Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Catching up - A Budget Friendly Get Together

I'm seriously behind in posting from the last few weeks. These next few posts will be out of chronological order, but no less delicious.

My sorority alumnae chapter is active and each month a different member hosts a get together of their choosing. My month was October and I decided to host a Sunday afternoon board game party. The party started just after the 1 p.m. football games ended and ended before the Sunday night sitcoms came on. With about 8 people scheduled to attend I got to work planning the menu! On the game menu: Apples to Apples, Scattegories, and a Uno themed Jenga. We had a blast!

I decided to challenge myself to make this a budget friendly party using mainly items from the pantry (with a few twists). Game playing calls for finger foods and dishes that can sit out for a few hours (no mayo!). My menu brainstorming session resulted in chips, dips, veggies, some pasta salad, and desserts. Nice and simple and easy to prepare - almost no cooking involved! Another bonus, most of the dishes were 'not bad for you' (healthy might be a stretch when they all are eaten with chips).

The non-pantry items for the party were the chips - old favorites tortilla and pita chips - and store bought salsa. I also picked up a bag of the new Ming Tsai sesame rice chips.

The star of the non-pantry items was a kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin) that I picked up from the weekly farmer's market.

When the hubby and I were in Vancouver on our honeymoon we had an unbelievable kabocha squash puree with a sweet whipped cream. When I saw the squash at the market I knew I had to try it! I treated in like a potato for the cooking method and pureed it with some butter and maple syrup. More butter would have made it a little richer, but I forgot to restock my butter supply at the store. I served it chilled as a dip with the pita chips. It would also be great thinned with some broth and served as a soup. I also cleaned up the seeds and toasted them with maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and salt. Great for snacking while making the rest of the meal!

Maple Kabocha Squash Dip (puree)
1 kabocha squash
1/3 (ish) cup of maple syrup (I used grade B)
1-3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Water for cooking

Start by cutting the squash into halves or quarters
Scoop out the seeds and set aside for roasting
With a sharp vegetable peeler, peel the squash pieces
Cut into 1 inch pieces
Fill a large pasta pot with about 2 inches of water
Add the squash (it will not be covered by the water)
Sprinkle the salt over the top
Bring to a boil and then reduce immediately and simmer for 10-12 minutes (until squash is tender)
Drain and put the squash into a bowl
With an immersion blender, blend the squash until it is a smooth consistency
Stir in desired amount of butter and maple syrup
Chill and serve

Next up on the menu - white bean, garlic and parsley dip. This was gone by the end of the party. Simple ingredients - great taste. All you need is 2 cans of cannellini beans, 2 cloves of fresh garlic, a handful of parsley, and some olive oil. Throw it all in the food processor with some salt and pepper and that's it!

The pasta salad was easy - tri-colored rotini, pesto from the freezer, chopped fresh basil from my basil plant, frozen peas, and olive oil.

The only thing left untouched at the end of the party was the store bought salsa. I'd consider the party a success! Counting the pantry items as $0 + chips, salsa, and the squash, the grand total for the party was around $20 for a party of 8. The guests brought the drinks and left feeling full!

Looking forward to the next get together!

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