Happy New Year!
OK, I know New Years Eve is still a few days away, but I wanted to share some fun party food ideas that can be made in a snap. I'm not one to go out to the bar, drinking until the ball drops--I'd much rather stay home and prepare some nice healthy foods for a few close friends to help ring in the New Year.
Start with a package of pita bread. If you have the time and patience, cut the bread with a round 4-5 inch buscuit cutter or sharp metal cookie cutter. Otherwise, simply cut the bread into squares with a knife. I like to do a duo of mini pizzas (makes it sound fancy, dosen't it?), making half of them with basil pesto recipe below, and the other half with a simple store-bought pizza sauce and one or two toppings (chose from red onion, chopped bell pepper, soy pepperoni, capers, chopped olives, etc.) Top each pizza with soy cheese. Follow Your Heart is a fantastic brand.
* 1 cup fresh basil leaves
* 3 tablespoons pine nuts
* 1/2 clove garlic
* 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Blend all ingredients together in a food processor.
Easy Pan-Fried Polenta Discs
You can find prepared polenta in a tube at most grocery stores, usually by the tofu in the refrigerated section near the produce department. Simply slice the polenta into 1/3 inch thick slices and pan fry over medium heat in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, until golden brown and crisp on both sides. Lay them on paper towels to blot off excess oil once they're cooked. Serve as is, or with dipping sauces like marniara sauce, barbeque sauce or even a salsa or chutney.
Simple "cream cheese" Spread with Lemon and Chive
I was so happy to discover non-hydrogenated Tofutti brand soy cream cheese in my local natural foods store. To make a really simple, yummy spread, take one conatiner of cream cheese and mix it with 4 tablespoons minced chive and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Serve with an assortment of whole-grain crackers.
Mini Fruit Crisps
A fun and healthy sweet treat to serve at parties is individual fruit crisps for your guests to enjoy. Small inexpensive ramekin bowls can be found at most grocery stores or houseware stores. Use any fresh fruit in season (in the winter months, apples and pears are good choices) or you can soak dried cranberries, prunes, raisins or cherries overnight and use them. I have a great crumbly topping recipe in the "two apple recipes..." post. Simply follow the recipe for the apple-cranberry crumble, using any fruit you chose, mixing and matching up to 3 different fruits. Instead of making the whole thing in a large casserole dish, fill each ramekin 2/3 of the way with the fruit mixture, then top with the topping. Place each ramekin on a baking tray and bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes.
Sparkling Cranberry Cocktail
Simply mix 2 parts sparkling water with 1 part cranberry juice and a squeeze of lime in an attractive serving pitcher. Garnish each glass with a lime wedge and/or a few whole cranberries skewered on a toothpick. Cheers!
Round the snack bar out with an attractive vegetable platter. I like to use a wide array of colors, textures, and flavors in my veggie platters. Broccoli flowerettes, cauliflower flowerettes, blanched green beans, radishes whole or halved, purple cabbage cut into "chips", celery spears, carrot rounds or sticks, cucumber sticks or rounds are all good choices. Arrange the vegetables around a bowl of homemade dip or store-bought salad dressing. Nasoya brand makes a great "creamy dill" dressing that is reminiscent of ranch dressing--perfect for dipping veggies into. Garnish the bowl of dip or dressing with paprika or fresh parsley. Enjoy!