After almost 10 months, who would have thought that we’d still be hunkering down and battling COVID-19 with another dark few months on the horizon? This New Year’s Eve, there will be no riotous gatherings, no crowds coming together for resolutions and champagne toasts. When I left Florida back in March, I felt confident that I would be returning in a couple of weeks. But here we all are, still in sedentary seclusion.

Still, some things don’t need to change. Whether solo, duo or within your “bubble,” anyone can cook up a selection of tasty starters and morsels of dessert to nibble on throughout the evening. And no need to splurge on a magnum of champagne. Bubbly can be purchased in miniature bottles—single or in a four-pack.

So maybe it won’t be so bad to curl up in an armchair, snug in a fluffy blanket, and watch the giant ball drop virtually in New York’s deserted Times Square. Or to snack while continuing with whatever show you happen to be binge-watching.

I’m a recipe hoarder from way back with dog-eared index cards and folders full of new food products, dishes developed for companies and kosher sampling events. I unearthed a stained card for Baked Salami, a favorite cocktail snack. It’s cheap and tasty, but loaded with salt, preservatives and fat. I’ve adapted the recipe using deli turkey or better still, chunks of leftover roasted chicken. Salt and fat are drastically reduced, yet the finished product is equally delicious. John, my gourmand neighbor, skewers a date on top after broiling. Toasted buttery sesame cookies, rolled in seeds, are a Chinese symbol of sweetness and happiness. Make a double batch.

What’s a celebration without drinks? Keep in mind there may be multiple generations in your bubble: kids, parents, even grandparents. The “mocktail” is a non-alcoholic spin on Sangria. Insert a cocktail umbrella in it after pouring into sugar-rimmed glasses, and little ones will be thrilled. Store-bought eggnog is the base for an easy libation, smooth and rich with melted ice-cream and spiked albeit generously, with whisky and orange liqueur. There’s no substitute for a good Scotch whisky, but if you must, bourbon, brandy or rum will work. Drink up; no one’s driving this New Year’s.

The good news is that all that food you prepare (and make extra) can result in leftovers to use on Shabbat, the first day of 2021. And if that’s not something to celebrate, I don’t know what is!

Here’s to a happy, and most importantly, healthy and safe New Year!

Credit: Pixabay.

Za’atar Logs Stuffed With Goat Cheese (Dairy)

Makes 12

Cook’s Tips:

*Substitute sour milk for buttermilk. Add 2 teaspoons vinegar to milk. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes without stirring.

*Logs are ready when the bottom sounds hollow when lightly tapped with fingers.

Ingredients:

1 cup, plus 1 tablespoon, all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons butter, softened

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons za’atar spice

½ teaspoon salt

½-¾ cup buttermilk

3-4 ounces of goat cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Dust a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon flour. Cut butter into remaining flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the baking powder, za’atar and salt.

Make a well in the center. Add enough buttermilk to make a soft but not sticky dough.

Turn onto a floured board. Press into a 6×4-inch rectangle. With a knife, cut in half lengthwise, then 6 cuts across to make 12 logs.

Place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes in a preheated oven, or until risen and golden-brown. Cool on a wire rack.

To serve: Spread with goat cheese as in a sandwich. Serve warm.

Sweet-and-Hot Turkey Bites. Photo by Ethel G. Hofman.

Sweet-and-Hot Turkey Bites (Meat)

Makes 25-30

Cook’s Tips:

*Buy deli turkey in a slab, about 1-inch thick.

*Crushed dried red pepper is available in the supermarket spice section.

Ingredients:

½ pound cooked turkey

¼ cup apricot preserves

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions:

Cut the turkey into ½ inch to ¾ inch chunks. Place in a shallow bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, warm the preserves, mustard and red pepper over low heat. Stir to melt thoroughly.

Pour over the turkey. Toss to mix.

Cover and chill for 4 to 6 hours or overnight to marinate.

Before serving: Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil and then spray with nonstick baking spray. Arrange marinated turkey in one layer. Spoon any extra preserve mixture over.

Broil under a preheated broiler, 5 to 8 minutes or until beginning to brown. Watch carefully.

Transfer to serving dish. Serve warm (not hot) or at room temperature.

Browned Potatoes in a Sour Cream Blanket. Photo by Ethel G. Hofman.

Browned Potatoes in a Sour Cream Blanket (Dairy)

Makes 15

Cook’s Tips:

*Substitute softened cream cheese for sour cream.

*I use baby Yukon gold (“baby gold”) potatoes from the supermarket or cut small potatoes in half.

*Cut a thin sliver from bottom of cooked potato to prevent toppling over.

Ingredients:

15 small potatoes, about 1½ inches diameter, unpeeled

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

about ⅓ cup sour cream

black olives, and caraway or sesame seeds to garnish

Directions:

To cook potatoes: Place in boiling water to cover. Boil for 12 to 15 minutes until soft. Potatoes are done when a sharp knife inserted slips out easily. Drain well.

In the same pan used for boiling, heat oil over high heat. Return potatoes to pan. Shake over heat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until potatoes are beginning to brown. Drain on paper towels.

Before serving: Top each potato with a teaspoonful of sour cream. Garnish with olives, caraway seeds or sesame seeds, or a sprinkling of dried herbs. Serve at room temperature.

Cheddar cheese. Credit: J.P.Lon via Wikimedia Commons.

Crisp Cheddar Fingers (Dairy)

Makes 12

Cook’s Tips:

*Use store-bought grated Cheddar cheese.

*Panko breadcrumbs save time instead of making your own.

*Hot cheese can burn mouths. Cool before serving.

Ingredients:

8 slices whole-wheat bread

salad-style mustard

½ cup grated cheese

3 tablespoons butter, melted

⅓ cup Panko

Directions:

Arrange 4 slices of bread on a baking sheet. Spread thinly with mustard. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon cheese over each.

Top with remaining slices, pressing down lightly. Brush with butter and sprinkle with Panko.

Place under a preheated broiler until nicely browned. Watch carefully.

Cut each sandwich into 3 fingers. Cool.

Arrange on a platter and serve.

Guacamole. Credit: Pixabay.

Chunky Guacamole Canapes (Pareve, Vegan)

Makes 8-10

Cook’s Tips:

*Ripe avocados should not be soft, yield only slightly under pressure.

Ingredients:

1 medium scallion

¼ medium Vidalia onion, cut into chunks

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

½ teaspoon bottled minced garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

2 large ripe avocados, peeled and seeds removed

8-10 mini-rice cakes

Directions:

Trim the scallion using the white and 3 inches of the green. Cut in 1-inch lengths.

Place in the food processor with the onion, lime juice, garlic, cumin and salt. Process until blended into a smooth mixture.

Transfer to a small bowl. Stir in the chopped bell pepper.

Cut the avocados into half-inch chunks. Place in a bowl.

Pour the blended mixture over and toss to coat. Spoon onto the rice cakes.

Serve at once.

Chinese Sesame Cookies. Photo by Ethel G. Hofman.

Chinese Sesame Cookies (Dairy)

Makes 16-18

Cook’s Tips:

*Dough can be refrigerated four to six hours or overnight.

*To make pareve, use margarine instead of butter.

*Garnish with diced crystallized ginger instead of pecans.

Ingredients:

1 egg, divided

½ cup butter, softened

¼ cup brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

about ⅓ cup sesame seeds

16-18 pecan halves

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray two cookie sheets with non-stick cooking spray.

Separate the egg, reserving the egg white. Cream the butter, sugar, egg yolk and ginger until well-combined. Beat in the flour, about ½ cup at a time, mixing well between each addition.

Shape about 1 rounded teaspoon mixture into balls. Dip in the egg white and then roll in sesame seeds to cover.

Place on prepared cookie sheets, about 1½ inches apart. Press a pecan half into each ball.

Bake in preheated oven for 15-18 minutes until golden-brown at edges. Cool on a wire tray.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Spanish Mocktail (Pareve)

Makes 4 servings

Cook’s Tips:

*Any combination of juices and soft fruits will do (cranberry, white grape juice, apricot nectar, diced peaches, pears, apple).

*Brush rims of 4 glasses with honey, then dip lightly in sugar. Place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Ingredients:

3 cups white grape juice

2 cups orange juice

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 banana, thinly sliced

¼ cup blueberries

5-6 strawberries, sliced

1 cup fizzy drink (7-Up, Sprite, ginger ale)

Directions:

In a large pitcher, stir together the grape juice, orange juice and lemon juice.

Add the banana and berries. May refrigerate at this point.

To serve: Add the 7-Up and pour into tall glasses.

Eggnog. Credit: Pixabay.

Easy Boozy Eggnog (Dairy)

Makes 6-8 servings

Cook’s Tips:

*Substitute rum, brandy or bourbon for whisky.

Ingredients:

1 pint good vanilla ice-cream, softened

2 cups chilled store-bought eggnog

½ cup whisky

½ cup Sabra orange liqueur

grated orange peel to garnish

Directions:

Place the ice-cream and eggnog in a blender or processor.

Process on high until light and frothy, about 30 to 40 seconds.

Pour into a large pitcher. Stir in the whisky and Sabra.

Sprinkle with orange peel and serve in cups.

Ethel G. Hofman is a widely syndicated American Jewish food and travel columnist, author and culinary consultant.

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