This started back when our kids were 4 and 6 years old. Back then we paid a lot of attention to what our kids ate, and tried really hard to ensure that they had proper vegetables, fruits, healthy grains and dairy, etc. We were pretty strict about sugary snacks, and at meal times, we required them to try at least one bite of everything on their plates. Looking back, our parenting around mealtime was probably a bit overdone, but now our kids are really smart, healthy eaters so maybe it wasn't all bad.
Anyway, when they were little, it was a big deal - I mean, a BIG DEAL - for them to be able to choose what they had for meals. So on New Year's Eve of 1998 our first "Eat What You Want" night was born.
We filled the kitchen table with a wide variety of foods, including hot and cold finger foods and snacks, healthy options and sweet treats. We set out plates and napkins, and told the kids they could choose anything they wanted, all night long. The kids were thrilled to have such autonomy, and I was thrilled to see that they mostly chose smart healthy foods with only a few snacks and treats thrown in for good measure.
Over the years, we have repeated this tradition each year. The kids are 17 and 19 now, so this is not at all a big deal for them of course to choose their own foods. This year our son will be spending the night at a friend's house, and our daughter will be having a group of friends over at our house for a sleepover. We'll still have our buffet of various items on our kitchen table, it will just be different kids partaking this year.
A sample menu from the early days:
- fruit platter
- vegetables and dip
- cheese and crackers
- cocktail meatballs
- chicken bites
- honey BBQ wings
- mini pizza rounds
- yogurt cups
- potato chips
- hummus and toasted pita
- baked eggrolls
- ham and cream cheese pinwheels
- various dessert options (brownie bites, cookies, chocolate pretzels, etc.)
In later years, we would add in more sophisticated items such as broiled garlic shrimp or shrimp cocktail, stuffed mushrooms, or bacon-wrapped scallops. One year we splurged and had a fondue night as the central food theme, doing a cheese fondue with bread and veggies early in the evening, and chocolate fondue with fruit and angel food cake later in the evening.
We always start around 6pm, and leave everything out for as long as someone is still snacking. We usually spend our evenings together watching football, playing board games, or when the kids were little, playing with their new Christmas toys. I spent many New Years Eves playing with Polly Pockets with my daughter while my husband and son watched football. Ahhhh! memories!
What is your New Year's Eve food tradition?
Linking up today to All Things Heart and Home's All Things Inspired party.