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Party Menu...Need Help!

I’m doing the food for my friend’s husband’s surprise b-day party. The guest list is approx 40 people and for the most part…not fancy eaters. Her brother is bringing a brisket and a big pan of beans. It sorta has a down home theme So here is what I have so far:

For Apps:
Caprese Salad skewers
Chips and two salsas (Must have this-a request)
A crab dip (poss Emeril’s jalapeno crap dip) or a warm onion dip
Bonnie’s Buffalo Chicken Dip (Should I do this…haven’t made it before?)
And a freaking veggie tray w/bleu and ranch (For the masses)
Poss sausage stuffed jalapenos if I have the gumption to clean and stuff 50 jalapeno peppers.

For the sides:
A big pan of mac and cheese (Silver Palate)
Cucumbers and onions (Ronni Lundy)
Cole slaw (I don’t have a recipe in mind bc I'm not a huge fan, but I was thinking a vinegar based. If it gets bad, I might wuss out and get it from the a local bbq joint.

Should I ditch the caprese salad skewers? I only was gonna do them because it is the b-days boy fav. Do I have to do a potato salad? Do I need another veggie? Any suggestions would be appreciated.



German Choc (bday fav)
Choc with ganache
Choc with Ina’s Peanut butter icing
Martha Stewart’s Strawberry Meringue Vanilla cupcake (Thanks Foodnerds!)
Orange Blossom or Possibly Lemon Curd blueberry (Thanks AnneInMpls!)

Should I ditch one of the chocolate cupcakes or keep them and add another flavor to even it up? I hate to ditch the peanut butter icing because it is SO good, but I feel that there needs to be a plain chocolate and the German has to stay.

And I was thinking maybe a sangria...white? Any fab recipes?

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  1. first of all, wow for you being such a good friend!

    here's my thoughts, as someone who likes to eat a bit healthier... definitely keep the skewers; they're a lighter seasonal option for those so inclined. also, i would as you suggested maybe offer another lighter side, like grilled vegetables (eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, corn w/ lime butter, onions, asparagus, etc.) or a salad. if you are so inclined, maybe also grill some chicken and/or veggie patties, just in case you've got non-meat eaters... one other idea would be to serve some grilled or baked/toasted potatoes instead of potato salad.

    wrt to the cupcakes, could you cut the choc cupcakes down, but do 1/2 german choc, then 1/2 choc w/ either ganache or pb icing? maybe a tiramisu or key lime cupcake as well, if you're looking to add a different one.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Emme

      Yes, I agree about the extra salad. I'm not really going to have time to grill...I have to do all the cooking at my house and transport it to hers. She only has one oven and I'm only going to have an hour and a half to set up. I was thinking that since we had two hot sides...that it would be good to have two cold salads/sides as well besides the cucs and onions. I wonder if I grilled veggies at my house w/ vinaigrette and served them room temp? The menu is very heavy. Perhaps a salad that incudes chicken for people that don't eat red meat? The plan is to have the apps out before they arrive and then serve dinner after he arrives. I guess I'm starting to worry about the cohesiveness of the menu, but most likely I'll be the only one to notice or care.

      I plan on doing a full batch of german and one batch of chocolate with the two different icings.

      Thanks for brainstorming with me.

      1. re: Mattkn

        You can definitely grill veggies ahead of time and serve them at room temp. Dress them with good olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic, a bit of minced garlic, s & p, and some fresh herbs. They'll be a good foil to the other rich dishes, and guests who want a lighter meal will appreciate them. I'd suggest mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, and maybe asparagus and zucchini.

        1. re: diva360

          agree - i love grilled or roasted veggies at room temp. actually i think there's merit to the taste hot, room temp and cold... they each have their days :) they make a nice appetizer or a nice side dish.

    2. "Should I ditch the caprese salad skewers? I only was gonna do them because it is the b-days boy fav."

      Well, first of all they sound delicious, and second, he's the Birthday Boy! It's his day! You're honoring him! So yes, do them, unless there's an extremely compelling reason not to.

      (To illustrate, and I know this will make me seem like a freak, but I don't like chocolate cake. I know, I know, shame on me. But still, it's true. So on my own birthday, I insist that the cake be something else. But at somebody else's birthday, even when it's a birthday I'm helping to host, I'm fine with chocolate cake being served, because it's about honoring the tastes of the honoree.)

      1. I'd probably do the caprese salad skewers and not the jalapenos. I don't know where you are, but here in Wilmington, NC, it's too hot to even contemplate sausage stuffed anything, but a fresh caprese appeals greatly. And I think that's a very nice variety.

        For sides, I'd say you don't need a potato salad with the mac and cheese. You have a nice, solid, delicious starch with that, and I think that would be enough. I like the cukes and onions - sounds great. And no, I don't think another veggie, with the good selection you have between apps and sides. For the cupcakes, I'd probably drop the chocolate with ganache and just do the german chocolate and the chocolate with peanut butter.

        Don't have a white sangria recipe, but I'm sure a quick web search would find you some good options.

        Have a fun party!

        1. Definitely include the Bonnie's Buffalo Chicken Dip, especially since your theme is somewhat 'down home.' Might help to have a few copies of the recipe handy too; I kid you not, so many people ask for it every time I bring it somewhere. A co-worker I had a few years ago brought it to a cook-out and this guy she knew wouldn't stop e-mailing her til he obtained the recipe, it was a hoot! I also agree with having some kind of leafy green salad available to lighten things up...the BBCD is quite rich. How nice of you to throw such a great party...have fun whatever you end up making...and please DO report back!

          5 Replies
          1. re: Val

            Thank you so much! I am practicing a half portion of the chicken dip tonight. I was unable to find Franks Hot sauce or Crystals. I tried two stores...I might keep on the look out. I have until July 26th. I ended up using Emerils wing sauce...has a good flavor. I'll report back on my practice run and the party.

            1. re: Val

              Wow. That dip IS awesome. I think the Emerils wing sauce was an okay sub. I'm still on the hunt for Franks. In fact, I've got my best friend in Dallas on a mission at this very moment. I'm going to look today as well. I really want to try the recipe as originally written w/o subs. However, now I'm rethinking the hot apps, but if I do one it will def be this dip. I can't stop thinking about how freakin HOT and HUMID it will be in late July in Oklahoma.

              Update on the cupcakes:

              I made Martha's Strawberry Meringue Buttercream icing with Magnolia's vanilla cupcake this am. The SO is in love. I'm...well, the icing tastes like buttercream with..well, strawberry jam added to it. Which is exactly what it is....I don't think it is what I'm looking for. The icing also has a marshmellow cream aspect to it. Either I did it wrong or that is exactly how it is supposed to be. The cake was okay...kind of too quick bready for me. After I was done mixing the batter I figured that it would be.

              1. re: Mattkn

                Mattkn, do you have Target stores near you? Our Sunday ad for Target features Frank's...heh! I've also seen it at Walgreen's (drug store) here in SW FL.

                1. re: Val

                  Actually, I do have Target and Super Target...about the only thing I do have here in Okc except for a very piddly Wild Oats/Whole foods combo in Tulsa..about 100 miles away! I'll check there.

                  1. re: Val

                    Found it at Wal-mart of all places. I stopped there this am after work to kill some time before Target opened at 9. I don't usually shop there. They had original and wing sauce. I bought both. This dip is great for me bc it is quie low in carbs and I'm a dreaded low carber. Pretty hard though since I've been making all of this yum party practice food.

                    I've been really thinking about this menu. It is gonna be so freakin hot at the end of July and with people in and out of the house...

                    I think I've put the x-nay on the mac and cheese. I was thinking of doing salads...maybe a lemon pesto pasta salad. A truffled potato salad. And a slaw...maybe the super slaw from epicurious. And the cucs and onions.

                    And I'm thinking light apps- caprese salad skewers, the melon (bc I know the b-day boy will like this, 3 types of bruschetta.

                    The only thing is I've had that special request for salsa...I think I might just throw in the Bonnie dip and salsa. Mainly because a couple of the "light" apps are kinda iffy for the crowd. And that dip is AWESOME and I know it will be a hit.

                    Screw cohesive!

              2. I made the mac 'n cheese from Silver Palate for a family dinner. It is very rich and a little goes a long way. But if you are concerned about oven space, I would opt for the potato salad. I also agree that both would be overkill. I would also eliminate the choc with ganache. Also agree on ditching the stuffed jalapenos (unless they were stuffed with cheese rather than sausage). But you have to keep an eye on how long food will be in the 'danger zone'.

                2 Replies
                1. re: sarah galvin

                  Okay, I thnk I've decided against peppers. They are stuffed with sausage,cream cheese, onion, and parm. They are very good and I was only really considering it because it is the b-day boy's recipe and he loves them, but he hates to make them because it is rather labor intensive. However, the oven space is limited and it is such a heavy dinner to begin with. I might just do away with hot apps all together. But we will see...the crab and buffalo dip are baking now. Will report back.

                  I've been thinking about those cupcakes and I remember my first thought mid bite into the pb choc cupcake was "Omg, I need milk to swallow this thing."

                  Not quite as bad with the choc ganache...ohhh the dilema!

                2. I nice app. idea for this time of the year is also to make a few deli wraps slice them about every 3/4 inch or so and toothpick them for appetizers. Melon wrapped in Proscuitto is also perfect. I know maybe you weren't looking for more ideas.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Jimbosox04

                    Thank you, I am always looking for new ideas...especially as I'm rethinking the hot apps. I love prosciutto and melon--I've done it before and several of my friends just didn't get "raw ham and melon." I hate to sound snooty, but a lot of them have simple tastes. However, I don't know everyone on this particular guest list and the guy the party is for is a wonderful cook and pretty adventurous. So, that is something to consider. Thanks for the sangria recipe!

                    1. re: Mattkn

                      If you decide to do the prosciutto and melon, Zuni cookbook does a slightly different (and delicious) version: sprinkle a teeny amount of anise seeds over the melon and drizzle a small amount (1 tsp) of sambuca. Let it sit at least 10 minutes then prosciutto it. It adds a little something.

                  2. Also, try this recipe for your Sangria, a beautiful white fruity blend.


                    1. Here's my 2 cents

                      Chips and two salsas
                      Bonnie’s Buffalo Chicken Dip

                      Silver Palate Man n Cheese

                      Caprese Salad Skewers
                      Cucumbers and Onions (Ronni Lundy)

                      Veggie Tray w/Bleu and Ranch OR Grilled veggies @ room temp

                      German Chocolate cupcakes
                      One other of your choice. One.

                      I wouldn’t do chicken, you already have the dip, and the mac and cheese can serve as entrée for those who don’t eat red meat
                      If you decide to do coleslaw, I have a simple suggestion. Remember you want make ahead, no last minute prep required suggestions, you will be way too busy. Coleslaw suggestion ~~ use broccoli slaw mixed with poppy seed dressing, excellent. Best if made the day before.

                      1. Thank you all for your guidance. The party turned out really well and the birthday boy said he was honestly surprised! The menu turned out to be a hodgepodge, but hey…it was a great summer bbq.

                        For Apps:

                        Caprese Salad skewers
                        Candied Jalapeños with dill and cream cheese
                        Roasted Black Bean and Corn Salsa
                        Tomatillo Salsa
                        A beautiful veg tray with requisite ranch and a fabulous garlic dip
                        Rosemary Marcona Almonds from Trader Joes

                        Sides: A Medley of Salads

                        Pesto Pasta Salad
                        German Potato Salad
                        Citrus and Mint Edamame Salad
                        Baked Beans (didn’t make)
                        Cole Slaw
                        Cucs and Onions


                        Her Brother in Law brought pulled pork with fixins for mini Carolina pulled pork sandwiches, pork ribs, bbq chicken wings.

                        Everything was wonderful


                        A pain in the a** German Chocolate cake that was to die for!

                        Sour cream vanilla with cream cheese icing
                        Chocolate pudding filled chocolate cupcakes with fudgy icing (used Scharffen Berger Pudding recipe…easy and yum)
                        Orange Blossoms (Paula Deen)
                        Chocolate with Peanut Butter icing (Ina Garten)

                        I’m really glad that I did all of the cupcakes…we only had about 5 left. A little over half of the German cake was left, but I suspect the etoh had taken over by then. I’m also glad that I did an actual cake in the German and not cupcakes. Everything had rave reviews.
                        It was SO hot, but people were still asking about the Mac and cheese…I just told them that they would have to talk someone into having a party when it was about 50 degrees cooler! We had a blast.

                        Thanks again!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Mattkn

                          What happened to Bonnie’s Buffalo Chicken Dip? Can you post the recipe?


                          1. re: shir

                            Sure. I'll get it to you. It is really good, but I decided I didn't want to have to turn on the oven at her house due to the heat! I've made it a couple of times tho...it is a pretty good low carb treat!