Party food

Last night our church hosted a party for our Sustaining Members (Sustaining Members are parishioners who make a financial pledge commitment to the church, commit to having their pledge roll over each year and pay their pledge electronically.)  Since this is an enormous help to the church, we wanted a nice celebration to honor them.  I volunteered to prepare the food.

When planning an event like this, it’s important to make sure that there is something for everyone.  Today, dietary restrictions are common so I wanted items that would satisfy those who are gluten-free, those who don’t eat beef, those who are vegetarian, etc.  Here was the menu:

  • Cocktail meatballs (these are for omnivores as they include beef and have gluten)
  • Hot shrimp dip (gluten free and no red meat,)
  • Crab dip (gluten free and no red meat)
  • Seared tuna with sriracha mayo (gluten free and no red meat)
  • Chicken skewers with avocado crema (gluten free and no red meat)
  • Black bean and goat cheese dip (gluten free and no meat)
  • Vegetable platter with two sauces (gluten free and vegan)

I label everything so people know what they can and can’t eat.  I was delighted when someone said to me that they really appreciated so many gluten free items.  As they pointed out, those of us who can tolerate gluten can still enjoy the gluten free items but it doesn’t work the other way around.

Here are the recipes:

Cocktail meatballs

  • 2 lbs ground beef (I used the meatloaf blend of beef, pork and veal)
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1/3 cup dried parsley flakes
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 TB soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 TB minced onion
  • 1 16 oz can jellied cranberry sauce (actually I think they shrunk the cans to 15 oz)
  • 2 TB brown sugar
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 1 12 oz bottle chili sauce

Combine first 9 ingredients and mix well.  Form into small bite-size balls (about 75).  Arrange meatballs in a 2 inch deep baking dish.  Combine the last 4 ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until cranberry sauce is melted.  Pour sauce over meatballs and bake, uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.  Serve in a chafing dish to keep warm.

NOTE: If making ahead, let sauce cool before pouring over meatballs.  Then refrigerate and bake before serving.  This actually works well because the meatballs keep their form.  These freeze really well.  I doubled for the party.

Shrimp dip
This recipe came from my mother and it is delicious.  I am generally suspicious of recipes made with canned soup but this is very good and always popular.
  • 1 can cream of shrimp soup
  • 8 oz package cream cheese
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 4 oz canned ripe black olives, chopped
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • dash Worcestershire
  • 1/2 cup cooked shrimp, chopped

Melt soup and cream cheese in top half of a double boiler until completely melted and combined.  Add remaining ingredients.  Serve hot (in a chafing dish) with crackers and raw veggies.

Spicy Crab dip

We usually make a crab dip with sour cream and cheddar cheese.  It is delicious.  When friends introduced us to this spicier version, we fell in love with it.  Part of what makes it so good is the ratio of crab to filler – lots of crab.  I doubled for the party.

  • 1 pound crabmeat
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 lb grated pepperjack cheese
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 2 tsp chopped pickled jalapenos
  • 1 oz grated Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients except Parmesan and then top with Parmesan.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Serve hot with crackers.

If you have leftovers, which is very unlikely, the leftovers are amazing in an omelet.

Black Bean dip

  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • squirt of lime juice
  • 8 oz goat cheese, but into 8 discs.

In a medium saucepan, cook beans with onion, cumin and lime juice for about 5 minutes until soft.  In a small casserole dish put about 1/2 the beans and top with 4 discs of goat cheese.  Repeat with remaining beans and goat cheese.  Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes and serve with corn chips.

Seared Everything tuna
  • 1 lb of sushi grade tuna
  • 3 TB Everything bagel seasoning
  • 1 TB canola oil
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • Sriracha to taste
  • flat bread crackers

I’ve been serving seared tuna for parties for years and it has always been popular.  I used to dip in a mix of sesame and poppy seeds and then I discovered the Everything bagel seasoning.  It’s a fun twist.

I also used to serve it with wasabi sauce.  I mixed Sriracha and mayo to taste and used that instead.

Cut tuna into long blocks.  Season with salt and pepper.  Put Everything seasoning in a shallow pan and dip tuna blocks in seeds, coating each side.  Using a non-stick pan over medium high heat, heat canola oil and sear tuna blocks about 2 minutes a side.  (You want tuna to be rare).  Remove from heat and chill in refrigerator.  When ready to serve, slice tuna and put on flat bread crackers – top with a small amount of sauce.  I always leave a few without flatbreads for the gluten free friends.

Grilled chicken skewers with avocado sauce

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into about 1 inch cubes (I got 50 pieces)


  • juice from 2 limes
  • 2 TB honey
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper


  • 1 avocado, pitted
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 TB red wine vinegar
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Combine all marinade ingredients and toss with chicken.  Refrigerate for at lest an hour and up to a day.  Soak 6 inch wooden skewers in water while chicken is marinating and then skewer one chicken cube on each skewer.

Broil skewers about 5 minutes a side.  NOTE: I lined my pan with aluminum foil and put the skewers on them.  I did them in our countertop oven and needed to cook in batches as a result.  The skewers started to brown in the first batch even though they had been soaked in water so I figured out that covering the skewers in foil helped to keep them from burning.

Vegetable platter


I’ve started doing a vegetable platter at every party we have.  I read an article in Food and Wine about a restaurant in L.A. that serves a tower of vegetables instead of a tower of seafood.  That was my inspiration as they treat each vegetable separately.  I roasted cauliflower with olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin seed (40 minutes at 375), roasted carrots with olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika (45 minutes at 375), blanched asparagus, blanched broccoli, raw peppers and raw mushrooms.  I made two sauces (Green Goddess and chipotle mayo) and served them in hollowed out peppers.  Very popular!