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Housewarming on a budget

We're having about 30 people over to an early-evening housewarming party next weekend, and our total budget is 200 bucks. Ideally, I'd like to have an assortment of finger foods/appetizers, a couple salads/cold dishes, perhaps a quiche, another main-type dish, and assorted desserts. Also, it's going to be vegetarian. Priorities are that there be a variety or tastes, textures, temps etc -- and that things be easily taken and eaten (i.e. lots of finger food). Here's what I've been thinking:

Appetizers:
Baked Brie (either with apricot and caramelized onion or with raspberry preserves)
Spinach and Feta turnovers
Artichoke spread and Tomato confit on crostini

Salads:
Asian slaw or asian noodles (which?)
spinach, pear and gorgonzola salad

Mains:
Quiche (broccoli? asparagus goat cheese?) or mini quiches?
Other main?

Desserts:
lemon bars
apple pie?
sand dollars or other cookie
double chocolate cookies
fudge?

Ok -- I'd love any suggestions/critiques you have!

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  1. What about making a roasted vegetable torte for the main course? Barefoot Contessa/Ina Garten has a great recipe that you make in a cake pan in layers. It's easy, delicious, and beautiful presentation. You can google and get the recipe. I've also added a pesto/goat cheese layer with success. She suggests to serve it on a cake stand which looks so nice on a buffet table. It also isn't very expensive to make which should help with your overall budget. You could also keep the appetizers very simple ( so that you enjoy yourself) and just put out a large bowl of pistachios and homeade marinated olives.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JennyHunter

      I love the vegetable torte idea -- thanks! And the pistachios/olives thing is also appealing, but then again, I do love making the apps - they're just fun. Truthfully, if this week's cooking club theme weren't finger food, I'd be doing an entirely finger-food menu.

      1. re: tastytamarind

        The torte is so easy and makes such a stunning presentation. I make it for my Sister in Law who is a vegetarian at holiday time. I think vegetarians appreciate something special made just for them. It's great served at room temp which is also a plus for a party.

    2. just to update:
      yes on the vegetable torte, the artichoke/tomato app, and at least one of the listed salads. Any recs for another salad, a possible other main, and which of the desserts are best?

      2 Replies
      1. re: tastytamarind

        What about something with portabello mushrooms? They are already pre-portioned, a little different than everything else so far, easily made as upscale (blue cheese or some other kind of fancier cheese) or as 'normal' as you'd like.

        Also - I have made these eggplant roulades too:
        Eggplant sliced lengthwise, salted, and grilled
        Put a bit of mozzarella (or any kind of cheese) at one end of the eggplant slice, then a sliver of roasted red pepper and a sun dried tomato. Roll up eggplant to make a little roulade. Place roulades in a baking dish. You can top with tomato sauce (if you do this I recommend adding lots of garlic and some red pepper flakes for lots of flavor) or with a goat-cheese-bechamel.
        Bake until everything is warm and bubbly. Yum!

        1. re: tastytamarind

          How about edamame succotash? I can post the recipe, I make it every Thanksgiving and people love it. If you live near a TJs you can get almost everything for short money. The TJs frozen corn is really superior to any others I've tried out there. The salad is bright and makes a great presentation!
          Just a thought as well, for easy sweet idea, how about homemade caramel corn? I made that for a party this weekend and is was gone FAST. EASY and very yummy.

        2. Hi there - if going veggie on a budget why not make some hummus? That is one of my all time fave go to's when on a budget. A can of chick peas costs a buck, takes minutes to make and makes lots. Another great cheap veggie option is green onion cakes - they always seem to dissapear when I serve them. I'd be happy to share my recepies if needed :)

          PS: I also have agreat old family for a wild rice, broccoli/cheddar casserole that is always a hit if you're interested :)

          2 Replies
          1. re: eastcoastgirl_westcoastlife

            Do you mean the Chinese-style scallion pancakes? I'd love a recipe.

            1. re: piccola

              Yes I do - they are so fast and cheap to make and crows dig them :)

              I am heading to bed for the nite but will post my recipe tomorow!

          2. For your dessert selection, how about the spoon cookies that are on epicurious. I extol the virtues of these whenever I can because they are so good. I skip the filling -- just make them plain. They are pretty easy to make and the best thing is they benefit from being made ahead. Make them a week ahead and store in metal tins or really tight tupperware. They benefit from some aging. People love these.

            1. Previous posts have covered mains and appetizers better than I could have... I have two ideas re desserts:

              Kahula/Baileys trifle: marinated chocolate cake layered with chocolate mousse, whipping cream and toffee bits. This dish gets a wow every time and most ingredients (aside from say the whipping cream) are found in most people's pantries...

              or-

              Shortbreads: can be made in a variety of flavours, less wow factor but easy and cheap.
              I served them (and the trifle in mini cups) at a baby shower this past weekend. Variations were: chocolate swirl, traditional and a caramel and chocolate topped shortbread.

              HTH Be sure to let us know how it turned out :)

              1. I think I've just been sold on the eggplant roulade idea -- I'm thinking mediterranean involtini, with some feta, capers, roasted pepper, topped with tomato sauce and cheese. yum! And as for the hummus, It's true -- it's cheap and yum, but after living in Israel for two years I'm a bit picky and only go for freshfreshfresh chickpeas. Fresh (I mean FRESH) hummus is an entirely different food. Spoon cookies seem like a great idea, and as for the trifle suggestion, that was originally on my menu! perhaps I'll add it back. I'll update with pics and thoughts after next week but meanwhile, keep the suggestions coming!

                2 Replies
                1. re: tastytamarind

                  if you're going mediterranean theme, why not baklava for dessert? cheap and easy to make.

                  maybe also a lentil and rice or barley salad, or even quinoa, for some added protein.

                  what about maple glazed roasted butternut squash.

                  sesame glazed tofu.

                  TJ's is also selling some great raspberry and brie wrapped in filo roll things in the frozen section... very good.

                  1. re: Emme

                    funny that you mention the brie-raspberry things at TJ's -- I saw those last week and was inspired, so I made them from scratch on Sunday for cooking club!

                2. I'm in the exact same situation (vegetarian; broke), only with about half the guestlist and a smaller budget. I like the idea of finger foods, and I'd like to stay away from things that spill or stain (so possibly less salads, though I want some healthy stuff). I'd love some suggestions for make-ahead dishes, too.

                  So far, I'm thinking:

                  Butternut squash pizza, inspired by the cover of the fall LCBO Food & Drink magazine
                  Roasted chickpea crunchies, one batch salty, one batch spicy
                  Frittata (haven't decided what veggies yet, but maybe some greens)
                  Veggies (blanched: broccoli, green beans, cauliflower; raw: carrots, fennel, cucumber) with some kind of dip (not hummus - it's the default veggie spread, and besides, I already have chickpeas)

                  I need:
                  Something with cheese that's good, but not too expensive - must make the most of a small quantity
                  Bite-size appetizers
                  Another vegetable dish (eggplant rollatini are a little labour-intensive, and the spill-factor is high)
                  A couple desserts - maybe one chocolate and one not? (there will already be fruit)

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: piccola

                    Do baba ganoush -- I'm contemplating making it myself. Just throw two eggplants in the oven and roast til charred outside and soft inside. mix with lemon juice, tehina (tahini), and parsley, and serve inside the hollowed eggplant skin.

                    1. re: tastytamarind

                      I was just thinking that.

                      Question: are non-chowish people into babaghanoush, or is it still in that "weird foreign food" category? I'm a little out of touch because we've been eating it for years. I remember when people turned their noses up at pesto and look where we are now...

                      1. re: piccola

                        everyone I know is into it (or at least has had it many times), but I'm Jewish, and for my friends, hummus/babagahanoush/turkish salad/matbucha and pita is a standard Saturday lunch spread.

                        1. re: piccola

                          I don't think Baba Khanouj is "out there" but I guess it depends on many factors such as personal influences and what's available in your area. I have many Arabic friends and was fortunate to have a great Mediterranean Market when in Edmonton, although there were only a handful of Arabic/Middle Eastern restauants. Now that I'm in Vancouver, they're everywhere and I'm loving it :)

                          1. re: eastcoastgirl_westcoastlife

                            Worst case scenario, they eat all the salsa and I get the babaghanoush to myself. :-)

                      2. re: piccola

                        I just made dorie greenspan's korova cookies and I think they'll be quite a hit. I ate some of the raw dough yesterday before sticking the logs in the freezer and it was pretty darn good.

                        1. re: piccola

                          sorry, one more great idea -- I bought a jar of artichoke spread from TJ's for about 2 bucks. Stick a dallop of that atop a melba round, top with a slow-roasted slice of tomato and you have an addictive app. Ever since I served them I've gotten a slew of requests for them.

                        2. bite sized goat cheese stuffed green chilies (canned) with cornmeal crust, panfried -- or use cheaper cheese like jack or cheddar -- tastes good warm or at room temperature

                          grissini with a little bit of prosiutto wrapped around tops (a little bit goes a long way)

                          homemade sweet and spicy mixed nuts (sugar, salt, pepper, cayenne)

                          i just made the elvis cake and it was a hit, plus i already had all of the ingredients in-house, so didn't cost anything

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jpmcd

                            I've been intrigued by that parsnip twig idea and found a recipe for it. Looks like they can be made up ahead and then just heated. Here's the link: http://paperpalate.net/2005/12/24/tas...

                          2. How about a Spanish Omelet? Potatoes and eggs are pretty darn affordable.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: uman

                              Or, inspired by the spanish omelet idea, how about a strata that is served at room temperature. Uses stale bread, eggs and cheese and whatever else you might want to add (onions, mushrooms, etc.) I had this once at a friend's party. She made it so it wasn't real real thick and cut it into small squares. Went over really well.

                            2. Hey everyone --

                              Thank you for all of your wonderful suggestions! The party was definitely a hit and people spent way too much time complimenting the food. I'll post the list of dishes I decided to make here -- if you're curious, I'll be posting pics and recipes all week long on my blog: www.notderbypie.blogspot.com. Thanks again!

                              slow-roasted tomatoes and artichoke spread on melba rounds
                              spinach, turnip green and feta mini filo tarts
                              asian vegetable dumplings with spicy ginger sauce
                              asian cabbage slaw with fennel and mandarin oranges
                              yellow squash, balsamic reduction, basil and pine nuts antipasti
                              Ina Garten's vegetable torte
                              pumpkin-chocolate chip yogurt cake
                              lemon curd-raspberry tartlets
                              quince-apple tartlets
                              Dorie Greenspan's korova cookies
                              meringue pavlova with black raspberries

                              check out my blog for more info and pics!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: tastytamarind

                                Wow. You went all out. It sounds wonderful and must have taken a lot of work.