Please help me feed my friends
February 19, 2016 11:34 AM   Subscribe

I need a collection of ideas for easily prepared, light meals to serve when friends drop by. Think lunch or small plates to go with a glass of wine. Often friends will drop by within a couple hours notice. They like to eat and I like to be a good host. No firm dietary restrictions for most but these friends are interested in healthy eating, fewer carbs. One vegetarian in the mix. The entire meal does not have to be vegetarian. Thank you!
posted by goodsearch to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
Keep puff pastry or regular pie shells in the freezer and know how to make a quiche. They're super-easy, and you can feed a bunch of people with very little fuss. All it takes is to have eggs and cheese in the fridge, and whatever you are feeling like putting into it in any given day.
posted by xingcat at 11:40 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

You could also put quiche material into a baking dish and rip up some bread into it for strata.
posted by jgirl at 11:48 AM on February 19, 2016

I like deviled eggs for the meal/snack boundary. You can do a lot with them based on what you have handy in the fridge (mayo/yogurt for body, horseradish/mustard for kick, pickles/relish/olives/capers for salt and sour, whatever you've got.)
posted by aimedwander at 11:48 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm often a bowl-of-food with crusty bread and good butter person. So the bowl of food will usually have

- grilled chicken breast (can be cold from fridge or quick fried up) or chourico
- quinoa (takes 15 minutes, easy to spice with anything, good protein)
- some set of veggies including butternut squash (from freezer bag), peppers&onions, garlic and parmesan or if you're a broccoli and cauliflower person, go nuts

Serve food in a bowl with sliced almonds or parsley or parmesan garnish. Have some of those par baked rolls ready in the freezer. Serve with good butter. Keep a dark chocolate bar on hand for some small dessert nibbles.
posted by jessamyn at 11:54 AM on February 19, 2016

Fig Jam and Goat Cheese Crostini.

Ham and Cheese Party Sandwiches. You really need the original Hawaiian Rolls for these - it makes the dish.
posted by Ostara at 11:59 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Puff pastry is basically magical and there are so many things you can do with it for small plates or sides to salad or soup (one idea to use as a template: Barefoot Contessa's Palmiers). Always have some in your freezer, and you can also freeze base components like pesto, pureed sundried tomatoes (or roasted peppers), and goat cheese crumbles. Frozen pizza crust works too.

I'm a big freeze-ahead soup/stew/component type, and it's not all workaday stuff. I usually have cooked cauliflower puree (makes an amazing vegan or less-dairy "cream" soup), roasted butternut squash for adding or pureeing, lentil soups freeze well, chili ends up losing a good bit of bean texture in the freezer, but it still tastes great.

I am still deeply enamored of my Instant Pot, and one of my favorite uses is pulling together a one-pot soup/stew/pasta-in-sauce dish in half an hour or less without having to stand over it. It also produces amazingly easy-to-peel boiled eggs faster and more reliably than I can do it on the stove.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:00 PM on February 19, 2016

When people come over to our place, I fill a small bowl with dried apples and another with nuts.

It's not technically a meal, but hey, sometimes my partner eats trail mix for lunch so I say it counts.
posted by aniola at 12:02 PM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Pasta with garlic, capers and parmesan in olive oil.

A salad of broiled bell pepper slices with goat cheese, capers and parmesan. (Slice the peppers lengthwise, toss with a little olive oil and salt, broil on high checking every 4-5 minutes until cooked to the degree you like.

When I have it all on hand, I like to serve: nuts, cherry tomatoes, crackers, goat cheese, apple slices and a sharp hard cheese.

You don't mention a dessert, but This orange juice cake is very, very quick and can be jazzed up with a walnut/toasted coconut frosting. I have sometimes made it at the drop of a hat for guests.

Also, what about biscuits? I use a vegan recipe, but they're very quick even when made with butter, and there's nothing easier than biscuits and a quick onion-mushroom pan gravy.
posted by Frowner at 12:04 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Re the quiche suggestion. You can actually freeze baked quiches, then all you have to do is defrost & slip into an oven to warm up. I do this with "mini" (think saucer sized) quiches or you can do one large quiche & freeze the slices. Do a range of fillings & you are set. You can do crustless Quiches too for the super low carb. You can change up the fillings to suit a variety of tastes too.
posted by wwax at 12:04 PM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

I will be watching this thread with interest as the only fast low carb things I know how to do are starters, not meals.

Things I put on the table for easy grazing: nuts (Costco sells by far the best and cheapest); cherry tomatoes (Trader Joe's sells organic grape tomatoes in a 1lb container for $3); clementines aka "cuties"; olives - good ones if I happen to have them, but recently I've had cravings, easily satisfied, for the canned black ones - just open a can and put them on a plate with the cherry tomatoes, they're so pretty and beetly-black and shiny and they're not too salty to eat lots of, they're so good!

Now you didn't ask about dessert, but a great thing to have for impromptu guests is cookie dough balls, either choc chip or oatmeal, portioned and ready to pop onto a baking sheet and into the oven for a few minutes. Store in a heavy duty ziploc and you are SET for guests. No prep whatsoever, and everyone is stoked to smell that coming out of the oven.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:28 PM on February 19, 2016

Recipe dump ahead!

Spanish-style bean salad with paprika and celery from Serious Eats - very minimal effort and fantastic flavors. Definitely serve with crusty bread to mop up the sauce. Would serve with a crisp/citrus-y salad to round out the meal.

Mezze is easily adaptable for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. You could make & freeze some components (e.g. dolmas or meatballs) ahead of time. Hummus takes about 10 minutes to whip up yourself, if you've got a food processor, and then the rest is mostly chopping/assembling. For a similar adaptable template, you could also look into variations on a ploughman's lunch.

Roasted cauliflower (from the excellent Girl & the Goat here in Chicago). I don't think it's necessary to pre-make the crunch butter - instead, I just toss in the individual components (using 1/4th of the quantities called for) at the step where you're supposed to add crunch butter into the cauliflower. Alternatively, you could make and freeze the butter (minus panko) ahead of time. Serve with a simple green salad with balsamic vinaigrette.

Yottam Ottolenghi's chard/herb/feta soup: I adapt this by adding 3 sliced jalapenos (saute along with the onions/garlic). Once you've pureed the soup, I would just stop there - stirring in the yogurt sounds good in theory, but tends to make the soup bland. Serve piping hot with feta sprinkled on top, or a dollop of plain yogurt; round out the meal with crusty bread + butter.

For summer, when tomatoes are closer to in-season: this tomato salad with cucumber, dill, red onion, and feta is fantastic, and easily a meal on its own.

And for a more dessert-ish option, griddled polenta cakes with caramelized onions, goat cheese, and honey: Caramelized onions freeze super well (make a large batch ahead of time, which can be done in a slow cooker, and then freeze in an ice cube tray). The rest of the recipe then comes together very quickly with pantry staples. A small portion goes a long way, so may still be friendly for carb-conscious friends.
posted by staraling at 12:29 PM on February 19, 2016 [6 favorites]

Eggs are always good! Shakshuka not only tastes great but you also probably have the ingredients already.

This is awesome Vietnamese chicken salad. I like to add grated carrots and garnish before serving with roasted peanuts or cashews. NOTE: Be careful with the "fish sauce" in the ingredients list; it's not the undiluted stuff straight from the bottle--the link goes to her recipe for fish sauce dressing.

Easy and quick broccoli-cheddar soup: In a covered pot, simmer a chopped up head of broccoli (including peeled stems), a minced clove of garlic, and a diced small potato in chicken or vegetable broth. The broth should cover the ingredients about 3/4 of the way. Add salt to taste. Cook till you can cut the potato pieces with a fork. Puree the soup in food processor or blender. Return to pot and put on medium-low heat (make sure it doesn't boil!). Add enough milk until you like the texture. Put a splash of cream in if that's your style. Add 1-2 cups grated sharp cheddar and stir in until blended and soup is heated through. Adjust seasonings and serve.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:53 PM on February 19, 2016 [6 favorites]

This is what good jars of Olives, cans of Dolmas, jars of Marinated Artichoke Hearts, a few nice Cheeses, some Salami, and Crackers or Bread are for! Also, Hummus, Pickles, Marinated Fava Beans, etc. etc.

All of these are pantry and fridge stable so you literally don't even have to think about them until you need them. (except the bread, so do keep fancy unopened crackers on hand in the pantry.)

Get familiar with Spanish Tapas, Greek & Italian & Middle Eastern appetizers. Combos are endless! Enjoy!

And YES. A Quiche or Spanish Tortilla is perfect for this! (a Spanish Tortilla is basically a lot of eggs cooked into an omelette type cake - I like diced potatoes slow braised in olive oil, drain the oil, add eggs, salt pepper, a pinch of saffron & copious chopped parsley - start on the stove top and finish in the oven or broiler. Room temp is the correct way to serve this. Any veg will do, cheese is good to add, just telling you my fav combo.)
posted by jbenben at 1:35 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

These North Indian baked eggs are insanely good, and you can make the sauce ahead of time and freeze it. When guests arrive, you would just heat up the sauce, add the yogurt and eggs, and bake. If you have some chutney on hand, bonus points! Although it's awesome with rice or naan, I think this dish is also great on it's own for low carb folks.

I am also a big fan of the hummus + feta cheese + olives spread, with cucumbers and bell pepper strips (and/or pita for the non-low-carbers) for dipping.

I think sliders can be another good option because they're little so they can double as a snack-y thing for less hungry people or a meal for hungrier folks. You can freeze patties in the freezer so they're ready to go, have a variety of fun toppings on hand, and then do whole wheat buns for the non-low-carbers and lettuce wraps for the low-carbers. Some combos I really like:
--turkey burgers w/ the individual packs of guacamole from the fridge section + goat cheese + onion
--lamb burgers w/ feta cheese + tomato
--pork burgers w/ Asian-style toppings (like hoisin sauce + shredded carrots tossed with rice vinegar)
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:11 PM on February 19, 2016

Oh and also! These BBQ chicken lettuce wraps are AMAZING and also low carb.

And these corn-avocado toasts are not low carb, but would be awesome for a vegetarian as they are hearty and SO DELICIOUS! Obviously you only want to do this one in the summer.
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:14 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Poached salmon is super easy with a lambs lettuce side salad.
posted by catspajammies at 2:16 PM on February 19, 2016

Also teeny tiny serving dishes are sweet, I have about 10 and can put soy sauce in them when eating sushi, or a handful of whatever, grapes, olives, apple slices, tortilla chips....
posted by catspajammies at 2:17 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by miyabo at 2:24 PM on February 19, 2016

Nigella Lawson's cookbooks are excellent for this sort of thing. Snacky meals made out of a pantry and freezer.
posted by Ftsqg at 5:16 PM on February 19, 2016

From someone who doesn't enjoy cooking much: grilled cheese sandwiches! Use whatever bread product you might have, and load with whatever cheese. Hot dog buns with mozzarella, olive oil, and a little pesto is actually kinda fancy!
posted by wwartorff at 6:24 PM on February 19, 2016

Bacon wrapped dates are delicious mix of sweet and savory and in small bites. Plus days and bacon both store well.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:07 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Steam some shrimp in the shell. Toss in Cajun seasoning and butter. Let everyone de shell them and eat them messily.

Chicken wings. Pat dry. Bake at 425 or 450 until they start to look crispy. Baste in butter, sprinkle with old bay, give em five to ten more minutes and serve with ranch or blue cheese and some carrots.

Take some Brie out. Serve with pears and crackers.

Keep trader joes low guilt spinach artichoke dip around- it's yogurt based.

Lettuce wraps.

Smoked salmon and cucumbers with capers held togethrr maybe with a touch of cream cheese.

Cucumber sandwiches.

ShIshito peppers, sautéed in olive oil until blistering, splashed in lemon juice, good sour cream on the side for dipping (optional).

Kale and sausage steamed in chicken stock: (simple and delicious)
Slice up some pre cooked chicken sausage. Put an inch or so of chicken stock and a heap of chopped garlic in the bottom of a pot. Bring to steaming temp. Throw in sausage and a bag of prechopped kale,
Salt. Stir until kale wilts. Serve, with hot sauce on top (optional).
posted by slateyness at 8:24 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Awesome ideas! Thanks everyone!!
posted by goodsearch at 9:19 PM on February 19, 2016

Where do you live again?
posted by sneebler at 5:57 PM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

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