Question: I am having a party in a few weeks for about 30 people. I need an easy menu that won’t require a lot of time or cooking the day of the party. Any suggestions?
Answer: The point of throwing a party is to enjoy the company of your guests in the comfort of your home. Planning ahead and keeping it simple will allow you do that. These are my Go-To party foods when I don’t have much time to prep:
Cheese platters. Have a few of these in different spots, with different kinds of cheese, crackers, rustic breads, fruits or dried fruits, cured meats, and some fresh herbs on each one. I usually make a couple big ones and a couple small ones, and put different items on each one. If they all look different and offer a variety of choices, everyone will be happy. And they’re super easy to throw together. A few examples:
Dips with Crostini and Veggie Crudite. If you’re short on time, buy the dip. Hummus, tzaziki, white bean dip, black bean dip, olive or sundried tomato tapenade, etc. are widely available at Trader Joe’s, Costco, and Whole Foods, and are all crowd-pleasers. If you have more time, make my hot Spinach Artichoke Dip, or one of these easy dips. For the veggies and baguette slices, it’s worth cutting up your own. The store-bought veggie platters are always the same and can be pretty dry. Keep it simple with 3 varieties of veggies, like baby tomatoes, steamed fingerling potatoes, and sugar snap peas.
Serve 2-3 purchased hot appetizers, but no more. The more hot food you serve, the more you have to be running to and from the kitchen to pull things out of the oven and the less time you spend with your guests. Pick a couple hot appetizers from the freezer section at Trader Joe’s, like Spanikopita (the spinach-cheese triangles), mini quiches, pigs in a blanket, or one of their other many options. Preheat the oven before your guests arrive (and cook everything at the same temperature: 400 is usually good for small bites), so it’s ready to pop apps in the oven when the party gets started.
Cookie & Brownie Trays. For dessert, serve small cookies and/or brownie squares neatly arranged on white trays. Make one of these recipes, or buy cookies or biscotti from your favorite local bakery. Also have chocolate-covered raisins, nuts, dried fruit, and M&Ms around in little bowls that people can also munch on.
Just because these ideas are easy does not mean they won’t impress. Present your food in a clean and organized way, and it will look like you slaved away all day!