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Little Bites to Ring in the New Year

Try out these fun appetizers at your New Year's Eve party.

Hosting a New Year's Eve get together and don't know what to serve? Don't spend hours preparing a three-course meal. It's not worth your time and guests won't be expecting it. Instead, choose a few simple but satisfying little bites. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Spice up some nuts like almonds, pecans, peanuts or cashews with your favorite spices such as cumin, cayenne pepper and chili powder. Toast the nuts for a few minutes and pour into a ziplock bag. Add your spices and toss the mixture.  Your guests will be eating these by the handful!

Slice a baguette into thin pieces. Make a sweet and a savory topping for contrast. For the sweet, try pairing your favorite cheese with a drizzle of honey. Use a cheese that will complement the sweet honey like blue or gorgonzola. To avoid soggy bread, add the honey at the very last minute. 

For the savory, think about two or three ingredients you like that go together.  For example mozzarella and basil, or cheese with roasted red peppers. 

Check out this quick and simple sweet pepper crostini recipe from Food Network's Giada de Laurentiis.

You can use roasted red peppers from the jar, but doing it yourself is easier than you think.  Preheat the oven to broil.  Place the peppers on a baking sheet and heat until the skin begins to blister and the color turns to brown, not black.  Turn over and repeat. Place the peppers in a bowl covered with cling wrap or in a plastic bag for about 15 minutes. This traps the steam in and makes the dreaded peeling process easier. Use a knife to peel if you're having trouble.

Instead of buying pre-made dips from the store, make your own. Hummus is very easy to make and extremely versatile. It pairs great with vegetables, crackers, pita chips or bread. 

Basic hummus requires only four basic ingredients: garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas), olive oil, lemon juice and cumin.

Combine a 15 ounce can of garbanzo beans (including the liquid), two tablespoons of olive oil, a teaspoon of cumin, and the juice of 1/3 a lemon in a blender. Blend until you get smooth consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in a couple of cloves of roasted garlic, chopped olives, or a touch of cilantro and jalapeño for bite.

Ask each of your guests to bring a bottle of bubbly to encourage mingling and keep your wallet a little thicker. Add a shot of crème de cassis or peach schnapps for a twist on the traditional midnight toast. And don't forget the non-drinkers. Use sparkling cider and a splash of cranberry with a twist of lemon or peach juice to help them ring in the new year with style.

Here's to a happy and healthy New Year. Cheers!

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