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Favorite Easy Party Foods

We are hosting a first birthday party for my son next month. We've just moved into a house, so it's also a housewarming of sorts. Without having to turn on the grill, what are some recommendations for easy but fun/festive party foods? The party will be held at lunch time and we will have quite a few kids in attendance. Any ideas are much appreciated!

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  1. wrap anything in bacon, always tasty

    kids love skewers and you can make really cool presentations with them
    -fruit skewers
    -chicken skewers
    -veggie skewers
    -tomato/basil skewers

    homemade chips and salsa - way better than homemade and tasty

    bakes pasta shells - easier to portion than lasagna but can be as yummy

    so many ways to go for parties

    1. here is what i brought as a dish to the new neighbors the other day.. I took some goat cheese and some olive oil and some fresh red peppers that I grilled( over the flame on the stove) and clove of chopped garlic..and blended in the food processor.... kind of a mediteran piminto cheese without the piminto... and some home made nan..

      1. A lot of appetizers, no main, great desserts.

        Roll up spiral sandwiches - tortillas or flatbreads, a spread - cream cheese, pimiento cheese - thin-sliced meat, small pickle (optional), rolled & wrapped in plastic wrap (to hold shape) & refrigerated overnight, then sliced about half-inch wide.

        Mini-muffin sized quiche.

        mushroom turnovers

        1. For a summer lunch, I'd be tempted to go with a variety of cold salads, hearty enough to be a full meal (ie, with protein and starch as well as vegetables). You can make them ahead of time, serve cold, and there's variety for people to choose from. For some ideas;

          A caprese salad (fresh mozza, basil, tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil).

          Chickpea salad with tomatoes, onion, celery, mint, dressed with lemon juice, garlic and olive oil.

          A hearty pasta salad with roasted vegetables and feta cheese.

          Greek salad.

          Asian noodle salad with snow peas, red pepper and sesame.

          Roasted corn salad.

          Chicken salad.

          Salad nichoisse.

          Potato salad.

          1. Dips and spreads-tepanades, cream cheese blended with flavorful jarred pimento, even spicy egg salad (add Sriracha!)served with your fav crackers and flat breads.

            A big bowl of grabable fruit- always a hit. Using scissors to cut grapes into small bunches really helps.

            Depending on temp and location-cheese and cold cut platter.
            Veggie platter-I LOVE grilled asparagus.

            1. This will probably get me kicked off the thread - but depending on how many you are hosting, consider catering part of it. I went through this last month for my son and his 1st birthday party. We had an elaborate plan for grilling and making all the food but then realized we were going to have 25 adults and 10 kids and it just seemed like too much.

              So we ended up ordering sandwich platters and an antipasto platter from an Italian restaurant we love and put out spinach dip, hummus and chips. We did make a few side salads - cucumber and red onion; strawberries and blueberries. I considered a bean and corn salad since corn has been good lately but it didn't seem to match well with the sandwiches.

              I spent a lot of time wringing my hands over not cooking but in the end I enjoyed the party a lot more. The week leading up to the party was stressful at work and having to do prep work at night after my son's bedtime was just not in the cards.

              2 Replies
              1. re: pellegrino31

                Agreed, but you can economize by shopping at Costco. Their pinwheel wraps - sliced wraps with turkey, lettuce, and cranberry cream cheese - are popular with adults and kids.
                You can get dips, crackers, salads, etc., there too, and good ice cream/sherbet. I'd round it out with homemade deviled eggs.

                1. re: pellegrino31

                  Good to hear the voice of experience. Trying to prep for a large party with a 1-year-old at home and juggling work -- You were VERY smart to get help. There will be plenty of other times to cook for friends, but no other times when your child is at this stage & age.

                2. Thanks everyone - I was planning to get some catered but going through some things with job and finances, so we are trying to be as frugal as possible. (many would say have no party at all but we feel family pressure to have something and afterall the lil' guy only turns one once!). The costco recommendation is a good one, though we aren't members (we just moved to the 'burbs from Manhattan so have never had the opportunity to do Costco).

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: mawnyc521

                    Perfect timing, then. Costco will save you money year-round.
                    You need to know your prices and keep storage space in mind, but they stock excellent quality items and have a no-fuss return policy.

                    Although, frankly, I have always thought birthday parties before age 3 are pointless.
                    The baby won't remember and may not even enjoy it, and most of the invitees would rather just attend a potluck or cookout than fuss with presents, a cake, etc. The child guests will be bored unless you arrange all sorts of games.
                    I'd have a small cake and candle for immediate family only.

                    1. re: mawnyc521

                      Totally understand keeping things frugal. When we calculated all the potential costs of catering vs. making all of it, we found that it wasn't that different since we were having so many people. We did get a lot of stuff at Target and Sam's to keep costs low. Sam's has a surprisingly good spinach artichoke dip and they have $4 party size bags of Food Should Taste Good tortilla chips. Not bad.

                      I definitely was the one pushing a bigger party for the 1st b-day - he's going to be my only child so I wasn't going to get a chance to go through this again. But honestly everyone would have been just as happy with pizza, salad and cake. And beer. That will be the plan for birthday #2.

                      Enjoy the transition to the burbs ;) - we did the NYC to NJ burbs move about 2.5 years ago and it was hard to get used to in the beginning but then it's actually quite nice to have space, quiet, a real kitchen and our own laundry.

                      1. re: pellegrino31

                        We just attended a one year old's BD at a Peter Piper Pizza. SO hates little kids but we had fun. We split a pitcher of beer, some of the moms had wine. The kids ran rampant. There was pizza (of course) and the BD child's mom brought cupcakes. Once the festivities were over, the kids and presents were bundled up and mess was left for someone else to clean up.

                        In regards to having it at your house, I'd try and keep as much as possible outside. PB&J are always welcome for the wee ones along with cut up fruit and veggies. I agree with the more substantial salads and maybe deviled eggs for the adults. I'd go with a cupcake tower in lieu of the cake. It's easier to portion and there's only one candle to accommodate.

                        Enjoy your day with your child! Take lots of pictures! They're little for such a short time.

                    2. I made Crostini with Roasted Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella the other day.

                      Pix, slideshow here:

                      These are a great summer party food and really easy to make. You can roast the tomatoes ahead of time and assembly is a snap.

                      Crostini with Roasted Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella

                      For the roasted tomatoes:
                      2 pints cherry and/or grape tomatoes, cut in half
                      2 cloves minced garlic
                      2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil — I like Chiappetta brand olive oil
                      2 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
                      Fresh ground salt & pepper to taste

                      For the Crostini:

                      Roasted tomatoes
                      Fresh mozzarella cheese
                      Crostini slices — I bought a package of premade crostini from Stew Leonard’s. You can make your own by thinly slicing a baguette of bread into rounds, brushing with olive oil and grilling or toasting until crunchy.

                      1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare tomatoes by slicing them in half and placing in a bowl. Add minced garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and toss to lightly coat tomatoes.
                      2. Spread tomatoes onto a baking sheet and bake in oven for about 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Cool tomatoes or eat warm.
                      3. For crostini, place a round of bread on a plate, top with a slice of mozzarella and a spoonful of roasted tomatoes. Drizzle a little olive oil and/or Balsamic vinegar on top if desired.

                      1. I love snack food, so I would go the many appetizers route vs. a full meal, especially since this a lunch time affair.

                        Meatless salads- I like Ina Garten's roasted vegetable and orzo salad is always a hit at my work potlucks and it can be made in advance. It scales up nicely. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

                        Ditto for this great edamame salad from Chow (I adore this recipe): http://www.chow.com/recipes/29466-wil...

                        Deviled eggs are usually adored by kids and adults

                        Fruit salad (optional serving w/yogurt)- ditto for getting the kids/adult love

                        Cheese/cracker plate: I have found people go nuts for the combo of hot pepper jelly and aged cheddar. I cube the cheddar, serve next to toothpicks and put some hot pepper jelly in a ramekin on the platter. The flavor combo rocks and people will think you're a genius.

                        I love the other suggestions on this thread and am going to take some of these ideas for an upcoming get together I am hosting!