Entertaining for the season

Sara Macho

Here’s how to throw a no-hassle holiday party

Imagine a holiday party where the guests swooned over the festive cocktails, delicious appetizers and tasty main dishes.

Now imagine that same dinner party not costing the host or hostess more than $10 per guest.

This holiday season treat your close friends to an intimate dinner party that will guarantee good food and conversation without yanking on your purse strings.

First and foremost, Mike Vig, banquet sales manager, advises the student host or hostess to plan his or her budget.

“You need to create the menu with your budget in mind,” Vig said. “When shopping, look for sales and grocery store advertisements.”

Donna Ward, instructor in the family and consumer studies department, also said the menu should always be within your budget and skill level.

Invitation etiquette

Snail-mail invitations are a thing of the past, especially if your dinner party is among close friends. Ward said sending out e-mail invitations, such as an e-card, is a perfectly acceptable, and not to mention cheap, way to invite guests.

“Today, e-mail has become the number one way to communicate,” she said. “In the hectic days of our busy lives most invitations that are delivered via post office get opened up for the moment, set aside and lost in the shuffle. Save yourself the frustrations and postage and use the resources of e-mail.”

But, Ward added, make sure to utilize the “notify when opened method” to ensure your invitation was even read.

Vig also approves of sending e-mail invitations because it is a more direct form of communication. But when designing your e-card or e-mail, make sure your spelling and grammar is correct, he said.

Deciding on a menu

Though you may want to impress your guests with your extraordinary culinary abilities, Ward recommends sticking with tried and true recipes.

“If you are the chef for your event, go with what you know will be successful,” she said. “Pick a few recipes you have made in the past that have been tested and successful. Entertaining is never a good time to try something new.”

An inexpensive, yet delicious menu could include a mint jelly spread over a block of cream cheese and another block topped with salsa. To accompany this dip, Ward recommended using holiday-shaped Ritz crackers on the side.

“The holiday color for presentation is there and this leaves you time to mingle with your guests,” Ward said.

As far as the main course is concerned, Ward rates chicken enchiladas on her list of cheap and easy meals that mostly everyone enjoys.

“Your main course can be something that can be put in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes and served hot such as chicken enchiladas that you made earlier and put in the refrigerator until the appropriate time to be put in the oven,” Ward said. “This goes a long way and is inexpensive.”

Vig also recommends making the main course be something that you can prepare beforehand.

“It really comes down to how much time you want to spend,” he said. “You don’t want to be in the kitchen the entire time and not entertaining your guests.”

But when it comes to desserts, Ward hinted that it might be the part of the meal to splurge on.

“You dessert should always be a POW at the end to leave your guests feeling special,” she said. “Fresh berries with a light pound cake or angel food cake with heavy whipping cream is always great in presentation and flavor. Who doesn’t like fresh berries this time of year?”

And the fondue is still a trendy, yet inexpensive feature of a dinner party, Vig said. Hundreds of fondue recipes, such as cheese or chocolate treats, can be found on various food Web sites.

Choosing decorations

No holiday party would be complete without fun, festive decorations. When picking these out, Ward said to keep with a theme and don’t be afraid to purchase cheaper alternatives.

“Always bargain hunt for deals so you feel good about your decorations,” she said. “Never go over your budget when it comes to this because the small details are really overlooked. Spend more on your shoes. Believe me, you really are judged by your shoes.”

Contact features reporter Sara Macho at [email protected].