Ditch a formal New Year's dinner for appetizers

Associated PressDecember 25, 2013 

This is roasted shrimp cocktail, pineapple chicken lettuce wraps and Elvis phyllo cups, all easy to prepare. 

BY MATTHEW MEAD — Associated Press

Not up to putting on a formal dinner party for New Year's Eve? Can't blame you. And who cares? Most people would prefer the more casual atmosphere of lots of appetizer-sized nibbles, anyway.

To help you pull it all together, we assembled an easy menu that recasts some classic appetizers in fresh ways. Start off with a roasted take on the traditional shrimp cocktail. Make it funky by serving the shrimp and roasted grape tomatoes in individual spoons. We also have a quick and easy pineapple chicken salad that's served in lettuce wraps.

And for fun, we offer up Elvis cups -- mini phyllo pastry cups filled with bacon, peanut butter and banana slices.

Roasted shrimp cocktail

  • One quart grape tomatoes, halved.

  • Two teaspoons kosher salt.

  • One tablespoon balsamic vinegar glaze.

  • One tablespoon horseradish.

  • One pound large raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined.

  • Salt and ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Set the halved grape tomatoes in a colander and sprinkle with the salt. Toss together and let sit over a bowl or in the sink to drain for 20 minutes.

After the tomatoes have drained, spread them on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the balsamic glaze. Roast for 15 minutes. Stir the horseradish and the shrimp into the tomatoes on the baking sheet, then return to the oven and roast for another five to seven minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Can be served on individual spoons or in a wide, shallow bowl with toothpicks.

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: Eight.

Nutrition information per serving: 70 calories; 10 calories from fat (14 percent of total calories); 1 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 85 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 12 g protein; 210 mg sodium.

Pineapple chicken lettuce wraps

  • Two cups shredded cooked chicken.

  • Two-thirds of a cup pineapple salsa, strained.

  • Two tablespoons chopped cherry peppers.

  • Soft lettuce leaves, such as Boston or bibb.
In a medium bowl, gently mix together the chicken, salsa and cherry peppers. Arrange the lettuce leaves in a single layer on a serving platter. Spoon a third of a cup of the chicken mixture into the center of each lettuce leaf, leaving enough room on each leaf for guests to grab the leaves and wrap around the filling.

Start to finish: Eight minutes.

Servings: Eight.

Nutrition information per serving: 60 calories; 10 calories from fat (17 percent of total calories); 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 30 mg cholesterol; 1 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 11 g protein; 30 mg sodium.

Elvis phyllo cups

  • The mini phyllo cups can be found in the grocer's freezer case near the other pastry and dessert items.

  • A third of a cup natural peanut butter.

  • Two tablespoons powdered sugar.

  • One teaspoon vanilla extract.

  • One large banana, cut into 15 slices.

  • A 1.9-ounce package of phyllo cups (each package contains 15 cups).

  • Three slices crisp-cooked bacon, each cut into five chunks.
In a small bowl, stir together the peanut butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Place one slice of banana in the bottom of each phyllo cup. Top the banana slices with two teaspoons of the peanut butter mixture, then garnish each cup with a chunk of bacon.

Start to finish: 10 minutes

Makes 15 cups

Nutrition information per serving: 70 calories; 40 calories from fat (57 percent of total calories); 4 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 2 g protein; 80 mg sodium.

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