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Cheap-o Entertaining Help Needed

In a few weeks I'm having some of my girl friends over for a apt warming/pool party. Besides cocktails or beer, I want to make some good, albiet cheap munchies for everyone. I don't expect more than 10 people, of those a few are vegetarian & one vegan. Everytime we get together it seems like it is hummus, bean dip, hummus...I want something different, even though I love hummus. The big clincher is that I am on a budget. I'd love to do something under $50 (minus drinks). I have access to a nice farmer's market.

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  1. How about a taco bar? For the vegans you can offer Morning star crumbles. If you live near a COSTCO, they have a great Pollo Asada, that comes in a bag and you just throw it on the grill, or cook it in a pan.

    Shredded cheese, avacado and salsa, you are done and every one does there own thing. I would offer the soft flour tortillas, they are not as messy.

    Or to satisy everyone you can make nachos using the crumble and add SOYRIZO to spice it up. The non-vegis, will not be able to tell the difference and the vegans folks will appreciate it.

    Good luck.

    1. I just did a girls appy night and two friends were vegetarian. I did baguettes cut in half topped with carmelized onions, roasted garlic, olives and goat cheese, then thrown in the oven last minute to warm. (Baguettes, onions and garlic are cheap and you could always substitute goat cheese with feta or no cheese at all). You could also do popcorn and use different seasonings on it, such as lemon pepper, garlic powder mixed in with the melted butter then tossed in the popcorn. Or something refreshing like a watermelon feta salad with red onion, basil and mint.

      1. roasted red peppers on crostini with pesto
        heirloom tomato puff pastry tartlets or puff pastry tartlets with mushroom ragout filling
        big bowl of olives (probably would be the most expensive thing)

        1 Reply
        1. re: charlesbois

          I agree with crostini. Sooo many topping possibilities.
          Duxelle of mushroom
          fresh goat cheese with herbs or roasted peppers
          olive tapenade
          any kind of pesto
          baba ghanoush
          puree of favas with mint and lemon
          english pea puree

        2. A block of cr cheese with a nice pepper jelly is easy and delish.

          Cherry tomatoes on skewers with motz balls and a basil leave, maybe add a cheese tortolini.

          How about a fun pizza party, everyone makes their own.

          Or quasadillas are always cheap and good.

          My favorite is a layered dip (either traditional mexican) or this Italian Layered dip with pesto and sun dried tomatoes:http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

          Have fun.

          1 Reply
          1. re: lexpatti

            Just went to a party and was served a "Mediterranean style" layered dip. It had hummus, crumbled feta cheese, olives, shredded romaine, chopped tomato - can't remember what else, but it was delicious on fresh pita.

          2. Since you have access to a farmer's market, I'd go with as many fresh in-season things I could find. A huge veggie platter with sugar snap peas,grape tomatoes, cucs,zucchini,steamed asparagus,colored peppers,---well you get the idea and your fav. dip would be good. Also stuffed mushrooms, with dif. stuffings so everyone can enjoy them. Small new potatoes, cooked, cut in half, sprinkled with sea salt,a dollop of sour cream and chives is always a hit as well. Have a fun party!

            1. Here's an easy, cheap, garbanzo bean appetizer that is NOT hummus.

              Drain a can of garbanzo beans (or cook yourself - even cheaper). Dry them in a clean dish towel. Heat olive oil in a skillet, add a chopped garlic clove and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Add your garbanzo beans and saute over pretty high heat until they begin to color. Add salt and pepper, plus whatever fresh herb you have - I like thyme and sage.

              Serve warm with toothpicks. People love these.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Junie D

                Yum!!! Very different, sounds great. Thanks.

                And yes, my sister does a layered dip like you mentioned above and it is always a great hit.

              2. For me, the easist way to save money is to make either Asian or Mexican themed dishes...
                Appetizers can be a scaled down entree, and one that is always welcome, inexpensive and tasty is fresh summer rolls with a couple of dipping sauces. Ues lots of herbs, garlic, lime and fresh tasting ingredients.

                1. Two suggestions- both involving a fresh baguette

                  Baked goat cheese with a tomato puree- slice a small log of goat cheese and put onto an oversafe serving dish, surround with a tomato sauce (homemade puree or pasta sauce would work) and bake until the sauce is warm and the cheese is a soft and abit brown on top. Spread on the bread.

                  Baked goat cheese and warm olives- add halved cherry tomates for more color. Warm through in the oven until cheese is melty. Spread!

                  1. In an attempt to avoid cooking in the middle of the heatwave that NY is in the middle of, I just made a quick salad of black beans (canned, rinsed), trader joe's fire roasted corn (you could use regular frozen), diced tomatoes and some balsamic dressing. As I was eating it I thought it would make a great salad for a BBQ or picnic...veg friendly, no mayo (always a concern on hot days), quite tasty. I added some chopped up grilled chicken the next day for lunch and it was perfect! You could serve as a salad, a side or even as a dip (with some of those scoop-like tortilla chips.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: CeeBee

                      Actually, mayo isn't the culprit on hot days. It's the water-bearing ingredients with which it is commonly mixed (potatoes, chicken, etc.). Mayo holds up well in the heat.

                    2. I have two go-to dishes that I always receive rave compliments on:

                      1 -- Bruschetta, made with finely chopped green, red, yellow and orange peppers, several cloves of garlic, basil and red onion. Slice bagettes into one-inch slices on the diagonal and brush with extra-virgin olive oil. Place under broiler until golden brown. Brush slices with fresh garlic cloves (I spray with roasted garlic juice I buy online). Place a tablespoon or two of the veggie mixture onto each slice and cover with grated parm. Return to broiler until cheese melts. These are sooooo good.

                      2 -- Place two bricks of cream cheese on one of your prettiest serving dishes. Cover with cocktail sauce (I use Heinz). Cover with baby shrimp meat which has been drained, rinsed and dried. Serve with crackers (I like Wheat Thins). This is soooo easy and once you start eating it, you just can't stop.

                      Good luck on your party!

                      1. Little Bling Sandwiches (from Paula Deen)

                        2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
                        1/2 cup mayonnaise
                        1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained and patted dry
                        1/2 cup finely minced green olives
                        1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber
                        1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
                        1 loaf soft white bread, crusts removed
                        1 loaf soft wheat bread, crusts removed
                        2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves, for garnish, optional
                        2 tablespoons bacon pieces, for garnish, optional
                        2 tablespoons poppy seeds, for garnish, optional
                        2 tablespoons chopped pecans, for garnish, optional
                        In a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese and mayonnaise. Split into 4 approximately 4-ounce portions, and put into separate bowls.
                        Combine pineapple and 4-ounces cream cheese mixture and set aside. Combine green
                        olives and 4 ounces cream cheese mixture and set aside. Combine cucumbers and 4
                        ounces cream cheese mixture and set aside. Combine pecans and 4 ounces cream cheese
                        mixture and set aside.
                        To assemble sandwiches, spread the fillings on top of white bread slices and cover with
                        wheat bread slices. Cut each sandwich into triangles, squares or circles. Arrange on a
                        large platter by sandwich filling. Garnish with parsley, bacon pieces, poppy seeds, or
                        pecans. In gold ink, write each sandwich filling on a small card, attach it to a toothpick
                        and place it in the center of each pile of sandwiches, identifying the filling.

                        REALLY ONION DIP
                        2 cups mayonnaise
                        3 medium onions, 2 unpeeled, 1 peeled
                        1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
                        1/2 cup sour cream
                        1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
                        2 teaspoons kosher salt
                        2 scallions (white and green parts), minced
                        Freshly ground black pepper
                        Hot pepper sauce
                        Potato chips, for serving
                        Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
                        Rub unpeeled onions with a bit of the olive oil; roast until soft, about 45 minutes
                        Cool and peel.
                        Finely dice the peeled raw onion. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; add
                        remaining oil and heat until quite hot. Add diced onion and cook, stirring occasionally,
                        until edges begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Turn to medium-low and cook until onion
                        is golden brown, about 18 minutes. Scrape onion, oil, and juices into a sieve over a
                        bowl. Drain onions and spread on a paper towel-lined plate. Cool the strained oil.
                        Puree roasted onions in a food processor. Add mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar,
                        and salt; pulse until smooth. With the motor running, drizzle in 1/4 cup of the
                        flavored reserved oil. Transfer to a serving bowl. Stir in scallions, pepper, and
                        hot sauce to taste. Refrigerate at least 3 hours. Scatter the fried onions over
                        the top just before serving with potato chips.

                        SPANISH NIBBLES
                        4 cups mixed good quality olives
                        3 to 4 strips orange peel
                        3 to 4 strips lemon peel
                        1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes
                        1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/3 palm full
                        2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
                        2 cups Marcona almonds (available in bulk food section of your market) or, toasted peeled whole almonds
                        2 (15-ounce) cans chick peas, rinsed and drained
                        2 teaspoons smoked paprika
                        Salt and pepper
                        Make a double layer pouch of foil for the olives. Add citrus peel, red pepper flakes and fennel seeds to olives then top with olive oil. Seal the pouch and shake it to distribute the spices and oil. Place in hot oven at any temperature or on outdoor grill to heat them through.
                        Place the almonds in a small decorative serving dish.
                        Place chick peas in a medium skillet over medium heat and cook 15 minutes until crisp and dry. In the last 5 minutes, season the chick peas with paprika salt and pepper. If you season them up too soon, the paprika will blacken and become bitter. Place the cooked chick peas in a small serving bowl. Place the olives on a platter and cut the pouch open to expose them. Place the small serving dishes for nuts and peas on the platter alongside olives. Place a ramekin or other small cup out to collect olive pits.