Whether you are kissing 2008 goodbye or shoving it out the door, you'll need sustenance for the occasion.
If you're like me, your party shopping list will say things like "something cheesy, something crunchy, something meaty, something sweet." Then add "something homemade" and "something store-bought." Who needs to do all the work themselves when there are convenient and delicious alternatives at the grocery store?
The photos that accompany this story, on the cover and on this page, illustrate my theory. Start with these little bites for your New Year's celebrations — the countdown to midnight or game day parties — and fill in the blanks with dip recipes that are included here. My easy Onion Dip rivals the Lipton soup mix standard, plus everybody loves Hot Artichoke Dip, especially this three-cheese version from Butter Queen Paula Deen. Dippers for both can include all manner of chips (potato, pita, bagel, veggie, tortilla), crackers, crostini or fresh vegetable crudite.
Fennel Marinated Feta and Olive Skewers could be the party's head-turning offering. Cubes of tangy feta cheese go earthy with fennel and bright with orange zest. Mint leaves and olives bring more flavor. If you don't have long wooden skewers, thread it all on sturdy toothpicks.
Other recommendations for easy New Year's nibbles:
Cheese-Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes
Scoop out a bit of the cherry tomato innards and stuff them with a soft cheese. We used the sun-dried tomato variety from Alouette. Garnish with something green, scallions or chives.
This mini-bite idea comes from St. Petersburg Times photo editor Patty Yablonski. They are stupid-easy to prepare — and do make a lot of them. They'll go fast. Mix equal parts mayonnaise and grated Parmesan cheese (Patty uses the powder in the green shaker!) with chopped chives or scallions. Spread the mixture on cocktail toasts and broil until bubbly.
Baked Fingerling Potatoes With Sour Cream and Bacon
Roast fingerlings (or other small potatoes) until soft (about 20 minutes in a 350-degree oven). Split and dollop with sour cream and cooked bacon. We used the precooked bacon for our test.
Mini-Bagels With Cream Cheese and Salmon
Split the bagels, smear with whipped cream cheese, then add a layer of salmon, a ring of red onion and sprig of fresh dill. (Or use up those chives.)
Peruse your store's freezer case for small desserts. We found cheesecake bites at Target, but a lot of stores have tiny eclairs and tarts.
You could make your own but honestly, why bother? Sam's, Costco and GFS Marketplace have party-size boxes of bite-sized quiches with as many as 60 pieces. Nancy's brand packages mini-appetizers in more reasonable sizes for smaller gatherings. But even a few people can down a lot of these. They definitely satisfy the "something cheesy" category.
Oh, I almost forgot "something sparkling." Raise a glass of bubbly and a plate of appetizers to the new year.
Janet K. Keeler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8586.