Rachel Waller knows how to ring in the new year — she’s helping to coordinate the sixth annual New Year’s Eve celebration at KC Live! in Kansas City’s Power & Light District. At home, Waller is also an entertaining cook who enjoys feeding her family, which includes husband Chad and their 2-year-old son, Logan.
A native Northlander, Waller regularly celebrates holidays with her extended family and group of friends. The key, she says, to throwing a grand get-together is to be organized and to just be yourself.
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Special cooking interest: Cooking for a crowd.
What are your plans for New Year’s Eve? I will be downtown celebrating in the Power & Light District with my husband and friends. It’s a New York Times Square atmosphere with the ball drop, confetti and fireworks in the outdoor pavilion at midnight. There’s no other New Year’s Eve venue like it in Kansas City.
We are planning for about 5,000 people to attend this marquee event and, of course, there will be plenty of food and drinks available from 13 bars and restaurants.
On New Year’s Day, we will then be hosting a group of friends to come and watch football at our home.
So what are your secrets to throwing a really great party? The key is to be a relaxed host so your guests are comfortable. I try to get as much done as I can before the party, which includes doing much of the food preparation ahead of time.
I love to make my kitchen island the center of the party with a large display of food, special napkins and plates. I may spend a little bit more buying pre-cut veggies or delicious dips that have been prepared, but because I’m usually pressed for time, these shortcuts help. For instance, I love a specific brand of a spinach artichoke dip, so I will buy that, and then serve it in wonton wrappers that I bake.
Also, when you have friends and family coming over, they are all happy to pitch in and help, so give simple jobs to your guests. This helps to break the ice immediately at a party.
Does entertaining come naturally to you? I am the oldest of four and grew up with my mother, Marsha Felix, always hosting family get-togethers. My mother still has Sunday dinners at her house every week and will send us home with leftovers that we can eat throughout the week.
For the first time this year, I hosted Christmas Eve at my house, and I love that my son is having the experience of people gathering and having a good time in our home. Hopefully, I will become as good as my mother is at cooking and entertaining. She’s always the one hosting parties and showers for people. She’s very organized, but she also goes out of her way to make everyone feel welcome.
Why did you choose this recipe to share? While my mother has many tried-and-true recipes she uses, I like going online and searching through Pinterest for new recipe ideas. I am always confident when I try out something new from Pinterest, because so many people have given their feedback on a recipe — how they changed it and how they served it.
This is a great recipe I found on Pinterest that I like to make because you can use a variety of ingredients and whatever you have on hand. I will be making these on New Year’s Day for the people who come over to our house. You can either whip them up with guests or bake them beforehand and reheat them in the microwave. These quichelettes are just cute and crowd-pleasing.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate a cook.
Power & Light party
Celebrate New Year’s Eve downtown in Kansas City’s Power & Light District Wednesday night. The sixth annual KC Live! event begins at 8 p.m., and partygoers have access to 13 bars and restaurants, live music, champagne toasts and a ball drop at midnight. Tickets start at $50 and can be ordered at NYE-LIVE.com/Kansas-City.
Makes 1 dozen
For the batter:
1/2 cup baking mix (see note)
1 cup milk
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
For the vegetable version:
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 cup diced artichokes
1/2 cup thinly sliced mushrooms, reserve 6 for topping
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper, optional
For the meat version:
1 cup browned and crumbled breakfast turkey sausage
1 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely diced white onion
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat two 6-cup muffin tin pans with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
To make the batter: In a large glass measure with a pourable spout, whisk baking mix, milk, eggs and Parmesan cheese together until well blended. Set aside.
To make the vegetable version: In a small bowl, stir spinach, artichokes, mushrooms and mozzarella together. Season with optional red pepper and stir well. Spoon mixture evenly between 6 baking cups in prepared muffin tin pan. Pour half of prepared batter evenly over filled baking cups and top each with a mushroom slice. Set aside.
To make the meat version: In a small bowl, stir sausage, red pepper, onion and cheddar cheese together. Spoon mixture evenly between remaining 6 baking cups in prepared muffin tin pan. Pour remaining half of prepared batter evenly over filled baking cups.
Place muffin tin pans in oven and bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until a tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and serve.
Note: For baking mix, Waller uses Bisquick.
Per quichelette, vegetable version: 118 calories (53 percent from fat), 7 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 85 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams protein, 251 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
Per quichelette, meat version: 166 calories (63 percent from fat), 11 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), 93 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 327 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.