Thursday, December 30, 2010

Food for Celebrating New Year's Eve ~

Snow is coming down, so I'm not sure whether I'll get to celebrate New Year's Eve with the family. I usually spend the night with Lisa, Steve, Quinlyn and Michael on New Year's Eve. Looks like I'll have to wait and see what the weather brings today to see how I'll spend this New Year's Eve.

But I've been giving some thought to food for New Year's Eve. Not New Year's Day, since most of us have the traditional meal of meat--probably roast beef for us this year--along with black-eyed peas, cabbage, and other vegetables. Some even make Hopping John, as Alice suggested this morning. But to me New Year's Eve has a different kind of air to that tells me not to do the usual cooking and sitting down at table, but to have something that can be picked up with your fingers and carried away--to talk to people, to laugh at silly comments, or to watch fireworks. Whatever you're doing, you probably don't want to sit quietly and eat dinner. There's too much electricity in the air, too much excitement about the end of one year and the beginning of another, and the wonder of what it will bring. 

And with all this in mind, I simply went online to find a few things that you could throw together--not a complete menu, but some ideas that might get you interested in a menu for your family or friends. I was surprised at what I found...not a lot of recipes for comfort food that's easy and familiar. But one site that has quite a few good recipes is And, of course, my favorite is Barefoot Contessa--Ina Garten--who always offers something to love. 

Let's begin with a spinach dip, which is so delicious, you'll find it hard to stop eating. These first two recipes come from 

Hot Spinach Dip
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds spinach, cleaned, trimmed, and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup 2% milk
6 ounces reduced-fat bar cream cheese
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons hot sauce, such as Tabasco
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Pita wedges or tortilla chips for serving

In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes.

Add spinach and cook until completely wilted, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a colander; drain, pressing to release all excess liquid.

In the same pot, warm milk over high  heat. Whisk in cream cheese until melted, about 3 minutes. Add spinach, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and 3/4 cup mozzarella; stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer over medium-low heat until ready to serve. Transfer to serving dish and add pita wedges or tortilla chips for dipping.
This recipe reminds me of the Sullivan family. They love chocolate, and I think they'll enjoy the fact that if you have the ingredients, this is fast, easy and delicious. It's perfect for a party. And although this comes from Whats Gaby Cooking, she took it from another site, Three Many Cooks.

Chocolate Rice Krispies
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 package marshmellows
5 cups Rice Krispies
2/3 cups mini chocolate chips

Spray an 8-inch square metal baking pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper and then spray the top of the parchment paper again. Set aside.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Remove the skillet from heat and add the Rice Krispies and 1/3 cup of the chocolate chips. Use a spatula to incorporate the mixture. Transfer the mixture into the prepared baking pan and spread out evenly. Sprinkle with the remaining chocolate chips. Let set for about 15 minutes until cool.
This is a favorite recipe that is easy and filling. In New Mexico, it's an ever-present dish that is served everywhere and often. This recipe comes from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and has tomatoes in it. You don't have to use tomatoes, but they give it a fresh summer taste. And Ina has left out cilantro because she doesn't like it. You can add some if you wish. She says to use the Haas avocados because they hold up to the process.

4 ripe Haas avocados
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
8 dashes Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium tomato, seeded, and small-diced

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of their shells into a large bowl. (I use my hands.) Immediately add the lemon juice, Tabasco, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper and toss well. Using a sharp knife, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced. Add the tomatoes. Mix well and taste for salt and pepper.
Ina says to keep your guacamole green, store it with plastic wrap pressed directly on top. Air will turn it brown, so the less air contact, the better. The lemon juice will help as well.
Here's an easy way to serve Baked Brie with no muss or fuss and delicious flavor!

Baked Brie
1/4 wheel brie
4 tablespoons honey

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Place the brie on it and drizzle with the honey.
A few pecans on top helps the flavor as well.
 Bake 5 to 7 minutes or until it starts to ooze but not melt.
Serve with crackers.

Brie can also be wrapped in foil and baked in the same way for 20 minutes.

One of my favorite things to do is to have a supper of fruit and cheese. For many years, this has been a fun meal with my granddaughters when they visit. We may have a small roasted bird sometimes, but we usually just have a good bread with several different fruits and cheeses. Brie warmed in the oven is dreamy. Be sure all the cheeses are at room temperature. Fond memories are locked into this fruit and cheese platter, which got my attention for some special New Year's Eve fare.
Fruit and Cheese Platter
Ina says: "Assembling a stunning fruit and cheese platter requires no cooking. I follow a few key principles to be sure it looks festive and is easy for guests to help themselves. First, I choose an interesting assortment of cheeses--hard sharp cheeses, soft creamy ones, and pungent blue cheeses. I look for an interesting mix of flavors, textures, and colors. For example, in this photograph I used ripe French Camembert: Le Chevrot, a sharp goat cheese; Rondin with herbs, a creamy goat cheese; and Montagnolo, a creamy blue cheese." Finish the platter with sliced breads or crackers, and green leaves. Don't forget the cheese knives!
And here's where I keep going with recipes when I should probably stop, but I can't resist reminding you how easily you can pull together a dessert platter. Even if you don't have time to bake, you can get very good pastries at your local bakery. 

Country Dessert Platter
Buy a delicious and beautiful assortment of cookies, bars, and pastries if you have decided that there isn't time to bake, or you're still tired from Christmas. Ina says: "At Barefoot Contessa, I choose things that are both colorful and easy to eat with fingers. Remember, lots of baked goods look delicious on their own, but grouped together, they can look very brown. I mix colorful things like lemon bars, pecan bars, brownies, cookies, strawberries, figs, and slices of lemon cake."
 The dessert plate in the picture isn't from Ina, and Ina does it a little differently. She places the pastries in paper muffin cups and arranges them in a flowing pattern around the cake. Then she piles strawberries and figs or grapes high to give some height to the design. Then she adds some cookies and lemon or hydrangea leaves to fill in the spaces. Can we all say, "YUM!" 

Anyway...I like these ideas for a simple and delicious menu for New Year's Eve. So I'll say once again...Happy New Year Everybody!




  1. Looks like you'll be eating into the new year in style ;-)

  2. I'm never a stranger when good food is around! Lisa has just told me that they'll be coming here, so that's a good thing. They'll go home and come back for New Year's Day. Hopefully the snow won't be too deep--if we get anymore that is. I hope you get to go to Flagstaff to ski. Have Paula make the Chocolate Rice Krispies for you.