Rght at home
Right at Home: small, stylish New Year’s parties
KIM COOK,For The Associated Press
Maybe it’s because of cost, space or just overall effort, but many people prefer hosting a smaller New Year’s Eve get-together rather than a grand affair. Still, they want to send off the old year in memorable style.
E-vites are a free, convenient way to get the word out. Web invitation sites let you track RSVPs, and provide a map with directions for your guests.
A traditional paper invite, however, is a nice touch. Make sure you’re clear about details, including what will be served–is it dinner or just appetizers?Dress up or just show up?
Matching your invitation to your party’s style scheme–elegant, freewheeling or nostalgic cozy–will set the tone. The invitation’s a talisman that helps guests prepare for the evening.
Style at Home magazine’s editor Christine O’Hanlon suggests picking a color scheme for the party and sticking to it. Ikea’s blue and white star dish and paper goods collection would suit a dressy or casual affair. Ballard Designs has some fun safari-print serveware. Pier 1’s colorful, striped glassware and candlesticks have a festive vibe.
Candice Olson, who is working on a new HGTV behind-the-design series,”Candice Tells All,”shares some easy, creative party ideas:
Switch it up: Turn the Christmas tree into a”New Year’s Eve Tree”by removing the Santa and reindeer ornaments and replacing them with party favors–hats, streamers and colorful beads.
Time to party:”Utilize a countdown theme, and play with numbers as decorating ideas,”says Olson.”Apply stick-on numbers to glasses(it’s a good way to know whose glass is whose), serve number-cut cookies, and put adhesive numbers on pillar candles. Use an inexpensive roll of white art paper, cut to fit the length of your table. Stencil or paint oversize numbers down the center for an eye-catching table display.”She suggests setting out a group of vintage alarm clocks on a small table, all set to ring at midnight.
Keep things rolling: Small gatherings are more susceptible to lulls, so have fun things to do. A great icebreaking idea, says Olson, is to create your own low-tech photo booth with a digital camera and nearby printer, or instant cam. Set out a selection of fun props and accessories. Snap two of everything, so guests have a souvenir and you can create a post-party album.
O’Hanlon suggests icebreakers like trivia, word and board games. Add a little social competitiveness by offering a small prize–perhaps a DVD, or a gourmet gift card.
Use a side table, console or desk as a bar cart, unless you already have one. Keep libations simple, with a signature cocktail and a couple of drink pitchers, including alcohol-free.
Set up food buffet-style, with appetizer-size nibblers. A round table or two offers a great spot for noshers to gather if you prefer sitting to standing around.
To finish the evening, set out bowls of colorful candies, mints, cookies and mini desserts, along with little take out containers. Guests can bring home a bit more party flavor to enjoy before the resolutions kick in on Jan. 1.
www.zazzle.com-billiard ball stickers,$5.95 per sheet of 20; digital stickers,$5.75 per sheet of 20
www.ballarddesigns.com-Zebra/cheetah print 3-quart casserole dish holder,$59; cheetah beverage tub,$59
www.pier1.com-festive striped stemware,$10 each; taper holders,$8-$10; gold luster etched stemware,$5.60 each; gold mosaic barware,$19.95-$29.95
www.ikea.com-Fargriks star sideplate,$2.49; Nysno servestand,$9.99; Snorik star tins, set of 3,$3.99
Ring in New Year with simple Italian-style tart
J.M. HIRSCH,AP Food Editor
Sometimes fortune cookies just don’t cut it.
Since the prevailing New Year’s Eve trend is to do takeout, I decided to focus my end-of-year energy on a simple dessert that could be prepared earlier in the day, would work nicely with bubbly and is light enough not to weigh down any festivities.
I created this easy pine nut tart sweetened with honey and flavored with orange zest. We tend to think of pine nuts as a savory ingredient, but they show up frequently in Italian desserts, their creamy, nutty flavor and delicate texture working well with sweet treats. But if you prefer, chopped cashews, pistachios or even peanuts could be used instead.
ORANGE-HONEY PINE NUT TART
Start to finish: 50 minutes(15 minutes active), plus cooling
For the crust:
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
For the filling:
2/3 cup honey
7 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons heavy cream
Zest of 1/2 orange
1 1/2 cups lightly toasted pine nuts
Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom with cooking spray.
To prepare the crust, in a food processor combine the graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugar, vanilla and salt. Pulse until the butter is worked into the graham cracker crumbs and the mixture resembles wet sand. Transfer to the prepared tart pan.
Use the bottom of a glass to gently press the crumb mixture evenly across and up the sides of the tart pan. Set aside.
To prepare the filling, in a medium saucepan over medium-high, combine the honey, butter, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream, eggs and orange zest. Whisk the warm honey mixture into the egg mixture. Stir in the pine nuts. Transfer the mixture to the tart pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden and set. Cool before serving.
Nuts: A healthier, satisfying party food
JIM ROMANOFF,For The Associated Press
When you’re lining up the shots at your holiday party, don’t hesitate to go a little nuts. Really.
Nuts are loaded with heart-healthy nutrients. They also a good source of protein and fiber, both of which are helpful for controlling hunger if you are trying to take off a few pounds.
Almonds, pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts are thought to be particularly healthy. But even snacking on favorites such as cashews and peanuts(which are technically beans)is a good choice. Just don’t go crazy, as you’re still looking at plenty of calories and(in many cases)tons of salt.
Luckily, nuts are easy to portion control, even at a party. Instead of putting out a big bowl, offer shot glasses and small bowls filled with nuts.
This easy-to-make curried tropical nut mix is a little bit more indulgent because of its olive oil and butter-based seasoning blend, but it’s a perfect nibble to put out at a holiday cocktail party and certainly a healthier choice than a fried or puff pastry hors d’oeuvre.
CURRIED TROPICAL NUT MIX
Start to finish: 15 minutes
Makes about 7 cups(50 servings)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 cups almonds
2 cups salted cashew halves
2 cups salted peanuts
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup dried mango, coarsely chopped
In a 3-quart microwave-safe bowl, combine the butter, oil, curry powder, cumin and cayenne. Cover loosely with a paper towel to avoid splatter, then microwave on high for 30 seconds, or until the butter is nearly melted. Whisk the spices and butter together.
Add the almonds, cashews, peanuts and coconut to the bowl and toss to coat. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 2 minutes. Stir well, then microwave, stirring every 2 minutes, until the nuts and coconut are lightly browned and fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes longer, depending on the wattage of the microwave. Stir in the mango.
Transfer the mixture to a baking sheet to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Nutrition information per 3 tablespoon serving(values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 117 calories; 86 calories from fat(74 percent of total calories); 10 g fat(2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 1 mg cholesterol; 6 g carbohydrate; 4 g protein; 1 g fiber; 54 mg sodium.