This weekend several of my friends wanted to go out to welcome home another friend of ours who had just come back from a lengthy overseas business trip. Alas, my wallet was not up to the task of paying for a full evening out. Normally this would involve paying for at least dinner for my husband and I, a bar or club where copious amounts of overpriced drinks would be purchased and finally many cab rides including the trip home. That, my friends, is a rich man’s game. As a side note, I will point out my car is in the shop having major work done on it, so even if I had wanted to be the designated driver I could not. Besides, my car would not fit 6 adults legally. So, what is a girl to do? Invite everyone over for a party in 3 hours? In a fit of madness I extended the invitations. In my three hour window I had to walk to the store, do some moderate cleaning, make food for my guests, and get ready myself. Fitting in cooking food seemed impossible so while walking to my small local grocer I had to come up with a no cook or low cook plan.
Zipping around the store, I created a menu for a dessert and board games party. Since I was without a car I called my friends and asked them if they minded picking up wine for the party so I didn’t have to try to haul a half case of wine home in sub-freezing temperatures. Luckily, they were more than happy to help! I requested everyone bring a bottle of wine to share, preferably Malbec, because I knew it would match well with my menu. This also reduced my total cost in the venture by a great deal.
Shopping List for 4-8 depending on appetite:
Three frozen Amy’s Vegan chocolate cakes (they are on the small side)
Full fat fresh Ricotta cheese (at least 4oz)
Mascarpone cheese (at least 4oz)
Two 12 ounce bags of frozen raspberries
White sugar if you don’t have any in the pantry
- Defrost the cakes (this will take 1-2 hours on the counter).
- Whisk together your two cheeses to make a thick spread. Place in the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours. Start your sauce 20-30 minutes before your guests arrive.
- In a large sauce pot bring ½ cup water and two tbsp. of sugar to the boil.
- Once boiling, add your raspberries to the pot. Turn down the heat to a simmer.
- When the berries are warmed through, smash with a silicon whisk or spatula.
- Let the berries reduce until the mix is almost halved, then set to warm. Add one tbsp. of cold unsalted organic butter to the sauce and whisk it in. This will give body and glossiness to the sauce.
- Slice your cakes ¼ of an inch thick and arrange on a platter, place half the chilled cheese into a small serving dish with a spoon or butter knife (reserve the rest in the fridge), and place the sauce in a gravy boat or small serving dish with spoon. Wait to decant the sauce until you are just ready to serve so it’s warm.
- Pour the wine and enjoy your $30 party.
- Know your audience. I knew my friends liked this cake because I’d brought it to festivities before. I was also aware of the dietary restrictions of my guests so I kept it fairly healthy and low sugar. It felt and tasted decadent but was not a huge blow to anyone’s diet when consumed in moderate portions.
- I made enough for left overs. My husband and I will enjoy a second dessert or my guests could have taken home portions to their spouses or kids that did not come. If you have excess sauce or cheese you can work them into any sweet or savory dish the next day because they aren’t overly sweet or invite those same friends for a brunch of cheese filled crepes drizzled with raspberry sauce the next day.
- If your guests are close friends or family you can ask for people to bring a favorite bottle of wine to share. If not you should pick up the wine yourself. Plan on ½ a bottle per person at least. If you can’t get to the store to pick up wine, try making a ”signature cocktail” out of your bar supplies and fruit or herbs you already have. Example: make basil simple syrup out of fresh basil, sugar, and water. Add Gin, ice, and soda water or tonic. Just make sure your concoction will go with what you are serving.
- If budget is a concern, your best options for low cost entertaining are dessert and brunch.
The moral of this story is impromptu entertaining on a budget can be fun and stress free. Casual entertaining is just that, casual. You don’t have to throw an elaborate event for people to have fun. The simpler your party is the more time you’ll have to spend with your guests and create those great times you’ll remember for years to come. Save the razzle dazzle for holidays and big events!