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Nov 1, 2004 02:16 PM

SIMPLE menu ideas for small party?

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I'm hosting a small get-together this weekend. I can't cook, but I don't want to serve prepared foods either. I'd like to have appetizers for my guests to graze on, as well as perhaps one main dish. Any great ideas that I could cobble together? Thanks in advance.

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  1. Do you want to try and cook? If so, I love a theme to my dinner parties. For instance, Mexican Enchilada Casserole (like lasagne), rice with black beans and little bowls of condiments such as chopped olives, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, jalapenos. Serve Mexican beer or home made Margaritas. If you want a good recipe for the enchilada email me.

    1. If you have a grill, hoisin chicken (hoisin sauce thinned with sake as a marinade) seems to agree with everyone who isn't a vegetarian.

      1. I like to cook, but for simple apps to graze, the other suggestions take too much work in my opinion. You want to have fun and talk to you guests and not worry about the food on the grill. Here are some options:
        -cut up lots of raw veggies into finger size pieces (celery, raw brocolli, carrots, cukes, etc.), put out store-bought hummus (in you own bowl), and cut up pita. Maybe baba ganoush, olives, cheese and crackers, etc. if you want more food.

        An easy thing to impress: buy fancy crackers (not flavored), top with a small spoon of creme fresh and a small spoon of caviar. No cooking involved, but a lot of scooping that can't be done

        make your own guacamole and put out pita or chips. (easiest way is to mash up avocad with some lime juice and lots of salt and pepper.)

        Put out a big bowl of clementines- they are easy to eat, in season, and everyone loves them.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Tamar G

          These are all really good ideas. I don't mind cooking, but sometimes host an open house and really just want to put out some nice, simple things to complement what's cooked. So, I do the veggies and dips and hummus. For cheeses, I tend to platter several kinds on a wooden cutting board and put out knives so guests can cut their own portions – a cheese board. With the cheeses, I usually arrange some seasonal fruit on the board and near-by. I may also pick up some prosciutto or other cold cuts and arrange with the cheese and some nice crackers. Trader Joe's has many good cheeses and crackers for a reasonable price.

          Or, you can go in a completely different direction and make a huge pot of chili. Search for recipes and put out a buffet: chili, chopped tomatoes, diced onions, sour cream, shredded cheese, etc.

          Similarly, friends who can’t cook frequently make a ham (basically buy and reheat based on package directions) and do a buffet with salads, breads, and condiments to eat with the ham. Bonus: the whole house/apartment smells like food after the ham has cooked a while.

        2. Don't laugh:

          Buy a couple Boboli THIN pizza crusts.
          Buy a couple fresh roma tomatoes.
          Buy some nice capicola, prosciutto, or other meat with intense flavor.
          Buy some baby portobello mushrooms.
          Buy some fresh basil.
          Buy a ball of fresh mozzerella.
          Buy some garlic salt.

          Chop everything up and assemble into a pizza, follow the directions on the package and in 10 minutes, you'll have a respectable pizza appetizer.

          If you prefer other toppings, you can pretty much put anything on a thin-crust Boboli and it'll be fine. I've done one with smoked salmon, grilled asparagus and a creamy brie (I'll add anchovies after cooking if the salmon isn't salty). I also recently did a ground spicy Italian sausage, mushroom and provolone on grated roma tomato sauce that worked well.

          I've got two kids under 30 months, and this is a relatively healthy, quick staple on our weekly menu.

          1. If you're not used to cooking, definitely keep it VERY simple so that you can be relaxed and enjoy yourself. For grazing, I would just put out an array of deli meats, olives, several interesting cheeses, flatbread or crackers, and maybe some fresh fruit like grapes, figs, etc. Although you wanted to avoid "prepared" foods, if you put thought and care into the selection and presentation of these items, your guests will appreciate the personal touch and enjoy foods that may be in their "splurge" category. For those who drink alcohol, a light pre-dinner wine and for those who don't, perhaps a cranberry iced tea or spritzer.

            For the main course, I think that roast chicken is relatively easy, *super* delicious, and pleases ALL age groups. Plus, the aroma that it creates in the house is wonderful! You can also roast veggies for a side dish in the same pan, if you don't mind the drippings coating them. I don't like giving detailed recipes, so perhaps you can search for one on the Food Network website that sounds doable to you. PS. Recipes usually tell you to "truss" the bird w/ twine and I never bother to do this and it's just fine.