Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Save money while hosting smashing family gatherings

(ARA) - Whether it's Christmas, New Year's, Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, chances are you plan to host at least one family gathering this holiday season. Which means it's time for you to think of some creative ways to keep expenses down, but still have excellent food and festivities.

Here are some tips to save you time and money on your holiday planning:

* Entertain at home rather than eating out. Walmart has great deals on all the fixings you need to create fabulous holiday meals for eight people for as low as $30.

* Stock up on non perishable items ahead of the party - when sales happen. Beverages, dried and canned goods and even produce can be stored to help spread the cost out and get you the best prices. Blanch and freeze fresh vegetables so all you'll have to do is grab the freezer bag and toss in the veggies while cooking your favorite dishes.

* Plan your meals and your shopping list in advance using your grocery circular. For example, if you're serving bacon for breakfast, hang on to four strips to add in to Creamed Corn Gratin for dinner (recipe below). Or if you fix mashed potatoes for one dinner as a side dish, use the leftovers for a shepherd's pie to serve on a different night.

* Disposables may make life easier and allow you to spend more time with friends and family rather than clean-up in the kitchen. You can spice up the table decorations with paper plates and napkins featuring holiday prints, or mix and match different patterns for cups so everyone can remember which cup is theirs. However, if you have a large family gathering, the cost of using disposables might add up quickly, so consider using the dishes in your cupboard instead, and make sure you have plenty of dish detergent or dish washer soap on hand to tackle the pile.

* Look for simple-to-prepare recipes that don't require a lot of time in the kitchen, so you can spend more time visiting with your guests. A good meal doesn't have to be super fancy to be a success.

Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian has created great holiday recipes for Walmart so you can enjoy flavorful and wholesome meals for your holiday gathering and stay on budget. Here are two recipes to make for your next gathering:

Creamed Corn Gratin

4 strips bacon, chopped
2 medium sweet onions, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cans creamed corn
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter (for greasing)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

In a large saute pan, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove bacon pieces from the pan and in the remaining bacon fat, cook onions slowly over low heat until caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Add back the bacon, and the thyme and cook another minute or two to release flavors. Add creamed corn and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Heat broiler to high. Place the corn mixture in a buttered gratin dish. Top with parmesan cheese and broil until golden brown and bubbly, about two minutes.

Warm Cinnamon Caramel Sauce

3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt

In a medium heavy saucepan, mix water and sugar and then place on medium high heat. Allow to boil (without stirring; only swirl pan if needed) until the mixture turns a pale golden brown, approximately seven minutes. Watch this closely, sugar burns quickly. Remove the mixture from heat, add butter and cream and stir vigorously (mixture will bubble). Return to heat and bring to boil and then remove from heat. Stir in vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Allow to cool a few minutes before drizzling over pumpkin roll cake, pie, or vanilla ice cream.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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