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tasty treats for 50+ people! ( not too $$$ )

hi all

my sister has a HUGE 4th of july party every year and everyone brings something. im stumped this year. it has to be for a very large amount of people, but i dont want to spend a crazy amount of money. can anyone help? ( can be anything, app/dessert/salads...)


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  1. How about a farmer's potato salad?

    1. deviled eggs

      chocolate brownies and peanut butter bars or cookies

      hummus, pita and olives

      homemade baked beans

      Oh! just thought of the popular Nigella Lawson watermelon salad with feta and olives. A huge seedless melon costs about $5. If the other ingredients don't put you over the top that might be a nice dish.


      1. Hi Niccole! here are a couple of ideas....

        (1) use a wooden skewer (like for chicken satay) [remember to soak your skewers for at least 30 min's] and skewer one of those little mini mozzarella balls, a basil leaf, and then a grape tomato
        (2) flank steak is pretty inexpensive. how about buying 2 or 3 pounds, marinating it for a good long while, then grill, then chill, then cut into thin strips and serve on crostini with maybe some horseradish
        (3) mini country-ham biscuits
        (4) cupcakes (many cupcake threads on this board)
        (5) Rice Crispie treats, dipped in white chocolate, and placed on a popsicle stick

        1 Reply
        1. re: Tehama

          Just out of curiosity, why would you need to soak the skewers if you're not cooking with them? I was always under the impression that soaking was to prevent burning. Is there some other reason that I've missed?

        2. We were just back in Eastern Mass for the week and at our party which included Lobster salad for 40 people, the least expensive thing was Stuffed Quahogs. 40 Quahogs were $16 and the Linguica, bread crumbs, bacon, herbage did not add much to the price.

          Take care

          - P.

          1. I also have a HUGE 4th of July party. Here are some of my suggestions; a big platter of sliced cucumber sprinkled with chili de limon (pretty, easy & refreshing). A big platter of strawberries with fruit dip (sprinkle a container of blueberries over them too add festive color). Buy a big batch of jalapenos, slice in have, soak in ice water (to take some heat off) and stuff some with pimento cheese & some with cream cheese. Make a huge batch of homemade salsa (2 lg cans of whole tomatoes drained, 2 lg cans original Rotel tomatoes, 1 sml white onion, 3 seeeded fresh jalapenos, 1 bunch cilantro, juice from 1 lime & garlic salt to taste--process in 2 batches in food processor or blender). I also second the baked beans idea.

            1. If she has a grill going, you can't beat the chipotle-cinnamon butter on grilled corn recipe from one of the Greens cookbooks. Just grill the corn cobs, then roll them around in a flavored butter made from butter (duh), blended chipotle chile with a little bit of the adobo sauce from the can, lime juice, salt and cinnamon. Corn is pretty cheap at this time of year, and this butter is irresistible. I sometimes parboil the corn first so it shortens the amount of time it needs to be on the grill.

              1. Niccole

                If you're open to something retro, here are a couple of suggestions. Sweet and Sour Corrots is also know as Copper Pennies (if you slice the carrots in circles like coins), Three Bean Salad which I've upped to 8-bean, and the last is a real weirdo. It's one of those love-it-or -hate-it dishes. My grandmother called it Rosa Marina, but that's when orzo pasta went by that name. It's a sweet pasta salad and has Cool-Whip. Stop reading now if your ears are bleeding!

                Rosa Marina Sweet Pasta Salad

                1 # Rosa Marina (#37) or orzo pasta
                2 cans (1# 14 oz each) crushed pineapple (drained, juice reserved)
                1-2 cans (11 oz) mandarin oranges (drained, juice reserved)
                One 9-oz container of Cool-Whip, thawed
                3/4 cup granulated sugar
                2 whole eggs
                2 Tablespoons flour
                1/2 teaspoon salt

                Cook orzo to fairly well done, drain, rinse under cold water, drain.

                Put drained fruit juices in saucepan. Mix in sugar, flour, salt, and eggs.
                Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens. Cool slightly.

                Blend thoroughly with pasta and refrigerate overnight, covered. Refrigerate fruit separately.

                In the morning, add fruit and Cool-Whip to the pasta mixture. Return to fridge until ready to serve. Keep cool at picnic site.

                Bean Salad

                Although this recipe calls for 3 cans of beans, I've found the sauce to be very adequate for six or eight cans. Here is the Three Bean Salad marinade. I've been using black, cannelini, red kidney, chick peas, baby limas, green sliced (not French cut), yellow wax, and maybe the big butter limas -- all canned, all drained and rinsed. Add minced red onion. Put in a big zip-top bag and toss around periodically overnight to blend.

                Sauce for bean salad:
                3/4 cup granulated sugar
                2/3 cup white vinegar (I guess you could use white wine vin, but, hey, it's a picnic!)
                1 teaspoon salt
                1 teaspoon pepper
                Whiz in blender until sugar is dissolved, pour over beans, let marinate overnight.

                Copper Pennies (a/k/a Sweet and Sour Carrots)

                2-4 # cooked carrots (sliced into rounds or 2" sticks, cooked until tender in lightly salted water. Drain. (Go for 4 pounds, this makes a ton of sauce.)
                1 medium red onion and 1 medium green pepper, minced

                Pour sauce over hot, cooked carrots. Add minced onion and pepper. Refrigerate overnight.

                1 can Campbell's tomato soup concentrate (don't sub a generic brand)
                1 cup granulated sugar
                1 cup vegetable oil
                3/4 cup white vinegar (dilute with water to make 1-1/8 cups liquid. 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water)
                1 teaspoon dry mustard (Coleman's recommended)
                1/2 teaspoon salt
                Black pepper to taste

                Mix in blender until sugar is dissoved and pour over warm carrots. Refrigerate until service. Serve cold.

                1. Taco Salad!
                  Romaine lettuce
                  1 can chick peas, drained
                  1 can red kidney beans, drained
                  1 red pepper, chopped
                  1 green pepper, chopped
                  tomatoes, cherry or grape
                  1 med onion, chopped
                  1 lb ground beef prepared with standard taco seasoning then cooled
                  1 bag shredded cheese
                  1 bag doritos nacho chips broken up
                  1 bottle catalina french dressing (trust me!)

                  I usually cut everything up an bring it to the event and assemble it at the place. Sometimes I even prepare everything a couple of days ahead and then put the chips and dressing on at the last minute.
                  Make 2 if you are the only one bringing salad. Some people actually like it the next day when everything is soggy and the flavors all meld.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Jen_in_NJ

                    Years ago, I was in a similar position, needing to contribute to a family gathering that had a lot of people in attendance. About half the people there were kids. I thought about what was cheap and easy for me to prepare and carry, and something they would like. I used whatever I could find on sale: bagels, english muffins, pitas, tortillas, wraps, and made mini pizzas. The mini pizzas were simple, (pasta) sauce and cheese, up to fancier ingredients, that adults would like, such as fancy cheeses and meats. They were well appreciated as kids are always on the go, and it worked fine as a snack or appetizer for the adults. I made them up the night before. I also considered that preparing something that might need special care could be a problem as well, such as heating or special refrigeration. These could be heated or not. I think I cut them into pieces that would be the right size for kids, and a bite or two for the adults. It also didn't take long to make up a huge Tupperware container of them, using the oven to lightly toast the breads, and then trading off a prepared tray to melt the cheeses.

                    Good Luck and have fun at the party!
                    Happy 4th of July!


                  2. The day before the party, get some french baguettes, slice in half lengthwise, hollow out and save crumbs for another use. Fix up a really big Greek salad with feta and pitted olives; chop tomatoes or other large bits into pieces about the size of a sugar cube. Dress with favorite Greek-style dressing. Stuff into prepared baguettes, close the bread up around the salad, and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Store in fridge overnight. At serving time, unwrap and slice into about 1" thick rounds.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: weezycom

                      Great idea! I used to make this (and endless variations, both meaty and veggie) but sort of forgot all about it. We have different houseguests coming over the next few weeks and this will be perfect for the times when we're going to be out playing. I think they'll love it and I can do it ahead. I usually smash it under a weight in the fridge so everything compacts and doesn't fall out when eating, especially the meat-filled ones.
                      Thanks for mentioning this, it's such a handy recipe and always tastes great.

                      niccole, I am so glad you asked this question, lots of great ideas here!

                    2. I'm always pushing pinwheels when people ask this question...flour tortillas spread with seasoned or flavored cream cheese, chopped vegetables, rolled up and sliced down, very easy, pretty colors (recipe I use calls for chopped pimiento, green chillies and black olives) and quite tasty--also inexpensive. I always use Hidden Valley Ranch pinwheel recipe but there are a million pinwheel recipes out there.

                      1. Ina Garten's Roasted Veggie/orzo salad is a huge hit always.

                        Chicken wings (I marinate them overnight in OJ/soy/ketchep/brown sugar/dijon), and bake at 350 for an hour. They can be eaten at room temp, always a hit.

                        Get two roasted chickens (Costco 4.99), check out Giada's chicken salad for a shower epidsode. They are done as an app., and served on bib lettuce leaves.
                        Easy and delish.

                        And second the Nigella Watermelon feta salad, amazing.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: mcel215

                          I second the chicken wings, too. A really simple recipe is using brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic and baste constantly for an hour at 350. As mcel says, they're always a hit.

                          1. re: mcel215

                            A quick, easy, inexpensive and tasty favorite when I have a lot of guests, including kids, is herb roasted chicken pieces. Get a load of drumsticks and thighs, line 'em up on baking sheets, brush with olive oil and sprinkle generously with whatever you've got in the spice pantry - I usually use oregano, basil, salt, pepper, a little chili powder, and garlic. Bake at about 350 til done, turning after 15 minutes or so. You can cook the day ahead as they taste great room temp. If you have the time and are so inclined, remove the skin first. Really, really good.

                            Stuffed jalapenos are always a favorite here in Texas. You can use fresh ones - slice down one side, stuff with a piece of cheddar cheese, wrap in bacon and grill. Will make your eyes and mouth water. For a vegetarian version, cut whole pickled jalapenos in half, scrap out seeds and fill with pineapple cream cheese. Yummy!

                          2. What about 2 Texas Sheet Cakes - one with nuts, one without. Cut cakes into small finger-food squares. Aways a hit and soooo easy to prepare.