Monday, December 31, 2012

Party Planning 101: Part Deux

I am officially hungry. WHY I choose to search the Internets for pictures of delicious party food in the weeee hours of the morning, I'll never understand.

But I did have coffee a little earlier, so maybe I do understand.


For me, the most exciting part about throwing a party (regardless of occasion) is choosing the menu. I mean, apart from all the partying-with-loved-ones thing. That's pretty exciting too actually.

I love parties, I love to cook, and I love to eat. Therefore, I must make myself love to exercise. But that's beside the point.

Food tends to be a large focus of any party. But don't let its importance intimidate you. While catering is great and saves you lots of time, it can be expensive and hard to come by during the holidays. It takes work, but if you strategize, then catering your own party can actually be fun.

Your menu depends on your atmostphere. If you're planning a nice sit-down dinner for a smaller crowd, you might go the traditional route and opt for something like spaghetti and meatballs with a nice salad and warm, crusty french bread. Let's face it, spaghetti is one of those rare things that, the more you make, the better it tastes.

What I've found, though, is that finger foods go a long way. In the past, my parties have included a lot of games and mingling. Finger foods are great for this type of atmosphere; that way, your guests can keep nibbling throughout the night and you don't have to clear the table until much, much later!

Let's get started on your party menu, shall we? Note the inspiration board. Fancy.

Note: None of these pictures are mine. Check my Pinterest page and Google images ;)

  • Kelly from Just a Taste has a fantastic recipe for this Guacamole Bruschetta. I love guacamole and I love bruschetta. Genius.

  • You can't go wrong with Piggies in Blankets -- it's a staple at any party that I throw. If you're like me, and a little grossed out by pork dogs, try the turkey ones. I actually prefer the taste of the turkey ones, and I'm convinced that they're at least a wee bit better for you!

  • Finger sandwiches - also a staple and always a hit. So easy to make and much cheaper than ordering out for sandwiches. Just prep these babies about an hour before the party (or more if you have room to store them in your fridge!) and you're good to go. Wham, bam, thank you m'am.

  • Why not mix tradition up a little? I came across this black eyed pea salad on Delish and can't wait to try it out. However, I'm thinking of mixing it up a little, and instead of the yellow peppers, maybe throw in a little mango? Kind of like a twist on mango salsa, yes? Let me know if any of you have other ideas for this dish!

Other ideas:
  • Guacamole and chips (or tiny toasts!)
  • Party BBQ sausages and meatballs - we've ALL seen them in crock pots at every party!
  • Chex Mix - get creative and make your own!
  • Rotel dip -- yummm
  • Veggie tray - guilt-free and healthy! Perfect for nibbling :)
  • Chili, gumbo, chowder, or basically any kind of soup.
  • Red beans & rice - These can be put in the crock pot that morning and be ready by the time your party starts!
  • Twice Baked Potatoes - The Pioneer Woman has a fantastic recipe on her site, an even better one in her cookbook!
  • Taco Bar - I know from experience this is in fact affordable and delicious!

NOTE: This actually IS mine! Thank you dear iPhone!

If you prefer an outdoor party and are up for a bonfire, roasting hot dogs is a great way to get guests mingling and eating. Be sure to have the chips and drinks on hand though!

Pot luck dinners are also fun. Everyone has their own version of "party food," and many people have that "one dish" that they can make like no one else...if you're planning ahead of time, draw names to see who will bring a dessert, who will bring an entree, a drink, etc., then enjoy the delicious results :)

For some of you realllly crazy cats whose parties won't be starting until MUCH later, think about a breakfast party. I'm thinking pancakes, eggs, beignets, whatever you prefer! (I've made beignets from simple $1.00 pancake mix out of the box and they turned out delicious)


Then again, I have some very fond memories of nights where the only menu was pizza. It's all completely up to you.

While food can be an important part of your soiree, it doesn't have to be the star of the show. What matters is that you enjoy your time with your guests and celebrate the occasion.

The main thing to remember in building your menu is that you don't have to make this an "all you can eat" buffet. Don't overwhelm yourself with having to make LOTS of amounts of LOTS of dishes. Choose a few dishes that you enjoy making and that fit your budget, then stick with those to feed your posse'.

Is it okay that I said posse'?

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