Hello loves! Today I want to kick off a three part blog series on planning an intimate social gathering on the cheap! Keep watching over the next week or so, and follow me as I plan a small fall party at our home for mutual friends, as well as my husband’s co-workers. You can expect a few recipes, a few anecdotes, some ideas on setting as we progress, and maybe even read about about some comedic mishaps that happen during the progress of planning this little get together.
I have put a shout out on Twitter, asking for neat, inexpensive ideas for decor and whatnot, so maybe we will even get some help from friends along the way!
I hope you enjoy this little collection of posts over the next week or so, and if you have any party planning hacks you think I would love for this, feel free to hit me up anywhere I’m living online by using the social media buttons in the sidebar. You can also use the Contact Button at the top of this page, or the comment section here! If I use your idea for my party, you will be credited, and links to your blogs and/or social media will be shared in the applicable post! The next two blogs I will be writing will revolve around ‘cocktails and other beverages’ and ‘decor and activities’. The deadline for ideas for these two posts is October 26, 2018. I hope this not only helps everyone (myself included) to plan a perfect little get together, but also succeeds in being somewhat of an interactive blog post! If my experiment with this idea works and is enjoyable, I may do more like it in the future!
Today’s post is all about FOOD. I have pretty much planned my edible offerings out already, so here, I’m going to share with you what I will be serving at our little soiree, as well as some of the things I took into consideration when planning this part of our event.
I’m not looking to serve a sit down meal, but, since most of my gatherings tend to be fairly cocktail fueled, I cannot go without having food on hand to help soak up all that booze.
Some things I took into consideration as I was putting my menu together:
- Buffet space. I have a small home. My living room and dining space are combined into one room. This tends to be a bit of a challenge when planning gatherings indoors where I will be serving food. What I have done to make this a non-issue, is I restrict my offerings to what I can fit attractively on my dining table, making sure to account for a little extra space for small decorative items, any small appliances that will be needed to keep things warm, utensils, plates, cups, ect. I don’t like people having to travel into my kitchen to serve themselves. There are two reasons for this. The first is the fact that since I have been cooking/prepping/restocking out of the kitchen, it probably isn’t in the neatest order. I don’t want to subject my guests to chaos if I can help it. The other reason, is this is where my vertical bar is set up, and I mix cocktails on my counter (more on that in the next installment when we talk about beverages), and it gets crazy having to weave in and out of people in my kitchen to serve drinks.
- What’s in Season or on Sale? When planning food for a group of people on a budget, you want to take into consideration what is currently easy to find, and cost effective. A good way to do this, is to keep your offerings to things that are currently in season. This is also a great way to keep your gathering festive. It’s fall, so we want comfort food! Many stores have sales on components for easy, seasonal meals at certain times, so watch for things like that and plan accordingly. For example, a grocer near me is having a chili sale at the moment, and everything needed to make chili is on sale for ridiculously cheap prices, including a choice of meats! I bet you can’t guess what one of my party foods is going to be…ok I bet you can! In all seriousness though, paying attention to things like that can not only save you a LOT of cash on your gathering, but if you are coming up empty on ideas, you could get a valuable one just by scouting out the sales at your local shops!
- Grazing. I tend to serve a lot of adult beverages at my parties, so I am more concerned with people being able to graze rather than them being able to load up a large plate and sit down to enjoy a meal. If they can’t fit it on a dessert plate or in a cup and walk around with it, I’m not going to serve it. Take some time and figure out the logistics of how YOU want your guests to be able to enjoy the fare you put out for them, and plan your offerings accordingly.
- Kids. I always allow people to bring their children if necessary. I feel that even though there will be cocktails, that we are all responsible enough to make this work. Most of my gatherings start in the early evening, so friends with kids may stop by early to enjoy the festivities, but usually have to leave early as well. This is of course a decision that you will have to make for yourself, based on what you think is appropriate. If there are going to potentially be some mini humans present, make sure you have at least a thing or two on the buffet that is kid friendly. By ‘kid friendly’ I don’t necessarily mean that children have less refined palates than adults, I have met several kids who like some classy stuff, and visa versa, I know adults that eat like five year-olds. What I do mean, is account for messiness. Kids don’t care about your sofa and your carpets like their parents will. You want some tasty stuff on that table that isn’t going to destroy anything if its dropped, or left unattended.
Ok! Now that’s out of the way. I’ll share with you my completed menu for my Fall party! I will be serving a small selection of easy, warm foods, and a few snack type items that can easily be mixed and matched with each other, and eaten in small portions over a period of time.
I will have two slow cookers out, keeping the two hot food options I will be serving warm. In one, I will have my famous chili. You can find the recipe for that in a past post by clicking HERE. With a small ladle, and small disposable soup cups, this chili goes a LONG way, is filling, packed with protein, and still easy to carry around in one hand.
In the second slowcooker, I will be serving Teriyaki Chicken Wings. Making these is simple.
In an extra large mixing bowl, or a deep marinating container, mix together equal parts of Soy Sauce, Water, and Sugar, along with a few shakes of Worchestershire Sauce. Make enough of this to cover the amount of chicken wings you have. Marinade your chicken wings in this solution overnight in the refrigerator. The following day, transfer your wings into one or more large baking dishes, in a single layer, and sprinkle garlic powder, and black pepper over them to season. Cover, and bake at 375° for 45 mins. Remove them from the oven, uncover carefully, and turn over each wing. Apply another light seasoning layer, recover, and continue to bake for an additional 45 mins. Remove and serve, or transfer into a slowcooker turned on to the ‘Warm’ setting for buffet service.
NOTE: You can use this simple marinade on ANYTHING. We have used it to marinade larger pieces of chicken, as well as pork, and even steaks for the grill. It literally works on everything, and you probably always have these ingredients on hand.
We will also be serving bacon wrapped dates on our table. These are so yummy, and since they don’t need to stay hot to be fabulous, you don’t need to take any special steps to keep them warm which is so nice. The add a classy touch to your menu, as well as adding something that people don’t really eat on the regular. All you need are dates, and thin sliced raw bacon and toothpicks. Cut your raw bacon strips into thirds, wrap each section around a date, securing it with a toothpick. line a baking dish with parchment, and lay your dates out in rows. OPTIONAL: You can stuff your dates with slivers of almonds if you like prior to wrapping them, just push the almond into the end of the date until the ends are flush. Now. Bake at 425° for 15-18 mins or until your bacon is crisp. Rotate as necessary to make sure your bacon cooks evenly. Remove from the baking dish, and arrange on a plate with the toothpicks left in place (they now serve as a way for your guests to grab and eat them without the need for additional utensils), and place on your buffet.
That pretty much takes care of the “hard” stuff. We will also be putting out a bowl of mixed nuts, some chips and pico de gallo, and most likely a cheese plate.
I feel that this will feed a variety of different palates, and the cleanup won’t be crazy.
That’s gonna be a wrap for the food part of this series, and I hope you got some good ideas, and inspiration from my experience planning our little gathering, and that you keep your eyes open for the rest of my posts on this, as well as sharing some ideas with me of your own!
Thanks for reading!