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Fall Open House Menu

Looking to have an open house this fall, hopefully in October. I'd like to do cozy fall food, but the caveat is nothing that is prone to mess or stains in hopes to ward off any catastrophes to our new carpet. Here's my sample menu, but would appreciate any tweaks:

Apple cider glazed ham in crock pot
Balsamic sweet potato dice in phyllo cups
white bean dip with pita chips and crudite
loaded baked potato dip with chips
veggie rainbow wraps (wraps, herbed cream cheese, julienne veggies wrapped up and cut into thirds)
jalapeno cheddar cornbread
spiced nuts
oatmeal cookies
pumpkin muffins
apple cake
full bar

am i too heavy on the carbs? should I add sausage puffs? Do I need cheese somewhere in the mix? I'm trying to minimize the effort on the cooking front, and trying to do things in advance. Also I'm trying to stay relatively budget friendly and I think the nuts are what will set me back. We already have the full bar and it will probably be on a Sunday, so I think the drinking will be at a minimum at any rate.

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  1. This looks a little carb heavy and also a little sweet-heavy to me, with a sweet glaze on your only meat dish and then sweet potatoes as well, plus lots of desserts and cider. If I were you I'd skip the sweet glaze on your ham and do something a little more savory instead, and perhaps replace the potato dip with a platter of meats and cheeses so that those who wish to avoid carbs can do so.

    1. Apple cider glaze on ham or anything else sounds dangerous to your new carpet.
      I would skip it and serve mini meatballs (on skewers.)

      1. There wouldn't be a single thing there I could eat. :( Much too heavy on the carbs (and I don't like pork... actually, I know lots of people that don't like pork.) Anyone with a gluten intolerance would have to skip half the items.

        Even just a veggie platter or a salad would help out someone like me that eats low carb. (It would be boring but at least I wouldn't starve or feel awkward that I couldn't eat while everyone else was.) Sparkling water would be a good addition, too. Cider is full of sugar and not everyone drinks.

        4 Replies
        1. re: weezieduzzit

          well there will be crudite with the white bean dip, the wraps will be gluten free. Oh and I plan to have other beverages (like carafes of lemon water) but the cider and the bar will be the features. thanks for your input.

          1. re: charlesbois

            Even if the wraps are gluten free, there is nothing on your menu that someone who keeps very low-carb can eat, other than a few raw vegetables.

            1. re: charlesbois

              white beans (even counting the fiber content) are way high in carbs

            2. re: weezieduzzit

              Not trying to be mean, but he's not going to be able to please every single possible dietary idiosyncrasy.

            3. Are you "too heavy on the carbs"? Not for me. I love what you're offering.

              Everyone is different though. You have to decide just how far you're wanting to go to satisfy every person's dietary desires.

              If you know everybody that's coming you could simply ask them if they have any special desires.

              As for me though, I really like what you're offering. But, then again, I, thank God, do not need to avoid carbs.

              6 Replies
              1. re: 1POINT21GW

                Thanks for the support! I would love to be able to serve an endless variety of dishes that can cater to everyone's tastes (vegan, gluten-free, low carb, paleo, south beach, fruitarian), but that would be beyond the constraints of my budget and sanity.

                1. re: charlesbois

                  Exactly. I was just trying to be as nice as possible. But, the truth is, it's your food, your time, your energy, and your money. Serve what you want. If they're your family and friends they're going to enjoy being with you and each other and the food is a bonus and, regardless of if it's exactly what they're eating that particular month of their life, they're still going to appreciate the thought and effort you put into the food. Besides, we're talking about adults here. If they're hungry enough, they'll figure something out. And, when you're at their place for a get together, they get to make whatever they want and I'm sure you'll equally appreciate their thought and effort.

                  You're not running a restaurant, you're simply having a get together.

                  1. re: charlesbois

                    Since you specifically asked if your menu was too carb heavy, you shouldn't be surprised when those who watch their carbs or cook for those who watch their carbs tell you that it is. You suggested adding sausage puffs and/or cheese, and I responded that you could simply add a platter of sliced meats and cheeses and eliminate a dip, thereby solving all of those issues in one fell swoop. Making sure that as many of your guests as possible have something suitable to eat (within reason) isn't running a restaurant, it's being a good host.

                    1. re: biondanonima

                      My menu is definitely carb heavy, but I find them comforting when the weather turns cold. Your suggestion of eliminating the sweet glaze on the ham is a good one. I certainly hope that carb-avoiders, my father being one of them, will enjoy the wraps, the crudite with the dips (the baked potato dip is dairy-heavy, and the potato comes from the chips. Alas I cannot have dairy.) and the nuts. I'm pretty sure I'm being a good hostess with an array of food that most, if not all, guests can enjoy. Although I should try to brainstorm a veggie-friendly, low-carb friendly dish. I'm not at all practiced in low-carb cookery though.

                      Unfortunately I find meat and cheese platters overdone to the point of banality.

                      1. re: charlesbois

                        Without getting all medical because Chowhound doesn't like that... the purpose of eating very low carb is to keep your body in a state of ketosis. One single higher carb meal can kick your body out of ketosis lickety split and it can take a week or more of super low carb eating for some people to acheive ketosis again. Its not like simple calorie counting where you can make up for it by spending extra time on the treadmill the next day.

                        So, it's not like low carb people are just being picky or fussy- it's a major wrench in the works when everything is high carb.

                        1. re: charlesbois

                          Vegetarian-friendly and low-carb are usually not super compatible, actually. People on extremely low-carb diets might eat no more than 10-20 grams of carbohydrate a day, which equates to just a couple of cups or less of most non-starchy vegetables. Grains, even gluten-free grains, are out entirely - so something that might seem low-carb and vegetarian-friendly, like a quinoa salad with vegetables, really isn't an option for many low-carbers. There are things that work, but for most people on low-carb diets, animal protein is king.

                  2. Your menu looks lovely charlesbois. I say serve what you love and keep the carpet-cleaner handy for spot touch-ups (that first spill is going to be kind of like the first ding in a new car--your life may actually be happier and more carefree after that first "whoops" ).

                    I wouldn't worry too much about individual dietary demands. People are coming to see YOU , not really for sustenance.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pedalfaster

                      I totally agree with getting the first spill out of the way. In fact, I'll probably drink a raft of red wine that day just to tempt fate :)

                    2. missing Chocolate!!! But its your shin-dig and otherwise if I were invited I would find nothing but praise to you for providing such a wonderful selection.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mkmccp

                        Oh my goodness, you are RIGHT! Where was my head? Hmmm, how to do a chocolate dessert without invoking some kind of unholy mess when the kids get a hold of it? Maybe throw some chocolate chips in the oatmeal cookies? I do like to make salty brownies, so that might be an option. I usually do salted caramel brownies, but I don't think I'm going to want to make bulk caramel with all the other things I have going on in those days. Will ponder on the chocolate question.

                      2. It looks like you are having a lovely meal. I would also offer some kind of vegetable with very little added to it as many of your items have dressings or combinations. Something in season, perhaps a brussel sprout dish, a brocoli dish or a simple plate of vegetables with small serving cups for the dressing as you are concerned about something dropping on your carpet. In any case if I was invited to your home and I did not have to cook I would be happy for whatever that was offered to me and your food seems hearty in spirit with the fall season.

                        1. I think it's a little carb heavy too (being diabetic), but you need that many desserts.I can clearly see your theme, which is great.I understand how a bunch of salami really doesn't "go". To me it is too heavy on the apples. My daughter would be adrift and she doesn't have any diet restirictions.How about a pear salad with goat cheese, walnuts and a mustard dressing? There are other Fall foods besides apples ans pumpkin.

                          1. I like the menu...some suggestions though.
                            Maybe some baby biscuits or rolls for the ham.
                            Maybe some beef or turkey that can be served on the rolls too for those non pork eaters...though i dont know any of those people...lol
                            And I do think some more cheese would be lovely.

                            1. your menu:
                              Apple cider glazed ham in crock pot
                              Balsamic sweet potato dice in phyllo cups
                              white bean dip with pita chips and crudite
                              loaded baked potato dip with chips
                              veggie rainbow wraps (wraps, herbed cream cheese, julienne veggies wrapped up and cut into thirds)
                              jalapeno cheddar cornbread
                              spiced nuts
                              oatmeal cookies
                              pumpkin muffins
                              apple cake
                              full bar

                              very high carbs:
                              Apple cider glaze
                              sweet potatoes
                              phyllo cups
                              white beans
                              pita chips
                              baked potato
                              oatmeal cookies
                              pumpkin muffins
                              apple cake
                              full bar

                              How about a ham in the crockpot without a glaze?
                              Slice and put on a platter with pineapple tidbits
                              crudite with a low fat option, such as salsa and have slices or cubes of cheese on the platter along with grape tomatoes
                              I'd skip the sweet potatoes altogether and the baked potato dip, but that's me.
                              Or I'd offer an option of plain baked sweet potatoes w/butter
                              I'd keep the veggie wraps but lose the cornbread
                              Then do the pumpking muffins (but the crumbs will get everywhere) and another (just one) low fat, low sugar, non-crumbly dessert ~~ involving baked or stewed apples.

                              Also, offer non-sugary options to drink ~~ even tea and coffee.

                              Those are just my thoughts, but I couldn't eat much at your party with that menu. I'd have a few crudites sans dip, a veggie wrap and maybe some nuts if they weren't sugary. I'd have a slice of ham, and try to avoid the glaze as much as possible, even though I would want to eat it.
                              And I could never have cider as I am diabetic and I don't consume alcohol.

                              Everything you posted sounds delicious, though.

                              that's why it keeps coming up ~~ as you asked, people are telling you

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: laliz

                                well, I wish I had struck that carb-heavy question from my initial post, because that has taken over as the focus of this thread. I knew it was heavy on the carbs. Fortunately, most, if not all, of the people who will be invited do not have any dietary restrictions in that vein. Even my dad, who tries to do low carb, only does it as a guideline, not a rule. Additionally, it is an open house, so hopefully if people do have a dietary problem, they can eat before or after and come for the new house, and not the food.

                                Also just a few points: for the most part, I'm trying to do foods that can be easily eaten (transported around on cocktail plates, etc.). The "baked potato" dip is actually dairy-based with bacon, scallions and cheese -- the baked potato part comes from dipping potato chips in it, but I'm sure people will also dip crudite. The cornbread was a request, so I feel a bit obligated to make it. The "glaze" is more of just baking the ham in some cider, but I'll probably 86 that and just do plain old ham. And coffee, tea, water, iced tea and regular & diet soft drinks are always available at my parties; its just cider season and we live a mile from an orchard so that will be a featured drink.

                                1. re: charlesbois

                                  Absolutely they will come to see you! I would, and I often eat beforehand as I not only have to control what I eat but when. I didn't mean to imply that your party would be lacking in any way. I think that because you asked people are telling you that, yes, your instincts were right, but don't change it if you don't want to, and you clearly don't want to.

                                  1. re: dianne0712

                                    well i was hoping for some suggestions that would blow some of my stuff out of the water. For instance, I like my balsamic sweet potatoes and I know several of my guests do too (I serve it at book club) -- but I'm a little bored with them. So I'm basically looking for suggestions of what other people have served and have been hits. I have so many parameters though (not stain-y, easily eaten, budget friendly) that maybe it was a pipe dream to get many suggestions that fit everything. In looking at the menu, I do need to find a way to incorporate more veggies. Hmm, maybe a squash and caramelized onion tart with goat cheese. But dang, I'd have to make several, the cheese ramps up the cost factor, and I don't even want to know about how many carbs are in squash. Zucchini fritters maybe, except I like to serve fritters hot out of the pan. Arrgh, so many ideas, so many parameters to meet :[

                                    1. re: charlesbois

                                      wow - you've kind of taken a beating here. I'd be happy at your open house, and i've had gastric bypass surgery [which means, high protein, lower carb, high quality carbs]. however, since you've asked for some veggie ideas that would be easy, here are a couple.

                                      Those veggie wraps? offer some with the same filling [minus the cream cheese] and wrapped in lettuce leaves - serve with an asian style dipping sauce.

                                      I sometimes make stuffed zucchini logs [and summer squash have almost NO carbs in them]. cut the zucchini into 1-inch logs, and hollow out the seeds. stuff with a nicely seasoned meat mixture [if you want to go veggie, go right ahead - some rice, walnuts, onion-y flavor, raisins make a nice combination, as does something that's barley and mushroom based]. combine some canned tomatoes with sauteed onions in a covered frying pan with seasonings of your choice, and let it cook a bit until the flavors meld. add the zucchini logs - on end, not on their sides. cover and cook until tender. can easilyl be done a day or two before [and reheat better].

                                      if you want to offer something salad-y, and that doesn't need a lot of attention, dress steamed broccoli with garlic, lemon, and olive oil. GREAT at room temperature.

                                      You'll have enough to do getting ready for this party - don't bother with tarts or quiches. but if you decide to do that, find a more-reasonably priced cheese than goat cheese. as long as it has a good, pronounced flavor, whatever you make with it would be fine.

                                      and a bowl of salsa goes a long way to add veggies without fat.

                                      oh. wait. i used to make an enormous veggie tart - found it in vegetarian times. let's see if i remember it. spread a yeast-based crust [like pizza dough, but i think i've also used a bisquick dough] into a jelly roll pan. spread some cheese on the bottom - i think they used soemthing like boursin, but you could also use a garlic cream cheese - but use something to keep the veggies stuck onto the crust. then top with thin slices of tomato, zucchini, mushrooms, red onion [or scallions or chives or shallots], sprinkle with a little salt, pepper, herbs, then bake until the veggies are soft and the crust browned. a huge hit!

                                      1. re: jiffypop

                                        Wow, you have some great ideas there. Even if I don't make them for the open house, I'll definitely keep this thread in mind for when I want to make some delicious veg dishes. I worked in a vegetarian restaurant many moons ago, but I don't think I've ever seen stuffed zucchini logs! And I think I might make an enormous veggie tart for the party, because I have the jelly roll pan and I think that the presentation is stunning.

                                        1. re: charlesbois

                                          glad to help! the zucchini logs i got DECADES ago out of an out-of-print Italian cookbook - the meat filling was basically a meatball filling, and because it came from Campagna, where my dad's family was from, it had raisins in it. For other ideas for stuffing, check out any good stuffed pepper or stuffed eggplant recipe. We've been enjoying this for a LONG time. the broccoli is my grandmother's recipe, and has been served at many a large family gathering - easier to manage than a green salad.

                                          the VT veggie tart has been a go-to for me - a real stunner. One point to consider: it's an open house - people will be in and out - it's not essential to serve them an entire meal, just a good variety of easy-to-eat nibbles, and you've already covered the basics. Enjoy!

                                        2. re: jiffypop

                                          another easy protein option could be chicken satay: strips of chicken breasts marinated in thai spices, threaded on thin wooden skewers; grilled on George forman; and served with peanut sauce (combined with ginger, garlic, soy sauce...

                                        3. re: charlesbois

                                          why not roast root vegies with herbes de provence and either honey or maple syrup instead of sweet potatoes? rainbow carrots, parsnip and golden beets are a divine combo....also what about a soup shooter? butternut squash and sweet potato come to mind, or even better leek and potato...all of these go really with ham and apples:)stop worrying about the darn carbs!! its your party.....serve what you want!!most of all enjoy it!

                                      2. re: charlesbois

                                        I liked your menu and especially the glazed ham in the crock pot. You are having a fall party, the weather is cooler and I bet that many will be glad to have a change in diet. You could make some scalloped potatoes to go with that ham and that can be done ahead of time! Embrace the harvest I say, I can imagine the fragrant harvest with the meal that you are planning.

                                    2. What about thinly sliced London broil and roasted vegetables at room temperature? Then you could eliminate ham altogether. Fill the phyllo cups with mushrooms instead of sweet potatoes. Cornbread seems like the odd man out and would make it easier to have fewer dishes. Little changes that will make low carbers, pork avoiders, dieters happy.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: chowser

                                        Oh, even easier than mushrooms in phyllo cups. Portabella mushrooms topped w/clients pesto and baked. Cut into wedges, serve with toothpicks. Good hot or room temperature and so easy to make.

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          you can stuff shrooms like this without the phyllo and eliminate lots of carbs. ;)

                                          if you want to do ham, how about a roast of it? it can be sliced and is delicious hot or room temp. less drippy than people serving themselves out of a crockpot. it also makes a nice centerpiece/visual on a buffet.

                                          what about a sweet potato salad, with craisins, almonds, wild rice and scallions with an orange vinaigrette, or if you want a spicy version: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/30/din... carve out a giant pumpkin or gourd for displaying this.

                                          instead of both bean and potato dip, any kind of colorful veggie can be roasted and pureed into a dip, like carrots with ginger and cardamom, or red peppers with garlic and cayenne. they look nice side by side.

                                          i'd skip the cornbread and the nuts. crumbly on the first and easily dropped and smashed into carpet on the second.

                                          some kind of chocolate cookie or brownie and some fruit, like small apples and pears, for those want something only a bit sweet after they eat.

                                          good luck!

                                          1. re: chowser

                                            the mushrooms with pesto is a great idea, thanks! Unfortunately, London broil is probably out of my budget, although a coworker did request I serve him steak. Yeah, maybe if it was B.Y.O.S.

                                            1. re: charlesbois

                                              Don't laugh, I just went to a BYOM (meat) get together recently. I don't think London Broil isn't that expensive at Costco. I rarely serve it but someone brought it, room temp, to a potluck with a great sauce and it was the hit of the party.

                                            2. re: chowser

                                              you could also do a portobello mushroom and boursin slider on a mini whole wheat pita...and if you want a chocolate dessert, what about a chocolate hazelnut tart? it is creamy kinda like a sgar pie but nice and chunky at the same time from chopped hazelnuts...can very easily be made in a sheet pan and cut into small squares...and in no way is it crumbly...just divine;)

                                          2. Are people going to be standing or sitting? Apologies if you've answered that already.

                                            Wraps don't really seem too fall-ish. Maybe replace with a hearty antipasto tray? Yes, done often, but done often because it's so damn good. I like this recipe a lot

                                            I'd love little mini frittatas, perhaps with leeks and cheese and a bit of chive. Unless it's a brunch, the muffins seem to be a bit of overkill with the cookies and the cake and the spiced nuts...in fact, I'd choose one: cookies, cake, or muffins, and go with that. You can get nuts in bulk at a lot of natural grocers, and roast and spice your own.

                                            When the weather turns cool I think of lamb. Maybe lamb kebabs? Cost can be controlled by adding vegs. Or a lowbrow option...brats (or a good fennel sausage) and peppers?

                                            Also....if you want to get all old school, celery stuffed with goat cheese or all kinds of good stuff.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: pinehurst

                                              I anticipate a mix of sitting and standing, so that's why I'm trying to keep the food relatively simple to eat. My husband LOVES antipasto trays, so he's definitely in favor of that. The wraps aren't too fall-ish, but I've been wanting to try them out. I'll probably have to tweak this several million times before the party.

                                              1. re: Terrie H.

                                                i don't like green, leafy salads for buffets at all. they are impossible to eat standing up and require a knife and fork. plus they take up an inordinate amount of space on one's plate.

                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                  Not sure why it would be any more difficult to eat salad than ham. If it's a cocktail party and everything is finger food, salad certainly wouldn't work. If it's a buffet meal, there surely must be places to sit and eat off the plates on their laps (tv trays, coffee tables, etc.). If not, then everything should be finger food - no salad. Was thinking that the OP's menu needs a vegetable.

                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                    I agree with the green salad on a buffet. We had a church brunch and someone made a large Caesar salad. It took over the entire plate and as well it covered up the fancy sandwiches and mixed rice and pasta salads and is it difficult to eat if not a a proper table setting.

                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                      Agreed. If you want a leafy green, fill endive leaves with a chopped salad or something. They're perfectly portioned and easy to eat with your fingers.

                                                      1. re: biondanonima

                                                        Good idea--I like endive filled w/ chicken/pear/walnut salad or salmon mousse because they're easy to do but there are lot of vegetarian options. Regular salads either wilt in the dressing over time or need to be dolloped w/ dressing which can get messy w/out a bowl.

                                                  2. I went to an open house at a renowned chef's house one Christmas. He served big bowls of nuts and marinated olives with some sliced meats and one good cheese plus some fruits and a vegetable antipasto all layed out on a huge cutting board. His wife is a pastry chef and I later realized she had taken home the leftovers from her peanut butter episode of her show. PB cookies, PB cake, PB fudge etc. Everyone loved it and were very complimentary. Don't sweat it. People will love you.

                                                    1. To add a protein, perhaps some chicken salad in frico cups. I like mine with cranberries, but I know that will add carbs. So maybe a tarragon (sp?) mayo based chicken salad.

                                                      This doesn't address the carb issue, but if you want to lighten the sweetness factor, make your sweet potatoes with rosemary, seasalt and lemon zest. Sounds like fun. Enjoy your party.