This morning on CBC Edmonton AM, I spoke about food and drink for New Year’s Eve. If there’s one night of the year to nibble on premade appetizers or break out the Champagne and the lobster, December 31 is it. Butcher stores and specialty food shops like Meuwly’s, Italian Centre and Uproot are perfect places to gather the goods. This evening should be more about enjoying the food and less about spending hours in the kitchen preparing it. But, this is December 30, the eve of New Year’s Eve, which means you have 24 hours to get a jump on prep, if you need.
If you’re looking for snacks, I have a recipe for homemade nuts and bolts that I’ve been making since the 80s. Some people call this Chex Mix and there are a zillion ways to switch it up, but this recipe has never failed me and it is the perfect snack to have on hand throughout the entire holiday season.
Nuts & Bolts
- large roasting pan
- 1 box Crispix cereal
- 1 box Cheerios (plain or multigrain)
- 1 box Chex or Shreddies
- 400 g pretzel sticks
- 600 g mixed nuts
- 1/2 lb butter (melted)
- 1 tbsp seasoning salt (like Lawry's or Hy's)
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 5 shakes celery salt
- 3 shakes powdered thyme (optional)
- 1 tsp onion salt
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Empty cereals into a large roasting pan
- Melt butter in the microwave or on stovetop in a small pot, add dry spices and Worcestershire, mix and pour over cereal.
- Stir to distribute seasonings.
- Bake for 60 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
- Store in a large bucket or bin and keep covered.
I dug into the recipe vault for chile con queso, another year end favourite. You’ll need to keep it warm in a mini crock pot or chafing dish but this dip is one of those addictive foods. My favourite tortilla chips are La Cocina, made in Manitoba and available at most grocery stores here. They’re thinner and so not the best for dipping in heavier dips but they have so much flavour, I don’t buy any other brand.
Chile Con Queso
- medium saucepan
- chafing dish or small crock pot
- 1 tbsp canola or olive oil
- 1 medium onions (white or yellow), diced
- 1/2 green pepper, diced
- 1/2 poblano pepper, de-seeded and diced
- 2 284 ml cans crushed tomatoes
- 750 g mild or medium cheddar, shredded
- 1 tsp seasoning salt
- Heat oil in pot over medium heat, add onions and saute until translucent
- add green pepper and jalapenos, let cook for a minute, turn heat to medium low.
- Add tomatoes and seasoning salt, stir and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Just before serving, add cheese—start with about 500 g first before decideing whether you need to add the whole amount—let melt and transfer to chafing dish or crock pot. Serve with tortilla chips.
If you’re considering a meal, this is a night to celebrate with something special like a seafood spread with oysters and lobster, or crab and shrimp. Source those items from the businesses that bring these products in fresh like Ocean Odyssey and Effing Seafood. If you want meat, try a wagyu steak from butchers like The Butchery at Rge Rd, D’Arcy’s Meats, Acme Meats or Popowich Meat Company. Most of those shops also carry kabobs, sausages and pre-made items that you just need to throw in the oven and bake.
If you haven’t heard of Elyse Chatterton, then check out her Instagram account for inspiration. Elyse is a fantastic cook and butcher who instructs at Get Cooking and also works at the Popowich Meat Company. I loved her recent post about smoked salmon on cucumber rounds, an excellent canapé for New Year’s Eve. It’s simple to make, and is lighter in flavour and texture than some friend or baked canapés, and I like that you get some vegetable in there.
The big question, always, is what bubbles to buy. Well, not much has changed since I talked about this in 2017 and again last year. Varichon et Clerc Privilège is still my favourite cremant and still great value but I’m also a fan of Okanagan sparkling wines, too. I recently tried the 2020 sparkling wine from Monte Creek Ranch and its a beauty, but Liquor Connect says it’s only available in Calgary and Red Deer. Too bad, still, there are many other sparkling wines from the Okanagan that are extremely well made.
If you’re a beer drinker, the world is your oyster. Really, the sky is the limit. It’s a good time to support local brewers though. (It’s always a good time to support local.)
Cocktails: this time of year, it’s the brown spirits like bourbon, rum and Scotch that warm the cockles of our hearts, so a whiskey cocktail like a Negroni or an old fashioned is always a good choice, or a dark ‘n stormy (Gosling rum and ginger beer). Rum works well in eggnog, as does coconut milk and coffee liqueur.
It also works well with Grand Marnier. This recipe for Cosmic Eggnog is another one from the vault.
- Large pitcher or jar
- 1 litre eggnog (not the lite stuff)
- 3 oz fresh orange juice
- 1/2 cup Grande Marnier
- 1/4 cup B&B Liqueur
- Sparkling water/club soda
- Mix all ingredients except sparkling water in a large pitcher. Pour over ice in a rocks glass to within an inch from the top. Top with soda, garnish with an orange slice or twist.
If you made the spiced cranberry sauce I talked about just before Christmas, then you should have some of its simple syrup left over.
This is great to use in non-alcoholic drinks by simply mixing it with club soda or club soda and pineapple juice, but it also works well with vodka or gin. Remember, you can always add club soda to most cocktails to make a drink that lasts longer and has lesser alcohol. Take a mint julep for example, or a Negroni: both of these cocktails pack a punch and after one (or certainly two) you’ll be feeling the effects of the booze, so put everything in a taller glass—and in the case of the Negroni, add more ice—and top with club soda. Back in the day, topping the cocktail with water was called a “press” as in rye and coke press, or rum and coke press. Back in the day, we weren’t drinking mint juleps and Negronis, though.
Last January, I did a segment on non-alcoholic drinks. You can read about it here.
Whatever you drink and eat, and wherever you are, I hope you’re with the one(s) you love. Food and drink always tastes better in good company.