Foods to make at a party

For all you 20-somethings who still have lives… or for folks with older kids… here are some food-making party ideas.  As in, during the party you cook as a group.  These are a little more complicated than putting out cold-cuts for people to turn into sandwiches.  Most of these are pretty inexpensive party ideas too so um, how about a money Monday post?

Pizza — As RAs we did this during finals week and we’ve had small parties/large playdates for our child starting pretty young (maybe 4 or 5?).  We make the pizza dough (you could buy it instead), put out spaghetti sauce, shredded cheeses, and toppings.  Folks assemble their own personal-size pizzas.  We bake them.  Relatively easy and even adults seem to enjoy it.

Cookies — you can make the cookies in advance and just frost (similar with cupcakes), or for older kids, you can have them help with cutting/shaping dough.

Sushi — we haven’t done this en masse but know people who have.  We only have one sushi making kit, so DC1 has done it with a friend over, but not with more than one person.  Seaweed, sushi rice, and fillings and you’re good to go.  I bet you could make things other than rolls without more sushi kits.

Vietnamese fresh rolls — DC1 has done this with friends over before too.  Similar to sushi, only you need a big bowl of warm water to soften up the wraps.

Wontons — We went to one of these in graduate school.  The hosts had wonton wrappers, fillings, and egg-wash ready.  Guests stuffed, folded, and sealed.  The hosts cooked the filled wontons (in this case in a soup, but in high school I vaguely remember we deep fried them one time since I had a fryer and we didn’t have ovens or stoves).

Taffy pull/popcorn balls — I used to have taffy pulls at my birthday parties growing up.  They are sticky and messy and fun, but kids do grow out of it I think.  (#2 had this event THIS YEAR at a new year’s party and it was all adults doing it.)  My mom would make the candy, then we’d let it cool enough to touch.  Kids would wash and butter their hands and then pull the candy until it was stretchy and cool.  Popcorn balls are similar, but with butter handed kids shaping sticky popcorn/candy into balls.

This is not cooking, but maybe is frugal: #2 just came up with the idea of a booze-trade party.  “I have this two-thirds full bottle of gin I’ll never use.”  “Cool, I’ll take it!  A friend gave me this tequila and I don’t drink tequila, who wants it?”  “I’ll trade half my six-pack for half of yours and we can both try them both!”  “This bottle of vodka was in our freezer and my roommate moved out, it’s up for grabs.”  “I need 3/4 of a cup of Grand Marnier for a dessert but I don’t want to buy the whole bottle, who can hook me up?”  Doesn’t that sound great?  Maybe?  Or it could be just an exchange of weird foods that you bought for one recipe but you’ll never use the rest.  Black rice?  Fenugreek?  Turmeric?  (You should use turmeric though, it’s cool.)  It cleans out your kitchen guilt-free!

Have you ever been to a cooking party?  Cooking what?

26 Responses to “Foods to make at a party”

  1. Quail Says:

    Ravioli! I have both been to and hosted a ravioli-making party. As hosts, we asked folks to bring a filling,we provided a meat filling, and also provided three or four batches of dough. Guests were adult couples and very young (under 18 months) kids. Used our pasta roller to have two people continuously roll dough (our friends loved to learn to do this) and then another few people filled and cut the raviolis with a pastry cutter. Then we boiled them and served with a few types of sauce (marinara, butter sage, and spicy red). Total hit. But have snacks out because it takes awhile and no one wants to make ravioli while hungry.

  2. Leigh Says:

    We’ve been to and hosted pizza and wine nights, wherein the host buys/makes pizza dough, sauce, and toppings and everyone supplies some wine. Then the guests all make their own pizzas in the host’s oven. It was great as a host because there was pretty minimal effort on our part once the party started. Barbecuing is also a popular party activity.

    Sadly, most people prefer to go out to a bar to hang out now, which can get pretty expensive…

    • Leah Says:

      We found that’s kind of a stage people go through, but you can help by having TGIF bar nights at your place. Have some booze available, and encourage others to bring other types — kind of a booze swap like mentioned above. We successfully reduced bar nights by doing this and having finger food appetizer stuff available.

  3. Susan Says:

    Hmm, I wonder what it says about me that I have never been to or hosted one of these. I did have a pretty saw rips cooking group in grad school and we would often throw a party to let folks eat our creations (these were often set up as blind taste tests with ballots and everything – we are scientists after all).

    One of the most fun parties I’ve done was a tequila tasting party. Everyone brings a bottle, we set up a blind taste test with ballots. With a couple of exceptions, they were ranked unanimously in order of cost. Pretty interesting. We’ve also done the “clean out the liquor cabinet party” usually before moving.

    • Susan Says:

      That would be serious cooking group…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’ve definitely been to a wine-tasting party like that, where people brought cheap-to-medium wines and we all had comment cards, rating systems, etc., for the blind taste-test. It was kind of an excuse to drink wine and eat cheese.

      • SP Says:

        I went to one of these hosted by a non-engineer, and was very disappointed at the lack of methodology & lack of seriousness that was applied to the process. :) But I’m a little bit of a wine geek. I also think it is unreasonable to not allow a nicer wine to decant and taste it against cheaper wines.

      • Debbie M Says:

        My favorite comment from one of those was when no one could believe that one of my friends liked this one super-boring wine (actually, I think it was beer). His explanation: “Tastes like water. I like water.”

  4. Linda Says:

    I was at a party Friday night with a Spanish theme. We were asked to bring a tapa to share and the hosts cooked paella. I guess it’s not as participatory since everyone didn’t participate in the paella cooking, but it was a nice party.

  5. Katherine Says:

    I used to be part of a group that did Iron Chef parties. The host would choose the secret ingredient and everyone would bring something made with that ingredient and we’d vote on prizes in different categories. The cooking didn’t happen AT the party, but we always got to taste lots of interesting things and it was fun.

    • chacha1 Says:

      I think something like that could work in my milieu. (Big city, small kitchens.) I don’t know anyone with the kind of kitchen that more than one couple could work in at a time. Well, I do, but they live so far out of town that nobody ever sees them.

  6. Debbie M Says:

    Yea! Party ideas!

    I’ve been to an English muffin pizza party. And an ice cream sundae party. And you had my favorite idea–cookies. I like your spring roll idea! Both healthy and yummy!

    Similarly, you could have a gingerbread house decorating party. And I’ve had a pumpkin carving party, though we did not cook anything from the pumpkins.

  7. delagar Says:

    I used to give these big latke parties at my house every year at Hanukkah, back when everyone in the English department did parties. Sadly, so many people have retired or gotten jobs elsewhere (or even more sadly, died) that we now only have a few people working full-time — no one does parties anymore.

    Holy hell, what a downer of a comment.

    WHAT I STARTED TO SAY, was, these were great parties. I made the latkes, everyone else brought beer and booze and potato chips or jelly donuts, it was great.

    And idea, if anyone is looking for winter fun.

  8. Angela Says:

    I’ve seen instructions for having a tamale party, where guests fill and steam tamales, that sounds like fun to me!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I know people who do that at Christmas with their extended families (set up enormous tamale assembly lines). Sometimes if we’re lucky they share when they get back from the holidays!

  9. SP Says:

    These are really fun ideas. We did the personal pizzas at parties as kids, but I haven’t done an adult cooking party of any sort! Taffy pulling sounds horribly messy (and I don’t even like taffy, so there’s that). Tamale and lasagna parties sound most excellent!

  10. Engineer Cents (@engineercents) Says:

    Best food for party-making: cookies (or really any baked good), fondue, hot pot, and papas rellenas. Also, tea, but I don’t know if that counts.


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