SIMPLY NEW YEAR'S
How to count down to 2009 in style and without stress
Creators News Service
It's the end of December. The gifts are unwrapped, Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations are complete and you're dreaming of kicking back and taking it easy.
Wait a minute. You've already invited some people over for New Year's Eve. Now what?
Don't worry. Your guests are probably just as ready as you are for a quiet, enjoyable evening with friends. That's why this year you should make an early New Year's resolution to relax a little and look for a few shortcuts to easy entertaining.
The easiest way to serve up refreshments and fun for your holiday guests is to prepare foods that require few ingredients and little prep time. You don't even have to pull out the cookbooks for help. It's just a click away.
More modern-day hosts and hostesses are looking online for simple and tasty recipes. For example, the Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. website at oceanspray.com lists recipes for appetizers, main courses, sauces, sides, salads, breads, muffins, desserts, snacks and, of course, drinks and cocktails. All the recipes are illustrated with photos.
The Ocean Spray website also features a crafts section with ideas to dress up your party table. Since you'll probably be serving some kind of punch -- and an ice sculpture is probably out of the question -- consider adding a pretty ice ring to decorate the bowl.
Ocean Spray suggests a festive punch ring made from Ocean spray fresh cranberries, mint leaves and either water or white cranberry juice. Pour into a freezer-safe Bundt pan or ring mold, freeze it overnight and add it to the punch bowl when ready to serve. Since you'll want to offer guests a choice between both non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages, it's probably best to make two of each.
Another website, kraftfoods.com, offers additional suggestions for simple party recipes. Once there, check out the Food & Family magazine archives for a plethora of recipes from the past several years. Just click on the cover of the issue you'd like to see and a listing of all the recipes pops up.
For example, the 2007 holiday issue features recipes for bacon wrapped breadsticks, salsa roll-ups and spicy crab delights. Photos and cooking tips are also provided. Kraft produces five editions of Food & Family every year and free subscriptions are available simply by signing up online.
The majority of the recipes featured on the both the Ocean Spray and Kraft Websites take less than an hour to prepare and are made from easy-to-find ingredients. Just be sure you triple-check both your pantry and your grocery list to avoid last-minute trips to the market.
Although you may be preparing all your own party foods, it still pays to take a few tips from the experts. Cynthia Townley Ewer, editor of organizedhome.com, said it's important to have just the right amount of food and refreshments. "The quantity you serve might depend on where you live," she said. "Folks on the West Coast tend to take only a nibble of everything, but in the South food is much more important."
Ewer said it's important to consider how many guests you're having. "As a general rule, plan for a total of 10 appetizers per guest, but be prepared to ratchet that number up or down depending on where you live," she said. "The same principal applies for beverages."
Veteran Central Illinois caterer Carol Jean Fraase has her own advice. "My recommendation is an old one: A pint, a pound the world around," said Fraase, who has spent the last 20 years hosting wedding receptions, special events and Illinois state legislative receptions. "I tell people that no matter what they serve, people will consume about a pound of food and a pint of drinks."
Although she doesn't normally cater on the holiday, she enjoyed when she did. "One time we did a black tie event on New Year's Eve that featured a Swedish Smorgasbord," Fraase said. "It was so much fun and the people were eating from about 9 p.m. to midnight. It was wonderful."
No matter what, it's important to keep the refreshments coming and offer them at different points of the evening. "People can get bored on that night, so you should keep bringing out different foods to keep them happy and occupied. It is the best way to draw the evening out," she said. "Really, that's the only way to go on New Year's Eve."