I would suggest you have a buffet menu planned out. Figure out what you will make off the menu and then offer your menu suggestions to those that ask what they can contribute. The menu I have planned out is so that each dish is not overly expensive to make and varied enough to please everyone.
Crostinis with Garlic Butter
1 stick room temperature butter
1 loaf long french baguette bread
1 tbsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp.coarse black pepper
Slice the bread on the bias about 1/2" thick. In a bowl combine the room temperature butter, garlic and pepper.
On a large sheet pan under the broiler lightly toast the bread. Remove from the oven, flip the pieces over and spread each piece with the garlic butter mixture. Place back on the sheet pan and broil the buttered side to a nice golden brown.
Serve on a platter next to your crock pot of chowder.
Corn Bread Muffins
You could make muffins from scratch, however the boxed Jiffy Muffins are pretty good and they now have a larger sized box. I believe all you add in are eggs and some oil and maybe some water. I like them on the sweet side, so if I do use the box I add in some white sugar to the mix. Again, inexpensive to make and they can be made one day ahead and kept in a sealed container.
Grilled Kielbasa with Barbecue Sauce Glaze
Kielbasa is made by a number of different companies. The brand we like in our household is Roesseler's. They are larger than most on the market in a local grocery store here in Connecticut. The flavor is on the mild side and perfect for this dish. You can choose any grocery store brand of barbecue sauce you like or try mine.
You can make the barbecue sauce days in advance. Put in a sealed container and refrigerate. Any left over sauce will keep well in a sealed container for at least 3 weeks.
1 or 2 rings kielbasa
1 1.2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 sweet onion - finely diced
1/3 cup light brown sugar
3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. olive oil (or any oil)
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper - more to taste
Pinch of salt
Add the olive oil to a sauce pot and then the onions. Cook until the onions begin to soften then add in the garlic and stir. Cook for 1-2 minutes and add in the rest of the ingredients. Stir and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Take the kielbasa and split open lengthwise. On the outdoor grill over 300 - 350 degree heat, grill the kielbasa to a nice brown. Baste with the barbecue sauce and grill for 1-2 minutes more and turn over and do the same for the other side. If you don't have an outdoor grill do this on an indoor grill pan or a frying pan.
Slice the kielbasa on the bias (looks better for presentation) into 1/2" thick pieces. You are ready to serve. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Sweet and Spicy Bacon Wrapped Chicken
This is really, really good and can be an appetizer served with toothpicks. It's not overly expensive to make, especially if you take advantage of your store's sale items.
Boneless skinless chicken breasts
In a bowl combine these ingredients:
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 pinch cayenne pepper
Take the boneless skinless chicken breasts and cut into bite sized pieces (about 1/2" thick)
Bacon - slice and wrap around each piece of chicken then roll in the brown sugar mixture.
Place the pieces on a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake until the bacon is crispy and the chicken is done. About 15-20 minutes.
Tortilla Wraps with Queso Sauce, Ground Beef and Shredded Cheese
2 pkg. 10 inch tortilla wraps
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup onion - finely diced
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1 /2 tsp. chili powder
Shredded Cheese - a Mexican blend, Jalapeno Jack - whatever you like
In a frying pan brown the ground beef, breaking it down as you go. When the beef is half way cooked, drain off some of the fat and add in the onions, garlic and chili powder and cook until the onions soften. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
You may have to soften the wraps for a few seconds in a microwave so they are pliable. Take a wrap and spread Queso sauce all over the wrap. Add in about 2 tbsp. or so of the ground beef mixture. Sprinkle some of the grated cheese on top of the beef and roll the wrap burrito style.
Place the wraps seam side down in a casserole dish. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake until the cheese inside has melted. About 20-30 minutes.
You may end up with some extra wraps. If you do, here is a fun suggestion: take the wraps and cut them up into triangles. Fry them in a little bit of oil in a deep skillet - in about 1/2 inch of oil and when they come out sprinkle the chips with a cinnamon sugar mixture for sweet or a spicy blend of: chili powder and paprika, cayenne pepper and granulated garlic and salt. The ratio being: 1 tbsp. paprika, 2 tsp. chili powder, 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper, 3 tsp. granulated garlic and 1/2 tsp. salt.
Grilled Vegetable Platter
There are many people who will not eat anything but vegetables, so grilling vegetables versus the cold vegetable platter with a dip is a good way to go. It is budget friendly and you can choose most any vegetable to use. The yellow and green squash, eggplant, onions, portobello mushrooms or asparagus, radicchio, fennel, or tomatoes. You could also grill up fruits like pineapple, plums, peaches to add to the platter.
Choose the vegetable or fruits based on what your budget can afford. The vegetables themselves only need some olive oil salt and pepper and are ready to grill. To further enhance the flavor drizzle with some balsamic vinegar. Fruits perhaps with a sprinkling of light brown sugar and cinnamon or a drizzle of honey.
Make sure your grill pan or outdoor grill is cleaned well. Over medium high heat grill the vegetables until they are softened to your liking.
Arrange nicely on a platter and have available a serving fork or tongs.