The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

On The Table

December 26, 2012

Cheryle Finley: Party ideas will liven up New Year's Eve

JOPLIN, Mo. — I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends.

Now, it's time to look forward to 2013. It just won't be the same without Dick Clark counting down the new year. Ryan Secrest has taken his place, and while I like Ryan, I grew up with Dick Clark on "American Bandstand" and New Year's Eve, so I will miss that tradition.

I won't say much about New Year's resolutions other than if you make one, be sure it's not one that is impossible to achieve. Say, for instance, I decided to give up chocolate. By Jan. 2, I would be feeling guilty, because I would have already broken my resolution. Work toward something instead of away. Think of it as healthier eating instead of giving up fried potatoes or barbecue chips. Think of it as getting new clothes when you drop a size instead of getting out of that warm bed each morning and exercising. It's the same idea, just a happier way of approaching it.

As strange as it may sound, I found some good New Year's Eve party ideas on, so he's obviously a great heir apparent for ringing in the new year. First and foremost, if you are hosting a party, don't hesitate to ask guests to bring appetizers or drinks. You don't have to provide everything. The other side of that means you should also ask if you can bring something if you are going to someone's home.

If the party is at your home, don't start too early unless you have a busy evening planned. From 5 or 6 p.m. to midnight is a long time to keep people entertained. One activity that might be fun is to have guests write down their New Year's resolutions, then later in the evening guess which resolution belongs to who. Some may be easy while others may result in a lot of guessing.

Another idea from the website was to give guests a sticky number to put on their glass as they arrive. This will help them keep track of their glass and cut down on glasses sitting around half-full because everyone forgot which one is theirs. Hand out numbers starting with 1. Then your midnight countdown can start with the highest number and each guest shouting out their number in descending order. Hopefully, after the No. 1 is sounded, it's time to welcome the new year.

You can take care of munchies and decor at the same time when you make edible decorations. Cookies with confetti sprinkles or clock faces decorated on them look pretty in the center of the table, as do stem glasses filled with colored candy. A pretty bowl with party mix or a glass pitcher or punch bowl with colorful punch surrounded by pretty glasses can be pleasing to the eye. Use your imagination and have a wonderful New Year's Eve.

For some reason, our Evans family Christmas celebrations seem to have to have something go wrong that we can recall year after year. The story that's been told the longest is the time we had green hashbrowns, courtesy of the iron skillet. This year, the tradition got off to an early start. My mother was baking a cake for a party we had Sunday. She had cleaned her oven and when she put the racks back in, she put them in lopsided. The cake was about a half-inch thick on one side and 3 inches thick on the other. She tried to give the illusion of it being even by piling the frosting on the thin side, but it was obvious. You could ask for a small piece of cake and really get one from that pan. From now on, we will be opening the oven door to verify that the rack is in there straight.

I like to spread my birthday celebrations out to last as long a possible. This year takes the cake. My birthday was in May, and I got a present last week. Ed Scorse gave me the "Coca-Cola Refreshing Recipes" cookbook. I can see it now. I carry in a case of Coke, and my husband asks me what I'm doing. I simply tell him I'm fixing dinner. I can make appetizers, salads, entrees, veggies and desserts, all from this book.

Today's recipes are from the Coca-Cola cookbook. The party franks and cupcakes would be perfect for New Year's celebrations. Only cherry syrup is used in the cake, with the cherries going on top for decoration. Plan ahead for the chicken to marinate then cook it up in no time.

Happy New Year and happy eating!

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