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Simple & savory ideas for an afternoon party

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Hi, all -

I've been lurking for years - literally - but have only posted a few times. Now, though, I need to join the legions of people who need menu suggestions, and I couldn't think of any better group to ask. This Saturday, we're hosting the second iteration of my daughter's first birthday party. The first was two weeks ago, mostly family -- we did a picnic sort of thing, pulled chicken and hot dogs and about eight million cold salads and a cake shaped like a ladybug and ten million cookies made by my mother. It was great fun, and almost killed me. I'd like to survive the next one with fewer psychic scars.

This weekend's version is for twenty or so of our local friends and their children. It's from 2-4 in the afternoon, so I don't have to provide an actual meal; since most of the grownups will be chasing small people around the yard instead of standing around holding plates, I'm trying to find finger foods that you can grab and easily eat with one hand. So I'm thinking: cupcakes instead of a cake (also, the ladybug took hours), veggie and fruit plates with a dip for each, a plate of assorted cubed cheese, chips and pretzels etc. That's all easy enough, but I'd like to provide at least one thing that's sort of closer to "real" food, relatively accessible for small children but tasty enough to satisfy grownups. I briefly considered empanadas, but I haven't ever made them before and if I'm going to do something brand-new, I feel like it should be a little simpler than that. The only dietary caveats are no nuts (kids with allergies) and no red meat (my husband doesn't eat it). Any ideas?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. i did an afternoon bridal shower tea party with bites... i did one bite salmon croquettes with creamy dill garlic sauce, cucumber cups with cumin scented baba ghanoush, roasted sweet potato slices with rosemary, roasted rosemary beets with feta, chives and lemon, roasted chickpeas in several flavors, fruits, broccoli custard pie bites, chocolate caramel truffles, and gingerbread. everything was gone...

    5 Replies
    1. re: Emme

      Did you post about that shower? It sounds really familiar. Roasted veggies are a good idea, if I can figure out a way to make them finger-friendly. I'd thought about mini-quiches (sort of along the lines of the broccoli custard pie bites?) but wasn't sure about the whole sitting-outside-in-the-summer-for-two-hours thing.

      Seriously considering the roasted chickpeas - thanks so much for the reply!

      1. re: darklyglimmer

        Endive leaves seperated with a spoonful of chicken, egg or tuna salad on each leaf is very easy and delicious.
        Little skewers of cherry tomatoes, tiny mozzarella balls & a couple of leaves of basil.
        Crostini with assorted toppings.
        Melon with wrapped proscuitto.

        1. re: darklyglimmer

          i did :) ...familiar... the only reason i continued to post about the foods i served is because i received a lot of phone calls afterwards... :)

          mini-quiches are great, and a great way to provide a variety of flavors and options. i was going gluten-free and crustless, so my incarnation worked well at the end of the day. especially since i was also trying to go as healthy as possible.

          if i had had mroe time, i would have made several varieties of fricos as well.

          serve roasted veggies with toothpicks.

          polenta rounds crispy and topped with a tapenade or some sort of tomato based sauce

          spring rolls chilled with dipping suace

          mini pierogi or samosa bites?

          1. re: Emme

            Well, I remembered it because it sounded fabulous! Wish my candy skills were good enough to do truffles. I can just about do no-bake cookies consistently, but that's the extent of it.

            Pierogi/samosas: brilliant. Thanks so much!

            1. re: darklyglimmer

              truffles -- i've made the dark chocolate fleur de sel truffles on epicurious except i skipped dipping in melted chocolate, and just dipping in unsweetened cocoa powder.

      2. Many (not all) kids that age are not going to eat many of the foods posted on this thread; not trying to offend anyone because some sound delicious and I'd want to eat them but we're talking toddlers. I'd do something hand held like baked chicken fingers, mac & cheese bites, sliced baked potato or sweet potato fries, steamed broccoli florets (trees, my kids used to call them), two-bite pizza (from a regular pizza dough mix), pastry wrapped cocktail weenies, mini grilled cheese, peanut butter logs with raisins (peanut butter in celery) etc. Simple and easy for a little one as well as adults to eat.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Cherylptw

          Thanks, Cheryl. The toddlers in the crew are mostly still in the eat-anything-you-hand-them phase, but I have to admit, toothpicks and skewers make me a little nervous. Handing a toddler a pointy thing, or even having pointy things in the same room with a toddler, is kind of a recipe for disaster. I like the mini grilled cheese idea; I could do interesting variations on that with a panini press -- cheddar and apple, brie and cranberry, etc. - that grownups might find interesting, and they'd look familiar enough that the kids would still pick them up. Not sure how they'd be after sitting on a table for a while, though. Have you done something like this? Did they hold up well?

          The mention of steamed broccoli took my brain to edamame, which adults and older kids will snarf down in an instant. Saw a great suggestion elsewhere for variations on the celery/peanut butter theme with different nut butters and dried fruit, which I've totally filed away for future reference with my own kid, although nuts are out for this particular crowd. Thanks so much for the great suggestions! Clearly not your first toddler-party rodeo, is it?

          1. re: darklyglimmer

            I have three young adults that I went that route with when they were toddlers (oh, how I miss those times!) Do you have a chafing dish or electric griddle? If no chafer, you can use two disposable or other pans of the same size as a chafer & lid to keep your grilled cheese warm. Once they're cooked, just fill one pan, top with the second and place onto a low temp griddle as a heating element (I learned alot about improvising back in those days)

            Sorry, forgot you posted about the nuts, so peanut butter is out but fruit with (or without) cream cheese might be good. You can mix chopped apples or applesauce, cinnamon and maybe a touch of brown sugar or go savory with tuna or pimento cheese to fill celery "boats".

            BTW, if you decide to go with the tea sandwich suggestion, you could line a baking dish with plastic wrap, put your sandwiches in with wrap between the sandwiches; wrap well with plastic & refrigerate overnight...if your baking sheet won't fit your fridge. Good luck & have fun!

        2. pitted dates stuffed with goat cheese, rolled in fresh chopped herbs and drizzled with olive oil (also good with a sliver or two of ham in there).

          1. For kids parties, I've made tea sandwiches with white and wheat bread. You can cut them into fancy shapes with cookie cutters - kids love animal ones - simple shapes for the adults. Tuna salad, egg salad, chicken salad, jam, cream cheese, fruit flavored cream cheese - anything spreddy and good. The breads can be cut the day before, stored flat in large zip locks, and put together the morning of. Truth be told, I've even assembled them the night before the party, put them in baggies and stored in the fridge on cookie sheets.

            2 Replies
            1. re: critter101

              That's a great idea. I might very well do this. Thanks, Critter!

              (Oh, for a fridge big enough to hold a cookie sheet . . . )

              1. re: critter101

                on the same tray I would do some rolly pollies. Roll up a tortilla with whatever strikes your fancy and slice into pinwheels.
                -refried beans and cheese
                -cream cheese, green chillies and diced red pepper
                -smoked salmon cream cheese and cucumber

              2. Thanks to everyone for your responses. As it turns out, I seem to have decided to go with having bronchitis instead of a party. Blah. Fortunately the one-year-old doesn't know her birthday party's been cancelled.

                Will definitely save all of these ideas for future reference, though. Thanks again!