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Celebrate the Season: Tasty Ways to Ring in 2018

new-year's-punch

By Mary Heyl

2018 is just days away! Whether you’re celebrating with family, a close group of friends, or the whole neighborhood, welcoming the New Year is an exciting moment. Make it even more special with tasty foods that don’t require a fork, delicious drinks and fun decorating ideas that will put you in the spirit, even if Christmas has left you totally exhausted!

Love lasagna but don’t want to host a sit-down meal? Try Lauren Miashiro’s Lasagna Bites, which are easy to serve and vegetarian-friendly! Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a large baking sheet with cooking spray. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook 6 lasagna noodles until al dente. Drain and lay them flat on the baking sheet. In a medium bowl, combine 2 cups of ricotta cheese, 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of parsley. Mix until well combined and then season with salt and pepper.

Cut the lasagna noodles in half crosswise. Spread a thin layer of the ricotta mixture onto each noodle and roll them up. Cut the rolled lasagna noodle in half crosswise. Place the lasagna bites onto the greased baking sheet. Spoon 1 cup of marinara sauce onto each lasagna bite and sprinkle with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Bake until cheese has melted and the lasagna bites are warmed through (about 15 to 20 minutes). Garnish with parsley and serve warm (serves 8).

There’s more to enjoy on New Year’s Eve than just a glass of champagne! Try Lindsay Funston’s Prosecco Grapesicles—a festive treat for all of your guests age 21 and older! Wash one pound of red and green seedless grapes and put them on skewer sticks. Place the skewers in a shallow baking dish and pour half a bottle of Prosecco or champagne and 1 cup of vodka over them. Let the skewers soak for 1 hour. Drain the liquid (save for cocktails, if you like!) and place the skewers in the freezer until frozen (at least 2 hours). Just before your guests arrive, place the skewers on a serving platter and enjoy.

Valerie Cain Cuff’s Luscious Slush Punch is a delicious alcohol-free drink that every member of the family will love, and you probably already have many of the ingredients at home! Bring 2 ½ cups of sugar, 6 cups of water, and 2 packages (3 oz. each) of strawberry flavored gelatin mix to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes, then stir in 1 can (46 oz.) of pineapple juice, 2/3 cup of lemon juice and 1 quart of orange juice. Divide the mixture into 2 separate containers and freeze. In a punch bowl, combine the contents of 1 container with 1 bottle of lemon-lime flavored soda. Stir until slushy. When the punch bowl is empty (it won’t be long!), repeat with the other container and a second bottle of soda.

Make your punch or appetizer table just as festive as the treats you’re serving! Make your own confetti by taking a hole punch (try a shaped punch, like a star) to your leftover scraps of metallic gift wrap and sprinkle on the tables. Take it to the next level by printing some of your favorite photos of friends and family taken in 2017. Use a shot glass or star shaped cookie cutter to trace and cut out circles of everyone’s smiling faces. Mix these confetti photos with the rest of the confetti on the table for a festive and personal touch!

If you’re hosting a more formal, sit-down dinner for New Year’s Eve, give your table some timely décor. Head to a nearby second hand store or dollar store and get an assortment of clocks, big and small. Place one at each guest’s table setting or directly on the plate in honor of the countdown to the New Year! Or, take a page from Martha Stewart’s playbook and arrange the clocks on your fireplace mantel for some New Year’s flair. Set each clock (without batteries) to just a few minutes before midnight. If you’re feeling ambitious, put batteries in each clock and set the times/alarms so that they all go off at midnight to literally ring in the New Year!

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