This is part 2 of the guest blog series from Sharon Garofalow of Cupcakes and Cutlery. Check out part one of her amazing budget friendly fall party planning tips series and continue to check back this week to see how she throws a fall party, including food and wine, for only $75! If you're interested in being a guest blogger for Celebrations, give us a shout!
Since this party design was supposed to include everything, including food and wine for $75, I headed straight to the kitchen to see what I could use to serve the guests that I had on hand. From there, I put a list together of ideas for easy finger foods and then headed to the store. Even if you budget is a bit larger, this is a great place to start when trying to figure out what to serve your guests. If you are like me, you often over fill your cupboards and pantry with things you think you will eat immediately, but they just end up sitting there. And by simply spreading some store-brand crackers out on a nice plate you have immediately elevated them to an appetizer component. Don't think you have to go to Costco or over-provide. This party was put together for 3 couples and I took into consideration that men like meat. I didn't have another table to do a sit down dinner and that if I have my say, there is always dessert involved.
I knew that I wanted to do something on a skewer so that it could be nibbled on as an appetizer while guests mingled, or put on a plate as another side dish. A caprese salad is one of my "go-to's." It couldn't be easier to make, simply chunks of mozzarella, fresh basil, cherry tomatoes and a drizzle of good olive oil and sea salt. To make it more of a finger food I just put them on a stick. You'll notice that not all of the skewers are embellished. This still looks great but allows you to save time and potentially use a scrap of something you have leftover from another project.
I used empty glass yogurt containers (that I have been saving for quite some time because, well, look how pretty they are!) to hold individual salads. I kept it really simple by adding some hard boiled egg and a simple warm bacon dressing that incorporated only ingredients that I had in my pantry. If you don't have adorable Italian yogurt containers available you can easily substitute a glass votive holder (clean of course!), a low ball glass, a martini glass or mason jar. Use your imagination!
Next I baked a ready-made flatbread pizza purchased from Trader Joe's and added some chopped rosemary to the top for a fresh element. I am lucky enough to have a rosemary plant in my backyard, but if you need to buy it at the store, figure out ways to incorporate it (subtly) in other dishes to really get your money's worth. And while I used big sprigs in place of flowers on the dessert table, you could easily have done something similar with your leftover store bought sprigs by placing them in bud vases, a gorgeous drinking glass or even a very versatile mason jar.
For the heartier slider appetizer I also used store bought elements. I grabbed a package of Hawaiian Rolls from the store, and some pre-made barbecue beef from Trader Joe's. But to make them a little bit more gourmet, I made a quick onion jam as a condiment. With just a little brown sugar, olive oil (or butter) and a few dashes of balsamic vinegar, a sliced red onion becomes caramelized and delicious when cooked down.
For dessert, I didn't want to bake anything and wanted to do something that my guests maybe hadn't had before. I made the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip from How Sweat It Is. This is a perfect budget dessert. The dip, itself, is just a few ingredients and then it is accompanied by items that are probably already in your pantry such as pretzels, graham crackers and animal crackers. I sliced up some green apples as well because I LOVE green apples with chocolate but it is also a good way to have a fruit item available for anyone who is not a fan of desserts or watching their weight. Just give it a quick squeeze of lemon juice to keep it from turning brown!
Click here if you missed part 1 of the fall party planning series and check back tomorrow for tips on how to stretch your cocktail budget!