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Party Time!

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Six delicious appetizer ideas for a yummy New Year’s Eve
Photos by Jim FlintWhat’s not to like about loaded baked potatoes? Here’s a mini version for a great party bite.
Maple and bourbon flavors transform these roasted party nuts into a delicious sweet-salty treat.
These mini-bells will ring the flavor bell stuffed with a goat or cream cheese and Greek yogurt filling with garlic and herbs.
With this mini version, everybody can have a deep-dish pizza or two and still have room for more of your delicious party spread.
Prepare delicious, spicy, marinated shrimp the night before, and serve right from the refrigerator with toothpicks at the ready.
Bake a big batch of these irresistible Thai sticky chicken wings and freeze the leftovers for the Super Bowl.

Hosting a New Year’s Eve party this year? Or just cozying in by yourselves? In either case, you’ll want to put together a delicious menu of appetizers, small plates and finger foods to get you through the night.

With Dec. 31 just around the corner, it’s not too early to start planning. Mix it up — from dips and dippers to sweet, savory and spicy.

Make a playlist of favorite music, put up the decorations, and enjoy your insanely delicious food. After all, that’s what New Year’s Eve is all about. That and your favorite libations, of course!

Your standbys and the classics are good, but it’s always fun to try something new and different. Ask a friend for her recipe for those fantastic crostini she served. Pore over your collection of cookbooks. Or grab a new recipe off the internet.

We host a Medford couple for New Year’s Eve in a tradition that goes back nearly 20 years, when we all lived in the Yakima Valley. We renewed the practice when they moved to the Rogue Valley a year after we did.

We pick a theme for the entertainment and the snacks, which has led to some tasty culinary adventures — like the nights we went Moroccan, Italian, Greek, and, one time, “Anything Goes.”

Sometimes it’s fun to experiment, like adding shredded cheddar or pomegranate seeds to amp up your guacamole recipe. Or make a mini version of a favorite main dish or side. Here are six tasty ideas to get you started.

Loaded Potato Chips

5 medium red potatoes

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

6 pieces of cooked bacon, crumbled

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

3 tablespoons chives or scallion green ends, chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Slice the potatoes into quarter-inch-thick rounds. Place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and brush both sides with olive oil. Use two sheets if needed. Season the slices with salt and pepper and roast on a center rack until they begin to turn golden brown on the pan side, about 15-20 minutes. Flip potato slices and roast until they are golden on top, about 15 minutes more.

Remove tray from oven and top each slice with up to one teaspoon of crumbled bacon and then a teaspoon of shredded cheddar. Return to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

Let the potatoes cool for 10 minutes, then garnish each slice with a half teaspoon of sour cream and a pinch of chives. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Spicy Marinated Shrimp

1 quart flat beer

1-1/2 pounds large deveined shrimp (16-20 count)

1/2 cup sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup chopped parsley

3 large shallots, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 to 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (to suit)

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (more, if using less red pepper)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with water and adding two glasses of ice cubes.

Use shell-on or shell-off shrimp, rinsed under cold running water. In a medium, nonreactive sauce pan, bring beer to a boil over medium heat. Don’t let it boil over.

Take the pan off the heat. Using a slotted spoon, lower about half of the shrimp into the beer, stir and cover. Let sit off the heat for five minutes until just pink, loosely curled, and opaque throughout.

Remove immediately with a slotted spoon to the ice bath to stop the cooking. Bring the beer to a boil again and repeat with the rest of the shrimp.

When cool, remove shells if cooked with shells, but leave tails on.

In a medium bowl, combine vinegar, mustard, parsley, shallots, garlic, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Whisk until blended. Whisk in olive oil. Add shrimp and toss to coat well. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or as long as 24. Drain and serve well chilled, with toothpicks.

Deep-Dish Mini-Pizzas

1 package store-bought pizza dough

1/4 cup plain flour for rolling

Cooking oil spray

Pizza sauce

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thin sliced

12 grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced

12 pepperoni slices

1/3 cup finely sliced fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place pizza dough on a lightly floured work surface and allow it to come to room temperature (about an hour, or follow package directions). It will make the dough easier to work.

Separate dough into 12 equal pieces. (If dough is already flat, like Pillsbury, roll thinner, then cut rounds with rim of coffee mug.) Using a rolling pin, stretch each piece of dough into about five-inch rounds.

Lightly spray a 12-capacity muffin tin with cooking spray. Press dough pieces into each muffin cup to fit into the base and sides. Par-bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for two minutes.

Place a slice of fresh mozzarella into bottom of each cup, to prevent dough from getting soggy. Add a teaspoon of your favorite pizza sauce, a pinch of sliced basil leaves, a pepperoni slice, 2-3 cherry tomato slices, and a slice of mozzarella on top. Bake until dough is golden brown and crisp, about 12-15 minutes. Top each mini-pizza with a pinch of basil leaves. Allow to cool five minutes before removing from muffin tin.

Sticky Wings

3 pounds chicken wings, drumettes and flats separated, tips discarded

Sea salt flakes to taste

Glaze:

3/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce

4 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 cup soy sauce

4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (or white vinegar)

3 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons sesame (or peanut) oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine all glaze ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until combined. Pour half into a small saucepan and save for later.

Season wings with salt and place on the prepared tray. Pour sauce left in the bowl over the wings and toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer and bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on size of wings. Flip wings and bake another 10 minutes.

While the wings are in the oven, bring the remaining glaze to a simmer on low-medium heat until the sauce bubbles and begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low.

When the wings finish after being flipped, remove from oven, change oven setting to high broil, and baste the wings with the thickened glaze. Place tray in oven for a further 5 minutes until shiny from the glaze.

Garnish with your choice of sesame seeds, chopped cilantro, thinly sliced green onions or a combination. Optional: sprinkle with red chili flakes.

Maple Bourbon Party Nuts

2 cups whole almonds

2 cups pecan or walnut halves, or combo

1 cup shelled pepitas

1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

4 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon honey

3 tablespoon bourbon

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for no mess cleanup.

Pour the mixed nuts — raw and unsalted — into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine rosemary, maple syrup, honey bourbon, melted butter, salt and vanilla. Whisk until blended.

Add the mixture to the nuts and toss with wooden spoons to coat thoroughly. Pour coated nuts onto the prepared baking sheet and spread evenly from rim to rim.

Bake, stirring after the first 10 minutes and then every 5 minutes thereafter, until the nuts are golden, about 25 minutes.

Remove from oven and stir again. After they cool about 10 minutes, separate any large clumps that may have formed. Let the nuts cool completely on the pan before storing. Nuts in sealed container will keep for up to two months at room temperature.

Stuffed Mini Bells

10 baby bell peppers, halved lengthwise, seeds removed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

4 ounces goat cheese or cream cheese at room temperature

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 cup finely chopped herbs (such as parsley and basil)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped chives to garnish

Position an oven rack in the top third of the oven and preheat the broiler to high.

On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the halved and seeded peppers with 1 tablespoon olive oil and kosher salt. Arrange them cut side down. Broil until they begin to brown and soften slightly, only about 4 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature.

In a small skillet over medium heat, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add minced garlic and sweat for about a minute, until just fragrant. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, combine goat or cream cheese, Greek yogurt, chopped herbs, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon about 1-2 teaspoons of the mixture into each pepper half. Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve immediately. Store in the refrigerator if not serving immediately. Delicious served cold or at room temperature.

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.