New Year’s Eve Appetizers — Perfect Bites

how to on setting up a cheese plate

Even though I never seem to be able to make it to midnight these days, I still love New Year’s Eve.  There is just something magical about the night.  You can feel the anticipation of clean slates to come and the excitement of indulging on this last night of celebration.  We don’t go out to fancy parties, but hold our own little soirée at home — complete with hats and party poppers (and sparkling wine for the adults).  One thing we always like to do is have a bunch of snacks out all evening long instead of a dinner.  Here are some of our favorites, just in case you are looking for some ideas for your own get together.

#1 — A cheese plate

This is a must in our house, more for the adults who can appreciate these types of things, but we are grooming our children to become cheese snobs, that’s for sure.  Favorites are Robiola due Latti (a soft, Italian cheese that goes well with a sweet wine or champagne), Gorgonzola dolce, Prairie Breeze aged cheddar from Milton Creamery (Miss 6-year-old’s all time favorite cheese), a good Manchego cheese, and one of my absolute favorite brie cheeses, St. Andre Triple Cream brie (do yourself a favor and don’t even think about calories and fat, because this is like eating butter).  Let these cheeses sit out for at least a half hour to an hour to warm up.  Their flavors are so much better this way!  Add some sliced apples, grapes, toasted almonds (Spanish marcona almonds rock for this), a nice tart jam (Dalmatia tart cherry works well), and a variety of crackers/crisps.  The adults at your get together will love you for this spread!

#2 — Baked brie with fig spread and almonds

If you don’t do a full out cheese plate, this one is a great replacement and would be much more inexpensive.  Just buy a small wheel of a decent brie cheese, unwrap and with a bread knife, slice off the very top layer of the rind to expose the top of the wheel of cheese.  Spread a generous amount of fig jam (Dalmatia makes a great organic fig spread, too) on top and layer with toasted slivered almonds on the jam.  You can get really intricate if you want, but I just kind of sprinkle that stuff on.  Put this in a small baking dish and pop this sucker into a warm oven (not too hot), probably about 250-300 degrees for about 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm with crackers.

#3 — Charcuterie

Don’t be afraid of this fancy term for a plate of smoked and cured meats.  Salami, prosciutto, Jamón ibérico, whatever.  Just lay them out neatly in strips or rolled up with some toothpicks for grab’n.  Yum!

#4 — Olives 

olive bar tipsAll kinds of olives.  My kids, of course, like the good ole pitted black olives from the can that they can wear on their fingertips.  If you have a grocery store near you with an olive bar, just spoon out small portions of different types and try them out.  Sometimes they even have different veggies (spicy cherry bomb peppers, sundried tomatoes…mmm).  My favorite olives are the big, green Italian Cerignola olives.  They are meaty with a mildly salty flavor.  Just be careful if you are serving younger guests and you get olives with pits!  No need to have anyone choke or break a tooth.

#5 — Crudités

Again…a fancy name for raw veggies.  I love to have many different colored vegetables arranged in rows on a platter — bell peppers, carrots, celery, cucumber, cauliflower (they make purple and green varieties — stunning!), broccoli, cherry tomatoes.  It all works well here.  Make up some ranch dip with some sour cream, mayo, dried herbs like dill, parsley, dried onion flakes, some onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  You can even add a little buttermilk to thin it out if you have it on hand.  If not, don’t sweat it.  It will still taste good!

#6 — Pimento Cheese Dip

If you want to skip the ranch dip for your veg, this dip is amazing and pretty easy to make.  All you need to do is shred 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup of pepper jack cheese.  Combine this with one 8oz package of softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup of mayo, 1 teaspoon of worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tsp of tabasco/Franks hotsauce, 1 small jar of pimentos (drained), and salt/fresh ground pepper to taste.  Mix it all up with a spoon and try not to eat it by the spoonful.  At least use a vegetable as a vehicle to your mouth!

#7 — Fresh Homemade Hummus

You can always buy the pre-made hummus, but homemade is easy and I like the fact that you can adjust it to suit your taste.  I make mine with 1 regular sized can of chick peas, drained and rinsed with cold water.  I’m not a big fan of raw garlic, so I put very little in my version of hummus, but if you like a lot of garlic, add as much as you want.  I use about 1/3 of a clove of garlic, minced.  You could also roast your garlic to mellow the flavor.  Add your legumes and garlic, 1/3 of a cup of tahini, the juice of one lemon, and 1/3 cup of olive oil to a food processor.  Start pulsing and add warm water until the hummus becomes the consistency you like.  Add salt and pepper and adjust the amount of lemon juice, tahini or oil as needed.  Let your hummus sit covered in the fridge for at least an hour before serving so the flavors develop nicely.

Have a safe night and Happy New Year from my family to yours!

appetizer spread -- tips on how to set up the best bites

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