New Year’s Eve Recipes for the Figgy Pudding-Weary

by Daisy

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If you’re like me at this time of year, you’re one table full of sweet, highly-refined and fatty treats from running for the hills to subsist off roots and berries. But there is one more culinary hurdle to leap before the party season takes a breather: New Year’s Eve.

If the week of TV cooking shows I just witnessed is any indication, we’re expected to lay down some serious scratch on caviar, imported cheeses, smoked meats and other exotic ingredients for our guests.

That isn’t going to happen around here. So, since my celebrants are unlikely to appreciate a table set with bowls of Grape Nuts and carrot sticks, I rounded up a few New Year’s Party ideas that are reduced sugar and fat, relatively nutrient-dense, and don’t require taking out a loan.

Carrot Mini-Muffins


1/4 cup nuts (such as pecans or walnuts)
2 cups flour (I like whole wheat)
1 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 T. vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 cups shredded carrots, packed

Line mini-muffin tins with paper liners or coat with a little oil.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Toast the nuts lightly in a dry skillet over low heat (watch them!) Chop when cool.

In mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the applesauce, brown sugar, oil and eggs. Add the nuts and carrots.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry just until moistened. Spoon into the muffin cups and bake 12-15 minutes or until the muffins spring back in the center when pressed. Makes about 30 mini-muffins (or 12 regular muffins).

To serve, make them more festive with a side of softened cream cheese mixed with a dash of ginger and a dollop of honey. Or plain cream cheese and chutney.

Vegetable Antipasto

1 pound carrots, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal
2 cups cauliflower florets
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and sliced in half
1 cup pickled pepperoncini peppers
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 T. olive oil
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, cut in 3/4 in. cubes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
1 tsp dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh basil

Simmer the carrots in a covered saucepan in water almost to cover for about 6 minutes. Add the cauliflower to the carrots. Return to a simmer and cook for about 8 minutes, covered. Take off heat and drain.

In the same way, simmer the beans in a separate pan until they are crisp-tender. This may take a bit longer than the carrots & cauliflower. Test them frequently until they have lost their raw taste but still have some texture. Remove from heat and drain.

Place the vegetables in a bowl and toss with the peppers, vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper flakes. If you are using dried herbs, stir them in now. Cover and put in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight. If you are using fresh herbs, stir them AND the mozzarella in just before serving.

Arrange on a platter to serve.

Tomato Bruschetta

24 slices Italian bread (1/2 in. thick, whole grain if possible)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 T. olive oil
1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried
1 T. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. grated orange zest
pinch pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Rub the slices of bread with the cut side of a piece of halved garlic. Brush the bread with 2 T. of the oil and bake about 6-8 minutes or until golden and crispy.
Chop the cloves of garlic and briefly saute in a teaspoon of the remaining olive oil, just to mellow the bite of the garlic a bit. Combine with the tomatoes, basil, tomato paste, salt, zest, pepper and the remaining olive oil.
Spoon mixture over the toasted bread slices.

Liptauer Cheese

Serve with whole grain crackers or toasted bread rounds

8 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
4 oz. nonfat cream cheese
2 tsp. milk
1/3 cup minced onion (red onion if available)
4 minced anchovies or 2 tsp. anchovy paste (my family may demur, but I like them–hopefully my guests do, too)
2 T. rinsed, chopped capers or substitute minced green olives
1 tsp. grated lemon zest

Bring the cheeses to room temperature. Mix them together with the milk until creamy. Fold in the onion, anchovies, capers or olives and the zest.

Mold this in a lined bowl and chill, then unmold it onto a serving plate.

Makes almost 2 cups.











Apricot Danish











3/4 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup water
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
4 oz. nonfat cream cheese
1/4 cup brown sugar (or less)
6 gingersnaps, crushed
1 T. brown sugar
2 T. melted butter
2 T. vegetable oil
12 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
4 T. chopped nuts
1/4 cup apricot preserves
powdered sugar for dusting

Simmer the apricots and the water in a small pan until the apricots are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Cool slightly and puree in a blender or food processor, or just mash them with a fork. Add half the vanilla.

In a bowl, cream brown sugar with the cream cheese, remaining vanilla and ginger.

In a small bowl, toss the gingersnap crumbs with the 1 T. brown sugar.

Combine the butter and oil in a small dish. Lay out the phyllo and cover with a towel. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Place two sheets of phyllo on the baking sheet and lightly brush with the oil/butter mix. Sprinkle with 1 T. of the gingersnap crumbs. Continue to layer in this way until you have used up the 12 sheets of phyllo, saving a tad of butter/oil to brush on top later.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spoon a 1 1/2 inch wide strip of the cream cheese mixture down the center of the phyllo, stopping about an inch from the ends. Flank this strip with 2 strips of apricot puree, each also 1 1/2 in. wide. Roll in the long sides of the phyllo until they just begin to cover the puree. Roll in the ends in a similar way to seal tightly.

Brush the crust with the remaining butter/oil. Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the top of the filling. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

Melt the apricot preserves with a couple of teaspoons of water over low heat. Brush the pastry with the melted preserves.

Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Slice this up into finger food slices and arrange on a platter.





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