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New Year's Eve Bash On A Budget

New Years can be an expensive proposition, especially if you are the one hosting the party. But in these tough economic times, there's no need to cancel your big soiree.

Holley Johnson, Food Editor of Myrecipes.com offered up some great appetizer recipes and some other tips that will keep your budget low while still wowing your guests.

RECIPES:

Mini Caprese Bites
Price: $0.31 per skewer
Makes 8 appetizer servings

Ingredients
1 pt. grape tomatoes, halved
10 to 14 fresh small mozzarella cheese balls, cut into thirds*
32 (4-inch) wooden skewers**
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

1. Thread 1 tomato half, 1 piece of cheese, and another tomato half onto each skewer. Place skewers in a shallow serving dish.

2. Whisk together oil and next 3 ingredients. Drizzle oil mixture over skewers; sprinkle with basil and salt and pepper to taste.

*1 (8-oz.) package fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, may be substituted.

**Wooden picks may be substituted.

Chevre Mango Steak Bites
Price: $0.61 per appetizer
Makes 30 to 34 rolls

These are as easy to make as they are pretty to look at. Prep and cook Time: 1 1/2 hours. Notes: Cut chilled grilled steak when ready to assemble appetizers and slice it very thinly (less than 1/4 inch, if possible). The finished appetizers can be covered and chilled for up to 6 hours.

Ingredients
1 flank steak (about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 lbs.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
About 2 tbsp. milk
1/2 cup (4 to 5 oz.) packed fresh goat cheese
30 to 34 small mint leaves
About 15 dried mango pieces, cut into 1/4- by 1-in. slivers

1. Trim fat from steak. Rinse meat, pat dry, rub with oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

2. Lay steak on an oiled cooking grate over a solid bed of very hot coals or highest gas heat (you can hold your hand 1 to 2 in. above grate for only 1 to 2 seconds); cover gas grill. Cook until firm when pressed on thin end but still quite pink inside (cut to check), 8 to 10 minutes; turn over halfway through. Transfer steak to a plate; let cool at least 30 minutes. About 45 minutes before slicing, put steak in the freezer (it will be easier to slice thinly).

3. On a board with a very sharp knife, cut steak across the grain, straight up and down and as thinly and evenly as possible, to make 30 to 34 slices; save narrow and uneven ends just to eat. If wet, blot with paper towels.

4. Measure accumulated meat juices and add enough milk to make 2 tbsp.; pour into a bowl. Crumble cheese into bowl and mash with a fork into a smooth paste.

5. Working with 1 steak strip at a time, lay strip on a flat side. Spread strip with about 3/4 tsp. cheese mixture, then lay 1 mint leaf and 1 mango piece at end of strip and roll to enclose. Let stand at room temperature at least 10 minutes before serving.

Prep: 20 min. Grape tomatoes vary in size from week to week at the grocery store; some pints we found had only 24 while others had more than 40. Good news, you should still have enough mozzarella balls because they are generally sold in 8-oz. containers that have more than enough.

More recipes on Page 2


Champagne Cocktail
Price: $0.71 per cocktail
Makes 6 cocktails

Once a widely popular and sophisticated drink, the Champagne cocktail fell out of favor for decades, deemed sweet and silly. We find it to be neither. The sugar and bitters balance the natural acidity of sparkling wine, and the cocktail pairs very well with both creamy cheese and earthy mushrooms. Prep Time: 5 minutes. Notes: No reason to bust open the good stuff here. The subtle flavors and fine bubbly texture of high-quality Champagne would be lost once mixed with sugar, so feel free to use less-than-stellar sparkling wine in these cocktails.

Ingredients
6 sugar cubes
3 teaspoons aromatic bitters
1 bottle (750 ml.) brut Champagne or sparkling wine, chilled (see Notes)
Preparation

Put a sugar cube into each of 6 Champagne flutes or wineglasses. Douse each cube with 1/2 tsp. bitters. Top with Champagne and serve immediately.

Southern Shrimp Cocktail
Price: $0.86 per cocktail
Makes 12 servings

Ingredients
12 unpeeled, jumbo cooked shrimp
Rémoulade Sauce
12 whole pickled okra
12 very thin crispy breadsticks, broken in half
Garnish: grape tomato slices

1. Peel shrimp, leaving tails on; de-vein, if desired.

2. Spoon 1 heaping Tbsp. of Rémoulade Sauce evenly into each of 12 individual serving glasses. Place 1 shrimp, 1 whole pickled okra, and 2 breadstick halves in each glass. Garnish, if desired. Serve immediately.

Note: To cook shrimp at home, bring 3 qt. water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Cut 2 lemons in half, and squeeze juice into boiling water; add squeezed lemon halves to water. Add 1 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. salt, and 2 bay leaves. Return to a boil over medium-high heat. Add 1 to 2 lb. unpeeled, jumbo raw shrimp, and cook 3 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink; drain. Plunge shrimp into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain. Cover and chill.

Rémoulade Sauce
Prep: 10 min. You can make this sauce three days ahead.
Makes 2 cups

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
4 green onions, sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons Creole mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons horseradish
1 teaspoon paprika

1. Stir together all ingredients; cover and chill 1 hour.

Caramelized Pear Crostini
Price: $0.39 per crostino
Makes 16 crostini

Sweet pears and sharp blue cheese create an exciting yet homey appetizer. Serve them with sparkling wine, or a slightly sweet white wine. Prep and Cook Time: 30 minutes. Notes: Baguette slices can be toasted up to 1 day ahead and kept in an airtight container until ready to use.

Ingredients
4 tablespoons butter, divided
3 ripe Bartlett pears, cored, peeled, and chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 white or whole-wheat baguette
6 sage leaves, chopped
1/4 cup crumbled mild blue cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Melt 3 tbsp. butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add pears and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pears are soft, about 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cut baguette into 16 slices (1/4 in. thick; see Notes). Spread slices with remaining 1 tbsp. butter and arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake slices until well toasted, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. When pears are soft, stir in sage and remove from heat. Top toasted baguette slices with pear mixture and blue cheese. Sprinkle with pepper. Serve warm.

Sparkling Spice Cocktail
Price: $0.81 per drink
Makes 1 mocktail

Time: 10 minutes, plus 30 minutes to steep. A lively, aromatic, fizzy fluteful that makes a good stand-in for a Kir Royale. You'll have enough syrup for 8 mocktails.

Ingredients
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 star anise, plus 1 for garnish if you like
1 tablespoon Lemon-Lime Juice (see "Bar Essentials," below)
1/2 cup chilled sparkling apple-cranberry juice

1. In a small saucepan, heat sugar with 1/2 cup water and the star anise over high heat until sugar dissolves. Let steep 30 minutes, then strain. (Make ahead: Chill syrup up to 2 weeks).

2. Pour 1 tbsp. star anise syrup into a Champagne flute. Add Lemon-Lime Juice and sparkling apple-cranberry juice.

Bar Essentials: Have these on hand for mixing great mocktails.

Simple Syrup: Equal parts sugar and water, heated until the sugar dissolves. (Your yield will be the same as the amount of water you use.)

Lemon-Lime Juice: Equal parts freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice, for adding acidity in a flash.

Fresh Lemons, Limes, and Oranges: To make juice, wedges for squeezing or moistening the rim of a glass, or twists of zest for extra citrus aroma.

Superfine Sugar: Dissolves easily and makes a nice garnish on the rim of a glass.

Fresh Herbs: Basil, mint, and tarragon add complexity, texture, and visual appeal.

Purchased Ice: For a big party, it's hard to make enough ice at home. Besides cooling, ice helps blend flavors in the shaker.

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