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Old 05-04-2010, 10:53 AM
emmaliminal emmaliminal is offline
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Surprise party foods: cheap, make/buy ahead, no refrigeration -- suggestions?

I'm throwing a surprise party for my husband a week from Saturday, on the 15th -- he's defending his dissertation at long last. He's away right now; we live in New England but his university is in Texas (long story) and he'll be back Sunday, the 9th. I'm hoping to get all stocked up before he gets home. I expect something like 10-15 people plus us.

Party will start at 7 pm, so some folks won't have had dinner. (I personally hate it when I go to a party expecting there to be food, and there's nothing but pretzel sticks and cookies.)

Guests will probably bring some things, but I want to have enough to enjoy ourselves even if they don't. Or if everyone brings beer instead of food. I can stash a few things with helpful guests, but hope to minimize that.

Anyone have suggestions for yummy tasty party foods?

Necessary conditions:
  • non-sit-down, finger-food sorts of things -- needing at most a fork -- but that aren't total junk food
  • I can buy it or make it and then stash it, for almost a week, in the basement or garage -- things that don't need to be in the fridge or freezer. Exceptions: non-bulky parts that could be concealed in the back of the fridge or freezer in a nondescript container, as if it were a forgotten leftover, or key ingredients that look like regular groceries we often have anyway (e.g., cream cheese, sour cream)
  • could be something easy to throw together after party has started, like brownie mix
  • cheap! (we're underemployed and expecting our first kid)
  • not too offensive to green/organic/neohippie types (e.g., no Cool Whip or spray cheese, please)

My ideas so far:
  • salsa from jars, chips ("healthy" chips if I can afford 'em)
  • some kind of easy cream-cheese or sour-cream based dip
  • crackers
  • non-suspicion-raising veggies for use with dip, already prepared or easy to prepare, e.g. baby-cut carrots
  • lentil salad -- I make this a lot anyway, and can claim I'm making a double-large batch just to have it on hand, probably the day before the party
  • pistachios -- I happen to have a couple of pounds in the cupboard already
  • mix brownies as per above (gotta have dessert, right? and my husband loves chocolate) made after party starts
  • maaaybe sliced-up sausages to stick under the broiler in the oven and serve on toothpicks with various BBQ sauces, mustards, etc. -- I think I can hide 'em in the freezer, but don't know how well the unfreezing/broiling thing will work

What else?
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  #2  
Old 05-04-2010, 10:58 AM
In Winnipeg In Winnipeg is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2010
First thing, go to your local supermarket deli or real deli and order a meat and cheese tray.

These usually contain 3 to 4 different deli meats and cheeses. Get a few jars of pickles such as dills, sweet mixed, and the like, some jars of olives and pickled onions and crackers (Ritz, and the flavoured ones such as swiss cheese, garden vegetable, etc.). Also, get some dinner rolls and rye bread so people can assemble their own sandwiches from all the loose stuff.
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Old 05-04-2010, 10:59 AM
norinew norinew is offline
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You could try something like "summer" sausage or stick sausage. You know, the kind that's already preserved and needs no refrigeration, just slice and serve with crackers and maybe (to make it more festive) some fancy-schmancy mustard like honey-mustard or something.

Also, inexpensive seasonal fruit often needs little/no refrigeration. Seedless grapes will last for days without refrigeration, esp. if kept in dry, relatively cool conditions, and are neat and easy to eat as finger food. Some fresh seasonal fruit could round out the sausages and cheeses and dips.
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  #4  
Old 05-04-2010, 11:00 AM
Sigmagirl Sigmagirl is offline
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Hummus & pita chips are always good. Get the pita chips with lots of garlic.
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  #5  
Old 05-04-2010, 11:01 AM
norinew norinew is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by In Winnipeg View Post
First thing, go to your local supermarket deli or real deli and order a meat and cheese tray.

These usually contain 3 to 4 different deli meats and cheeses. Get a few jars of pickles such as dills, sweet mixed, and the like, some jars of olives and pickled onions and crackers (Ritz, and the flavoured ones such as swiss cheese, garden vegetable, etc.). Also, get some dinner rolls and rye bread so people can assemble their own sandwiches from all the loose stuff.
These can be pricey; but a warning for the OP: if you do decide to go with something like this, be aware that many markets require 72 hours notice for these things. I ran into this problem when my mom died; I was having some folks over the house after the funeral, and wanted a platter. Every store I called needed 72 hours notice! I tried to explain to them that my mother had not been considerate enough to schedule her passing, to no avail. A friend and I ended up staying up very late the night before the funeral, arranging lunch meats and cheeses on a platter!
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Old 05-04-2010, 11:20 AM
In Winnipeg In Winnipeg is offline
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72 hours notice? Really? Wow.

Most notice I ever had to give was to place an order first thing in the morning for pick up after work.

Checking on the time is definitely a smart idea in light of these kinds of discrepancies.
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  #7  
Old 05-04-2010, 11:25 AM
emmaliminal emmaliminal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by In Winnipeg View Post
... go to your local supermarket deli or real deli and order a meat and cheese tray....
I'd like to do this, but they don't deliver! We're not close to any place that does trays, and if someone has to go pick one up, it'd be at least 45 minutes they'd be away from the party. We're in a town too small to have private delivery service, too.

norinew: fruits and summer sausage -- check! Great ideas.

Sigmagirl: don't you have to refrigerate hummus? Is there a jar kind you don't have to? Though come to think of it, maybe I could decant it into a big yogurt tub, label it "Stir Fry 4/12/2010" and shove it in the back of the fridge... if my husband knew there was actual hummus in our house, it wouldn't last more than half an hour.
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  #8  
Old 05-04-2010, 11:29 AM
silenus silenus is online now
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World's Simplest Dip: pour a bottle of Pickapeppa sauce over a block of cream cheese.

World's Simplest Vinagrette for dipping veggies: mix dijon mustard and basalmic vinegar 50:50.
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  #9  
Old 05-04-2010, 11:39 AM
Sigmagirl Sigmagirl is offline
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Yes, many brands of hummus come in a jar, but if your local markets don't do deli trays, they also might not have a wide variety of that type of thing. You can freeze it, but it gets a little grainy when it's thawed.
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  #10  
Old 05-04-2010, 11:45 AM
Dolores Reborn Dolores Reborn is offline
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Li'l Smokies in BBQ sauce. You can hide them in the freezer, then nuke to thaw and warm in a crockpot.
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  #11  
Old 05-04-2010, 11:47 AM
redtail23 redtail23 is offline
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Cream cheese dip is easy & fast. Serve with veggies and/or crackers. (Bagel Crisps are the dope! But not exactly healthy.) It's best if you make it ahead so the flavors can blend, but I've made it right before a party and it's fine. It can be stashed in a discreet plastic container for days and days.

Get the block cream cheese (or neufchatel for low fat variety) and let it soften at room temperature. Mix in herbs and spices to taste. Voila! It's better than the 'block of cream cheese covered in jelly' dips IMO and not much harder.

I usually do a garlic & onion and an herb mix.

- Mix softened cream cheese with dehydrated onion/onion powder and garlic powder. Lots of onion & garlic. Even more than that. You can slice up a green onion and add that, but don't try to use fresh garlic, it gets weird. I often add some white pepper and a dash of cayenne, or some cajun seasoned salt, or something like that. If you want to get fancy, you can roll it in chives.

- Mix softened cream cheese with a little garlic powder and white pepper and add dried or fresh herbs. Dill/celery seed is good, an italiany basil/oregano/thyme is good. Actually I often just throw herbs in at random without a particular theme. It always turns out yummy.

- You can also do one with a little garlic & onion powder, plus a bunch of cayenne (ground red) pepper and maybe some crushed red pepper flakes. This one is yummy, but unless your friends really really like hot stuff, make it in small quantities. It won't go nearly as fast as the others.

Another good veggie dip is sour cream & dry onion soup mix. Just follow the directions on the package.

We rarely buy deli trays because they're so expensive. It's much cheaper to make your own, if you have time. Do check out the deli section though - a lot of times they'll have meat on sale that they'll slice for you, that's cheaper than the packaged lunch meats. If you do sandwiches, a nice touch is some marinated onions & bell pepper (slice the veg up, mix with bottled italian dressing, leave sitting for a few hours). Maybe this could be one of the things you left at a friend's?

If you've got a crockpot, queso dip is easy and can all be stored at room temp until you throw it together. Velveeta cheese (or a similar product) and Rotel tomatoes (canned tomatoes with green chilis). If you like, you can brown hamburger or bulk breakfast sausage and add it. If you don't add meat, it will last forever in the frig.

Last edited by redtail23; 05-04-2010 at 11:50 AM.. Reason: typo
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  #12  
Old 05-04-2010, 11:50 AM
fluiddruid fluiddruid is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by norinew View Post
These can be pricey; but a warning for the OP: if you do decide to go with something like this, be aware that many markets require 72 hours notice for these things. I ran into this problem when my mom died; I was having some folks over the house after the funeral, and wanted a platter. Every store I called needed 72 hours notice! I tried to explain to them that my mother had not been considerate enough to schedule her passing, to no avail. A friend and I ended up staying up very late the night before the funeral, arranging lunch meats and cheeses on a platter!
Try Costco or Sam's - they usually have them ready and waiting for pickup.

Costco in general is my go-to for party food. They usually have a lot of little frozen appetizers you can just pop in the oven (e.g. puff pastry apps, egg rolls, crab rangoon, mini-quiches); since they're small, I think you could conceal these in another container and stash 'em. They also make a wicked granola -- it's in the bakery section -- that'd be nice for munching.
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  #13  
Old 05-04-2010, 06:02 PM
Ann Hedonia Ann Hedonia is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2009
Here's a good one for a quick and easy cheeseball.

8 oz of good sharp cheddar cheese - I prefer x-tra sharp
1- 8 oz block of cream cheese ( OK to sub lowfat )
1- 8 oz bottle creamy blue cheese salad dressing -- ( it's more than OK to experiment here, I have had great results with both bacon ranch dressing and a creamy roasted garlic dressing -- it just needs to be a creamy style dressing.)

Grate the cheddar. Mix everything together. Refrigerate until you can form it into a cheeseball. Serve with crackers.

Last edited by Ann Hedonia; 05-04-2010 at 06:03 PM..
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