By People Staff
November 12, 2008 12:00 PM

A season full of parties is great for catching up with friends, but there’s a downside. “With so many, it’s like, ‘If I have one more rich plate of food, I’m going to explode,’ ” says Curtis Stone, host of TLC’s Take Home Chef. When it’s your turn to host, Stone, 33, suggests going against the Brie-and-cupcakes tide by serving refreshing, healthy foods: lean chicken and grilled beef, salads and a fruit-based dessert. The menu that he created for PEOPLE follows his year-round approach: “You can eat cheese and chocolate but also eat vegetables, meat and fish.” Another rule? Don’t stress. Says the Los Angeles-based Aussie: “Cooking should be chilled out.”

Three savory choices

With finger food, says Stone, “it’s easy to fall into the trap of crostini with something on top.” Instead, use a lettuce cup as a wrap. It’s lighter, but you get the same crunch.

MENU

Pear martinis

Rosemary-skewered steak with pesto sauce

Bibb lettuce “Beggar’s Purses” with chicken, bleu cheese and grapes

Salad of baby beets with goat cheese

Apple-butterscotch compote with brandy-soaked dates and yogurt

For Curtis’s recipes go to people.com/holiday

Dessert & cocktails

Moderation is the concept, says Stone. Yes, you can have dessert and a real drink (though if you are the host, make sure to offer nonalcoholic choices too). The addition of fruit lightens up both these indulgences.

PEAR MARTINI

6 Bartlett pears

2 tablespoons honey

6 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup good quality vodka

Zest of ½ lemon

1. Peel 4 pears and slice into 1/8-inch pieces, avoiding the core.

2. Sauté slices over medium heat (in a nonstick pan) for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until just turning light brown. Remove and cool pears in the refrigerator.

3. Mix honey, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and ¼ cup water.

4. Peel last 2 pears, then, using a melon baller, scoop balls from the fruit. Marinate in the honey mixture for 10 minutes, then place 3 balls each on 4 small skewers.

5. In a cocktail shaker, add cooled, cooked pear slices, 4 tablespoons lemon juice, vodka, ½ cup of ice, lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of the honey mix. Shake well, allowing pear to break up, then strain into 4 chilled martini glasses. Garnish with skewers.

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