Last weekend, I helped my friend Dawn cook for her mom’s surprise 60th birthday party. The theme was country-inspired — bandannas, plaid shirts, jeans… — so, of course, the menu had to include a lot of comfort foods. She picked out a lot of great things that and, with the help of friends and relatives, we were pretty efficient with serving the courses on time. The food was plenty enough to feed about 30 people, with leftovers, and from what she told me she was able to keep the whole thing under $300.
Comfort foods are far-from fussy and everyone loves them, so this menu is perfect for a casual get-together or party with friends and family. The recipes are easy to make and reheat well. Many of the ingredients and items could be easily purchased from the store to make the preparation extra-quick.
Assorted Veggies and Chips with Dip — blue cheese dip is a must-have, and Dawn and I both love Ina’s recipe
Beer Bread with Dip — this board has some great ideas
Hummus with Pita Triangles
Seven-Layer Dip with Tortilla Chips
Make-your-own Green Salad — ours was served with bacon, cheese, dressings, and homemade croutons on the side
Beef Tenderloin Roast — be sure to use a probe thermometer so it doesn’t overcook!
BBQ Chicken Skewers — anything on a skewer = easy to eat, party finger food. This recipe looks amazing.
Alton Brown’s Stovetop Mac n’ Cheese — One of the best macaroni and cheese recipes I’ve made. I made this on Thanksgiving one year with excellent results and we decided to make it again for the party. We quadrupled the recipe (2lbs of pasta, 40oz of cheese, 2 cans of evaporated milk, etc.) and made two slightly-different varieties: one that just had a blend of cheddar cheeses in it with elbow pasta, and another made with blue cheese and a blend of cheddar cheeses with penne pasta. Cracker Barrel cheddar cheeses are good because they have such an intense flavor and are cheap and easy to find, but use any kind of cheddar that will melt nicely.
Cornbread — We tripled this recipe with excellent results. It was enough to make one big pan (about 13×9, maybe a little bit bigger), plus a small 8×8 pan. Very moist and perfectly cooked, this recipe is probably one of the better ones tht I have tried for cornbread.
Vanilla-chocolate sheet cake from Wegmans — for a quick dessert, this is a moist, fresh-tasting cake with not-overly-sweet icing
Assorted Sliced Fruit
Tropical Party Punch
I guess this is sometimes called “jungle juice,” too. Whatever you call it, it is great for parties. Buy a big bag of frozen fruit and use anything leftover for smoothies or another punch. This would be great with organic fruit and juices, too.
1 cup tropical fruit punch concentrate
1 cup Mango juice
1 cup Passion fruit juice
1 cup pineapple juice
1 cup guava juice
1 cup Midori
1 cup Triple Sec
2 cups vodka or white rum
Assorted frozen mixed fruit
Sliced lemons, oranges, limes, apples, and pears
Maraschino cherries and juice
For serving: Club soda, seltzer water, lemon-lime soda, or ginger ale
2.5 gal plastic container or punch bowl
This is not very scientific. Combine all ingredients in a container or punch bowl and chill.
DO NOT try to drink the mix BEFORE adding the soda! It will probably be gross.
To serve: either leave the punch concentrate in the container and put a bottle of soda next to it with instructions to pour a ladleful of the mix and top with soda; OR add a bottle of soda to the bowl and serve immediately.