Help me plan a fun girls night in - food questions
May 22, 2014 5:35 PM   Subscribe

I am having some friends over to my house for chill night of catching up and watching movies. I very rarely socialize in my home, so I am somewhat clueless about hosting people. There will be four of us, and one person is breastfeeding so no alcohol for her. I am thinking about daiquiris since they are delicious and can easily be made with no alcohol. But I am stumped for food.

I am a decent enough cook, but will only have about six hours before to do all of my food shopping and prepare. We all typically eat all different types of cuisines. I know I am totally overthinking this, but I can't figure out what to have for hors d'oevers dinner and dessert. Maybe something from Trader Joe's? Also, are there any other things that I should be thinking of? Thanks in advance for sharing your ideas.
posted by seesom to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Do you want a sit-down meal or fun dinner food to shovel in whilst watching movies?
posted by DarlingBri at 5:41 PM on May 22, 2014

One of the favorites from a party I threw a few months ago: orecchiette pasta with kale, roasted butternut squash, and grated parmesan. Just make a roux with some butter and flour and melt in the parmesan, then mix through the other cooked ingredients.
posted by mirepoix at 5:42 PM on May 22, 2014

I like the TJ's frozen Tarte D’Alsace and there's also a version w/o the ham.
And for dessert--the maracons, or an assortment of their various small dessert bites.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:42 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Taco bar. Have a little of everything and everyone can tailor their own tacos to their particular tastes. Chips, salsa, guac, the rest just writes itself.
posted by phunniemee at 5:43 PM on May 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

Taco bar is a good idea -- make one really good meat filling (like tinga de pollo) and one seasoned tofu filling. And have some vegan cheese shreds out just in case.
posted by mirepoix at 5:47 PM on May 22, 2014

Fun! If you want some fancy apps, but don't want to spend hours crafting things on toothpicks and the like, then yes, get thee to a Trader Joe's stat! They have tons of fun finger food (I personally love the onion cheese puffs. A short stint in the oven and hello deliciousness), in the freezer section, as well as chips galore, fancy cheeses and big old containers of cookies. All cheap, too!
posted by but no cigar at 5:48 PM on May 22, 2014

Clarification: I'm looking for fun food to eat while we chat and watch tv, not a full sit down meal.
posted by seesom at 5:50 PM on May 22, 2014

I would eat the hell out of a tofu taco bar. I would also eat vegan cheese but would find the tofu sufficiently exciting and hospitable.
posted by vegartanipla at 5:51 PM on May 22, 2014

Fun food that my ex mother-in-law introduced me to: Hidden Valley Ranch oyster crackers. So good. Make an extra batch to be safe.

Or mix cream cheese with Budhig beef (chopped) and chives or green onions, for spreading on crackers.

You can also mix cream cheese with canned baby shrimp (drained and chopped) and top with shrimp sauce.

French onion dip with chips. Add baby carrots or celery sticks for those who don't want to eat chips.

Maybe an antipasti plate with olives, cheeses, etc., from the local olive bar.

For sweets, we often get the mini frozen eclairs, and Sara Lee makes baby cheesecake bites. If you want to get fancy, buy the French tarts, they come in berry or chocolate filled. Just make sure you allow enough time to thaw.

A nice plate of Pepperidge Farm cookies would be welcome, I'm sure. Especially if they had the option to add a scoop of ice cream to it.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:06 PM on May 22, 2014

Unless she's told you she's abstaining just because, a breastfeeding mother doesn't necessarily have to skip the alcohol, so you may not need to accommodate that.
posted by chiababe at 6:21 PM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Anything that's snacky. Go to Trader Joe's and raid its freezer section for anything that's appetizer-like (I know at one point they had mini pizzas and spanakopita and both are excellent. They also have egg rolls & samosas that are good but come in limited quantities. The "flatbreads" are good too, though).

A basic cheese plate with cracker is always great (just buy that pre-made if you can. No one will know or care). Hummus and various things to dip into the hummus are also. Any kind of dip and thing to dip into dip is great. Pre-cut veggies are a good way to go here, unless you have the time to do it yourself (I'd do carrots, celery, red pepper & maybe blanched asparagus). Seasoned edamame in the pods can also be a fun thing to do.

There are plenty of tasty fancy flavored potato chips that are great on their own. I'd also recommend any kind of mix nuts (flavored, maybe? Cashews or pistachios are almost always a hit) and chocolate-covered anything (raisins, cranberries, ginger, whatever).

Polenta fries (many recipes -- that's just an example link) with marinara/pizza sauce are also a fun, unexpected addition.

Snacky food is the best. And usually the easiest. You'll be fine. Good luck!
posted by darksong at 6:45 PM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Before I clicked on your question and read all of it, I was thinking Trader Joe's! You could get all the neat little treats that everyone wants to try, like that chocolate thing, and, oh yeah, that other chocolate thing. Call it a tasting party and have a blast. Send your guests home with travel size pepto bismal in a cute mesh bag.
posted by myselfasme at 6:52 PM on May 22, 2014

I very rarely socialize in my home, so I am somewhat clueless about hosting people.

I am concurring with platters of finger foods from Trader Joes, that you put in the oven with a timer at regular intervals.

If you don't host though, a couple of factors that you may not have considered, are:
* Lighting
* Music

If you have any mellow lighting, put that on, and turn the overhead lights off. Allows people to relax, and enjoy a few bites to eat, and socialise. When you're doing movies, make sure it's dark, but a little light where ever the food is so your friends can get up and help themselves.

Music - You won't be watching movies the whole time, so find an album or two to queue up, quietly, for when people arrive, and between movies.

It's the two things that tend to make people feel like they're in a relaxed social environment, but can't quite put their finger on, if it's absent.
posted by Elysum at 7:26 PM on May 22, 2014

Chili is the best and easiest.

Make your chili weeks ahead and freeze or two days ahead to meld. (If you freeze, put it in the fridge to thaw 24-36 hours ahead.)

Reheat your chili in a crock pot or big pot on med-low. Put out a bag of tortilla chips, a big bag of Fritos, sour cream, preshred cheese, diced onions if you like. Have a bottle of hot sauce on hand. If you're feeling crazy, make a package of spaghetti for Cincinnati-style.

Everyone can build a bowl as they like it. If Alice wants nachos and Beatrice wants Frito Pie and Carli wants just plain old chili, this is done. If some of your guests are vegetarian you can cook ground beef separately with tomato, or if there's a non-beef-eater make chicken chili.

For dessert, pick up a cake or cupcakes from your grocery store or TJs.

Because this is lowbrow but wonderful food, you can just have wine and beer. Or you can make sangria (see my history for my giant vat recipe of white sangria) or pitchers of margaritas or regular and diet lemonade with or without a choice of sweet tea vodka or berry-flavored vodka or schnapps.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:54 PM on May 22, 2014

Hummus is such a regular part of girls' night in events among our friends that it's a running joke. If we turn up some place and there is no hummus, the hostess gets teased for failure to provide hummus. But, of course, if we turn up somewhere and there is hummus, the hostess gets teased for defaulting to hummus.

What I'm saying is that when women gather in someone's home, there is probably hummus.

Typically if I'm hosting games night, I'll pick up and/or make :
-- a couple of kinds of carby-dipping things -- chips, tortilla chips, bagel chips, crackers
-- a couple of kinds of dips -- hummus, obviously, and then, like, spinach dip or something dairy-based
-- a bunch of bit sized vegetables -- I usually buy a bag of those baby-cut carrots, a couple of pints of cherry tomatoes and a cucumber or two that I cut up myself
-- one or two sweet items
-- if I'm worried it won't be enough food, I round it out with whatever random things look interesting and bite-sized that I come across in the grocery store. Nuts. Fruit trays. Little mini-quiches. Cheese. Whatever.

For the most part, if you're watching movies and chatting and the food is incidental, you want to aim for things that are snack-like and one-bite, because people don't want to cut things or even really use forks.

One exception to that that shows up a lot in our group is a baked brie. Buy a thing of Pillsbury crescent rolls, a mid-size wheel of brie and a jar of some kind of fancy jam. Lay the crescent rolls out so that you have a solid bottom, plop the brie on top, add a couple of tablespoons of the jam, and then wrap the whole thing up so it is sealed in the crescent rolls. Baked for about half again as long as instructions suggest. Serve with crackers even though it has bread around it, because it's messy.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:09 AM on May 23, 2014

Another vote for taco bar. I recently enjoyed an extremely chill bachelorette party in a lovely cabin in the woods with a taco bar, it went over famously well. If you provide both chips and tortillas you can use the leftover taco fixins for messy nachos a few drinks in. (I think it's great to have a delicious drink category that doesn't need alcohol for the yum factor just because people might want to have more than water but not keep drinking booze, too. Daiquiris are a great idea, also you could make some iced teas that you mix with citrus, berries, and liquor or not as the mood strikes.)
posted by Mizu at 1:48 AM on May 23, 2014

Make a bunch of middle eastern appetizers, called meze, and serve them with pita bread, some salad, and olives.

Start by soaking a kilo (two pounds) of chickpeas the night before - add a teaspoon of baking soda to the water (this will help prevent 'flatulence' later. Trust me.) In the morning, rinse and boil chickpeas for about one hour (the baking soda reduces cooking time as well.) Take half and mash it up with lemon juice and either tahini or Greek yogurt into hummus (add garlic at your peril.) Take the other half and add chopped green onions, parsley, chopped tomato, lemon juice and olive oil as a chick pea salad.
posted by zaelic at 2:22 AM on May 23, 2014

I'd do easy, heavy appetizers from Trader Joe's. Just get what looks good and heat it up, or take the wrapper off and serve it.

Grab a couple of options for dessert and you're golden.

Trader Joe's also has some yummy sodas, including Orangina, so you can have those as options for drinks.

I always have chips and Lipton Onion Soup dip. It's not a party without it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:18 AM on May 23, 2014

A basic cheese plate with cracker

If you like the idea of a cheese plate but you are inept at cheeses and want to make yourself look fancy, you'll want (and Trader Joe's really is a godsend for this):

-a goat cheese (you can do a plain one or get the unicorn poop kind)
-something simple and creamy like a brie or port salut
-something stinky with a good amount of bacterial marbling
-something solid but with a rich flavor, like a smoked gouda or manchego
-a sharp/tangy, crowd-pleasing one like an aged cheddar or double gloucester. Trader Joe's also has some really good flavored toscanos (I'm partial to the cinnamon one) that would work well in this place

Just go in and ask the people at TJ's to recommend you a cheese of each type. It'll give you a nice, well-rounded plate.

And get two kinds of crackers, one very simple plain water cracker, and one that's a little more robust with like a multigrain or something just to give some variety.
posted by phunniemee at 8:52 AM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

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