Christmas parties shouldn't involve a trip to the grocery store, right?
December 19, 2013 10:58 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend is having some coworkers over tomorrow night for a little get-together/party thing. This isn't their official christmas party (they had that at work last night), just a few (6-7 or so people) getting together. When asked about what he's doing for food, my boyfriend just assumed they'd all just go to the grocery store to get something, which I personally find pretty... weird. As I'm helping host, I want to provide better noms!

I have most of the day off, and can cook/prepare stuff. We might end up ordering a pizza or something later, but as everyone is coming directly from work at 6:00pm, I'm sure they'll be hungry and will want food right away. I want good, yummy, easy food. Nothing too cute (mini quiches are way too dainty for a big Uzbek man!), and nothing too cheap and college-y (Doritos and brownies seem too young for a mid 20's to mid-30's crowd).

It can take a lot of effort, but I don't want it to LOOK like it took a lot of effort. No dietary restrictions that I know of, and everyone enjoys foreign/spicy/weird food, everyone is pretty geeky, and my boyfriend has all the normal big appliences, but no blender/food processor/etc. Looking to stay pretty affodable. This might be the main food of the night. The night will probably entail drinking beer and maybe hard alcohol, playing PS4, maybe cards against humanity, music, possibly some 420, and general hanging out.

Any ideas, mefites? Our bellies thank you in advance!
posted by hasna to Food & Drink (46 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
... um, everyone loves doritos, brownies and pizza. I'm 31 and my husband is 39. When we go to parties/events with crap like that we are all "FUCK YEAH! DORITOS!". That is always the stuff that gets eaten first, and our social group is a bunch of nerdy civil servant foodie types. Recently to an office gathering someone brought a huge Costco size bag of Doritos. I cannot express how excited people were. People LOVE Doritos. I think it is because as "grown ups" we have convinced ourselves aren't supposed to buy and eat that junk, plus Doritos make your fingers orange and that makes them messier and even less "grown up", so in generally we don't. The only time we get crap like that is if there is a party.

Some things are classics for a reason.

Fuck, I want some damned doritos now...
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:08 AM on December 19, 2013 [23 favorites]

Nachos and chili (to dip the nachos in or to eat separately as a more meal-like option) are always crowd pleasers and are super easy, especially if he has a crock pot to make the chili in. You can basically as desired with different meats (chicken, sausage) and beans (red, black) if you want to tweak it.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:10 AM on December 19, 2013

Going to a grocery store together is lame.

That said, his style is decidedly low key so don't usurp that. I would buy a bunch of pre-made finger munchies and throw them together. This are his buddies so I wouldn't over-hostess.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:11 AM on December 19, 2013 [10 favorites]

If you want to make it a little classier get different varieties of Doritos and put them in nice bowls.

Seriously though... get the Doritos. Lots of Doritos. Everyone will thank you because everyone loves Doritos, and if someone says they don't like Doritos they are either lying, someone who doesn't like the colour orange, or a sociopath. They are even GLUTEN FREE (some flavours at least) for god's sake! Doritos are like crunchy triangles of angel dreams covered in cheese powder. GET THE DORITOS!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:14 AM on December 19, 2013 [8 favorites]

Seconding the recommendation for a crockpot party recipe - I've made this for my holiday party two years in a row, and it's the easiest thing to prepare and to serve (I don't even bother with tortillas). Pork shoulder is ridiculously affordable, and you wind up with a full meal to serve (obviously, you'd want to scale for the number of people coming). Once you have that core meal, throw in just a few snacks (Doritos even!), and it's easy peasy.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 11:16 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

My staple not-college, not-fancy, easy hang out foods are Totino's pizza rolls served with a variety of salsas and sauces for dipping, or frying up a bunch of frozen dumplings in tomatillo and soy sauce and putting them out in a big self-serve bowl. Everyone loves dumplings, and everyone loves things that are secretly pizza.

Another idea is to order in from a nearby place you like -- something like Indian food where folks can serve themselves amounts of whatever they like. It would fit the casual party vibe you're describing.
posted by Pwoink at 11:16 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

To each their own means - that's how we've always seen get-togethers. Some people bring bacon-wrapped figs, some people bring Doritos, some people bring those donuts with icing on them. I think the 'keeping up with the Joneses' style of party is all over the sitcom world, but in reality, buying a box of mozzarella sticks and some bags of chips isn't going to somehow insult everyone.
posted by aggyface at 11:18 AM on December 19, 2013

posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:20 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

my boyfriend just assumed they'd all just go to the grocery store to get something

See, this here is why nobody lets guys organize social gatherings for anyone but themselves.
posted by valkyryn at 11:23 AM on December 19, 2013 [23 favorites]

Update: just found out two of the people are dairy-eating vegetarians, which changes things a bit. Also, crock-pot food is an excellent idea! Keep the answers coming guys! (and ok, ok, I'll pick up some doritos!)
posted by hasna at 11:25 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cheese plate. Bruschetta. Veggie plate or fruit plate or both. Something holiday-y like candied nuts or peppermint bark. You don't need to provide a meal unless previously stated that this is a dinner party. If it's just hanging out, the above is 'grown up', healthy, and simple.
posted by greta simone at 11:27 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Why not make a cake and order pizza? Seriously, make a layer cake - everyone loves those. Use the good old Joy of Cooking recipe here and make a vanilla or chocolate buttercream. One recipe of this cake makes two medium thick layers in 8 or 9 inch pans; make 1.5 recipes or a double recipe for a really tall cake.

If you want to get fancier, make that recipe but sub 1/4 of the flour with whole wheat, bump up the chocolate by 1 -2 T and sub 1/3 of the sugar with dark brown sugar.'

Obviously you could make other, fancier cakes if you wanted.

But IME, everyone really loves homemade cake.
posted by Frowner at 11:28 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

For something like this, if he has a crock pot (or at least a really big pot) I would suggest some kind of simple veggie soup or stew. Buy 3-4 potatoes, 1 lb of carrots, 1 onion, and slice it all into bite-ish sized pieces. Then go ahead and add a can of beans, some mushrooms, a bag of frozen peas, really, whatever's handy, plus a quart of veggie stock and a bottle of beer, let simmer for 6-8 hrs on low in the crock pot (or 1-2 hours covered on low on the stove after bringing it to a boil first), and ta-da, veggie stew! Serve with bread.
posted by PearlRose at 11:28 AM on December 19, 2013

For low key that most people will like I would do tortilla chips with a couple of dips - a salsa and a cheese dip, maybe. You can warm the chips for an added bit of niceness.

(I don't like doritos.)
posted by frobozz at 11:29 AM on December 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

Most people think you're a god if you do this. You can make one with just the cheese and Ro-Tel for the vegetarians too.
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:35 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well dang, just saw your update about the vegetarians. I'll leave my meaty comments below but add that I'm sure you could find veggie crockpot recipes: vegetarian chili (soy chorizo?), Indian style lentils or other legume, my boyfriend made an amazing Moroccan stew in our crockpot with eggplant (browned/sauteed/seasoned first), canned tomatoes and chickpeas. Mexican or Cuban style black beans with all the fixings on the side: rice, tortillas, cheese, sour cream, salsa, limes...

Previously written meat-based suggestions:
"A big old crockpot of something meaty will serve you well. Chili or pork shoulder are great suggestions. I LOVE this crockpot pork shoulder recipe with Dr. Pepper except I used Mexican soda instead (a combo of tamarind and cola Jarritos).

If you don't have a crockpot, you can usually find one at a thrift store or Target has them on sale for $25 right now (they're usually like $30). Get a 6 quart and you will use it!

Similarly you could get a recipe for shredded chicken or beef pot roast or chile verde with tomatillos or sausages or meatballs in a yummy sauce. The internet is awash with crockpot recipes, Pinterest in particular. Provide some tortillas or cornbread or bread on the side if necessary."

Snackwise, I agree with everyone else to just get chips, crackers, cheese, dips, popcorn, cookies. At least for me, I don't buy prepared, snacky stuff to eat at home so I love eating it at parties!

Root beer floats, spiced cider and/or mulled wine (can also be done in a crock pot!! or on the stove obviously)
posted by dahliachewswell at 11:37 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Crudite plate with cut up pita, a few chips & dips and some humus. Bowls of olives & cheese cubes. These are great to nibble and have out before the "big" food item. You can make them or most supermarkets sell them pre done, but it is so much cheaper to do up your own. Then some sort of chilli, pulled pork type dish, with some bread rolls, nachos or how ever you like to serve it. Maybe some sort of sloppy vegetarian dish as well.
posted by wwax at 11:42 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

'Tis the season for homemade tamales, which I don't make myself but there is always someone about whose Tia is making a bunch... ah, but I see that tamale-making is probably not common in your locale!

Keep it simple - a lasagne or a pasta dish. These can be done vegetarian too.

Also, love the idea of meatballs. Make them a little less common with a mango or cranberry chutney as a dipping sauce.

Pita bread and some good hummus.

Have some fruit around. Maybe some sweets.

Otherwise, I assume that someone will turn up with some additional food, or let one or two make a grocery-store run while the rest get the party started.
posted by vignettist at 11:42 AM on December 19, 2013

The night will probably entail drinking beer and maybe hard alcohol, playing PS4, maybe cards against humanity, music, possibly some 420, and general hanging out.

Doritos and brownies
posted by KogeLiz at 11:46 AM on December 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

Tacos! Tacos with both meat and refried bean options. Everyone assembles their own tacos = everyone is happy.
posted by purple_bird at 11:46 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you can, order a 6 Ft Loaf of bread and put sandwich fixin's on it. You can do 4ft of Italian Cold Cuts and 2ft of veggie stuff (mark it off with toothpicks or something) and then let people go to town on it. Or, just get a few loaves of French Bread and make a few different varieties of the sandwich. People love the sandwich!

If you want it to be fancy, offer plates of arranged tomatoes, onions, lettuce, roasted peppers, etc. Muffalatta Olive SPREAD!!!!

One thing my Mom used to do was roast a slab of beast, and then let people carve it up and have sammiches on dinner rolls. Kind of foofy, but folks LOVED them a roast beast sammich.

And Doritos and Brownies, because NOM NOM NOM. I'm also partial to Ruffles and Lipton Onion Soup Dip.

M&Ms in a bowl is also a favorite, and no wrappers all over everywhere like with Hershey's Kisses.

This isn't really a party, it's a get-to-gether, so no need to go nuts. But no reason not to have some delicious assed food.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:51 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Who is "they" in this situation?

Does he mean that he and his friends will descend on the supermarket en masse before the party? Does he mean that it'll be potluck, or that his friends usually bring plenty, so doing a bunch of food would be superfluous?

If it's a casual get-together and there's a probability that other people will bring stuff, I'd do chips & salsa, maybe something festive like Christmas cookies, and, I dunno, something else sort of on the level of chips & salsa that isn't specifically that (pita chips and hummus? crudite? cheese? cured meats?). I wouldn't spend a lot of time preparing hot foods.

You can always order a pizza if simple cold finger foods isn't enough.

If you really want to fancy it up, I'd do pate, higher end cheeses, maybe some maracona almonds or good olives. A sliced baguette instead of crackers. Still in the "cold apps" category, but a step up.

If you want something heartier than chips and a veggie platter, what about queso dip instead of plain salsa? Swedish meatballs? Anything hot that can be prepared in advance and set out in a crock pot on the "warm" setting. There's a reason all these warm, simple foods come out at people's holiday parties. They're good, warm, and absorb alcohol, but they're still very simple.
posted by Sara C. at 11:52 AM on December 19, 2013

At 6pm people will want to eat! First I thought tacos, but chili (1 meat, 1 veg) probably easier. And vegetable platters and chips etc. The standard stuff but hearty because people will be hungry and if you're willing and able then that's wayy better than ordered pizza.
posted by bquarters at 11:53 AM on December 19, 2013

Strangely enough, this thread had a bunch of recipes for crowd-pleasing, not-too-fancy party foods:

Salsa di Parmigiano
Lump meat crab dip
Meat candy
Sun-dried tomato dip
Artichoke dip
Nacho technique
posted by lalex at 11:55 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

just found out two of the people are dairy-eating vegetarians, which changes things a bit.

You're overthinking this.

Just make sure to provide some things that do not have meat in them, and you're golden. People will eat what appeals to them/fits their dietary preferences, or not. If you order pizza, make sure to get one plain cheese or vegstravaganza or whatever.

The whole point of a casual get together is that you don't have to take an inventory of what everyone eats. They're not moving in with you, they're just looking to cushion the booze with some of your mom's seven layer dip recipe.
posted by Sara C. at 11:56 AM on December 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

OP: my boyfriend just assumed they'd all just go to the grocery store to get something

valkyryn : See, this here is why nobody lets guys organize social gatherings for anyone but themselves.

My husband calls this "Man Planning" and to my endless irritation it always seems to work out for him. His vague plans of "Ehn, we'll figure something out" drive me around the bend, and yet every time they do, in fact, figure something out (usually last minute) and everything is great.

So maybe your boyfriend's Man Planning plan of going to the grocery store on the way should be left to run its course...?

posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:56 AM on December 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

Artichoke dip!

1 can of artichoke hearts (in water, not oil). Drain and chop them -- I do each one into quarters.
"enough" shredded parmesan cheese
as much garlic as you like, pressed or minced

combine artichoke hearts, cheese, and garlic. add enough mayo, stirring it in, until it looks "squishy" and dip-like. sprinkle a little more cheese on top to give it a little 'crust', then stick it in the oven, uncovered, at 350 deg F until it is bubbling.

So so yummy and so easy.
posted by olinerd at 11:57 AM on December 19, 2013

The dish that disappeared the fastest at my recent company potluck was Buffalo Chicken Dip. Easy and freaking delicious.

Make twice as much, because after 420 everything is tastier.
posted by Kakkerlak at 11:58 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was going to suggest nachos, too. Either you make a giant batch, or make it a nacho bar - lots of toppings, everyone can build their own nachos, it's all prep work for you and then you don't have to be doing any cooking during the actual party. I've done Giant Pan of Nachos to great success for this kind of casual hanging-out event.

That said, I'm solidly mid-30s and I wouldn't blink twice about pizza, chips, and brownies for a party like you're describing. Again, if you want to make the food itself
posted by Stacey at 11:59 AM on December 19, 2013

Our standard holiday party fare:
hummus & pita wedges
veggie tray
Chips & onion dip
Pigs in a blanket or some other hot appetizer from the Pillsbury website
crock-pot meatballs (freezer meatballs + chili sauce + grape jelly)
sandwich platter w/ deli meats, cheeses, & bread
brownies or cookies or cupcake

Over the years I've found that our crowd (professionals 30s-50s) really tends to like the low-key stuff better. In fact, the chips and dip go fastest, and I think it's because they generally try to eat well and don't always have that sort of thing, so it's a treat. I just try to have something hot, something cold, something sweet, and something salty so that it balances out. Some heartier things, and some lighter things.
posted by bizzyb at 12:00 PM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Okay, this is what I call "trailer park dip," and it's a huge hit every time. You serve it with fruit for dipping, but I tend to eat it with a big spoon. Your ingredients:

1 container Cool Whip
1 container sour cream
1 packet vanilla instant pudding

Mix together. Chill for about an hour. Serve in a bowl with cut-up fruit. Everybody in the world seems to love this beyond measure.
posted by xingcat at 12:02 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Frozen spinach triangle things (spanakopita) that you can just heat and eat, and other freezer things like rice balls (arancini) would be great.
Hand food.
Crockpot stuff is (in my opinion) mostly for "real dinner" and you are serving "party food" which does not require utensils by my definition.

Hummus and cherry tomatoes and veggie sticks and pita, plus cheese and crackers and chips, plus frozen stuff, and maybe brownies or cookies would be a huge success with most everyone I know (and I'm a vegetarian).
posted by rmless at 12:10 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nuts in bowls. Olives in shallow dishes. Vegetables and dip. Chips and dip. Cheese and crackers. Salami roll-ups (cream cheese on a slice of salami -- roll it up and stick a toothpick in it).
posted by trip and a half at 12:26 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

My husband calls this "Man Planning" and to my endless irritation it always seems to work out for him.

Hence the "for anyone but themselves" qualifier. If it's just going to be a bunch of guys sitting around, drinking beer, watching the game, and/or playing video games (with or without girls who are okay with that sort of social gathering), then yeah, expectations are low, and enough people usually bring something so that people don't starve and/or stay sober if they don't want to. It "works out" for a very particular value of the term, and there's always delivery if people get too hungry.

It sounds like this might be that sort of gathering. It's probably worth a trip to the store to make sure there's something out when guests start to arrive, but spending the afternoon preparing hors d'oeuvres is probably not necessary. But if the OP has any expectations for this event beyond that, even something as basic as non-box wine in actual glasses, additional planning is probably going to be required.

Still doesn't sound like it's time to go the full Martha Stewart though.
posted by valkyryn at 12:30 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if there is any intention of eating vegetables, better provide them, because "Man Planning" only results in the presence of veggies a single-digit percentage of the time.
posted by valkyryn at 12:31 PM on December 19, 2013

Tortilla chips and salsa, cheese dip and guacamole. Make your own dips if you feel fancy. Basically make your own nachos. Everyone loves nachos.

Also from the party activities you described, doritos and brownies sound perfect.

I have friends who are in their mid-30s, have much fancier parties than I do, with things like mini quiches and homemade cakes and bruschetta....and doritos.

When I have parties, sometimes I just make some dips and snacks and then order pizza later on when everyone is a few drinks in. I'm a fan of making some kind of festive punch, because it feels really fancy, and hey, booze.
posted by inertia at 12:32 PM on December 19, 2013

I think if my boyfriend was having coworkers over and I said, "hey, I have most of the day free, what should I make?" and he said, "oh, we'll stop by the grocery store and pick up stuff on the way", I would just make sure whatever serving dishes we had were clean, and tell him to text me midday if he thought of something he wanted to be on hand before they got there.

And then I would make whatever I already wanted to make for a crowd, or already had the ingredients for.
posted by mgar at 1:38 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

For carnivores:
- google "crockpot meatballs" - you know, they have grape jelly & bbq sauce
- crockpot pulled pork
- chicken strips
- chicken bites wrapped in bacon, served with a creamy caesar dip
- chicken wings (frozen box ones are fine), VARIOUS DIPS

For vegetarians:
- Gardein chicken strips. They are easy to make and really good. I eat meat and I like them better than actual chicken nuggets.
- Grilled veggie skewers - very easy to assemble and pre-grill for the nice char marks, then just heat them up later.

For everyone:

Veggies, chips and homemade dip (1/2 sour cream, 1/2 soft cream cheese, packet of dried soup mix - ranch, onion, etc). Also supplement with storebought hummus, salsa, babaghanouj, artichoke or spinach dip as you please.

Skewers with alternating cubes of pound cake and fruit, with a dip such as xingcat mentioned above, or melted chocolate folded into whipped cream

Cheese. Crackers. Pickles. Olives.

One thing I love at a party is just some nice rolls with butter. And if you're fancy slap down some nice salami/prosciutto/capriocola, or just some deli turkey and some fake meat "deli turkey", a couple tomato slices, some onions. Bam. Everyone make your own mini sandwiches.

When ppl get drunk, holler out: "who wants PIZZA? who wants CHINESE?" whoever is loudest wins.

If everyone's eaten enough my old go-to move at the end of the night was putting on a pot of coffee, a kettle of tea and then just making a big tray of toast and putting out butter, jam, cinnamon-sugar and peanut butter and letting everyone have a little snack before they head out.
posted by SassHat at 1:39 PM on December 19, 2013

HEY DON'T FORGET: you want disposable small plates, and plastic silverware, plastic/paper cups, and napkins! Seriously, even for a group of less than 10 people, it is so much easier to just bin everything at the end of the night instead of faffing about with washing dishes.

Also someone said meatballs and I heartily concur, meatballs are awesome.
posted by elizardbits at 1:56 PM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Bites -

I've been making these for at least a few years & they are seriously delicious & always a huge hit. They get eaten first whenever I go to a party & they don't take much work. Plus.. I mean.. BACON, amirite?


1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (about 4 breasts)
1 (1-pound) package sliced bacon
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
{Crayon's Edit: Flat Toothpicks}


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes. Cut each bacon slice into thirds. Wrap each chicken cube with bacon and secure with a wooden pick. Stir together brown sugar and chili powder. Dredge wrapped chicken in mixture. Coat a rack and broiler pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place chicken wrap on rack in broiler pan. Bake 350 for 30 to 35 minutes or until bacon is crisp.

Note: Not my recipe, brazenly stolen from the web years ago.
posted by crayon at 2:11 PM on December 19, 2013

Tortilla pinwheels are my potluck standby.. quick and very little hassle to make, and lots of possibility for variation.

Get a big bowl, and dump in some cream cheese and a salsa of your choice.. it's easy to experiment with the proportions of each, I feel like I usually do close to equal amounts of each with a skew toward a bit more cream cheese than salsa, maybe? Mash it all together with a fork so that it gets to a consistency that you like. Then, add some shredded cheddar or some other cheese and mix some more. Spread the mixture in a thin, even layer, right to the very edges of some flour tortillas, then carefully roll the tortilla up so you get one long, tortilla log. Then, cut the log into 1 to 1 1/2 inch chunks. I like to use a serrated edge knife to do this, as it requires less pressure and therefore you lose less of the salsa cheese goop due to squeezage.
posted by wats at 3:38 PM on December 19, 2013

Somebody on television once uttered a line that described me to a tee: " are bears with furniture," she said. Your boyfriend is fine. He just needs a tug here, gentle push there.

I'm with the Doritos vote. For an event such as the one you described, I used to like breadboard servings: A couple rows of fancy crackers, some cheese fingers (a couple types of cheese), artfully displayed on the breadboard, some kind of dip and something to dip into it. Grapes, fresh pineapple wedges on toothpicks. Fancy popcorn in big bowls. You might like to put out sour-dough slices, along with your favorite summer sausage or salami. If your supermarket has fruit this time of year, sliced apricot halves are an unusual and very tasty treat.

If the crowd gets all super-duper munchy-wunchy there's always delivery pizza.

Let the halls be decked with Holly.
posted by mule98J at 6:00 PM on December 19, 2013

I vote you should keep the party food to simple things you can buy from the store (some olives, fancy nuts, cheeses, cold cuts, crackers), but have fun baking a yummy dessert. Dessert is almost always vegetarian, so everyone can eat it; everyone loves dessert (sorry, but dessert>doritos); and you don't risk looking like you have gone overboard if you make some simple crowd-pleaser desserts like brownies, cookies, or a cake.
posted by Joh at 6:08 PM on December 19, 2013

Big pot of chili, lots of shredded cheese, beer aaaaand Doritos!
posted by BlueHorse at 7:06 PM on December 19, 2013

Pigs. In. A. Blanket.
posted by slateyness at 7:08 PM on December 19, 2013

As a cheese-eating vegetarian, I cosign nachos as a slightly more adult Dorites.
posted by klangklangston at 10:52 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

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