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No New Year's Eve soiree would be complete without champagne and cocktails. But guests certainly want plenty to nibble while they sip.

Don't stress, though, if a three-course meal isn't your speed. With a little planning, even novice chefs can prepare splendid-tasting and pretty-looking hors d'oeuvres to set the mood for a night of mingling.

Bite-size servings are ideal for holiday parties because they look festive, plus the assortment of tastes and textures is guaranteed to satisfy many different palates, said Melissa Johnson, director of Cameron Mitchell Catering.

"It kind of helps you to appeal to all of your guests," she said.

With help from Johnson's catering team, we've created a New Year's Eve cocktail party menu that can be tackled in your own kitchen.

And decorating doesn't have to be complicated. Consider purchasing one statement arrangement from a florist, and then accenting it with items found around the house such as ornaments or fresh fruit. Using exisiting items allows you to stay true to your style and gives a more personal touch, said Scott Taylor, an interior and floral designer who owns The Avant Garden in Bexley and who created the stunning floral designs featured in this spread.

"There is no rule at the holidays of what should be, other than something that is a reflection of your family and yourself," Taylor said. "This is the time of year that you make the connection that lasts your whole life."


Holiday Spice Martini

Ingredients

1 1/4 oz orange vodka 1/4 oz Grand Marnier 1/4 oz fresh orange juice 1/4 oz white cranberry juice Directions
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake. Rim a martini glass with a mix of cinnamon and sugar. Strain into martini glass. Garnish with thin orange slice.

White Christmas Martini

Ingredients
1 oz vanilla vodka 1/4 oz white crme de cocoa 3/4 oz Godiva white chocolate pistoles Directions
Combine vanilla vodka and white crme de cocoa in a shaker with ice and shake. Rim a martini glass with gold sugar. Strain into martini glass. Garnish with white chocolate pistoles.


Setting the Scene

Invitations
Your invitations are the first impression your guests will have of your party, so make it good. We teamed with On Paper to create the simple-yet-ritzy metallic invites shown above.

Decorating Tips
Consider purchasing one statement floral arrangement, then accenting with items you already own
Scatter metallic ornaments to dress up food platters
Fill a glass bowl with fresh oranges or cranberries
Use crystal stemware to hold candles or flowers. Taylor uses his grandmother's collection for that purpose during his own parties.

Sources: Scott Taylor of The Avant Garden and Cameron Mitchell Catering



Shrimp Scampi Pasta

Ingredients
1/4 cup olive oil 4 large garlic cloves 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes 1/2 cup dry white wine 8 peeled and deveined shrimp 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon white pepper 5 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold) 3/4 pound angel hair pasta 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped 1/4 teaspoon thyme, chopped Directions
In a large pot, bring one gallon of salted water to a boil. While water is heating, place a saut pan over medium heat until pan is hot. Add olive oil to pan, along with garlic and red pepper flakes. Make sure not to burn garlic. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, making sure it does not flame up. Add shrimp to the pan and saut until fully cooked.

Season with salt and white pepper. By this time, the liquid in the pan should have reduced by half. Remove from heat and stir in butter.

Cook pasta in the boiling water until fully cooked. Drain and mix pasta with parsley and thyme. Season as needed. Place pasta in individual containers, using one shrimp per serving. Serves 8.


Butternut Squash Soup Sip

Ingredients
1/4 cup olive oil 4 large garlic cloves, chopped 1 teaspoon caraway seeds 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped 1/2 pound carrots, chopped 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped 3 thyme sprigs 2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California 3 1/2 cups chicken stock 2 cups water 1/2 pound cold, unsalted butter (cut into cubes) 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
Directions
Place a large stock pot over medium heat until hot. Add oil, garlic and caraway seeds. Stir to make sure the garlic does not burn. Cook in pot until garlic becomes translucent. Add squash, carrots, apple, thyme, bay leaves, stock and water. Season lightly with salt and white pepper. Bring to a low simmer and hold until vegetables are tender. Discard thyme and bay leaves
Puree in batches in blender until smooth, adding a little butter each time. Place back in pot once all pureed and add the cider vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 24, 2-ounce servings.

Truffle Whipped Potatoes




Ingredients
2 fingerling potatoes olive oil 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes (peeled and cut into eighths) 1/3 cup warm whole milk 1/3 cup sour cream 1 tablespoon chopped truffle peelings 2 tablespoons minced chives 1 teaspoons truffle oil kosher salt white pepper Directions for fingerling chip
Shave fingerling potato with a mandolin or very sharp knife so it is paper thin. Place in bowl under running cold water so there is no discoloration. Remove from water and place on towel to dry. Heat olive oil in pan so there is a good inch in the pan. Fry until golden brown.

Directions for whipped potatoes
Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiling, salted water for about 13 minutes (until tender). Drain. Place in a mixer with whisk attachment. Add milk, sour cream and truffle peelings on a low setting making sure not to over-whip potatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place into piping bag and pipe onto spoon. Garnish with chives, fingerling chip and a drop of truffle oil. (For a twist on steak and potatoes, add a slice of beef tenderloin on top.) Makes 32 spoon-sized portions.

Mini Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Ingredients for cupcakes
4 1/8 cups all-purpose flour 4 cups sugar 1 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons baking soda 2 tablespoons cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg 2 1/4 cups blended oil 6 eggs 2 tablespoons vanilla extract 3/4 cups crushed and drained pineapple 2 cups shredded coconut 3 cups cooked and smooth pureed carrots Directions for cupcakes
Preheat convection oven to 300 F. If using a non-convection oven, heat to 350 F.

Sift flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large stainless steel bowl. Mix in eggs, oil and vanilla extract by hand with a whisk. Then add the pineapple, coconut and pureed carrots to the bowl.

Coat mini-muffin pan with non-stick spray and scoop the batter into each hole. Fill to a little over half. If using a regular sized muffin, fill to full.

Bake in oven for at least 8 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove from pan and place on a rack. Once cool to the touch, dip the bottom half in white chocolate ganache and top with cream cheese icing. Makes 64.

Ingredients for white chocolate ganache
8 ozs white chocolate cut into small pieces 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream 2 tablespoons unsalted butter Directions for white chocolate ganache
Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth. Keep at room temperature.

Ingredients for cream cheese Icing
24 ozs cream cheese (softened) 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened) 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar Directions for cream cheese icing
Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract until smooth, light, and fluffy. Then mix in the powdered sugar a little bit at a time while the mixer is on low. Remove from bowl and keep at room temperature so icing does not harden.

Food and some decor courtesy Cameron Mitchell Catering
For information, call 614-848-4700 or visit CameronMitchellCatering.com

Shoot location and table settings courtesy Martini Modern Italian
For information, call 614-224-8259 or visit MartiniModernItalian.com

Floral arrangements courtesy The Avant Garden For information, call 614-235-5666 or visit AvantGardenOnline.com

Invitation and menu courtesy On Paper For information, call 614-424-6617 or visit OnPaper.com