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Avoid a depression: Recession−proof ideas for throwing your party on a budget

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With banks failing, job layoffs looming and even a 50−cent subway fare increase rumored, the start of 2009 may not seem worth a party. But New Year’s Eve is all about celebrating possibilities — or at least temporarily forgetting about last year’s bad news. Lavish galas are out, but good times and laughter are always in. Here are three recession−proof party ideas that will make the economy seem less threatening and might even add to the host’s bank balance.

Rent party

No job and the landlord wants his money on Jan. 1? Why not follow the grand tradition of Harlem’s Jazz Age and hold a rent party? At a rent party, the host charges $5 or $10 per guest and provides food, drink and entertainment. E−mail invitations to friends, who are encouraged to bring their friends.

This works best if the host has connections with a band that want to perform, up−and−coming comedians who will do stand−up, or budding DJs who want to show their stuff — all for minimal or no pay. The host often splits the proceeds with the entertainers.

Pick a theme and stick to one type of food and drink, such as Mexican seven−layer dip and margaritas, or popcorn and beer. That allows the host to buy the alcohol of choice in bulk. If beer is the beverage, consider buying several cases and selling it for $1 per bottle. Trader Joe’s at 90−30 Metropolitan Ave. in Rego Park offers great bargains on beer (the Union Square store in Manhattan also includes a wine shop).

Food should be cheap, plentiful and homemade to save money. Hosts who cook can serve brownies and easy appetizers such as spiced deviled eggs (see recipes). Not a cook? Try making popcorn on the stove from bulk bags of corn available at health food stores or larger markets. It’s much cheaper than microwave popcorn.

Thinking of a spicy Asian theme? Just northeast of Fresh Meadows is QMart Asian Gourmet, a Korean market that sells inexpensive noodles, snacks and even cheap but−oh−so−tasty prepared food such as mandoo, pickled green chiles and, of course, kim chi.

If the party is a hit, everyone will be jammed into the living room, so move furniture into another room and roll up the rug before everyone comes.

Keep some caveats in mind: Check rental agreements for restrictions on parties before sending out invitations; invite the neighbors or at least warn them of the impending noise to ward off complaints; and ask an imposing−looking friend to stand at the door and act as a bouncer. He may help to keep away trouble — and add an air of celebrity status to the event.

Party like a Brazilian

Although Brazil is in the midst of financial boom right now, the exuberant South Americans know all about roller−coaster economics. Uncertain futures never kept them from having a good time, so follow their example with a Brazilian−themed party.

Visit a party store to decorate the party site in Brazil’s cheerful official colors of bright green and yellow. (Green table covers will be discounted after Christmas). Tech−savvy hosts can plug their computers into the big screen TVs they bought in better times and run a YouTube playlist of samba, pagode, Afro−Brazilian and Capoeira music and videos to keep the crowd hopping. Depending on the attitudes of guests and of their level of political correctness, hosts can add to the party atmosphere with Web images of scantily clad Brazilians enjoying Carnaval.

Serve caipirinhas — potent drinks made with the Brazilian liquor cachaça — and Brazilian black beans with rice and salsa (see recipes). Before long, party guests will be samba-ing away their recessionary troubles.

Back to the future

Some naysayers are predicting the country is headed for another Great Depression, so why not party like it’s 1933? Prohibition ended that year, giving an otherwise depressed nation something to imbibe.

Greet guests with 1930s-era cocktails such as the Ink Street (1 part Irish whisky, 1 part orange juice, 1 part lemon juice) or Monkey’s Gland (1 part dry gin, 1 part orange juice, 1 dash Absinthe per cocktail, Grenadine to taste) while serving soup-kitchen-era favorites such as grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.

For entertainment, rent some 1933 film hits, such as the Marx Brothers’ classic “Duck Soup, best-film-Oscar-winner “Cavalcade,” and that eternal tap-dancing extravaganza, “42nd Street.”

When midnight comes, pour some formerly bootleg champagne and lead everyone in a chorus of “Happy Days Are Here Again.”

Recipes

SPICY DEVILED EGGS

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut lengthwise

1/4 cup light mayonnaise or salad dressing

1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard

1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Paprika for garnish

Green olive tapenade OR green onions OR fresh herbs

Pop out (remove) the egg yolks to a small bowl and mash with a fork. Add mayonnaise, mustard powder, vinegar, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Fill the empty egg white shells with the mixture and top variously with sprinkled paprika OR green olive tapenade OR green onions OR fresh herbs. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to one day before serving. Makes 12; can be expanded to several dozen.

CAIPIRINHA

1 lime

2 ounces of cachaça (or vodka or white rum)

Sugar to taste

Ice cubes

Wash the lime and roll it on a board to loosen the juices. Cut the lime into pieces and place them in a glass. Sprinkle with the sugar and crush the pieces with the pulp side up just so the juice is released. Add the alcohol and stir to mix. Add the ice and stir again.

BRAZILIAN BLACK BEANS WITH RICE & TOMATO SALSA

1/2 lb. black beans (1 1/4 c.)

4 c. water

1 tsp. salt

1 med. onion, studded with 4 cloves

1 clove garlic

1/2 tsp. thyme

1/2 tsp. oregano

1 lg. onion, chopped

1 lg. green pepper, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tbsp. oil

2 med. tomatoes, chopped

3 c. cooked rice

Tomato salsa

Orange slices

Sour cream

Corn bread

Boil beans for 2 minutes and then let stand for an hour. Add salt, clove studded onion and garlic. Simmer 1 hour. Add thyme and oregano and cook 1/2 hour. Saute chopped onion, pepper and garlic in oil. Add beans with liquid and chopped tomatoes. Cook until tomatoes are soft. Remove 1 cup mixture and mash. Return to skillet and cook until sauce thickens slightly. (May be prepared ahead to this point.) Spoon rice onto warm platter. Top with bean mixture and salsa. Garnish with orange slices. Serve with sour cream and corn bread. Serves 6.

TOMATO SALSA

1 can sliced tomatoes

3/4 c. chopped red onion

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. oil

1/2 tsp. salt

1 sm. clove garlic, minced

Few dashes Tabasco

Mix all ingredients.

(Source: Cooks.com)

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