Ok, not really. Actually not even close. It wasn't supposed to be dinner at all. Really the conversation was something like this:
"Do you think you could put together a few finger foods for a little get-together during the conference?"
"Of course. How many people? And do you have anything specific in mind?"
"Not sure yet. Maybe 8 or 10. And just simple stuff. Maybe a veggie tray and some cocktail sausages with barbecue sauce."
"HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Are you new?"
That conversation led to this:
Because I have no restraint, and I'm completely allergic to the thought of anyone leaving my house hungry. But also, in my defense, because I anticipated that the number of guests might increase as we got closer to conference time, and I was right. We ended up with about 20, I think. And I was thrilled!
But enough about all of that. Shall we talk about the actual food? :-) This was the menu:
Veggie Tray: Pretty self-explanatory and super easy to throw together. Pretty much any variety of raw veggies works. I used grape tomatoes, cucumber, red peppers, carrots, and celery. And then I mixed a habanero and ranch dip from seasoning packets I had in my pantry. But you could just as easily get a bottle or two of salad dressing if you prefer.
Fruit Bowl: Again, pretty self-explanatory. And certainly fully adjustable. I like to use fruits that don't oxidize easily, but if you splash them with some lemon juice, you could use those too. Macy and Grace wanted to help with this one. Didn't they do a good job? We just hollowed out one half of a small watermelon and then refilled it and surrounded it with watermelon, cantaloupe and seedless grapes.
Sweet and Spicy Chicken Bites: For these, I used my Bacon-Wrapped Sriracha Shrimp recipe and just replaced the shrimp with chicken. The only difference is that you can marinate the chicken longer than the shrimp, preferably overnight if you have the time. Other than that, just follow the same recipe.
Crostini with Compound Butters: This is my favorite way to turn one baguette into appetizer, side dish and dessert. Just slice the baguette, toast it lightly, and serve with an assortment of your favorite compound butters. I used sweet basil butter (butter plus sweet basil paste), chili lime butter (butter plus chili powder, lime zest, and a pinch of salt) and blueberry basil butter (butter plus finely chopped blueberries and fresh basil). Compound butter is simply this: softened butter mixed with your favorite flavors. That's it. It's the easiest thing ever. No rules. Just add and taste until you think it's delicious! You can't really mess up. I've even used pureed shrimp with a little bit of Old Bay seasoning. Probably sounds weird, but it was delicious alongside a huge pot of tomato bisque. (Oh, and--you can mix these days in advance and store them in the freezer, then just take out in enough time to soften before serving.)
Chorizo Cheese Dip: I don't really think that needs any further explanation. Am I right? ;-) Recipe here.
Tomato Chutney: Sweet, savory, tangy, delicious. Recipe here.
Stuffed Mushrooms: Pretty much the perfect finger food. Recipe here.
Cookies: I promised that you could use my "Perfect Cookies" recipe to make dozens and dozens of varieties of delicious cookies. Here are 4 examples:
Lemon Ginger White Chocolate Chip--lemon pudding mix plus 1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger and 1 cup white chocolate chips
Semi-Sweet and White Chocolate Chip--this is the original recipe in the link posted above
Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip--chocolate pudding mix plus 1 cup peanut butter chips and 1 cup chocolate chips
Blueberry Cheesecake--cheesecake pudding mix plus 1 cup dried blueberries and 1 cup white chocolate chips
My favorite thing about this menu is that you can set it out and be done with it. There is no follow up and no maintenance needed, which frees you to interact with your guests. Which is exactly what I did, and it was perfect! I hope these give you some good ideas for your next gathering. Enjoy!