The idea of a smashing holiday party is to celebrate - not to get smashed. Which means you need food. And since you've never used your oven, we asked entertaining-maven Colin Cowie, author of Colin Cowie Chic, to tell us how to fake it. Certainly, there is the shrink-wrapped supermarket crudite or cheese plate starring - yawn - brie. But there are ways to up the creativity with some easy, fairly cool alternatives.

Nuts
Don't just pour Planter's into a bowl. Instead, sautee some almonds or macadamia nuts in curry, coriander, garam masala, cumin and salt and put them out by the drinks. The combination of salt and spice will get people drinking and the party started< on the off chance that your guests need encouragement.

Charcuterie Station
Put a few open bottles of red next to a platter of salami and two kinds of hard cheese such as Parmesan and Pecorino. The heart-healthy wine should offset the artery-clogging snack (isn't that the theory?). Instead of crackers, serve it with sliced toasted baguette. Then, get some assorted grilled sausages and serve those with three kinds of mustard (no, not French's).

Easiest Finger Foods
Before your party, order a couple dozen samosas and egg rolls (that you can slice) from your favorite local places. They freeze up fine, and can be thawed just minutes before guests arrive. If your copy-cat friend asks for the recipe, hand her the take-out menu - you'll look savvy and clever.

Soup Shots
Buy some chilled soup, pour it into a few shot glasses, which you can store on a tray until ready to serve. Sound like work? If you can make Jello shots, you can do this.

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