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Party for 20 only have $200. budget...ideas?

I am having a party for about 20 women this weekend. My budget is only $10. per head for food. The party is from 7-11 so I would like to have apps, something resembling dinner, and dessert. The beverages have their own budget, so I don't have to think that into the equation.
Things I was thinking so far...

mini crab cakes

Main course.
~A couple of quiches, one mushroom, leek, and cheese (veg) and the other like a lorraine style.
~Steak wraps
~Huge green salad with chicken breast slices in a vinagrette or "asian style" with snap peas and sesame dressing.
~Pasta primavera (served either warm or cold)

Fruit plates
Cake bites

Any feedback plus more ideas are very much appreciated.

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  1. One thing that I love to do that is very cost effective but takes up more time is thai spring rolls with peanut sauce.. The rice paper wrappers, and rice noodles are cheap. I like to use bibb or romaine lettuce, carrot, cucumber, bean sprouts, fresh basil, mint and cilantro. and you can add shrimp or tofu. If you are trying to keep the cost down, omit the shrimp or tofu. I believe I saw a recipe for peanut sauce on here, but there are better ones you can find on the internet in my opinion.

    1. I went to a brunch yesterday and the hostess asked me to make a recipe that she gave me-looking over the recipe I thought they sounded a bit boring. They were for zucchini, black bean and corn enchilidas and they were FANTASTIC. They were inexpensive to make, made a lot and can be prepared and served whenever. I kept hearing everyone commenting and there were a lot of other things being served including some other non veg. enchilidas and about 4-5 quiches...an 11 year old girl sitting near me kept whispering to her friend how great they were! I can post the recipe later on if you want it, it came from Cooking Light!

      2 Replies
      1. re: 4chowpups

        Those sound great! I would totally love the recipe thanks :)

        1. re: momof3

          Here is the recipe from Cooking Light for the enchiladas. I tried to find it on their site and it isn't posted. They don't seem that interesting from the recipe but I am telling you, they are UNBELIEVEABLE. You could also make different filling (I make enchildas with chicken, black beans, spinach and mushrooms) but they are great as is. (I used most ing. from Trader Joe's, their frozen corn is great-not chewy and tastes like CORN!)~ The sauce for this is sooo good that I'd make double since you'll have half of an onion and 1/2 can broth left anyway and either make another pan to freeze or freeze the sauce and use later.

          Black Bean, Corn and Zucchini Enchilidas

          1 tsp. canola oil
          2 c. diced zucchini
          1 (10 oz. pkg.) frozen whole kernel corn
          1 (15 oz. can) black beans, drained
          3 cups Enchilada sauce (recipe below)
          cooking spray
          8 whole wheat tortillas
          2 c. reduced fat cheddar cheese-I used a Mexican mix, not reduced fat

          Preheat oven 350
          Heat oil, add zucchini and corn, saute until tender (5 min.). Remove from heat and add beans.
          Spray a 13 x 9 baking pan with cooking spray. Spread 1 cup of Enchilada sauce on the bottom of the pan. Spoon 1/2 cup of veg. in center of tortilla, add approx. 2 tlb. of cheese and wrap putting cut side down in pan (I actually got 10 tortillas out of this). Spread remaining 2 cups of sauce over enchiladas and bake, covered with foil, 30 min.
          Uncover and top with 1 cup of cheese. Bake 10 minutes.

          Enchilada Sauce

          1 tsp. canola oil
          1/2 c. diced red onion
          1 tsp. minced garlic
          1/2 c. vegetable broth
          1 tlb. chili powder
          1 tlb. honey
          1 tsp. cumin
          1/2 tsp. salt
          1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes

          Heat oil and saute garlic and onion until onion is tender. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 min.

      2. If you make your own desserts (or buy mixes on sale) they can be cheaper than buying fancy bakery items. Fruit can also be rather expensive if you get berries & such but not as expensive if you use oranges/apples/bananas/melons.

        What you've got planned sounds great! Instead of pasta primavera, maybe a cold couscous salad with tomatoes, feta, green onion, olives, etc and a lemon vinaigrette? Nice and summery.

        1. I would leave the chicken off the green salad, you already have two other proteins w/ the quiche and steak wraps, I can't see the need to run up the cost w/ the chicken. In fact, i think pasta and steak wraps + the green salad is plenty without the quiches anyhow. Or do the quiches "mini" in place of the crab cakes...I'm making the assumption here that eggs and cheese are cheaper than buying crab, although I must say I thought the crab claws 8 oz for $6 at Whole Foods was a reasonable price.

          1. FWIW, the more variety you have, the more people will eat. Have you priced this out? Crab meat is really expensive--close to $20 per pound the last time I looked. You could do hummus and other dips for the crudites, along with pita that would be inexpensive and filling. I agree about the chicken being unnecessary (though it sounds great) with the other proteins. You might need more than two quiche--that would be one for 10 women, pretty small slices. Maybe add some good crusty bread. It's simple, delicious and a good filler. I think a fruit plate and brownies or cake, not both, would be enough. If you have more, people will eat more.

            3 Replies
            1. re: chowser

              Oh yes, bread...excellent idea. Although I am currently obsessed w/ artisinal bread, it is often $5 a loaf. Risking being sneered at, I will suggest that frozen par-baked baguettes from the grocery store, if finished cooking in a hot oven are pretty damn tasty.

              I'm definitely in agreement about the variety=consumption comment. As a person w/ no self-control, but a desire to fit in my pants, I would appreciate brownies OR cake, not AND.

              1. re: danna

                Have you tried the no knead bread? Since it got me into bread baking, I've been trying all types and can't remember the last time I've bought bread any more. Amazing what flour, salt, yeast and water can do.


                1. re: danna

                  No need for artisan bread for bruschetta. Here in Texas, you can't get a decent loaf of bread unless you buy artisan bread, so we have learned to make do when we can't get to the store that carries it. (Yeah, we are snobby transplanted New Yorkers). If you go to Costco or Sam's, you can get a pack of white or whole wheat baguettes for something like $1.99. Once they are sliced and toasted in the oven, it will be the perfect base for a beautiful topping. The expensive bread would be a waste.

                  I also question the use of crab meat. You would need quite a bit of crab to make anything decent. Have you considered using frozen shrimp for an appetizer -- maybe on a skewer (don't know what your cooking facilities will be). You can also get 2 lbs. of frozen shrimp 31-40 per pound for about $14 in the wholesale food clubs, and it is the same quality as the grocery store. In fact, Alton Brown suggests buying it frozen and cleaned with the tails on because what you buy in the store otherwise has already been frozen -- they just defrost it for you. BTW, you can get cooked shrimp the same way.

              2. Are you using marinated flank steaks for the steak wraps? They are inexpensive and perfect for large crowds. My fav way to wrap them is with some spicy basil pesto and roasted red peppers.

                4 Replies
                1. re: thunderbug84

                  I'm big on flank steak, but it can be anywhere from $7 to $10 per pound. However, there is NO waste and it is just delicious. In fact, I am serving at my party this weekend.
                  One other suggestion are pork tenderloins. You can find these cheaply too, especially (I hate to bring it up again) at a Sam's or Costco. No waste, not even $4 per pound. You can marinate them yourself or buy them already marinated.

                  1. re: RGC1982

                    Yes, an excellent point. I had pork tenderloin from Sam' s Sunday night and it wasn't bad. $3.99/pound. I made kebobs and glazed them with maple(there's your splurge) and horseradish. I couldn't tell much difference between that and the $9/lb ones I've been getting at WF. For $11 I put half (two loins) in the freezer, cooked the other half, chopped up the leftovers which will be a "barbeque" sandwich tonight. 8 meals for $11. 4 oz. has 2.5 grams of fat and 23 grams of protein. I'm a big fan of pork tenderloin....not an exciting product, but a workhorse.

                    I disagree with the suggestion above about shrimp at Sam's. My Mom said the same thing, and bought that frozen Sam's shrimp for my Dad's birthday party last year. Understandable since we were feeding 50, but no flavor and mushy...I would rather not eat shrimp than that stuff. Especially here in SC where I can get fresh wild if I'm patient.

                    1. re: danna

                      Wow, I've never had mushy shrimp from Sam's. Was it raw or cooked? Maybe the package had been thawed and refrozen?

                      I do like the taste of fresh wild shrimp better, agreed, but when I'm cooking it in Shrimp Creole or Scampi for the masses, as long as the texture is good, the frozen raw works. Plus -- I don't have to clean it. In fact, I put 4 lbs. of it out in my hot spicy Creole sauce as a buffet item just this weekend. But I do confess that I buy Gulf Shrimp when just cooking for us at home!

                      1. re: RGC1982

                        raw. who knows about the refrozen possibility.

                        They weren't AWFUL. I wasn't embarrassed to serve them or anything, but since they were just served plain/boiled, you really noticed their deficiencies. It IS telling the difference between what you might choose to serve to guests and what you keep for your own "private stock", eh?

                2. My entree ideas should have had the word "or" in between. I wasn't going to make all of those things. One main entrees, with more of a variety for starters and desserts is ideal.
                  Thanks for all the ideas so far.

                  1. i'm going to agree with the earlier recs for hummus or some type bean dip or creamy dip with the crudites, and that chicken would be nice on the salad but unnecessary with the rest of the proteins. as others have said, it is possible to keep the cost of your menu down while still making it nice-- i'd maybe do salmon cakes rather than crab cakes. i think the best way to keep it cheap w/o sacrificing quality of ingredients would be to either serve salad, quiche and pasta, or serve salad, steak wraps and pasta & agree that fruit and just one cake/brownie dessert should be plenty. you can do your bruschetta idea with cheese and herbs & serve it alongside the salad and it would be very substantial-- another (very cheap) idea would be grilled or broiled polenta cakes with cheese-- again, very cheap but more labor intensive, but they could be prepped way ahead of time. when planning these things don't forget about the costs of things like dressings, croutons, & other added-on things as well such as ice, serveware, paper products, garnishes. . . it all adds up!

                    oh the spring rolls are a good rec too-- or potstickers-- same idea, the filling goes a long way, but more labor intensive. & i for one would be interested in the zucchini-black bean enchilada recipe suggested by 4chowpups!

                    1. Hey momo!
                      I just through a huge mother's day event so I hope I can help out.

                      With your appetizers, why not simplify and do a couple types of bruschetta? You could do an olive tapenade spread, a creamy goat cheese spread with cucumber slices sprinkled with chives, and a tomato/basil version. Slice your bread thin - maybe 1/2 inch slices and with 4 loaves, you should be plenty prepared. (You could even do your crab salad if you wanted to splurge, but just use the baguette slices to cut down on cost)

                      with your main course, it sounds like an awful lot of food the way it's written, but I think I get what you are saying...

                      meat dish = steak wraps
                      pasta salad = primavera (side) it's summer! go cold, it would be wonderfully complimentary
                      salad - agree, meatless is a great idea

                      I got a little lost with the quiches, they seem a bit out of place for me...but I am kind of weird, so ignore this if you don't agree...maybe another side instead, something like roasted rosemary potatoes or roasted asparagus with squeezed lemon and shaves of parm? It just seems like it might be a little heavy with the meat and pasta and eggs...just a thought.

                      dessert sounds nummy. I think you've got it made with either cake and berries or brownies and berries, whip up some fresh cream and wa-lah. (sp?)

                      GOOD LUCK! It'll be great, just remember to get out there an celebrate too instead of cooking all day!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: lollya

                        I clarified above. The mains were separate ideas, I plan on only choosing one.

                          1. re: lollya

                            I love your bruschetta ideas! Esp the goat cheese with cukes!

                      2. This is a great inexpensive starter, that might be a better choice than crab cakes!

                        i think for 20 people, it might not hurt to have all 3 dessert ideas if you can swing it!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: elizabeththinks

                          That looks so yummy! I was thinking about trying some store bought dough, putting it on a hot pannini press, adding ingredients, and finishing off in the oven.
                          I'll let you know.

                          1. re: momof3

                            I've made it before, once from supermarket dough, and once from a local pizza place (which was a tiny bit cheaper and easier to work with). Definitely let me know if the press works, bc rolling it out can be a little arduous.

                            1. re: elizabeththinks

                              I always make deviled eggs when I am watching my $$$. They are always a hit and you can always pick up a dozen eggs for less than a buck.....makes 24 pcs. I mix up my yokes w/ a little sweet relish, dry mustard, paprika ......etc.

                        2. It all looks good (very good), as do most of the suggestions others have made. I know it is a meal for women, who do tend to eat less than men - but from a guy's point of view except for possibly the pasta primavera, I'm kinda wondering what the "bulk dish" is. The one for the guests who arrive kinda hungry. Filling up on crab cakes and steak wraps isn't quite a budget conscious way to go. Perhaps a rice pilaf or other filling yet low cost item? Or is this really a guy thing?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                            I agree with you that this could be a concern, esp. with the quiches. People might be looking for something more substantial...but on the other hand without knowing the exact group, it's hard to say. I'm notorious for having to much food! I do think steak wraps plus side salads could be inexpensive and filling.

                          2. crab and steak are both very expensive proteins. recently beef prices have skyrocketed. fact is, most animal proteins are very pricey right now, so use them judiciously.

                            if everything is presented small, people tend to graze and actually eat more, instead of taking a slice or two of something, so you need some bigger centerpiece-type dishes.

                            crudite with several dips, like hummus and roasted red pepper/walnut puree is nice.

                            the bruschetta or flatbread pizza idea is great as nibbles while everybody arrives. or skip that and instead do a side of poached salmon. on sale salmon can be had for $4 or $5 and 3-4 pounds for an appetizer would be plenty. this will allow you a smaller amount of protein for the main course.

                            rather than several quiches, more time- and cost-effective would be a large frittata or strata. see what cheese is on sale, gruyere, swiss, asiago, and use a bit of ham and scallion. or sausage.

                            chilled gazpacho is very cheap, pretty and filling.

                            a big tray of spanakopita or veggie lasagne would work too.

                            chicken drumettes are frequently on sale, and delicious marinated with lemon/ginger/garlic.

                            a big veggie salad of green beans, snow peas, celery and chickpeas, or if you're in a hot climate and the price is good, a huge juicy tomato basil salad.

                            fruit skewers, brownies and a big cake would be great desserts if you're making them from scratch to save money. a big cake presents better than bites.

                            1. for the appetizers, make deviled eggs

                              1. Ok, so the party was last night. Here's my update of what I finally made.

                                Watermelon martinis (fresh frozen watermelon soooooooo good)
                                Thai iced T
                                Ass't wines

                                bruschetta w/ pesto topped with a dab of goat cheese
                                mini crab cakes (frozen from costco) w/ my remoulade
                                cheese and fruit platter
                                guac and chips

                                Grilled Coconut milk marinated chicken breasts
                                Snap peas with sliced almonds
                                corn and red cabbage salad w/ avocado cilantro dressing
                                roasted asparagus and carrots finished w/ gorgonzola
                                mesclun greens and cukes salad
                                bowties pasta w/fresh mozzerella and cherry tomatoes

                                key lime bars
                                orange squares
                                Giadda's melon w/mint and basil vinagrette
                                and someone brought banana pudding and biscotti

                                Everything got rave reviews and if I wasn't so incredibly tired from cooking ALL day long, I would have too.
                                Thanks for everyones great input and feedback.
                                Happy chowing!

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: momof3

                                  Sounds Fantastic. I am assuming key lime bars are like lemon bars? And what are orange squares?

                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                    the lime bars were similar to lemon bars, the orange is the same recipe using orange juice and rind instead of the lemon or lime. They were delicious.

                                  2. re: momof3

                                    wow! what a creative and generous spread! Did you make your budget?

                                    1. re: danna

                                      I did! I ended up having 40 people, so there was more money. Once you are buying for 20, 20 more is easy :)

                                      1. re: momof3

                                        congrats on a great sounding menu and making the budget-- i'm impressed!

                                  3. I would like to serve some asian steak wraps at a party I'm having soon and I'm not sure what to fill them with... I know bean sprouts and an asian sauce would be good, but what else could I put in my steak wraps?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: JACKIE27

                                      spinach/chard/bok choi? daikon? peppers maybe?