It's finally time for the Oscars! I'm definitely a movie buff, but for me it's as much about the spectacle of the whole event as it is about who actually wins. This year I'll be particularly happy to put up my aching feet while watching Sean, Brad, Angelina, Kate, and Meryl walk the red carpet.
I usually host a little get-together for the awards and go all out with the food and drink. This year I plan to be more cost-conscious while still treating my guests to some fantastic, little-black-dress-appropriate nibbles.
This is my all-time favorite classy, feminine cocktail. When times are flush, I make it with Champagne, but Cava is the perfect alternative for right now. The Spanish sparkling wine generally runs about $8 a bottle. And instead of mixing it with crème de cassis, try a shot of antioxidant-packed pomegranate juice. Pour about a quarter inch into a champagne flute, then top it off with the sparkling wine. Make sure all ingredients are chilled before you start mixing.
I'm not such a big fan of sake on its own (thanks to a bad experience involving tiny fried fish back in the '90s), but it's quite refreshing when mixed into a cocktail. You can get a 750 ml bottle of sake for $10, and the rest of the ingredients—ginger ale, fresh ginger, lemons—are all quite cheap. Skip the crystallized ginger to save a few bucks. Get the ginger saketini recipe.
You can make a delicious no-buzz drink similar to the Kir Royale (which is what this mom-to-be will be sipping). Just like the directions above, pour the pomegranate juice into the flute, then fill the glass halfway with white grape juice and top with sparkling water. Or try our refreshing and low-cal pomegranate lemonade.
You don't have to offer up tons of items at your party. A nice selection of flavorful bites will do.
This is a classic Spanish tapas dish, sure to thrill even Penelope Cruz. Shrimp are only $7.99/pound or so right now, and they're a low-cal source of protein. This recipe doesn't take much time, so cook the shrimp once your guests arrive. Serve with a side of greens and some crusty bread to soak up the flavorful juices. Get the garlic shrimp recipe.
Roast garlic and edamame dip
Here's something that's Hollywood fabulous: A pretty light-green dip that puts heart-healthy soybeans in a tasty, figure-friendly package. And you don't have to pay juice bar prices for it. A bag of frozen edamame is only $3.39. Serve the dip with whole grain crackers, pita chips, sliced jicama, or baby carrots. Get the roast garlic and edamame dip recipe.
Individual chocolate fondues
What's a black-tie event without something rich? These seemingly swanky chocolate treats are less than 150 calories per serving! They're really fun for a group and the ingredients won't cost you a fortune. Along with angel food cake and strawberries, you can also dip bananas (cheaper) or vanilla wafer cookies. Warning—you probably won't want to serve these on the couch. Get the chocolate fondue recipe.
It's the movies, so you must serve some popcorn. But it doesn't have to be standard issue. Lots of people are shying away from microwavable bags of popcorn due to potential chemicals that may leach from the bag or the buttery flavorings.
The solution? Make yours the old-fashioned way on the stove top. Just put in a layer of kernels, fill the lid with butter (if you wish), and pop up this fluffy snack in under three minutes.