Countdown to taste: Ring in the new year with new ideas

December 28, 2011 10:36:00 AM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


New Year's Eve -- that night when anything seems possible for 2012. The new year, soon to arrive fresh and unsullied, is filled with visions of pounds lost, salaries raised or "that room" finally repainted. What a shame to waste such an occasion by falling asleep in front of the TV before the traditional midnight ball-drop. 


Ring in the new year with some of the holiday cheer Christmas evokes. Add a pinch of creativity, a dash of lighthearted fun and a few recipes for dazzling desserts, and you'll be celebrating in memorable style. 


Family and friends will ooh and ahh over these dessert ideas that fit the theme. A countdown cheesecake and party-topped cupcakes will delight adults and children. A jellied champagne dessert adds elegance to the table. And if you've ever sneaked into the fridge for a spoonful of chocolate chip cookie dough, the chocolate chip cheeseball may rank as your favorite. 


The budget-conscious love the fact that a New Year's Eve party can start at 9 p.m. or after, eliminating the urge to feed guests supper. 


You might even consider enlisting the help of friends who can bring their own favorite, to add variety to the menu. 




I never thought of that 


One speed-bump to New Year's Eve celebrations is that the big moment of the night happens after children's bedtimes. If this is an issue in your home, how about a time-zone party? Pick a place that will be celebrating earlier and go with the theme. New Year's in New York? Midnight in Miami?  


One family in Idaho celebrated New York style with "Big Apple" pie, bagels and soft pretzels, says Another year, it was Midnight in Maine, with a seafood buffet. For Miami, guests partied in bathing suits at a hot tub. Revelers on the east coast might hop ahead to Rio de Janeiro, or celebrate as Big Ben strikes midnight in London. Possibilities are endless. 


Another mom at didn't meddle with the clock, but did include her children (and the neighbors' kids) by letting them draw and color in big numbers from 1 to 10 on 10 sheets of poster board. As the countdown to midnight ensues, each child begins the promenade down a flight of steps as the crowd yells out each number and cameras flash. By the time the last child reaches the bottom, the party has erupted in noisemakers and cheers. 


Rhonda Johnston of Pioneer, Calif., gives the Christmas tree a New Year's makeover at her house. All the ornaments are replaced with blue bows and curling ribbons, party horns and favors. Even the tree skirt is replaced. The only thing kept are the colored lights. Her one rule: no red or green. The New Year's tree become a centerpiece -- and by the time the party's over, it's undecorated. 






Makes 8-10 servings 


Prep: 20 minutes, plus chilling 




1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 24 squares) 


3 tablespoons sugar 


1/3 cup butter, melted 




For the filling: 


2 cartons (8 ounces each) spreadable strawberry cream cheese 


1/2 cup sugar 


1 carton (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed 


1 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries 


Red decorating gel 


1 fresh strawberry, halved 












1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese  


1/2 cup butter 


1/4 teaspoon vanilla 


2 tablespoons brown sugar 


3/4 cup confectioners sugar 


3/4 cup mini chocolate chips 


3/4 cup finely chopped pecans (optional) 




(Source: Courtesy of Jennifer Melnick Carota/ 






Makes 24 




1 can (16 ounces) vanilla frosting 


Cupcakes of your choice 


Assorted jimmies 


Green, white and red Air Heads candies 


Gold pearl dust 


Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.