Thursday, October 13, 2011

Day 13 - Party Planning (Part 2)

Let's answer one of the most important questions people have when planning any event and ESPECIALLY a Kid's Birthday Party:  WHAT DO YOU FEED GUESTS?

First, you must consider the following:

- Event Time: if you plan an event during a meal time, you can expect your guests will arrive hungry. If that's not your intent, schedule parties for mid-afternoon, around 3PM, as kids will have already eaten lunch (usually).  Also, consider how long your party will be.  Light menus should be reserved for events that do not exceed 1.5 hours. Anything longer and you can expect your guests to get hungry...

- Event Location: The location makes a HUGE impact on the food you serve.  If you're hosting a Summer time outdoor event, you shouldn't serve a mayo-based dishes - they spoil quickly in the heat and may cause food poisoning... So, unless you keep them adequately iced and have a reserve for replacement/refill, avoid the risk!  Also, if you're in a venue without access to a kitchen, avoid foods people will want piping hot.

- Event Budget:  You can't purchase supplies without a budget. So set one and stick to it!

- # of Guests:  The number of people you're expecting determines the amount of food and required labor hours you can afford to spend on the menu.

OK, now that you've got the above information figured out, let's move forward.  My recommendation is to remember your primary focus - the children! Now is not the time to try your fancy recipes(you've got more than enough to do) so KEEP IT SIMPLE!  Some budget-friendly and grab-n-go dishes that offer fabulous presentations:

- Shaped sandwiches.  Chicken salad, tuna salad, ham and cheese... whatever the sandwich, try a cookie or sandwich cutter to make the sandwiches fit your theme. Another great option is a sandwich buffet.  I recommend this for adults - simply place 1 or 2 bread options on a platter, create (or purchase) a meat platter and add a fixings platter.  Children will be happy with ready-made and fun-shaped ham and cheese sammies.

- Fruit.  I prefer fruit that kids can easily grab.  Consider using kabobs, they're a functional, easy and pretty dessert... Not to mention HEALTHY!  For more presentation points, use half of a watermelon, gut it and turned upside down, to stick the kabobs; it makes for a cool presentation.  I have also used a cabbage head in a child's bucket or flower pot as a kabob stand (cabbage heads work wonders)... For your kabob fruit choices, reach for fruit that doesn't turn brown quickly (avoid bananas, and apples) and your display will stay fresh longer! OMG, when I saw this rainbow fruit kabob I fell in LOVE:

Source :)
- Chips.  A classic snack everyone loves to munch on... I do, however, recommend having individually-wrapped healthier options (Cheez-Its, Gold Fish, etc.) for the kiddos and leaving the other options for adults (divide larger bags into cups or baggies for a great presentation that prevent hands digging the bowls).

- Meats... Fried party wings and pigs in a blanket are crowd-pleasers (for the kiddos too).  I also like to have something for grown-ups like meatballs (I love to make mini meatball subs) or hamburger sliders for them to munch on... When I think of kid food options, I consider if it drops on carpet how difficult the stain will be to clean... So, THAT should help you choose your kids' menu!
- Starch.  Individual servings of carbs are also great dishes for parties.  A pasta salad (I'll have to post my party recipe soon), mac-n-cheese (I have a shortcut recipe for this also), or your signature starch (mashed potato buffet? dirty rice? pasta and various sauce options buffet?)... Whatever your choice, CARBS always provide party parents with smiles!

- Drinks.  For the kiddos, I go with what they know - Capri Suns, or juice boxes! However, you should always have water on hand (with custom party labels like the ones on Etsy here) and if you'd like to add a clear soda option, a punch (I prefer lighter colored punch or lemonade to avoid stains) and maybe a few cokes (for adults), you'll satisfy everyone's drink preference. 

Food Activities.  Keep your theme in mind and tailor your menu to fit.  Can you get the party guests involved in the fun with a pizza making, sandwich building or salad building activity?

Know what NOT to serve. Keep in mind the common child allergies and know what to avoid - peanuts, eggs, shell fish, etc.  Food labels help your guests know what you're serving and add to your presentation.


Mommy Tip: Try packing brown bag lunches for children!  You can pack them ahead of time(with chips, fruit snacks and add the sandwiches/juices day-of).  Use ribbon, stickers or labels to tie them in with theme.  This method is a sure fire way to ease the stress of feeding the crowd your child's party will bring!

Bag lunches from Munch's Tinkerbelle party.

Can you save me a plate?!


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