Forget T-Day, I've got an open house to think about
I've got maybe 40-50 people (including children) coming over for an open house in 2 weeks. I don't intend to feed them heartily but go with simple finger foods. Most will be cold as along the lines of pita chips and hummus, cheese/cracker platters, veggie sticks, grapes and so on. For sweets I'll have stollen, pannetone (yes, jumping the gun on those, but oh well), cookies, brownies, candies, nuts.
I've got 3 crockpots and was thinking of some kind of meatball appetizer in one, a little sausage appetizer in another, and I-don't-know-what in the 3rd. Open to any easy and inexpensive suggestions.
Question 1: I was going to make my own meatballs but saw at Sam's Club today a huge bag of Italian-style appetizer meatballs. Six pounds of small meatballs for around $12 is hard to pass up. But if they're already "Italian flavored", does that limit my options for preparation? There are a million recipes out there for meatball appetizers but would sweet and sour, BBQ, cranberry, Swedish, etc. work with Italian style?
Question 2 about the 3rd crockpot: I was thinking of buying a large box or two of taquitos and then cutting them in half. If I bake them in the oven, think I could keep the halved ones in a warm crockpot for serving? Could have guacamole and salsa sitting nearby to add as desired.
Question 3: people are asking what they can bring, but I don't see how I can have a 1-5pm open house with people bringing things at different times. Other than telling them to bring their favorite beverage, I can't think how this would work--as much as I would appreciate the help. Any suggestions?
If you haven't guessed, I am NOT much of a hostess and this is a first for me. Don't want to be tied to the kitchen all day but actually have a fun time chatting with our guests.
If you'd welcome their help, ask some folks to bring a dozen cookies, others to bring 8 oz sliced / cubed cheese or a small container of hummus and yet others a small box of crackers. Their contributions will help to fill in the table as folks come & go during the event, and add variety to your menu without deviating from it. Have a staging area in your kitchen where your hosting assistant (a good friend or hired temp help) can place food from arriving guests and refill / create trays that use their contributions.
This avoids somewhat the "leftovers" issue, which is a real hassle when the guests have brought beverages - half bottles of wine, miscellaneous beers / sodas not to your taste.
Definitely go for the pre-made meatballs. Maybe since they are Italian style, serve them with tomato sauce and sprinkle some parmesan on top? You could have little rolls with mozzarella slices on hand, make little Italian meatball sliders. Although "Italian style" probably just means basil and oregano in the meat mixture. I'd say you can cover them with BBQ or sweet and sour and no one would know.
As far as the taquitos, I don't see why you couldn't keep them in the crockpot. Just layer them in a crosshatch way, they should be fine. (And PS, save yourself even more trouble and buy premade guacamole as well).
And if people ask to bring something, just say "Well, there's nothing we need, but if you want to bring something, go for it." Or just tell them to bring their favorite beverage.
Here's one way to streamline - do a meatball bar. Use all three crockpots for meatballs and do three sauces. I wouldn't do Swedish since the cream sauce might fight with any Italian herbs in the meatballs but the other sauces that are tomatoey would be fine. My three sauces would be BBQ, a soy ginger (I use 1 cup of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger and a quarter cup of Thai sweet chili sauce), and a coarse grain mustard sauce (1 cup of coarse grain mustard, 1/4 cup of apricot jam, and 4 cloves of finely chopped garlic).
I agree with Midwesterner to ask people to supplement what you are making in the cold food platters. So whatever cookie they feel like, extra hummus and pita chips, etc. My drinks tables always are set up with just wine, beer, and an Italian sparkling soda bar - bottles of sparkling water with Italian syrups. You can ask folks to bring bottles of soda. I would NOT set up a situation where you are depending on folks for necessities. And yes, it takes almost as much time to incorporate contributions as it is to actually set up everything.
That is a GREAT idea! That way I won't have to bother with the oven at all. And we could always eat the leftovers with rice or mashed potatoes.
I think for the BBQ version, I'll throw in a bag or two of little smokies.
My biggest problem, really, is a lack of serving dishes. I may ask people if they brings chips or crackers, could they bring them in a serving bowl/plate labeled with their name on the bottom--and I'll get it back to them the following week.
Thanks for your advice, everyone!
Not sure whether you're in a larger city with access to a thrift store (Goodwill or Value Village). That's a great source for inexpensive serving dishes. I just donated them back again when done with an event.
But you may have more "serving dishes" than you realize. Remember that you can use your roaster, 9x13 pans, and glass casserole dishes and large vases (well washed) as serving dishes, plus your bread basket as a cracker / chips basket. If you have a Bundt cake pan, it can also be used to serve dry items. A nice -looking dutch oven makes a good container for bread rolls / buns in quantity.
Try a Marshall's or Ross. They often have very good deals on serving dishes. We got a ton for my wedding for around $5-7ea (renting them would have cost more).
The best part is that most of them are white, so even if the style doesn't match, the color does, and the white always makes the food look brighter.
We have a similar open house coming up - I do meatballs (also in a crockpot) and plan on baking a ham or turkey (probably ham- much easier to slice). Sometimes I make mulled wine or hot apple cider in another crockpot.
We do ours as a cookie exchange - I make 1-2 different types of cookies, but everyone brings a dozen and eats there and takes some home.
A spiral ham goes a really long way. Serve with rolls and mustard etc. Leftovers and the bone are easy to use in so many ways.