I’ve noticed something interesting at our family parties. Kids eat vegetables and fruit at these parties. Without prompting or bribing. Try to get them to eat it at home and it’s a battle of wills. But veggies cold kicking it on a party platter seem to be really enticing to children. I think it’s because they can grab a snack at their leisure. It’s freeing for them. But I also realized that a great tray of food, for party guests to graze on and enjoy as they need or want to, is freeing for the hostess as well. With Labor Day coming up, which means parties, barbecues and get togethers all over the country, I wanted to share these simple party food ideas with you for stress free entertaining. Because that is the BEST kind!
Create a Grazing Tray Since people love to graze, I love to set out a grazing station. It’s a mix of fresh fruits and veggies, crazy tasty side dishes, and dips that people can nibble from throughout their time at your house. While this looks a little fancy, it’s REALLY easy to put together (I like to call it adult friendly because kids are actually not as destructive as we sometimes think – at least in my house). The key is to use a tray (not a flat platter) to help corral the food and really fill it full so you don’t have to keep replenishing. Plus, by using ready-made dips you’ve cut out so much of the work! These Chobani Mezé Dips are the perfect starting point for your grazing tray. Chobani is expanding their product line to include more than just the Greek Yogurt that they’re known for. The 10 oz container is a good-sized, sharable portion, but not so large that you won’t want to pick up a second flavor to try! Because, yum.
Strategic Fruits and Veggies Serving fresh fruits and veggies at a party can sometimes call for a lot of prep. It’s up to you to not let it get out of hand! Fresh green beans are delicious and sweet and have a great crunch making them a perfect dipper. Kids love these mini sweet peppers which compliment the Three Pepper Salsa flavor of the Chobani Mezé Dip. You want to look for things that require not much more than washing. You don’t want to get stuck with a days worth of chopping and prepping! Keep and eye out in your market for pre-prepped items, like carrots sticks and celery. While it costs a little bit more, it will save you a TON of time! Small wedges of watermelon are a perfect finger food idea, as well as whole berries.
It will cost you a little bit more time in dish washing, but serving store-bought items in your own dishes really makes your party table look amazing. Don’t people often ask how they can help before heading home? Have them wash a dish! :) People eat with their eyes and you want this tray to look appetizing and not like you just piled a bunch of stuff on the tray.
The Deli Does it Better One of my favorite simple party food ideas is to utilize your favorite local delis or grocery store deli counters. Often you can find pre-made salads, that are crazy delicious, that will keep you from cooking all morning in the kitchen. Or make it a potluck and ask your guests to bring a side. Tell them to bring it in a plastic container as you’ll put it in your own dish. And once the party is over, you can easily pack up the leftovers and send them home with them. Boom.
Put out small appetizer plates for your guests to use. If your party is going on for a while and the grazing table is going to be enjoyed for hours, I would set out an initial stack of appetizer plates and as they get used, I would put out a stack of paper appetizer plates. They make some really cute ones now! If someone is going back for a second plate of food, they’re going to know that they should have kept track of their plate in the first place (I mean, come on people. It’s not that hard). Don’t forget the carbs! People love carbs! Plus they are filling and those who don’t love veggies will likely enjoy a hunk of bread or pita chip.
Don’t Forget the Wine Wine makes everything better. You could serve canned meat and your guests would smile if you bring them a glass. There’s no need to get the expensive bottles. Save that for an extra special celebration. You can find inexpensive bottles, that are quite tasty, in your local grocery store. Most stores give you a discount if you buy 6 bottles. If you are really being price conscious, grab something foreign or unconventional. Then your guests won’t know the price point! Look for labels you don’t recognize from ads in your women’s magazines because chances are your pals will know those too.
Your grazing tray is basically one big appetizer platter. But it also acts as your side dishes when it’s time for dinner. Take a moment to replenish anything you have more of or add in some varieties to interest the guests again.
Like your tray, these Chobani Mezé Dips feature real vegetables, herbs and spices and are blended with yogurt. They are made with only natural, non-GMO ingredients and have 80% less fat and 65% fewer calories than hummus. They come in 4 flavors although I only tried the Three Pepper Salsa and Roasted Red Pepper. They are creamy and flavorful and pair great with the fresh veggies, pita chips and bread.
Keep Dinner Simple When putting your dinner menu together, make it easy on yourself. Choose only one type of meat to grill and keep the preparation easy. Put together (or buy!) a large salad to round out the plate and direct them back to the grazing tray to try some of the side dishes if they haven’t had a chance yet. And more wine. Duh. If you follow these simple party food ideas I know you’ll have the best time! And your guests will too. No need to count yourself out of the party with all the hostess work when great brands like, Chobani, make it easy for you to put together and amazing table! Find these delicious Mezé Dips at your local Target, Meijer or Walmart store (grab a coupon!). They are perfect for your Labor Day entertaining and beyond!
Looking for more simple party food ideas? I have tons of good ones in my recipes archive!
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