Our 12th annual New Year's Eve party was, I think, a success. Great friends, great conversation, laughter and only a couple of tears shed (and in his defense, he is only 2 and had never stayed up until after midnight before). There were 18 of us here, including 4 age five or younger, and everyone stayed until 2012 began. The first guests arrived with raindrops on their jackets, later guests with snowflakes in their hair. E had gone to the store earlier in the day in his shorts and by the end of the evening, guests had to scrape snow/ice off their cars.
I entertained several guests with my mad bass skilz early in the evening (a very slow version of the intro to "Smoke on the Water", an even slower version of the beginning to "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes), and further entertained by producing my Fisher Price house and hospital as well as a "treasure box" full of FP little people, Smurfs, Care Bears, Garfield figures and Matchbox cars (I think some of the grownups were more excited about the FP house than the children were). There was only minimal sliding down the stairs (last year this was the most fun activity), no regurgitation (last year, said stair-sliding may have induced vomiting on the part of one individual), and no fights.
I always have fun preparing for the party, too - writing the corny rhyme for the e-vite, planning the food, helping E choose the "signature drink". Multiple people have asked for some of the recipes so here they are, both food and beverage.
Salsa Baked Goat Cheese - this is something we have enjoyed at Nectar multiple times and asked the chef for the "how to" which he happily shared, as well as some advice as to where to buy the goat cheese (Costco). We had already picked some up at Trader Joe's (similarly priced but you don't need a membership). Chef Kevin serves with crostini and so did we.
Mix together equal parts goat cheese and cream cheese (I let mine come to room temperature so it was soft and easier to blend. I also used reduced fat cream cheese - trust me, you cannot taste the difference in this case.). You can also stir in some nuts to give it a little crunch - I used pine nuts, Kevin uses pecans. Spread into a small oven-safe dish (I have some small oval dishes which are about 4" across at the widest point, and about 6" long. You could also use a pie plate.) and top with salsa to cover. Bake at 350-400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes until heated through. Best when served hot.
To make the crostini, slice a baguette into 1/4" slices (a 8-10oz loaf will yield about 60 slices. My 12oz loaf made about 80.). Arrange onto a baking sheet (or 2) and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper are best, if I may opine). Bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes until crispy. You can make these ahead of time - it's not like they are going to dry out!
Teriyaki Chicken "Wings" - We have made these several times for our NYE party - always a hit and they are always all eaten. We get the chicken breast tenders because they are easier to eat and there aren't any of those pesky little bones hanging around at the end of the night. They are very tender and full of flavor. Plan ahead, though. They are best when marinated overnight and they need to bake for 3 hours.
In a medium sauce pan, mix together 3/4 C water, 1 C soy sauce, 1 C brown sugar and 1/2 C butter. Heat until sugar dissolves and butter has melted. Pour mixture over 2-3lbs of chicken wings (or tenders). Marinate in fridge overnight (or if you are like me and forgot about this overnight thing, marinate as long as you can). Bake at 300 for 3 hours.
Chili-Queso Dip - We have also made this several times and E always requests. We serve with tortilla chips. This year, E started making his own chips so he made up a large batch of them for the party this year - directions for chips follow the dip recipe.
Use equal parts chili and Velveeta. Chop cheese into smallish chunks, stir together with chili in a microwavable container (I used one of the Pampered Chef Micro Cookers), cover and microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir, and heat for another minute on high. Stir and heat until cheese completely melted (usually not more than 30 seconds more). Serve hot.
To make tortilla chips, cut tortillas (we use flour tortillas, but would also work with corn tortillas or pitas) into wedges with pizza cutter (usually we cut them in 8ths). Spread on baking sheet (stoneware is awesome for this) and brush with water. Sprinkle with salt (kosher salt works well). Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes until crispy. You can make these ahead of time and store in an air-tight container.
Spinach Dip - This is a must-have at every NYE party. One of my friend's loves this dip (you know who you are!) and I wouldn't want to break her heart by not making it! I have served with bread (either crusty bread or the King's Hawaiian bread) and with veggies. Also can serve with crackers or crostini. I got this recipe from my aunt Julie about 20 years ago. Make it the day before so the flavors can marry overnight.
Combine in a bowl: 2 C sour cream (can also use plain yogurt), 1 package Knorr Leek Soup mix (could also use another brand but I have only ever seen this made by Knorr), 1 package frozen spinach (cook and DRAIN WELL). Can also add some chopped water chestnuts though I find them a little hard to dip. Stir well; refrigerate until serving.
Some of the other foods served this year: Chex Mix (recipe from the Chex box), Puppy Chow (aka Muddy Buddies, recipe from the Chex box), Parmesan "piggies" (from Trader Joes - cocktail wienies wrapped in crescent rolls with Parmesean), Brownie Bites (I made E's mom's recipe for Deep Dish Brownies and then cut into bite-sized pieces), cookie trays (one made by E's mom, one with cookies my mom and sister made for E for Christmas), and assorted chocolates (received from my dad for Christmas).
The "Signature Beverage" this year was Vodka Julius. It tastes like one of those mall smoothies, the Orange Julius, though is not a blended drink and, obviously, is for grownup consumption. Idea and recipe originally came from Justin, the bartender at Nectar. E made his simple syrup using a internet recipe and because of difference in sugar to water ratio, has a slightly different recipe for this drink. He made a pitcher of them ahead of time. And since he was making them in a larger quantity (and we don't have a juicer), he used prepared OJ instead of fresh squeezed. Feel free to squeeze your own oranges.
Vodka Julius - 2 parts orange juice, 1 part vanilla vodka, and 1 part ginger simple syrup. Mix; serve over ice with a orange slice.
To make the Ginger Simple Syrup, this website has the recipe.
A friend brought a bottle of Creme de Cassis (black current liqueur) and made Kir Royales for us, too, (Creme de Cassis and champagne), and E served up other drinks on request (Brau Bros. beers, Mike's Hard Lemonade, various mixed drinks, sodas, juice) from the over-stocked bar. And champagne and sparkling apple juice were served at midnight, in flutes for the grownups and in dixie cups for the younger set.
Enjoy some or all of these recipes for your next party or gathering of friends. Here's to a happy and healthy 2012!