For those planning to party like it’s 2011, simple finger foods and beverages are all that’s needed to create a festive atmosphere on New Year’s Eve.

For those planning to party like it’s 2011, simple finger foods and beverages are all that’s needed to create a festive atmosphere on New Year’s Eve.

After deciding on types of consumables to buy or make, you’ll need to determine how much you will need.

Expect guests to eat seven to nine hors d’oeuvres the first hour, four to five the second hour and two to three each subsequent hour, according to and Shoot for six to eight different dishes; figure each person will eat two to three pieces of each dish. Mix up the colors and textures. Serve some that are hot and some at room temperature.

Young men tend to eat more than women and older people, so if there are lots of young men at the party, prepare some extra food. This applies also if the party is held during dinner hours.

Consider serving the food buffet-style, which lets you set out food in advance so you can mingle with guests. It’s nice to save a new hors d’oeuvre to serve midway through the party.

To conserve cash, use special ingredients wisely. The Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus below calls for prosciutto, which doesn’t come cheap, but it’s sliced very thin and “shown off” by being wrapped on the outside of the dish.

Beer, wine, soda and punch please most thirsts, but if your guests prefer cocktails, focus on a signature cocktail like the Ginger Cosmopolitan below.

Guidelines for serving drinks:

--Each guest will drink an average of two drinks the first hour and one drink each hour thereafter.

--A one-liter bottle of alcohol yields about 22 mixed drinks.

--One 750-ml bottle of Champagne fills six regular Champagne glasses. Plan to buy additional bottles if there will be a Champagne toast. Because the toast glasses need only be filled about one-third full, plan on one bottle of bubbly for every 10 guests.

Fig Lollipops

Adapted from Valley Fig Growers

12 large dried figs

2 oranges or grapefruits

3/4 cup (about 4 ounces) semisweet chocolate, milk chocolate or white morsels

12 (4-inch) bamboo skewers

Sea salt, kosher salt, finely chopped toasted nuts and/or colored sugar sprinkles

With scissors or sharp knife, cut off fig stems and discard. Flatten each fig with palm of hand. Place one fig on each skewer to look like a lollipop.

Place oranges or grapefruits in small bowls to hold lollipops while chocolate cools. Microwave chocolate in microwave-safe bowl on medium (50%) power for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth.

Dip skewered figs, partially or completely, into melted chocolate. Sprinkle each with a pinch of salt, finely chopped nuts or sugar sprinkles, as desired. Poke skewers in oranges or grapefruits. Chill until set.

Makes 12.

Chili-Spiced Cereal Snack Mix

Adapted from Valley Fig Growers

1 ½ cups raisins or stemmed, chopped (1/2 inch) dried figs

3 cups crisp cereal squares (mix equal amounts of rice, wheat and corn varieties)

1 cup small square cheese-flavored crackers

1 cup bite-size pretzels

1 cup Spanish red-skinned peanuts or other roasted nuts


3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon garlic or onion salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place raisins or figs in small bowl.

In separate small bowl, stir together oil and remaining seasoning ingredients. Drizzle 2 teaspoons seasoning mixture over raisins or figs and toss to blend; set aside.

In large bowl, combine cereal, crackers, pretzels and nuts. Drizzle with remaining seasoning mixture. Toss to blend.

Spread cereal mix on large baking sheet. Place in oven and bake 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Add raisins or figs during last 10 minutes. Spread mixture on paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container.

Makes about 7 cups.

Ginger Cosmopolitan

From The Food Channel

This cocktail features two flavors of the holiday season: ginger and cranberry. Its vivid red color will immediately grab the eye of your party guests. This pitcher-sized version will allow you to get out from behind the bar and let guests serve themselves.

2 cups cranberry juice

1 1/2 cups vodka

1/4 cup triple sec

1 cup Domaine de Canton (see note)

Combine ingredients in a pitcher and stir to combine. Serve in martini glasses with a garnish of orange zest if desired.

Note: Domaine de Canton is a fairly new spirit that combines spicy ginger with cognac. To create a Ginger Screwdriver, replace the cranberry juice with orange juice and omit the triple sec. Or substitute trendy pomegranate juice for the cranberry. This is a potent drink – increase the ratio of juice to alcohol if your guests will be drinking this cocktail for an extended period of time.

Makes about 12.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus

From The Food Channel

24 (approximately 1 1/2 pounds) asparagus stalks, medium thickness

12 slices (6 ounces) prosciutto, sliced thin

Bring 2 gallons of salted water to a boil in a large stockpot. Add the asparagus and cook until tender, approximately 3 minutes. Remove asparagus from water and place in ice water for 5 minutes to stop residual cooking. Remove asparagus from ice water, drain and dry.

Cut sliced prosciutto in half. Wrap each stalk with one slice prosciutto and transfer to a baking sheet or serving platter.

Store covered in refrigeration up to one day in advance. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes 24.

Polenta Cups with Braised Beef

From The Food Channel

8 cups chicken stock

2 cups polenta

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck-eye roast, cut in 3-inch cubes

1/2 cup shallots, minced

2 tablespoons garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

2 cups beef stock or broth

3/4 cup red wine

1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)

1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, crushed

5 thyme sprigs

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

Bring chicken stock to a simmer. Whisk in polenta. Cook for 30 minutes or until tender, whisking frequently. Add butter.

Line a deep-rimmed baking sheet with wax paper. Pour polenta onto tray and spread evenly to 1-inch thick. Allow to cool at room temperature; transfer to refrigerator and chill for a minimum of 2 hours.

Remove polenta from the refrigerator when completely chilled and firm. Cut circles into the polenta using a 2-inch cookie cutter. Scoop out the centers of each polenta circle with a 1/2-teaspoon measuring spoon, taking care not to make a hole in the bottom of the circle. Polenta cups may be prepared up to 2 days in advance at this point.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season beef with salt and pepper to taste. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add meat to pot, searing on all sides until dark brown. Remove meat from pot.

Add shallots and garlic to the Dutch oven. If necessary add remaining oil. Sweat for 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook until paste becomes fragrant and dark red, approximately 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add flour.

Whisk in beef stock, breaking up any lumps. Add wine and fish sauce. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Add the reserved beef to the sauce and bring to a boil. Cover and place in oven. Cook until tender, about 1½ hours. (Sauce should continue to be at a light simmer while in the oven. If the sauce stops simmering bring it back to a simmer on the stove top and return to the oven.)

Remove the beef from the sauce, cover and reserve. Strain sauce through a fine mesh strainer and reserve.

Shred beef while warm, discarding any pieces of fat. Toss shredded beef with some of the reserved sauce to coat. Reserve warm.

Warm polenta cups in a 250-degree oven and fill with shredded beef.

Note: The braising liquid should be 1/2 to 2/3 up the side of the beef – if you need to add more liquid, add equal parts beef stock and red wine. Occasionally turn the beef while braising to prevent a crust from forming on the exposed portion of the meat.

Makes 12.

Kathryn Rem can be reached at 217-788-1520.

State Journal-Register