Catering Ideas, Please

Lounge By SecretAgentCakeBaker Updated 24 Jan 2011 , 5:56pm by SecretAgentCakeBaker

SecretAgentCakeBaker Posted 14 Dec 2010 , 12:36am
post #1 of 24

I'm planning a 60th birthday celebration for my mother-in-law. I want this to be really nice, not sandwiches. I'm hoping some of you experts can give me some great ideas. Thanks so much! Oh, I will be making a cake, so I don't want the food to be super complicated.

Location: probably some place with NO oven/stove/microwave

About 40 guests

Time:late afternoon, early evening on a Saturday in January (it's really cold here), probably 3 hours

I would prefer to do something where people can walk around and take smaller items to munch on, such as those salad shooters, but be able to eat enough to consider they've had a meal. Is that done? There will be tables for people to sit at, but I notice people tend to stay seated if there is regular meal.

So far I'm thinking shrimp cocktail, fruit, cheese tray

23 replies
SecretAgentCakeBaker Posted 14 Dec 2010 , 12:42am
post #2 of 24

Sorry, I'm having issues posting.

Also thinking of those Caesar salad shooters.

What else though. Obviously, this is not enough at all.

I do own a few chafing dishes, but I don't have a way of heating the food at the location, other than in the chafing dish.

I also have some crock pots I can use, if necessary.

I've never been to one of those hours devours parties before, so I have no clue what is appropriate.

Should I also do other small desserts, beside the cake, such as cookies, cream puffs, mini pies?

Thanks again!

Elcee Posted 14 Dec 2010 , 4:34am
post #3 of 24

How fun...I love menu planning! Little kabobs are good for walking around. You could put ham,cheese, grape tomaotes. I've done caprese bites, cherry tomatoes stuffed with mozzarella and drizzled with olive oil and shredded basil. Provolone pinwheels; roll out puff pastry, lay on slices of provolone cheese, spread a thin layer of pesto on the cheese, roll tightly, chill, slice and bake. Can also be done with just pesto or with ham and cheese. Mini quiches...deviled eggs...

Sorry, I kind of went on and on but I hope some of this helps! icon_lol.gif

SecretAgentCakeBaker Posted 14 Dec 2010 , 5:25am
post #4 of 24

Thanks, Elcee! Please, do go on and on; it is helpful! I noticed you wrote 'menu planning'. I don't know why I didn't google that before, but I did after reading your post. The first website retuned was which looks pretty interesting. There aren't any menus specifically for what I am looking for (not having a kitchen), I think I can use some of the ideas.

After reading that website though, I am now more confused as to what type of pa try I'm trying to create, or if the food are the right kind. I think it said appetizer parties are for after 5:00. We'll be starting before then.


indydebi Posted 14 Dec 2010 , 6:39am
post #5 of 24

Food Stations. They enable people to walk around. They provide a variety of styles of food. They just look cool! With just 40 people, you could do a food station idea all on one table (or set up the tables "L" shaped .... or put 3 round tables together ... sides touching .... for a unique "long table" look.

Fruit: Here is a pic of fruit cabobs I did for an art show thing. Strawberries, cubed pineapple, grapes. I stuck the kabobs into a full fresh pineapple. Colorful, too.

Crudite Cups: Strips of carrots, celery and baby carrots in a plastic shot glass with a dollop of ranch dressing in the bottom. (Use a squeeze bottle of ranch dressing to make this job easier!)

Shrimp Shots: Instead of regular shrimp cocktail, use small plastic cups, with the dollop of cocktail sauce in the bottom (about a tablespoon) with 3 shrimp hanging off of the sides. Small enough to walk around with; big enough to feel they got a nice "bite".

chips-n-salsa: Give it a nice presentation with the chips pouring out of one basket and into another. I owned a flat "basket" that worked great for this!

7-Layer Dip: Mexican food is so colorful!

Any food in a disposable martini glass looks good: I did chocolate covered strawberries in these cups for an event at Macys. You can even do something as simple as chocolate pudding with a dollop of whipped cream on top in these small cups. GFS has mini spoons/forks that would be perfect with these!

A chocolate display: Chocolate fountsin, choc dipped fruits, choc 'cups' filled with liqueor flavored chocolate ... photos ----> and and

indydebi Posted 14 Dec 2010 , 6:42am
post #6 of 24

P.S. Not sure about the "appetizer parties after 5" thing. I would always tell brides if they were feeding people after 5, then this falls right into the dinner hour and people are expecting "a hearty meal". They can get by with snacks and appetizer type foods between 1 and 4.

SecretAgentCakeBaker Posted 14 Dec 2010 , 3:38pm
post #7 of 24

Awesome, thank you!

So, I've got lots of ideas for carbs and veggies, but not much for protein other than the shrimp. Not everyone will eat shrimp, any other ideas of things I can serve either cold or in a crock pot/chafing dish?

For parties at home we always make cocktail meatballs in a sweet sauce. It needs to be scooped out of the crock pot and put onto a plate, then eaten with a fork. It's kind of messy to eat standing up, huh? I was wondering if I put them on skewers, can I keep them in the crock pot or chafing dish, then people can dip them into the sauce? Is that still too messy?

Sorry for all the questions. I want this to be really nice for my mother-in-law, as well as comfortable, convenient, and plesant for the guests. I don't want anyone leaving hungry.

Are deviled eggs tacky?

I feel like since it is the winter there should be something warm. I have a really neat snowman drink dispenser that keeps drinks warm, so I will do mulled cranberry juice in that. I bought a Keurig last night and will put that put for the coffee and tea.

I wish I could do this at my house, but we just cannot fit 40 people here. I would have a way to cook foods and would have more choices.

Thanks again for all the help. My 8-year old daughter and I are looking forward to making this party for her grandmother.

SecretAgentCakeBaker Posted 14 Dec 2010 , 4:09pm
post #8 of 24

Elcee, I just noticed you wrote about deviled eggs. I didn't see that before. I'm glad that it is appropriate, because I know everyone will like those!

Now, about the drinks. How many DIFFERENT kinds of drinks do I need to provide? So far I'm thinking the spiced cranberry juice or cider, coffee & tea, water. Is that enough, or should I also offer sodas? (we are not serving alcohol)

Sorry to be asking so many questions. Usually when we do parties, we go overboard and there is tons of stuff left over. I always feel like I have to ofer people tons of options. I guess that comes from being around picky people and needing to make sure there is something for everyone. (my father-in-law only eats shrimp, crab, steak, burgers, pulled pork, chicken/turkey all PLAIN, no cheese, no sauces, no mayo. Then breads, Caesar salad (lettuce, croutons and dressing only), grapes, potatoes (mashed, French fries, plain roasted, baked). He won't eat veggies, most fruits unless in pie, no pizza or pasta. I can't imagine how boring such a limited diet is, but he doesn't like much. He only started eating salad 10 years ago! My mother-in-law gets upset if we don't have enough for him to eat.

Sunday my family threw me a "surprise" party (I knew about it). The entire counter, stove, dining room table, and kitchen table were covered with food. Maybe a quarter of it all got eaten. We were frantically trying to pack it all up. Such waste of money, but this is what we always do. I need to learn better, so thank you for helping me!!

Echooo3 Posted 14 Dec 2010 , 11:06pm
post #9 of 24

I love doing appetizers.

1) sliced and toasted a baggette, topped with pesto, then a scoop of bruchetta - OMG yum

2) Parm cups filled with goat cheese mixture (put round scoops of parm cheese on baking sheet and bake till light brown) when they come out you can shape them into little cups (use an egg carton) then you can fill the cups with anything

Elcee Posted 15 Dec 2010 , 12:19am
post #10 of 24

SecretAgentCakeBaker, people like to SAY deviled eggs are tacky but they EAT THEM ALL UP! icon_lol.gif I'm a vegetarian (not vegan) so I lean towards eggs, cheese and beans for protein. Skewering cheeses, ham, hard sausage would add to your protein and be easy and portable. You could even cut a turkey breast into chunks and skewer those.

I come from a family of "over providers" too but I'm working on it and getting better.

If I were you, I'd probably offer a limited array of sodas, at least 1 diet.

indydebi Posted 15 Dec 2010 , 12:23am
post #11 of 24

A meat item that can be served hot or cold .... I served this at a recent party at my home and my friends scarfed them down!

Cut bacon strips into halves (or thirds). Wrap uncooked bacon strips around those mini-smokies (little weiner-like sausages that are about 2" long). Bake in oven until bacon is cooked. Cover with BBQ sauce (I dont' care which one you use but DON'T use "open pit" bbq sauce ... just because I thinks it's the worst representation of bbq sauce ever! tapedshut.gif ) Jab a toothpick in each one.

Sausage wrapped in bacon ... this has GOT to be a Paula Dean favorite!! thumbs_up.gif

dawncr Posted 15 Dec 2010 , 3:38am
post #12 of 24

Protein possibilities:

Chicken satay on bamboo skewers with peanut sauce/dip

Little meatballs (Sam's!) with BBQ sauce or gravy or teriyaki in a crockpot

Mini-slider cheeseburgers

Mini sandwiches using tiny yeast rolls (Can buy these in a small rectangular foil pan in the bread section of most grocery stores). Fill with shaved ham, swiss cheese shard, a bit of lettuce.

Mini pulled pork BBQ sandwiches

Mini Reuben sandwiches using cocktail rye slices.

Silver-dollar-size crab or tuna cakes

Mini quiches or phyllo cups made in mini cupcake pan

Not sure how to keep some of these warm....Maybe a chafing dish on low with a lid.

cheatize Posted 15 Dec 2010 , 7:38am
post #13 of 24

Since you have chafers, you can rent a hot box to keep the food hot until you arrive at the party. You can also rent big drink coolers, fill them with hot water, and put the hot water in the water tray of the chafers so you don't have to hold the hot foods in the hot box while you wait for the chafer water to get warm.

iamcakin Posted 15 Dec 2010 , 3:44pm
post #14 of 24
Originally Posted by SecretAgentCakeBaker

Are deviled eggs tacky?

No, ESPECIALLY if you pipe in the filling - use a 1M tip, it's easy and really looks professional!

Ps What a good daughter-in-law you are. I love the fact that you are actively including your 8 year old...making memories!! icon_wink.gif

indydebi Posted 15 Dec 2010 , 5:00pm
post #15 of 24

another way to dress up deviled eggs is to put a little caviar on them. before you head to Loans-R-Us, its not that expensive! You can get a small jar of caviar for $15-$28 and the eggs only need about 5-8 eggs just to garnish. You probably won't even use half the jar (which means you could double up on it!)

And you get to tell everyone you threw a caviar reception! icon_wink.gif

About every other month, I have a Champagne and Caviar Girls Night Out at my house, just so we can all get together and hang out. I make a few appetizers garnished with caviar and never spend more then $30 on caviar for the whole night.

Now it CAN get expensive! The shop I get mine at had a small jar (it would fit in the palm of my hand, about 1" tall) for close to $300. I told them, "Nah .... I dont' like my friends THAT much!" icon_lol.gif

SecretAgentCakeBaker Posted 16 Dec 2010 , 2:08pm
post #16 of 24

Thanks so much for all of the great ideas, everyone!

I found out that my first choice of location is unavailable, so we had to search for another one. I didn't know about it until I started searching, but it is great. It's a building at a park, they call it a lodge. It's very rustic looking inside (the other place was really fancy) and has a stone fireplace, and a full kitchen, with new stainless steel appliances. I'm still going to be using a lot of your ideas, and I'll be back to ask for opinions when I figure out the menu.

The only issue is that it's only available in the evening, so we are going to have to have the party from 5:30 to 9:00 on a Sunday (Saturdays are all booked). I really should have started planning this 6 months ago! I am worried that people will say they don't want to come because it is on Sunday night. Have you found issues with that?

My daughter is very excited about the whole thing. We do lots of parties here at the house, so she is no stranger to doing them. She starts planning her next birthday party a year in advance (last year it was spy, next will be sushi.) She loves it. Maybe that will be her job as an adult. She has start red cutting out snowflakes to hang from the wood rafters. We're going to have a snowflake theme. I think it will look really pretty being at night, we can put up twinkle lights, lots of the paper snowflakes, and things I already have, so the decorations will cost next to nothing. Yeah for that!

I think I am going to do the mashed potato bar now that wa will have a way to heat them. I think that is just the neatest idea and the picky guy will love it! Oh, and we're having sushi too, because that is Agent Sushi's (my 8-year old daughter) favorite food.

Thanks again! (Any ideas you have for food are still appreciated.)

SecretAgentCakeBaker Posted 23 Dec 2010 , 2:18am
post #17 of 24

I was searching for some additional party planning info, like how much food per person, and came across a good website. Here is the link if anyone else needs that kind of info.

SecretAgentCakeBaker Posted 9 Jan 2011 , 8:56pm
post #18 of 24

Hi, I'm back again with a few more questions. Only a few more weeks to go.

Please tell me if this menu looks ok and is balanced correctly.

Shrimp cocktail
Puff pastry bits with Brie and raspberry
Chicken satay skewers
Crudite and dip

Chicken French
Roasted potato with garlic and herbs (several important people don't eat rice)
Rice pilaf
Some kind of veggie?
I need something for the vegetarians, veggie lasagna maybe? Any ideas?

Cake, of course!
Snowflake cut-out cookies
Chocolate fountain with stawberries, marshmallows, shortbread cookies, pretzels for dipping

On the guests' tables there will be snacks such as M&Ms, sugared almonds/pecans, mints.

Coffee & tea
Pomegranate spritzers
Coke & diet coke

I am trying to make things I can do in advance that can be reheated in the oven and put into the chaffing dishes. I only can get into the location one hour before the party starts, and we will need that time for decorating. I don't want to have to cook anything there.

If I have any gaps or too much of one kind of thing, or you have any other ideas, would you please let me know? Thank you!

SecretAgentCakeBaker Posted 9 Jan 2011 , 9:33pm
post #19 of 24

Chicken French?

Does anybody know if Chicken French can be made in advance? I was thinking cook the chicken and keep the sauce off of it, then reheat in the oven with the sauce maybe?

If I could freeze the cooked chicken (without any sauce on it) that would be ideal as I could make it a few days ahead of time.

Does anybody have a good recipe for Chicken French? I'm having a lot of trouble finding one.

Thank you again!

Elcee Posted 10 Jan 2011 , 2:06am
post #20 of 24

Sorry, I have no idea what Chicken French is, never mind a recipe icon_smile.gif.

Your menu looks great though! I'd strongly suggest a green salad of some sort and a vegetable. For a vegetable I'd serve my "Greek-style" Green Beans. Add some bread or rolls and I don't think you need anything else for the vegetarians. As a vegetarian myself, I'd be more than pleased with bread, salad, a vegetable and some of those roasted potatoes (they sound delicious)!

The green beans:

Saute 1 chopped onion and a couple of cloves of minced garlic in a dutch oven type pan til tender; add a can of diced tomatoes and a pound of fresh (or frozen) WHOLE green beans (prettier that way), some dried basil (1/2 tsp?), dried oregano (1 tsp?), a bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until you like the texture of the beans, anywhere from 20 minutes for very crisp to an hour for very soft. I like them somewhere in the middle and just keep taste testing until they're just right. Can be served hot, cold or at room temperature.

SecretAgentCakeBaker Posted 10 Jan 2011 , 2:32am
post #21 of 24


Chicken French is a thin, boneless chicken breast, dredged in flour, then egg, then I think flour again; fry it up. Then a sauce is made with lemon, wine(or sherry) and some other stuff (maybe butter or olive oil, maybe some garlic.)

I only made it once and cannot find my recipe. I thought for sure Joy of Cooking would have it, but it doesn't. Some people also put capers, but we don't really like them. It is delicious! We had it at our wedding and my mother-in-law gets it often when she goes out to dinner. Some people also make fish French, artichoke French, veal French, and I think something else.

tryingcake Posted 10 Jan 2011 , 6:36am
post #22 of 24

Along with full plated dinners, I cater a lot of cocktail party style events as well. Everything has to be bite size and typically not require a fork.

I just discovered Apricots wrapped in bacon - have served it at 2 paid parties and 1 party at my house. I could NOT make enough!! OMG! They were awesome. Sizzling Apricot Bacon Bites found on They were still great even after they became room temperature.

And I also can't make enough caprese on toothpicks.

I make a Greek meatballs (find a gyro recipe but don't food processor the meat). I take dill yogurt sauce and place a couple spoonfuls in the bottom of a tumbler. I place 3 meatballs inside of it. Those go fast.

Butternut squash lasagna is not the same old same old for the vegetarians. I can't stand butternut squash and absolutely I love this lasagna. Or Portabello pasta

Vegetarian stuffed peppers are well received and a special treat for the vegetarians. Again, not the same old same old and it shows that you took their diets into serious consideration.

Cowboy caviar is loved by all. I put mine thru a food processor before adding the avocado.

Good luck. You have a lot of wonderful choices with everything everyone has offered.

indydebi Posted 10 Jan 2011 , 7:01am
post #23 of 24
Originally Posted by tryingcake

Vegetarian stuffed peppers are well received and a special treat for the vegetarians. Again, not the same old same old and it shows that you took their diets into serious consideration.

that sounds good! I'm going to try these! Sounds like it will be a "healthy" dish that hubby won't recognize as being "healthy" and he'll eat it! icon_lol.gif

SecretAgentCakeBaker Posted 24 Jan 2011 , 5:56pm
post #24 of 24

Thanks so much everyone! The party was last night and my mother-law was so surprised. Everyone had a great time.

I really appreciate all of your help. Last Sunday I found out that our local grocery store does catering. I know, that sounds yuck, a grocery store doing catering, but this is more of a high end grocer. They have real chefs on staff (my husband's friend that went to culinary school told us about that.) Anyway, I met with the catering coordinator and decided to go with it. (My daughter's godmother told me she is so proud that I finally delegated a task!) I even paid the extra fee for them to deliver. So, for 40 adults and 8 kids we got sushi, a cheese tray, a pita and dips tray (hummus, bruschetta, tapenades), veggie tray, chicken French, roasted Rosemary potatoes, and sauteed green beans. All of that, including the delivery, cost about $420. So worth the price of my sanity! Everyone was raving about the food and I would do this again in a heartbeat.

I also brought shrimp, green salad, and pigs-in-a-blanket from home.

Then we had the dessert table, with a cake. The chocolate fountain wouldn't start, so we melted the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave, washed out the small chafer, and put the ceramic bowl in the chafer to keep the chocolate warm. It didn't have the visual impact, but everyone was still happy to get to dip stuff in the chocolate. People were a bit confused though. They we're sure what to dip, other than the strawberries and pretzels. Next time I will make a little sign that says what the chocolate suppress are, so they have an idea. (we had shortbread cookies, potato chips, dried pineapple, strawberries, pretzels, cappuccino wafer cookies.)

Thanks again, everyone! I really do appreciate all of your help! Enjoy your week.

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