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Cheap and Easy appetizers for summer BBQ!

My husband is graduating university and we are having a BBQ in our back yard. I have about 15 people coming over the night of his graduation, so I won’t have a lot of time to cook. It will be a casual gathering with many hungry men in a small back yard!
For main dish, we are BBQing meat and I will have different salads – coleslaw, watermelon salad, berry salad and Caesar.
I will also have a cheese / cold cuts platter decorated with grapes.
But, I am struggling with appetizers. I wanted to have more variety, while keeping it relatively simple and inexpensive.
For smaller dinner parties (4 people or so), I often make cream cheese bacon wrapped jalapenos or crab stuffed mushrooms or escargots, but this is rather a large party and will be time consuming and pricey to make these appetizers. Any suggestions? Thank you in advance!

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  1. You can probably add bacon to this dip. It's basically jalapeno poppers in dip form.

    http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe...

    2 Replies
    1. re: viperlush

      You can DEFINITELY add bacon to that dip - that looks delicious! I would just make a big dish of this, put out some chips and crudites and let them go to town.

      1. re: biondanonima

        It is delicious and easy. I made it for a bbq last night (10 people) and served it with tortilla chips and pita chips. I substituted some cheddar for some of the parm. Next time I will try sour cream for some the mayo and maybe add a habenaro to spicy it up more.

    2. It sounds to me like you already have lots of food. I'd save myself the trouble and call the cheese & coldcuts apps. Maybe add some kind of bread and dessert and you're good.

      1. I agree that you have plenty of food. I can't imagine folks not noshing on chips and dips (sour cream based, or salsa, or whatever), or bowls of party mix (chex cereal, nuts, pretzels).

        4 Replies
        1. re: pinehurst

          Agree w/ this... already lots of food, so chips and salsa was the first thing that came to my mind. This one came from the recent COTM by Rick Bayless, and it's one of my new favorites because it's so easy to put together, and uses canned tomatoes which helps keep the cost down when it's not quite tomato season: http://www.pink-parsley.com/2010/01/r... I use the Muir Glen Fire Roasted diced tomatoes.

          1. re: juliejulez

            I love this salsa also. Next time I'm going to follow a rec to broil the jalapenos and garlic. Mine didn't really get soft in the skillet but the end result was great.

            1. re: c oliver

              Yeah I halved my jalapenos lengthwise and seeded them (everyone I've served the salsa to so far is heat averse, except me) then put in the skillet, so that helped to get them soft faster.

            2. re: juliejulez

              Thank you - salsa looks real simple to make and I can make a night before and refrigerate. Thanks!

          2. This Mushroom Cheese Cups recipe below from a 1993 community cookbook is wonderful and can be made ahead.

            Cucumbers on rye squares open-face sandwiches are great and very inexpensive. Use small square "party rye", usually found near the deli area. Mix 8 oz. cream cheese with 1/4 C. bottled ranch dressing in a small plastic zip bag. Slice 2 cucumbers into rounds. Place bread on serving tray (a jelly roll pan is OK), cut a corner of the zip bag and squeeze about 1/2 tsp. of cheese mixture onto each slice, firmly press a slice of cucumber on that to attach and spread cheese to edges. Can cover first layer with plastic wrap and put a second layer of appetizers on top. Cover tray with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. Can also just be assembled/served quickly.

            A 3rd idea - Purchased eggrolls, baked and then cut each into 4 appetizer-size pieces w/ toothpicks?

            Mushroom Cheese Cups

            1 cup chopped onion
            2 cups chopped mushrooms
            3 T. margarine/butter (optional)
            ¾ C. shredded mozzarella cheese
            ¼ C. grated parmesean cheese
            ½ C. chopped fresh parsley
            2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
            1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
            1 tsp. salt (optional)
            ½ tsp. pepper (optional)
            8 slices white bread or 4 10-inch flour tortillas
            ½ C. margarine/butter, melted

            Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
            (Optional – I used them uncooked – in small skillet, saute onions and mushrooms in 3 T. margarine, remove from heat) Combine onions, mushrooms, cheeses, parsley, egg yolk, oregano, and optional salt and pepper. If using tortilla, cut tortilla into approx. 1 ½ in. squares. If using bread, remove crusts from bread and cut each slice into 4 squares. Roll flat with rolling pin. Dip each bread/tortilla square in melted butter, and place in mini-muffin cup. Fill each cup with about 1 T. mushroom-cheese mixture.

            Bake 20 – 25 minutes. Makes 32 appetizers

            Tip – cups can be prepared ahead of time, frozen and reheated.

            Adapted From Potluck for 33,000 – 1993 Cookbook by Dayton’s Hudson’s and Marshall Fields Employees to benefit United Way - Carol Kalan, Dayton’s Minneapolis

            1 Reply
            1. re: MidwesternerTT

              Thank you. I really like the idea of cucumber appetizer. I might even add a little bit of lox (smoked salmon) on each

            2. Thank you guys, appreciate all the comments. I was also thinking chips and dips, but it looked a little too simple for me.
              I know it sounds like a lot of food, but there will be many men who eat a lot and I always make such feasts that the expectations are high, and since its my hubby's graduation, I wanted to do well without breaking the bank :)

              6 Replies
              1. re: Allenkii

                I often make a salmon rillettes. It disappears every time. It can get spendy depending on your source for the fish. Here's the recipe:
                http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2007/11/...

                I like to make Spanish style deviled eggs that include oil packed tuna and smoked paprika but they can be fussy.

                A white bean and rosemary dip/spread also seems to disappear and it's very inexpensive to make.

                I love having fun with different crostini toppings:
                caponata and ricotta
                caramelized onion with balsamic and blue cheese
                smashed avocado and poached shrimp
                wild mushroom sautéed with anchovy and parsley
                smoked trout salad
                artichoke hearts, mascarpone, parmigiano and chives
                chicken liver pate with balasamic onions

                1. re: ChervilGeorge

                  Thank you for the salmon recipe! If not for this gathering, I will Definitely be trying it for smaller event! Looks delicious and simple!
                  I also absolutely love the idea of caramelized onion with balsamic and blue cheese.
                  Would you please give me more details about wild mushroom sautéed with anchovy and parsley. I have several cans of anchovies in my pentry that I never found bravery to cook! So, a recipe would be good. As well as recipes for smoked trout salad and artichoke hearts, mascarpone, parmigiano and chives
                  Thank you in advance!
                  Alla

                  1. re: Allenkii

                    Sorry, just now saw this. For the wild mushrooms, I just get a variety of mushrooms and chop them pretty small. You could even just use button if that's all you can find or what to spend money on. I sauté them in butter along with a couple minced anchovies and a smidge of salt. Be careful not to brown them too much. If I have sherry or white wine in the house, I'll add a splash or two and let that cook off. When just about finished, I'll throw in a bunch of minced parsley. I like lots of black pepper in mine. Place atop toasted bread.

                    I have no recipe for the artichoke, I've done it where I've mixed chopped artichoke hearts with the mascarpone and chives. Basically a spread. Then I'd top with shaved parm. But I prefer to thinly slice the choke and lay atop a smear of mascarpone. Then sprinkle with shaved parm and chopped chives.

                    For smoked trout, I like this
                    http://www.savorysimple.net/smoked-tr...

                    and this(although it's not smoked trout and is easily adapted to be a crostini topper

                    )

                    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyl...

                2. re: Allenkii

                  IF they truly are big eaters, how about a cheese and cracker platter with some sausage chunks along with. another idea, you can bake up a pan of sliced kielbasa with sauce and toothpicks for grabbing:
                  3# keilbasa or summer sausage
                  1 small jar grape jelly
                  1 jar chili sauce, bake all till bubbly or put in a crock pot for a few hours and serve it out of that too, easy cheap and filling

                  1. re: Allenkii

                    is the caesar salad for you? ;)

                    i don't like serving lots of fiddly things to guys and i dislike having too many last-minute balls in the air.

                    greens on plates when people are eating buffet style can be kind of a pain -- they take up lots of plate real estate and wilt outside in the heat. if you want greens, how about roasted green bean salad (all prepped ahead, tossed at last minute), or pea/mint/feta salad?

                    for the cold cuts, instead of the usual suspects like ham and roast beef, maybe some hard salamis and good italian cold cuts, like mortadella and capicola? those stuffed cherry peppers usually go fast too. i've bought decent ones if you don't want to bother.

                    after just a few people get into chips and dips, it looks like a train wreck, broken bits and sploshed gunk everywhere, and not everybody can be trusted to not double-dip.

                    a spanish tortilla can be made ahead and is great room-temp, so no oven or grill space.

                    buy good pizza dough, pre-assemble an assortment and grill those while the grill is heating up for meats. you could also make savory bread pudding.

                    mac and cheese cups are always a hit and can be made ahead and just reheated. make mac/cheese. line muffin cups with thin-sliced ham. top with mac/cheese, bake til golden.

                    have fun!

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      No, salads for everyone else :) The hungry guys will come with their girls, plus even guys eat lots of salads, at least my friends do. There will be no grains - meat and salads!