New Year’s Eve: Paleo Style

Dave and I have a long-standing tradition on New Year’s Eve: We have a relaxing, “do nothing special” kind of day while the sun is up, treat ourselves to a nice lunch in a restaurant, then watch movies and eat homemade food for dinner. That way, when we wake to greet the shiny near year the next morning, we feel Good.

This year, we’re starting our New Year’s Eve day with yoga, then trying a new Vietnamese restaurant that just opened in our neighborhood. Our evening menu hasn’t been finalized yet, but it will include kale chips because I’ve got a craving for something crispy and salt.

If you’re staying in or hosting a bash, here are some ideas to help you treat yourself right with fancy dino-chow finger food. Happy eating in 2012!


Little Meatballs

Every meatball recipe instantly becomes party food if you make the meatballs tiny – say, 1/2-inch in diameter – instead of normal sized. To preserve the spherical shape, and thus the fun, bake them instead of frying. Just make your favorite meatball recipe, roll them small, then place in a single layer on a baking sheet and throw ’em in a 375-degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Line the baking sheet with parchment or foil and save yourself clean-up time! Bonus points if you spear each meatball with a frilly toothpick.

Moroccan Meatballs (Bake the meatballs and serve the sauce on the side.)
Czech Meatballs

Middle Eastern Kebab Meatballs (Mix 1 lb. lamb or beef with 1 tablespoon of this spice blend, then bake)

Festive Slices with Dollops

A circle topped with something creamy screams ‘APPETIZER.’ Whip up a batch of homemade mayo, and go dollop crazy.

  • An unassuming hard-boiled egg becomes magical when sliced and topped with a touch of mayo and a sprinkle of fresh chopped chives.
  • Slice Scotch Eggs into rounds, then top with either mayo or a tiny dollop of mustard (or both!).
  • Slice cucumbers into rounds, top with a little touch of mayo, then sprinkle with a tiny amount of chopped black olives and chives.

Here’s a trick to improvise a pastry bag so you can pipe the mayo onto your hors d’oeuvre: place mayo in a small plastic baggie, snip off a corner of the bag, then slowly twist the bag to squeeze the mayo out the corner in a thin stream. Pretty little dollops, no fuss!

Chicken on a Stick

Meat on a stick is an instant party! Follow the instructions for The Best Chicken You Will Ever Eat. Ever. but instead of grilling the chicken breasts whole, cut them into 1-inch cubes and grill on bamboo skewers. (Be sure to soak the skewers in water for 5 minutes before threading the meat onto them.) Serve with Moroccan Dipping Sauce or one of the other sauces below.

Finger Food

No forks = 100% fun. This Riceless, No-Soy Sushi is elegant and adds international flair to your spread. Set out tiny bowls of coconut aminos (available at Whole Foods) or homemade substitute and wasabi for maximum yum factor.

Sweet & Salty Cocktail Nibbles

No self-respecting host/ess would neglect the two party standbys: nuts and olives. But don’t you deserve to make ’em fancy? Of course you do! I recommend: Marinated Olives and Spiced Nuts. (Note: The spiced nuts include a little sugar. I am OK with that if you’re not in the midst of a strict Whole30. If you are eating 100% clean, skip the sugar in the recipe. If you’re a generally clean eater not in a no-cheat phase, the sugar is a very minimal amount.) You might also consider Caramelized Coconut Chips and Smoky Pear Bites — both are super fast and easy to make, and nummy to nosh.

Crispy Chips

When I was a kid, we always had a giant bowl of Ruffles on our holiday buffet table. These days, I turn to nori chips. They’re salty, crispy, and a superfood.

Crudite and Dip

Raw vegetables? Boring. Crudité? French and fantastic! With creative chopping and a little imagination (check out some of these fancy platters), you can elevate vegetables to new heights of glory. Include raw, grilled, and blanched veggies in your platter to vary the textures – and garnish with fresh sprigs of parsley, olives, artichoke hearts, or hearts of palm… all of which are delicious dipped in sauces like Tahini Dressing, Sunshine Sauce, Herbed Olive Oil, Baba Ghanoush, or Chimichurri.

Need ideas for the platter?
Raw veggies: carrots, cucumbers, red and green pepper, snap peas, jicama, celery
Grilled veggies: fennel, asparagus, red peppers, zucchini and yellow squash, mushrooms
Blanched veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, green beans (how-to for blanching here)

Other Ideas

Here are some other nibbles that require no recipe and very little time – you just need some frilly toothpicks and, perhaps, the ability to cut stuff into cubes.

  • Cut a cucumber into 1/2-inch cubes and a handful of olives in half. Thread half an olive on a toothpick, add a cucumber cube, then top with the other olive half.
  • Arrange canned sardines and/or kipper snacks on a platter in a pleasing design, then garnish with red pepper strips, cucumber rounds, and artichoke hearts. Squeeze a half lemon over the whole thing and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
  • Cut grape tomatoes in half and place in a bowl. Mix with a little olive oil, a clove of crushed garlic, chopped fresh basil, salt, and pepper. Arrange on a platter with black olives and use toothpicks to spear and eat them. Remember: no forks!
  • Make You’re The Top Tuna Salad or Mediterranean Tuna Salad. Cut a green or red pepper into 2-inch wide wedges. Pile a tablespoon or two of the tuna salad onto the end of the pepper wedges (so one end is a handle and one end is like a scoop) and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
  • Grill your favorite high-quality sausage and let it cool. When it’s room temperature, cut it into 1/4-inch thick coins, spear the coins with a frilly toothpick, and arrange on a platter. Bonus points for adding mustard or dipping sauce. Double bonus points if you add a cube of raw apple or grilled pineapple to the skewer. (You can also do this with chicken chunks and mango; add a fresh mint leaf for zing. This is also perfect for dipping in Sunshine Sauce.)

I hope this has inspired you to ring in the new year with your favorite people and your favorite good-for-you foods. For maximum joy, be sure to listen to some appropriate music while preparing your snacks so the good vibes go into the food.


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  • pamela says:

    What fun. I may just have to try a few of these for tomorrow. We usually stay at home and have a quiet little feast for two, but this year we’re driving to Cambria on California’s central coast to spend New Year’s Eve with my sister and brother-in-law. Thankfully, they’ve agreed to eat at home. Can’t wait to serve some of these appetizers.

  • Laura Brooks says:

    Thanks for the great ideas(and thanks for posting The Muppets – they make me smile!). Happy New Year!

  • Lady A says:

    What a wealth of great ideas! I’m trying to psych myself up for a Whole 30 in the New Year.

  • Jessica says:

    Thanks for the great post! New Year’s Eve is my wedding anniversary and my husband and I are hosting a little gathering tonight. What a great selection of recipes to try at our party. Love this blog!

  • Chia says:

    Thank you for these fantastic ideas! And thank you soooo much for writing Well Fed this year – it is going to change my life in 2012. Hope you enjoy your day. As always, I’ll be looking forward to your blog in the the New Year to see where you take us next! 🙂

  • Michelle says:

    I made your Moroccan dipping sauce from Well Fed last night, and we loved it! I used mint instead of parsley and added 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon to amp up the sweetness. Next time I’m making a double (or triple) batch so I have leftovers.

    Happy New Year!

  • Caitlin says:

    these are great…i’ve been looking for some ‘football watching’ foods that are whole30 compliant. i’m thinking some meatballs might be the answer!