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Party Planning Made Easy

Dec 18, 2007
Hosting a fabulous party doesn't have to be a stressful event. The key is planning and organization. Here's an easy game plan for your next party.

First, determine how many people you will invite and how long the party will last.

Next, determine how much food you'll need. As a rule of thumb, you will need three to four bites per person, per hour. For a small gathering, five to eight different appetizers will suffice. Allow for one to two drinks per hour, per guest.

Then plan your menu. Think about making a few "wow" appetizers and then rounding out the menu with some less labor-intensive dishes, such as a good store-bought cheese ball and crackers or a fruit or cheese platter. And remember, you don't have to make everything from scratch. Take advantage of timesavers from your supermarket, such as sliced baguettes and pre-cut veggies.

You don't have to have traditional serving platters to present your food attractively. Use your imagination--unusual small plates, decorative trays, cutting boards and baskets can all be used for serving.

Finally, don't wear yourself out the day of the party; make what you can ahead of time so that you'll be free to have as much fun as your guests.

Here are two simple appetizer recipes that your guests will rave about.

Spinach and Feta Pinwheels

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 (10 oz) bags frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, drained and finely chopped
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the spinach, roasted red peppers, and both cheeses. Season with salt and pepper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll puff pastry out to an 11-inch square.

Spread spinach mixture evenly over the puff pastry, leaving one inch of pastry uncovered at the far end. Press down evenly with fingers.

Starting on the near side, tightly roll up into a log. With a serrated knife, using a sawing motion, cut roll crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Place slices on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or sprayed with non-stick spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg and one tablespoon water. Brush egg mixture lightly over slices.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until puffed and browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 16 spirals

Make Ahead Tip: Combine spinach, peppers, and cheese. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Cocktail Meatballs & Spicy Cranberry Sauce

2 (32 oz) packages frozen cooked meatballs, thawed
1 cup smoky barbeque sauce
1 can cranberry sauce with whole berries
1/4 cup hot chili sauce*
1/4 cup orange juice

Cook the barbeque sauce, cranberries, chili sauce, and orange juice in a dutch oven or large stock pot over medium heat for five minutes, stirring to combine. Add meatballs, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot.

Makes 60 to 70 meatballs

Tip: The meatballs may also be prepared in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.

*Look for Sriracha in the Asian Foods section.
About the Author
Toni Tanner Scott, Personal Chef & Cooking Coach, http://www.dinnermadesimple.com
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