New Year's Eve Party Ideas

It is New Year's Eve and you are rushing to the store at the last minute to stock up for your big party. Your menu is still up in the air. Ideas are spinning in your head but nothing is coming together. Fret not! I have some elegant and simple ideas to make your decade-end party feast one to remember. The New Year's Eve party is definitely the night to take some help from the store where you can and keep it simple.

The Cheese Plate is an elegant crowd pleaser every time. The best part is that this dish requires very little labor. Just buy great cheeses and fixings, and you are good to go. Display these nicely on a platter and your work is done. I suggest picking up a combination of a bleu cheese like Roquefort, Gorgonzola or Stilton, a Brie cheese, and something a bit sweeter like a Gouda cheese. Ultimately you should choose what you like but try to offer your guests a variety of flavors like salty, buttery, and nutty, and different textures including crumbly, soft, and hard. Serve the cheese plate with little dishes of apricot preserves, honey and nutella. Include some crackers, apple slices and candied nuts and this cheese plate will be superb to share with your friends to ring in the new decade.

For a rich and meaty hot dish, try this recipe for Drunken Meatballs. In a large pot or crock-pot combine one bag of frozen mini meatballs, one 16 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, 1 cup of Bourbon, and 1 cup of dark brown sugar. Let these ingredients simmer on medium to low heat for about 2 hours. Taste and add more Bourbon and sugar to your liking if needed. Serve these little delectable, savory bites with toothpicks. Your guests will be lingering near the stove all night to grab bites of these when you aren't looking. You won't know who is drunker-you or the meatballs!

With plenty of Champagne drinking, a lighter vegetarian dish is always welcome at a New Year's Eve party. Companata, an Italian staple, is a simple mixture of vegetables cooked down and served with bread. Sauté 2 cups of cubed eggplant, 1 diced yellow onion, and 3 chopped garlic cloves, and a dash of crushed red pepper in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. After sautéing for about 5 minutes, add 1/4 cup of capers, 1/2 cup chopped black olives, 1/2 cup chopped green olives, and a 16 oz can of diced tomatoes. Next add 2 tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and a pinch of salt. Bring this mixture to a simmer and cook on low for approximately an hour. Serve the Companata in a large bowl hot with toast points, fresh bread or crackers.

Finally, one of my favorite party snacks has got to be the Stromboli. A Stromboli allows for you to choose whatever ingredients you want. This dish can be as simple or as elegant as you would like to make it. The main ingredient here is a Pillsbury pizza crust, which you can buy in the grocery right near the biscuits and cookie dough. For a cheesy, pepperoni Stromboli, roll out the pizza crust on wax paper, and cover lightly with marinara sauce. Top the sauce with a combination of pepperoni slices, and mozzarella and provolone cheeses. Roll the crust up like a jellyroll tucking in the sides, so the fillings don't leak. Try an elegant spin on Spanakopita, by adding a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and then topping the crust with thawed frozen chopped spinach seasoned with salt, pepper and oregano, and feta and mozzarella cheeses. You can roll up the Strombolis early in the day, and bake in the oven when you are ready at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. After 10 minutes of cooking, make a few thin slits with a knife on top of the Strombolis and continue cooking. Let the Strombolis rest after cooking for about 15 minutes before slicing. Slice in 1-2 inch slices and arrange on a dish. Serve these hot with a side of warm Marinara sauce.

One hot dish is all you need with the addition of some cheese, crackers and crudité (fresh vegetables and dip). You can throw in some nuts and candy and you are ready for a party. The number one challenge will be getting to the liquor store to stock up on Champagne before the New Year's Eve lines start wrapping around the store. Try to get your booze and beer as early as possible to avoid those lines. I hope these ideas will make your New Year's Eve menu a smashing hit. Remember to not take on more than you can chew as the host or hostess. A happy host makes for a great party. Keep it simple and do what you can in the kitchen but most importantly enjoy those last minutes of 2009 with your friends and family and ring in the New Year in style!

Happy New Year! Happy New Decade!

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