Metro-East Living

These five recipes will make New Year’s Eve a delicious night

Mashed Potato Skordalia
Mashed Potato Skordalia Epicurious

Picture a New Year’s Eve party at your home with friends and family: tasteful but fun decorations. Your guests catching up, maybe a little dancing, a little drinking, some games and definitely some great eating.

When the clock strikes 12, you toast with champagne or sparkling cider and feel fortunate to celebrate the entrance of a new year surrounded by people you care about.

This kind of a party doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With a few money-saving tricks, you can host a great gathering on a budget.

Thanks to for the inspiration:

▪ Make It a BYOA Affair (Bring Your Own Appetizer) — If you’re known for throwing potluck parties, then this is a simple request of your guests. And, if someone doesn’t know how to cook or what to bring, suggest raw veggies and hummus, a fruit and nut platter, or a cheese and crackers plate. The recipes here are fairly easy to put together and just might inspire a guest.

▪ Serve Champagne Sangria for midnight toasting — This is a delicious way to cut down on champagne costs. The non-alcoholic option is to also serve sparkling cider, which usually costs a mere $3 a bottle in the supermarket. To make champagne sangria, see the recipe in this article.

▪ Ambiance — Keep the lights dim and set out every candle you can find in your house, and consider buying a cheap bag of votives, which can be put into glasses, canning jars or even apples. You won’t have to worry about the LED kind, but they can be expensive. Just watch the real candles so they don’t burn down too far.

▪ Simple decorations that look great — Hang lengths of curled ribbon. Curling ribbon is very easy, and it looks great everywhere. Try to find the wider variety, about a half-inch wide. You can hang it from light fixtures, doorways, lamps, mantels, even on the bathroom mirror. Scatter a few curls between dishes on your buffet as well.

Cranberry Blue Cheese Appetizers

1 refrigerated pie crust (from a box)

1 container (8 ounces) chive and onion cream cheese spread

1 egg

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (2 ounces)

1/3 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce

1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, if desired

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray 16 mini muffin cups with cooking spray. Unroll pie crust onto work surface. Using 2 1/2-inch round cutter, cut 16 rounds from crust. Place 1 crust round in each muffin cup, pressing down gently to form cup.

2. In medium bowl, beat cream cheese spread, salt, pepper and egg with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Divide mixture evenly among muffin cups, about 1 teaspoon each. Top each evenly with blue cheese.

3. Bake 11 to 13 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove cups from pan. Garnish each mini cheesecake with 1/2 teaspoon cranberry sauce and 1 walnut piece.

Yield: 16 servings.

Note: These mini cheesecakes can be served warm or cold. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator. If you wish to serve them warm, they can be reheated in the microwave for about 30 seconds at a time until warm.

Bacon-Wrapped Pineapple Shrimp

12 jumbo shrimp, deveined

1/4 fresh pineapple cut into bite sized chunks or 1 (14-ounce) can pineapple chunks in natural juice, drained

6 slices center-cut bacon, cut in 1/2 crosswise

12 wooden toothpicks

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Holding a shrimp, nest a chunk of pineapple in the natural curve of the shrimp then wrap bacon around the shrimp and pineapple and secure with a wooden toothpick.

Wrap and secure all 12 shrimp, then add to the hot pan and cook 3 minutes on each side or until bacon is crisp and shrimp are opaque and firm.

Mini Cheeseball Bites

8 ounces cream cheese (room temperature or softened)

3/4 cup white Cheddar, finely shredded

3/4 cup dried fruit (dried apricots, cherries and cranberries, mixed or separately)

1 1/2 cup mixed nuts, finely chopped

1 1/2 cup bacon crumbles

Pretzel sticks

1 1/2 tablespoons Italian seasoning

Beat together cream cheese, cheddar, fruit, and herbs until smooth

Form into tablespoon-sized balls and place on baking sheet. Let chill in refrigerator for at least two hours.

Roll each cheese ball in either bacon or nuts (or both!), pressing them lightly into the cheese so that they stick.

Keep covered in fridge until you're ready to serve; overnight is best. Just before serving, skewer with pretzel.

Mashed Potato Skordalia

Traditional Greek skordalia is mostly an garlic and olive oil dip with some potato or nuts added to thicken it. We flipped the ratio in this recipe: more potato, less garlic.

1/3 cup walnuts

1 cup mashed potatoes, room temperature

4 garlic cloves, finely grated

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

Pita chips and/or cucumber spears (for serving)

Toast walnuts in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Let cool; finely chop.

Mix potatoes, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons warm water in a medium bowl; season with salt. Drizzle skordalia with oil and top with chives and toasted walnuts. Serve with pita chips and cucumbers.

Andy Baraghani/Bon Appetit

Champagne Sangria

32-ounce bottle of apple juice

12-ounce can of frozen cranberry juice concentrate

1 cup orange juice

1 1/2 liters champagne (or ginger ale for a non-alcoholic version)

Keep items chilled (or frozen) until use.

Combine the apple juice, cranberry juice concentrate and orange juice in a large bowl. Stir well.

Add sliced oranges, strawberries, kiwi or any other fruit you like.

Slowly add the champagne or ginger ale at the last minute to keep it bubbly.

Yield: 12 servings.