This is not my party, but I sort of wish it was.
I don’t know what it is about my family, but all of us end up being The Party Planners. Our family get-togethers (for BOTH sides of the family) always happen at my parents’ house. H. and I host a lot of parties, dinners, and hang-outs. And Alex said that even in college his house was the one friends gravitated to. What’s the deal? Are we just really, really awesome? Does everyone just love us way, way more than they love anyone else?
Or are we just the ones who end up making the most food?
As much as I’d like to pretend otherwise, I know it’s mostly that last one (for me, anyway). I follow Mama W’s party food philosophy: overwhelm them with sheer quantity. Why have one dip when you can have three? Why make two pies when you can make six? Why make one kind of cookies when you can make 12, and then display them on an entire dining room table? That last one may or may not be an example from Christmas at my parents’ house.
So when we have a party, I like to have a lot of food on hand. You never know what people are going to want to eat! And some people are allergic to dairy while others don’t eat meat, so I want to have at least a couple of things everyone can eat. Not to mention you need a good balance of sweet and savory, hot and cold, healthy and not-so-healthy…basically, yeah, I make a lot of food. H. always forgets this and before every party there’s a moment at the grocery store where he tries to talk me out of buying so much stuff. SORRY DUDE! THIS IS HOW WINFREYS PARTY.
But the thing is, as much as I enjoy feeding people, I don’t really enjoy spending a ton of time cooking. I hate things that involve too many steps, I don’t want to spend a week’s paycheck on food, and I immediately reject anything too time-consuming. Planning parties used to stress me out, but by embracing a lot of easy, not-so-sophisticated snacks and channeling my inner Nora Ephron I’ve grown to truly LOVE having people over and forcing them to eat too much. So if you’re looking for quick and easy party snacks, let me be your guide! Here’s what I made for our recent New Year’s Eve party.
Olive Cheese Bread
First off, if you’re not reading The Pioneer Woman on the regular, get on it. I love her. She lives on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, which is simultaneously my biggest dream and my worst nightmare. This cheese bread is one of my favorite things ever, and it’s also supremely unhealthy because it involves the unholy trinity: butter, mayonnaise, and cheese. You can prep the spread the day before and get everything ready to go right before your guests show up! So easy!
This is a Mama W. classic, and for good reason. They’re extremely easy and everyone loves them. You only need three ingredients…Oreos, cream cheese, and chocolate. Oh, and you definitely need a blender or a food processor, unless you have a lot of generalized rage that you need to take out by individually crushing Oreos, in which case you should probably treat that situation in a non-cookie manner.
Bacon-Brown Sugar Crackers
What sort of black magic is going on with these crackers? Why do three ingredients taste so good together? Why do I have to bake them for two hours at low heat? Why do they curl up like the bacon is strangling the cracker? I don’t know. I don’t pretend to understand these appetizers; I’m simply presenting them to you. These felt VERY much like something you would eat a cocktail party in the Midwest in the 80s, and that’s the vibe I like to channel.
These are definitely better than the pita chips that you buy in a bag (although I love those and would never turn them down), and they’re a lot cheaper, too. They take hardly any time to make!
Black Eyed Pea Salsa
Super easy, super good with the pita chips.
As far as I’m concerned, puff pastry is a gift from God. It makes everything look and taste WAY fancier than it is. And, yes, you got me, this is ANOTHER Pioneer Woman recipe, but listen: I love her. She knows how to make party food, okay?
This isn’t really a recipe so much as it is various things on a stick. I just threaded cooked Buitoni cheese tortellini and cherry tomatoes on a skewer, then drizzled them with a simple balsamic dressing (balsamic vinegar, olive oil, basil). Weirdly enough, this was what people at the most of. Everyone loves eating stuff off of a stick, I guess. More food on sticks in 2014!
Li’l Smoky Cheese Ball
Our friend Chad happens to be a great cook, baker, and ice cream maker (I think I just wrote a great slogan for his business cards!), and he brought a cheese ball to the party, which was a delight. I love cheese balls. This isn’t the one he made, but when I make cheese balls (as we all should, often), I use the classic Amy Sedaris recipe. It has never steered me wrong, and once in college a man called me at 2 a.m. and asked me to bring it to a party. Yes, he was drunk and yes, he was gay, but it counts, okay?
Upside-Down Cake Cocktail
I’m a firm believer in having one signature drink per party (in addition to our absolutely ridiculous spread of booze and mixers we still have leftover from our open bar wedding), and I usually stick with a bowl of punch or a crock of mulled wine or something else that people can easily serve themselves. But this time, H. played bartender and mixed about a million of these incredibly sweet cocktails. Confession: we used whipped cream vodka instead of iced cake vodka, but guess what? No one cared! They were still great.
The moral of the story? You should probably read The Pioneer Woman next time you have a party. She’s a wealth of recipes.