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Plan a Holiday Party for Pennies

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How to celebrate in style without breaking the bank.


Family gatherings, holiday work parties and nights out with the girls ... how are we expected to pay for it all? Celeb chef and mom of two Susannah Locketti has just the solution with two easy, chic, yet low-cost hors d'oeuvre ideas. Plus Susannah shows you how to splurge smart on food and that extra bottle (or two) of bubbly for a Moms' Night Out without breaking the bank!

1. Think Like a French Woman
Most holiday cheese plates feature massive amounts of cheddar and swiss cheeses, loads of assorted crackers and tons of grapes. Less is more in the cheese department. Think like a French woman and pick a cheese that is intended to be enjoyed in small quantities Brie. Brie is my favorite cheese. All you need is an eight ounce wedge which will serve eight ladies an ounce each of this luscious and decadent cheese. A wedge of this size will run you about four dollars for a low end choice or about six dollars for a higher end variety.

Unwrap and bake the wedge at 350 (white rind and all) on a small cookie sheet lined with parchment paper until it begins to gently ooze from all sides. (about ten minutes or so) Remove from the oven, season with pepper and pair it with a small bunch of red grapes, sliced apple on hand, a sprinkling of any leftover nuts and dried fruit you have from your holiday baking, a very small bowl of jam (only if you have it in the fridge already) and a handful of crackers or a small baguette you could warm on the same tray while the cheese is cooking. You can serve it from oven to table rustically right on the parchment-lined cookie sheet and it looks and tastes like a million bucks.

2. Host a Potluck Home or Office Party
Potluck parties need to stay alive and well during this economy. One mom or employee should not have to be responsible for coordinating and feeding everyone. Show off your entertaining savvy with this stylish recipe that is easy on the wallet and the cook.

Coat a nonstick skillet with two tablespoons of olive oil and saute' two cloves of crushed fresh garlic plus a dash of crushed red pepper flakes over medium high heat. After about two minutes, add one 15 oz. can of drained and rinsed white beans along with some fresh black pepper, Italian seasonings (or fresh chopped herbs) plus one tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese. Toss to evenly coat, turn off the heat and serve warm or cold atop crackers or toasted baguette slices.

3. Carry Cash and Play Sharesies
So you've finally rallied up all your mommy friends for a Girls' Night Out and now everyone is left in limbo wondering how to pay for it. First things first: Carry cash and carry it in mixed denominations. Nothing is worse than a bunch of women trying to split a bill and three only have debit cards. Plan ahead, get cash days before the event and be sure to ask for it in small bills. You never know what can come up the day of the event and it's one less stop to worry about when you're on your way to have some fun. Secondly, get everyone at the beginning to agree to share the cost of a bunch of appetizers and a few bottles of wine and champagne. This easy solution gives you all an opportunity to try a little bit of everything inexpensively while turning the night into a mini wine tasting with great conversation.

next: Jon & Kate: Kids "Don't Know Any Different"
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