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Cooking For A Crowd: Entertaining On A Budget

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Swiss Cheese Onion Crostini

(Family Features) - Whether you're expecting family for the weekend or a dozen friends for a party, feeding a lot of people can be challenging. But with some creativity and wallet-stretching tips, you can satisfy the hungry hoards without breaking the bank.

Weekend Menu

Friday Night Dinner: Home-style Comfort Meal. Make a one-pot meal that's ready whenever they arrive: lasagna, layered potato casserole, a big pot of soup or stew. Offer plenty of cornbread, biscuits or good bread and butter.

Saturday Breakfast: Omelet Bar. Dub someone Chef and provide plenty of fixin's-shredded cheese, bits of cooked bacon or deli meats, cream cheese, smoked salmon, diced veggies. You'll use more eggs but fewer costly ingredients.

Saturday Dinner: Beef Brisket with Carrots. Slow braising is easy and effective for this less pricey cut of meat. The beef gets fork tender and fills the kitchen with tantalizing aromas.

Sunday Lunch: Creamy Crab Bisque. Make this delicious Southern soup in a New York minute. Serve with crackers and salad tossed with hearts of palm and vinaigrette.

Money-Saving Tips

Bake it Yourself. Fancy desserts can set you back, so learn how to make a signature dessert, whether it's an amazing batch of brownies or a simple apple tart. Less money for a lot more glory.

Go Back to the Future. Watching your food dollar is nothing new. Many comfort foods were born in budget days. So bring back the family favorites that feed dozens on a dime-meatloaf, baked ziti, chicken casseroles, vegetarian chili. Get recipes at wholefoodsmarket.com.

Get Value from Volume. A houseful is one time you can't buy too much of a good thing. Ask about case and volume discounts in all departments. Choose recipes so you buy big on discounted and sale items.

Sneaky Substitutions

If you're hosting a party, you can save on great tasting dishes by making some simple substitutions.

The Usual: Guacamole

The Alternative: Black Bean Dip topped with chopped avocado. Guacamole uses three to four avocados. This uses just one.

The Usual: Smoked Salmon Slices

The Alternative: Smoked Salmon Spread. Smoked salmon's strong flavor penetrates cream cheese so you don't need much.

The Usual: Platter of Olives and Marinated Veggies

The Alternative: Bruschetta with Olive & Veggie Topping. This uses less, controls portions and the bread is filling.
For more recipes and money-saving ideas, visit wholefoodsmarket.com or check out Whole Foods Market's quarterly guide, called The Whole Deal, available in stores.

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Swiss Cheese Onion Crostini

  • 2-3 tablespoons 365 Everyday Value Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 yellow or white onions, very thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large baguette, sliced on the diagonal into 12-16 slices, about 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons 365 Everyday Value Organic Dijon Mustard
  • 2 cups grated Gruyère cheese

    1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
    2. In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; add onions. Let onions cook at least 3 minutes before stirring (they should start to brown before you move them around).
    3. Continue to cook, stirring only occasionally, about 20 minutes, until onions are well browned. Add thyme and season with salt and pepper. Spread bread slices with a little mustard.
    4. Divide onion mixture evenly over bread slices then top each with cheese. Place on foil-lined baking sheet; bake 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Makes 12-16 pieces (8 servings)

SOURCE: Whole Foods Market

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