Monday, December 29, 2008

New Years Party Planner

For the longest time, my friends and I couldn’t decide what we were going to do on New Year’s Eve. Go out of town, or stay close to home? Buy tickets to a swanky party in the city or throw an intimate bash in the living room?

Problem #1: We’re all recent college grads on limited budget. So much for the swanky (but ridiculously expensive) party in the city.

Problem #2: Most of us either live with our parents or in tiny apartments that barely fit a futon in the living room…meaning any get-togethers at home would be a little too cozy.

The Solution? We’ve decide to spend the New Year’s holiday at the beach. We have a free place to stay (thanks to some generous parents who are loaning us their house) and plenty of room to throw a festive party.

But how do we turn a beach-themed summer retreat into a fantastic winter soiree? Luckily, I stumbled upon my new favorite blog which offers some amazing ideas for planning a New Year’s Eve party (and lots of other types of parties, too!). Just click on your favorite theme (I like “Gold and Silver Shimmer”) and you’ll find everything from ideas for decorating the table to recipes that fit the theme. The best part is it’s easy to do on a budget! As the web site suggests, I found tons of great stuff at Target: 100 feet of gold tinsel for less than $45 and gold charger plates for a steal ($19.99 for 10). You can even find plastic silverware painted to look like real gold at party stores or here.

And, here are two awesome, quick and delicious recipes that I’m planning to bring to the party:

Chicken Quesadillas

1 can (10 3/4 oz.) Campbell's® Healthy Request® Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 can (9.75 oz.) Swanson® Premium Chunk Chicken Breast in Water, drained
8 flour tortillas (8-inch)

1) Preheat oven to 425°F.
2) Mix soup, chili powder, cheese and chicken.
3) Spread about 1/4 cup soup mixture on half of each tortilla to within 1/2" of edge. Moisten edge with water. Fold over and seal. Place on 2 baking sheets.
4) Bake 10 min. or until hot. Makes 8 quesadillas.

Holiday Brie en Croute

1/2 of a 17.3 ounce package Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet)
1 egg
1 tbsp. water
1/2 cup apricot preserves OR seedless raspberry jam
1/3 cup dried cranberry, softened*
1/4 cup toasted sliced almond
1 (13.2 ounces) Brie cheese round
1 pkg. (26 ounces) Pepperidge Farm® Entertaining Quartet Distinctive Crackers

1) Thaw the pastry sheet at room temperature for 40 minutes or until it's easy to handle. Heat the oven to 400°F. Mix the egg and water in a small bowl.
2) Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a 14-inch square. Cut off the corners to make a circle.
3) Spread the preserves on the pastry circle to within 1-inch of the edge. Sprinkle the cranberries and almonds over the preserves. Place the cheese in the center of the pastry circle. Brush the edge of the pastry circle with the egg mixture. Fold 2 opposite sides over the cheese.
4) Trim the remaining 2 sides to 2-inches from the edge of the cheese and fold them up onto the cheese. Press the edges to seal. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet. Decorate the top with the pastry scraps, if desired. Brush with the egg mixture.
5) Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Let stand for 1 hour. Serve with the crackers.

*To soften the cranberries, mix the cranberries and 1/2 cup hot water in a small bowl. Let stand for 1 minute. Drain and pat the cranberries dry.

I must say, I love the pre-pared Pepperidge farm pastry sheets! They make my dishes look artistic and complex, taste delicious, and save me lots of time! Happy New Year’s party planning!

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