Bring in the New Year with these kosher-friendly party treats.
Born and raised in Chicago, I grew up with cold, blustery, snow-filled Midwest winters. My father (z”l) was an executive in a large international company and would work incredibly long and stressful hours. My mother (KIH) would insist that he take a few weeks of vacation to recharge so that he didn’t get sick from his challenging work schedule and the weather.
As a result, at a very young age I became a snow bird. Once a year during winter break we would escape the record snowfalls and frigid temperatures, head south to warm, sunny Miami Beach and stay at the only kosher hotel on the beach — the Saxony Hotel.
Once my sister and I were married and had kids, we would fly down with our families and meet my parents at the Saxony, where all the cousins would have a fabulous oceanside reunion, playing on the beach and in the pool. Joe Drao, the event coordinator, would enthusiastically play show tunes on his keyboard and sing along for the entertainment of the guests by the pool, and would run “cutthroat” bingo games in the Veranda room.
One of the favorite events at the Saxony was the New Year’s Eve Midnight Supper. The guests that stayed at the hotel were given a special, free, New Year’s Eve dinner if they were able to stay up until midnight. It was the highlight of everyone’s trip.
Not only did guests get a free dinner consisting of matzah ball soup (where the matzah balls were as big as the cup), mashed potatoes, green beans and sliced brisket, there were also New Year’s Eve decorations on the tables, including festive hats, noisemakers and leis.
Sadly, the Saxony closed as a kosher hotel many years ago, but those memories will always be with us. Here are some ideas for your party, no brisket or matzah balls required, but loads of fun for you and your party guests.
Festive Jello “Champagne” Cups
2 cups white grape juice
4 packages sugar-free unflavored gelatin
1 bottle (25.4 oz.) sparkling grape juice, at room temperature
10 Champagne glasses
1 long wooden skewer or chopstick
Place the white grape juice in a medium pot. Sprinkle the gelatin over the juice and immediately whisk to remove any clumps. Allow the gelatin to sit for 5 to 10 minutes until completely dissolved.
Heat the juice/gelatin mixture over medium-low heat until the liquid is warm and clear. Pour the sparkling grape juice over the warmed juice/gelatin and vigorously whisk to combine. You can also use an immersion blender to blend the two mixtures together.
Evenly ladle the blended mixture into the Champagne glasses. Place 3 or 4 frozen raspberries on the top of the gelatin mixture in each glass. Use the long wooden skewer to gently push the raspberries partially down into the glasses in a decorative distribution. Top each glass with an additional raspberry or two.
Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours until gelatin is completely set. Serve chilled.
Margarita Salad Cup
1⁄4 cup light mayonnaise
1 clove crushed garlic or 1 frozen garlic cube
1 tsp. lemon juice
1⁄8 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsps. water
1 head butter lettuce, broken into bite-size pieces
1⁄2 cup grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
12 mini-margarita cups
1 lb. honey turkey breast, very thickly sliced, then julienned
3 hard-boiled eggs, chilled then thinly sliced
In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice and black pepper. Whisk until thoroughly combined. Add enough water to make a smooth, just pourable dressing.
Toss the lettuce with the tomatoes, then divide into the 12 cups. Spoon a tablespoon of the dressing over the lettuce. Carefully place several strips of turkey over the dressing, then top with a slice of egg. Chill until guests arrive. Can be made 1 to 2 hours in advance.
1 gallon apple cider
4-5 whole cinnamon sticks
1 tsp. whole cloves
1⁄2 tsp. ground nutmeg
Combine ingredients in a large stock pot, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for at least an hour before serving. Ladle into mugs for a cozy pick-me-up.
Makes 1 gallon.
Gold and Silver Grilled Mini-Pierogis on Decorative Sticks
I took my girls camping a few summers ago and they decided to roast pierogis on super extra-long skewers over the campfire — just because they could. I raised my eyebrows at the time, but it turned out they were delicious!
1 package mini-pierogis
28 decorative skewers
gold food spray (optional)
silver food spray (optional)
your favorite dipping sauce such as mustard, honey mustard, or ketchup.
Place 8 to 10 pierogis on an indoor grill. Grill for 10 minutes. Remove to a platter and repeat with remaining pierogis.
Place each pierogi diagonally on a skewer. Lightly spray each pierogi with gold or silver spray. Serve warm.
Makes 28 skewers.