There’s nothing like providing a wonderful, easy, home-cooked meal for loved ones—and saving money in the bargain. In fact, this lavish and healthy spread will reflect your special efforts and good taste, not your budget. An added bonus: You’ll have time to relax and enjoy the evening because much of the meal is prepared well in advance, leaving you time to set a stunning table and spiff yourself up before the doorbell chimes. Who says entertaining friends and family in style need cost all your free time—or a fortune?


  • Veggie Juice Hot Shots | Herbed Goat-Cheese Puffs
  • Carrot Salad with Arugula and Mustard Greens
  • Chicken and Pasta in Brodo
  • Olive Oil Cake with Citrus Compote

Herbed Goat-Cheese Puffs

Makes 24 / Once you experience how easy making this pastry is, you’ll cook up these bite-size appetizers again and again. Ingredient tip: To save even more money, use savory whipped cream instead of goat cheese; simply whip 6 ounces cream until it holds a peak, then add 2 teaspoons fresh basil, one bunch chopped chives, zest from two lemons, and a pinch of salt. Prep tips: Juice the zested lemons for the Veggie Juice Hot Shots. View recipe.

Veggie Juice Hot Shots

Serves 6 / Couldn’t be simpler. Prep tips: Adjust the amount of cayenne pepper to suit your tolerance for heat. Vodka is optional! View recipe.

Carrot Salad with Arugula and Mustard Greens

Serves 6 / Prep tips: If you can’t buy Osaka mustard greens (also called red mustard leaf, often included in spicy salad mix) loose or at a farmer’s market, a bag of mixed salad greens is a fine substitute. For a heartier salad, add frozen and thawed edamame. View recipe.

Chicken and Pasta in Brodo

Serves 6 / Your dinner’s centerpiece. The simple homemade chicken broth (brodo) is the basis for the deeply satisfying flavor. Ingredient tip: Choose an unusual pasta shape, like fusilli, for visual appeal. Using whole-grain pasta is delicious here and doesn’t feel heavy in so much broth. Prep tips: Cooking in advance and letting the broth set for a day makes it taste even better. Serving tip: Crusty bread with this course would be nice. View recipe.

Olive-Oil Cake with Citrus Compote

Serves 12 / An unusual and healthy alternative to other baking fats, extra-virgin olive oil lends its characteristic fruity aroma to this satisfying cake, similar in texture to a pound cake. The slightly bitter peels lend a not-too-sweet, sophisticated taste. View recipe.

Party timetable

2 days ahead

  • Shop for groceries
  • Soak beans overnight; cook
  • Cook chicken; pull meat off bones
  • Prepare stock
  • Chill all

1 day ahead

  • Prepare chicken broth
  • Make sweet onion dressing
  • Prepare citrus for compote
  • Soften goat cheese; add herbs and zest

Party day


  • Remove eggs (for puffs) from fridge to bring to room temperature
  • Bake cake
  • Bake puffs
  • Mix beverage
  • Clean salad greens

Late afternoon:

  • Prepare citrus sauce for cake
  • Shred carrots and mix with dressing
  • Stuff cheese puffs
  • Cook pasta, drain, and lightly oil
  • Set out chicken broth mixture to bring to room temperature
  • Set table
  • Set up appetizer buffet
  • Spiff yourself up!