New Year's Eve parties and New Year's Day galas may seem glitzy, but welcoming the new year in style can be as easy as following a few economical tricks.

New Year's Eve parties and New Year's Day galas may seem glitzy, but welcoming the new year in style can be as easy as following a few economical tricks. Winter holidays often boil down to just a few ingredients that give them their trademark flavors, like peppermint and pumpkin.

So when you are in a pinch for time or funds, it's fun to think of ways such signature add-ins can, in fact, make the meal. When last, for instance, did the water at your place settings ring in the festivities? Add a few drops of peppermint extract, along with a drizzle of fresh orange juice, and serve garnished with an orange slice for a memorable first sip to the meal.

Double-bake your potatoes with the addition of pumpkin pie filling - or use the versatile canned good as the base of a filling for Cornish game hens - and you get the ingenious idea even more.

Food preparation, even for New Year's festivities, can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun and fast, as the following split-second sensations prove:


Sensational Salad: Drizzle the dried fruit atop a mixed greens balsamic vinaigrette-dressed salad that also includes diced unpeeled pears, pecans and minced roasted chestnuts.

More Sweetness - and Nutrition - in Dessert: Instead of chocolate chips, add dried cranberries to cookies, and along with nuts to brownies. Drizzle them atop the whipped cream that crowns pumpkin pie or the sugar-free vanilla ice cream that tops warm apple pie.


Wonderful Water: To the glass of water at each table setting, add a few drops of peppermint extract and a few drops of freshly squeezed orange juice before garnishing with an orange slice.

Pepping Up this Condiment: Mix a few drops of peppermint extract into prepared canned cranberry sauce, and top with crispy fresh mint that you've very lightly fried in olive oil blended with a few dashes of ground cinnamon.


Wild Rice Gets Wilder: Add chopped candied pecans to cooked wild rice and crumble some fruitcake into the mixture. Add an egg as well. Mold into balls, place in muffin tins that have been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and bake at 350 F until as crispy as you would like.

One Nutty Eggnog Smoothie: Add candied pecans, ground cinnamon and maraschino cherries without stems to eggnog in a blender, and blend well with ice until smooth and creamy for a holiday smoothie appetizer cocktail or beverage that is a dessert accompaniment.


Double-the-Fun Double-Baked Potatoes: Bake russet potatoes, remove filling and mash the potatoes you removed with pumpkin pie filling and maple syrup. Re-stuff into potato shells and heat until hot.

These Cornish Hens Aren't Corny: Combine pumpkin pie filling, golden raisins, diced red unpeeled apples and a few dashes of poultry seasoning. Stuff lightly, being careful not to overfill, into cleaned Cornish hens before cooking.

Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook."