New Year’s Eve 2018

My first post of the year is about the last day of the year.  I am now at home relaxing after another successful New Year’s Eve party.  The Hungry Trio did it again.  We threw a wonder NYE party for our friends.

New Year’s Eve has always been my favorite holiday.  When I was younger, it was an excuse for me to stay up all night listening to music and building puzzles.  Now, I absolutely love New Year’s because I get to bring out my culinary skills and craft a well-thought out menu to please our party guests.  I can barely stay awake until midnight, but I make a mean NYE spread.

I take a lot of pride in the work I put into hosting parties.  I spend a lot of time going through recipes books, blogs, and online lists until I find the dishes that feel just right for the occasion.  I have had a tendency to go overboard for New Year’s though.  It’s the inner Italian grandmother in me that feels like we are going to run out of food.

This year I really wanted to outdo myself now that I have my blog.  I felt like I had something to prove.  Instead of overdoing things, I decided to class things up by trying to make a more concise and directed menu.  I focused on small bites that I knew would absolutely knock people’s socks off.  I thought the best way to improve from last year would be to find ways to be more efficient in my party planning and food preparation.  I always try to do so much that I spend the first couple hours of the party scurrying in the kitchen to finish things up.

I did zero preparation for this party before yesterday morning.  I had intended on doing some prep work on Sunday, but I got distracted with other projects.  Plus, I really needed to clean.  Even though the party wasn’t going to be at my place, I imagined I’d be hosting some people for the night.  I wanted to try and get things presentable for my overnight guests.

I woke up on Sunday, and I did some prep work on a few of the dishes.  I then kept cleaning like a fiend.  I went over to Chris and Andrew’s at about 2:30.  I continued food prep while they were at the store.  I had everything prepped in the fridge at 5:00.  The only thing left to do was put things in the oven.  I would need three oven rounds since some dishes needed to be cooked at different temperatures.  It was just a matter of determining what time to turn on the oven.

This is seriously the least stressed I’ve ever been before a NYE party.  I had almost everything cooked by the time the party was supposed to start.  I was taking the last dish out of the oven as the first wave of guests were arriving.  It was all perfectly timed.  I even got to socialize and enjoy the party.  I allowed myself to disengage from the kitchen and engage with our friends.  I did stop a few times to check on the food display and restock food items.  It was an incredibly successful spread, and I wanted everyone to get the most out of it.

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So, what did I make for this gorgeous spread?  Lots and lots of good food.  I started with a couple dips.  The first was spinach artichoke dip.  My mom made this dip for Christmas Eve, and I remembered how good spinach artichoke dip is.  I knew I had to make this dip for the party.  The second dip was cannoli dip.  I haven’t had this in years, but I have fond memories of eating this dip at Chris’s parents’ house for New Year’s Eve during college.  I had Chris get the recipe from his mom, and it was just as good as I remembered.  These are two dips that are easy to whip together.  They are both cream cheese based and have a limited number of ingredients.  My tip for making dips for a party is to have one that is savory and one that is sweet, or at least one that goes well with tortilla chips and one that goes well with crackers.  A little variety goes a long way.

I then planned for a few small bites.  My first was a chorizo and manchego crostini.  We love our cheese board and charcuterie board at a party.  A crostini brings those two together in perfect harmony.  There were only four ingredients: crostini, apricot preserves, manchego cheese, and chorizo.  It is such a simple dish, but it is an excellent combination of flavors.  I had limited serving space, so I put a round of these on a platter.  It was so easy to go back and make some more.  Another easy bite I made was tomato and bacon phyllo cups.  I made a mixture of cream cheese, shredded swiss cheese, Ro-Tel tomatoes, and crispy bacon crumbles.  I filled some phyllo cups from the freezer section with this mixture and popped them in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes.  Both of these small bites flew off the table.

The next two small bites were a contrast of spicy and sweet.  I made cauliflower “wings.”  It had a simple batter, and they were baked instead of fried.  At the end of baking them, I simply tossed these with buffalo sauce and arranged them in a platter with a border of celery sticks and a side of ranch.  To balance out the spiciness, I made frozen prosecco grapesicles.  I soaked some grapes in prosecco and vodka and then froze them for several hours.  It made for a cute and fun party treat.  I could pop these grapes in my mouth all night long.

I also made some goat cheese stuffed bacon wrapped dates.  I know our friends love bacon wrapped dates.  They are the most popular item to order at this brunch place we go to in Silver Spring.  I figured these would be a big hit, and I was not wrong.  There were no bacon wrapped dates left when the clock stuck midnight.  This was the last dish to come out of the oven.  I had to crank the temperature to 500 degrees, and that made their condo nice and toasty.  Chris and I were both worried that I might set off the smoke alarm with these, but fortunately I did not.  Their smoke alarm is very sensitive.

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Finally, I made some pepperoni bread.  This was one of the more time consuming things I made because I made my own bread.  Many people I know will make pepperoni bread or rolls from frozen bread dough.  I have definitely done that before, and it works great.  I just really wanted to test my new KitchenAid mixer.  I couldn’t resist.  I love making bread dough.  The feel, the smell, the whole process is so much fun.

I wish I had bought more pepperoni and cheese.  The filling was a little lacking, but the bread was still so good.  I served it with a side of heated pizza sauce I had leftover in the fridge from making pizza.  Next time, I will buy double the pepperoni and cheese.  The bread still disappeared before the end of the night.

Everything I made turned out so well.  There was not an unhappy stomach in the house.  I got a lot of compliments on the food, and that made me feel really good.  It was the perfect end to the year.  I felt validated in my decision to move towards the food industry and do what I love.

There was one funny moment of the party (well moments).  Chris had brought me some fresh parsley that I needed for my goat cheese filling.  In the bustle of the party prep, I must have set the bunch down on a paper plate and left it there.  I had intended on going back to use more as some garnish on a couple of the dishes, but I forgot about it.  I must have been asked ten times during the night what the parsley was for and what they should do with it.  Apparently, with a strategically arranged table of food, people were thrown off by a plate of parsley.  I found it odd that this was such a big deal, but I just laughed it off.  I probably could have solved the issue by moving the parsley.  I suppose you could say I wasn’t bothered by it, so I didn’t feel a need.  It was a bit entertaining to see people brought down by a bunch of parsley.  Food truly has mystical powers.

I hope everyone’s New Year’s Eve was fantastic.  I am sending out good vibes for 2019.  It is going to be a big year for me.  I have new blog projects, grad school applications, and some big life decisions.  I also am going to see both Kelly Clarkson and the Backstreet Boys this year, which is making me fangirl so much already.  I have a feeling this is finally going to be a good year for me.

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