Elegant Dinner on a Budget

It’s time for New Year’s Eve celebrations to commence as 2010 comes to an end.  Some of you may already have plans while others may be a whole lot like me, and still trying to decide what you want to do!  Having friends over is always a good option for celebrating as most of us enjoy a more personal atmosphere instead of getting lost in a crowd.  So many people are afraid of entertaining, but honestly there are many good reasons to have friends over, and you don’t have to break the bank while doing it.
When I invite friends and family over, it is because I want them here.  It’s not out of obligation and it’s not an act.  I love the people who are in my life, and I want them to know how important each one is.  For us, Christmas Eve has become a time when we invited some of our dearest of friends over to spend the day laughing, eating, and just enjoying the closeness only true friends can share.
Part of the joy I have in inviting people over is making them feel special.  Everyone likes to feel like they are important.  In a society that is “all about me”, people are thinking of others less and less which has also changed the way we entertain.  Fewer people are open to the idea of having guests over to visit.  It’s up to us, one at a time, to change that trend and go back to more personal relationships.
Think of how you feel when you go out somewhere and you are well taken care of by the host or hostess.  It makes you feel great!  It’s easy to create this same feeling in your home, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to do so.  One way I try to make my guests feel special is by planning a meal I know we will all enjoy and setting a table that says I thought of you.
Christmas Eve table
Planning my menu this year took a lot of thought.  I wanted something nice, but not so expensive that we walked away from the table thinking, “that was it?”  So I went with Cornish Hens as my main course.  I paid $2.48 for each 24 ounce hen and bought twelve of them to feed fourteen for lunch.
Preparing them was fairly simple.  I washed, then patted each one dry.  Carefully loosening the skin from the breast, I place softened butter between the layers.  I salt and peppered the outside and cavity of each bird before stuffing them with a tablespoon of butter, chopped fresh marjoram, chives, basil and fresh cranberries.
tie the legs of the birds together to help hold your stuffing in.

 

Cover loosely with foil (to prevent them from browning to quickly) and bake at 375 degrees until the juices run clear or until they reach an internal temp of 165 degrees.  Remove the foil when you know they are close so that the skin will brown and crisp up.

 

Since we were eating a bit earlier on Christmas Eve this year, I used a couple of shortcuts to aid in “finishing” our dinner.  While shopping at Fresh Market I found this great “White Wine” foundation sauce that sounded perfect for my hens.  Taking the base sauce, I added the same type of fresh herbs & cranberries that I had stuffed the birds with and simmered them together for about thirty minutes.

 

 

When my cornish hens were ready, I removed them from the oven and arranged them on platters with wild rice, then drizzled the white wine sauce over the top for a finished dish.
I thought they looked pretty!
When entertaining nothing says you have to spend a fortune to have a great dinner.  Including all of our side dishes, I spent about $70.00.  That is $5 a person!  You sure can’t eat out for that price, which makes entertaining at home so much more practical.
The idea of entertaining is not to spend the most money, but to make the event memorable and your guests feel special.  Start with a plan and let the good times roll!
How do you make your guests feel special and save at the same time?