

Muddle up a refreshing, seasonal elixir and serve it with an array of big-flavored small bites during a festive cocktail party, and she will forgive you almost anything. Plus, she won’t have to take a nap in the middle of the day.

Chef Julie Steinfeld, a mother and kitchen manager for Ramekins Culinary School in Sonoma, loves to throw casual cocktail parties for her friends. During a Spring Cocktail Party class last month, Steinfeld shared a few timeless tips and provided an array of appetizer recipes that could be prepared in advance for a spring party.

“It’s the season to entertain as the weather warms up,” Steionfeld said. “Cocktails are a great way to entertain casually. You’ll just need some glasses, some fun cocktail napkins and a few platters in different shapes, sizes and colors.”

The class drew both couples and groups of BFFs, who mashed together a Spicy Margarita Punch and a Strawberry Balsamic Smashed Cocktail while creating a decadent array of small bites, from Smoked Salmon and Herbed Crepe Pinwheels to Hickory Bacon and Roasted Corn Gougeres.

“I consider myself an expert on margaritas because of how many I drink,” quipped Jana Fiorito of Sonoma. “Maya (restaurant in Sonoma) makes the best margarita in California. It’s fresh, with just four ingredients, and they serve it up in a martini glass.”

Steinfeld’s Spicy Margarita gets its punch from resh lime and orange juice, plus a thinly sliced jalapeno and cucumber. She makes the Strawberry Balsamic Smash Cocktail with lime, cucumber rounds, strawberries, simple syrup and balsamic vinegar, muddled together, then mixed with a splash of vodka or gin.

Some of the students, such as Inger Latreille of Napa, had already asked their spouses to throw them a cocktail party for Mother’s Day. Others were planning ahead for other holidays.

“We host an annual Christmas party for 100,” said Amy Goleno of Napa. “And we make all the appetizers and bite-sized desserts ourselves.”

No matter what time of year you throw your party, Steinfeld suggested including a mix of seafood, meat and vegetables, to please all palates.

“I love to have a variety of tasty little bites,” she said. “It’s the same reason I love tapas and dim sum ... and it’s nice to have a balance of hot and cold.”

If you want to enjoy your own party, it’s also wise to prepare some of the bites in advance, then store in the fridge or freezer before slicing and heating at the last minute.

Steinfeld likes to pass the hors d’oeuvre on platters that are lined with grape leaves so they do not slip around.

“You can do plates, but picks and napkins will suffice much of the time,” she said. “I always have a stationary table for a dip with fresh vegetables too, plus olives and nuts.”

As an bonus, Steinfeld shared her recipe for Chile-Lime Cashews, a dangerously addictive nibble that pairs perfect with the Spicy Margarita.

Chardonnays that deliver

TOP PICK

Chappellet

Chappellet, 2015 Napa Valley Chardonnay, 14.1% alcohol, $35. ★★★★

This is a concentrated and complex chardonnay with a silky texture. It’s got notes of lemon curd, brioche and ripe apple, and yet it’s balanced. Lingering finish. Impressive.

Tasty ALTERNATIVES

Landmark Vineyards, 2016 Damaris Reserve, Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 14.3%, $35. ★★★★: This chardonnay is a standout because of its layered flavors buoyed by bright acidity. It has notes of pear, brioche and honeysuckle, with bright minerality. Finishes crisp.

Gary Farrell, 2015 Olivet Lane, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Chardonnay, 13.6%, $45. ★★★★: A tasty, full-bodied chardonnay with notes of apple, vanilla bean and lemon zest. Nice length.

Robert Mondavi Winery, 2015 Napa Valley Chardonnay, 14.5%, $24. ★★★★: A lovely chardonnay with notes of ripe apple, pear and lemon. Lightly toasted. Full-bodied, yet balanced. Well crafted.

La Crema, 2016 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 13.5%, $23. ★★★1/2: A smart chardonnay with bright fruit and layered flavors. Notes of apple, lemon and mineral, with a hint of caramel on the finish. A steal for the price.

It’s also a good idea to serve some kind of non-alcoholic drink, for kids and those moms who may want to rehydrate between sips.

The following recipes are from Julie Steinfeld, kitchen manager of Ramekins Culinary School.

Strawberry Balsamic Smash Cocktail

Makes 2 servings

For simple syrup:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup cold water

For cocktail:

4 1/2 -inch lime wedges (from 1 lime)

4 1/2 -inch cucumber rounds, plus more for garnish (from 1 English cucumber)

2 fresh hulled strawberries

2 tablespoons simple syrup

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup gin (or vodka)

For simple syrup: Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup cold water in a jar with a lid. Shake the jar vigorously until the sugar is dissolved (about 1 minute.) Will keep refrigerated for up to 6 months.

For the cocktail: In a 16-ounce cocktail shaker, mash together all of the above ingredients with the exception of the alcohol using either a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon, then shake 4-5 times to release the oils and juices.

(If you dont’t have a cocktail shaker, you may use a jar with a top.)

Add 1/2 cup of gin to the mixture, then using a fine mesh sieve strain the gin mixture into a large measuring cup.

Fill desired cocktail glasses (traditionally an old-fashioned glass) three-quarters full with crushed ice and pour gin mixture over the top. Garnish edge of glass with a cucumber wheel.

Spicy Margarita Punch

Makes 10 servings

1 English cucumber, thinly sliced

1 small jalapeño (thinly sliced)

1/4 cup cilantro (lightly packed)

1/4 cup mint, (lightly packed)

1 750 ml bottle silver tequila

2 cups fresh lime juice

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1 cup light agave nectar

— Kosher salt for rimming the edge of glass (optional)

In a large punch bowl or glass bowl, muddle the cucumber, jalapeño, cilantro and mint using a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon.

Add the remaining ingredients except for the salt and stir well.

Refrigerate until well chilled (about one hour.)

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the solids from the punch. Fill the cocktail glasses (rimmed with salt, if desired) three-quarters full with crushed ice and pour punch over.

Chile-Lime Cashews

Makes 3 cups

2 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 large egg white

3 cups raw, unsalted cashews

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put the salt and the lime zest in a medium bowl and, using the back of a wooden spoon, mash together until combined and the salt becomes moist.

Add the sugar, red pepper flakes and the egg white to the bowl and whisk until frothy.

Add the cashews and toss, making sure to completely coat the nuts.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly coat with pan spray. Spread the cashew mixture in a single layer on the parchment-lined sheet. Bake in a 350-degree oven until golden (about 15 to 18 minutes.)

Let cool completely, then gently separate the nuts and store in an airtight container.

To make buckwheat crepes for this recipe, replace 2/3 cup of the all-purpose flour with 2/3 cup of buckwheat flour and omit the herbs.

Smoked Salmon and Herb Crepe Pinwheels with Horseradish Citrus Cream Cheese

Makes 20 servings of 4 pinwheels each

For crepes:

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup milk (1, 2 or 4 percent)

1/2 cup water

2 teaspoons unsalted butter (melted)

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives

For Horseradish Citrus Cream Cheese:

8 ounces cream cheese (softened)

3 tablespoon sour cream

1 1/2 teaspoon prepared white horseradish

2 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon gently minced/snipped fresh dill

For pinwheels:

8 (1-ounce) slices cold-smoked salmon

8 herb crepes (from recipe above)

For crepe batter: Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Combine the milk, water, melted butter and eggs in a blender.

Add the flour mixture to the blender and process until smooth (a few minutes.) Add the herbs. Transfer batter to a container, cover and chill for one hour.

Heat an 8-inch non-stick crepe pan or skillet over medium heat. Pour a scant 1/4 cup batter into the pan; quickly tilt the pan in all directions so the batter covers the pan with a thin film. Cook for about 1 minutes.

Carefully lift the edge of the crepe with a spatula to test for doneness. The crepe is done when it can be shaken loose from the pan and the underside is lightly browned.

Turn crepe over and cook for about 30 seconds more, or until the center is set. Remove crepe to a parchment, or wax paper square, and cover with another parchment or wax paper square. Continue to stack single layers of crepes between the parchment squares to prevent sticking.

For cream cheese: Combine the first four ingredients in a medium bowl and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth.

Stir in chopped dill to combine. (Or place first four ingredients in a food process and process until smooth. Add dill and process briefly to combine.)

For assembly: Using a small, offset spatula or spreader, gently spread a generous tablespoon of cream cheese mixture over each crepe, making certain to cover the entire crepe.

Top each crepe with one salmon slice, leaving a slightly border of cream cheese. Tightly roll up each crepe jelly-roll fashion and lay on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Cover and chill for about 1 hour, or until firm. Remove pinwheels from refrigerator and carefully slice each roll crosswise, or on a slight bias, into 10 pinwheels.

Three Cheese Mini Macs with Tomato Jam and Creme Fraiche

Makes 3 dozen mini macs

For mini macs:

1/2 pound elbow macaroni

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened), plus more for brushing

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (divided)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3/4 cups whole milk

4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (1 packed cup)

4 ounces deli-sliced American cheese (chopped)

1 large egg yolk

1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

1/4 cup crème fraiche (for garnish)

For tomato jam:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 medium onion (cut into 1/4-inch dice)

1 garlic clove (peeled and crushed)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 large tomatoes, preferably heirlooms (cored and chopped fairly fine)

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 small sprig fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For mini macs: In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente (about 5 minutes.) Remove from heat and drain well.

Brush three, 12-cup non-stick mini-muffin tins with butter. Sprinkle with half of the Parmesan cheese; tap out the excess. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the 1 1/2 tablespoons butter. Whisk in the flour over moderate heat and cook for 2 minutes.

Whisk in the milk and continue to cook, whisking constantly until boiling (about 5 minutes.) Add the cheddar and American cheese and whisk until melted. Off the heat, whisk in the egg yolk and paprika.

Fold in the macaroni.

Spoon slightly rounded tablespoons of the macaroni into the prepared muffin cups, packing them gently. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Bake in a 425-degree oven until golden and sizzling (about 10 minutes.)

Let cool for 5 minutes then using a small, offset spatula, or spoon, carefully loosen the macs and transfer them to a place. Top each with some tomato jam and a drizzle of crème fraiche.

For tomato jam: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onions is translucent (about 5 minutes.) Remove and discard the garlic. Add the tomato paste and fry, stirring until the tomato paste just begins to caramelize (about 2 minutes.)

Add the tomatoes, vinegar and rosemary and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to keep the tomatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

The tomatoes should be virtually dry and have a jam-like consistency. REmove the rosemary sprig and season with salt and pepper.

Fig & Caramelized Onion Bruschetta with Ricotta

Makes 2 dozen crostine

For figs:

1/2 cup dried Black MIssion figs (stemmed and chopped in 1/4-inch pieces)

1 cup boiling water

3/4 cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 small bay leaf

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

For caramelized onions:

1 1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter

1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil

1 medium red onion (peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoons fresh oregano (finely chopped)

Ingredients for assembly:

1 cup fresh ricotta cheese

— Salt and pepper to taste

1 baguette

— Olive oil, for brushing bread

For figs: Place the figs in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let soak for 1/2 hour.

Drain the figs and place them in a small saucepan. Add the wine, sugar, bay leaf and salt, and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the figs are tender and the liquid is syrupy, stirring occasionally (about 20 minutes.) Add the vinegar and cook 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat and let cool.

For onions: Melt the butter with the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until beginning to soften and brown, stirring occasionally (about 5 minutes.)

Reduce the heat to low and add the vinegar and sugar. Then sprinkle with the salt and pepper.

Stir the onion mixture until the vinegar has almost evaporated (about 1 minutes.) Remove from heat, stir in the chopped oregano, and let cool.

For assembly: Drain the ricotta well in a strainer lined with a coffee filter or cheesecloth, then transfer to a small bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Using a serrated knife, slice the baguette into 1/4-inch slices. Place them on a lightly oiled sheet tray and brush the tops with oil.

Lightly season with salt. Bake the crostini in a 350-degree oven until toasted and light golden (about 8 to 10 minutes.) Cool.

Spread a thin layer of ricotta on each crostini, then spread with a teaspoon of onions and top with a teaspoon of figs.

Staff Writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

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