There is very little that we love more than getting together with friends to eat, drink and make merry. But let’s face it, we all have lives and nailing down the schedules of a handful of our favorite friends is a beast! Lucky for us, everyone (including the thrifty chicks) was in town post Fourth of July, which weirdly fell on a Thursday this year.
We wanted to invite our friends for a casual cookout that included good eats and drinks, but what do you do when a friend is allergic to strawberries, another does not eat mushrooms, some friends are strict vegetarians, some are eating “clean” and the rest are flexitarians like the two of us?
You ask people what they want to eat, what they are willing to eat, you cook it and keep it moving! We bought the most adorable, tiny grill, some charcoal and prepped to get it in! To keep this thrifty gathering cost-effective we asked our friends ahead of the event to chip in $10. This way they didn’t have to cook a dish, or rush to the store last-minute to pick up something that everyone could eat.
If you’re sweating how to afford feeding everyone for a gathering, consider just asking everyone to chip in toward the cost, or do what you can to cover the food and ask your guests to contribute wine, spirits or some other extra thing. Most times your friends won’t come empty-handed and will want to contribute something so you might as well ask for something you need.
Our friend Kim makes the bomb sangria. WE MEAN THE BOMB! Instead of chipping in money we asked that she bring that. So she brought both a red and white wine sangria. We blended up our own summer fruit drinks including an adult beverage and…let’s just say a good time was had by all.
Check out our menu, which was a serious hit with our friends!
Lookout for the Cookout Delicacies
— Seasoned wild-caught salmon skewers: These are previously frozen salmon filets that we cut into bite sized pieces seasoned with salt, pepper and a lemon herb blend to taste. You can certainly use fresh salmon if you can catch it on sale. We put about three pieces of salmon on each regular size skewer (four if the pieces were smaller). Let the seasoning marinate at least 30 minutes to an hour. Cook until to fish is firm and flaky.
— Tandoori wild-caught salmon skewers: Same frozen salmon filets. Mix about half a packet of tandoori seasoning that you can probably find in your local international market with a small container of greek yogurt. Coat the salmon in the sauce and let it marinate until you’re ready to cook. Bake until fish is firm and flaky.
— Wild-caught shrimp and homemade pesto skewers: We used previously frozen shrimp of a good size to get about three shrimp to a skewer. Feel free to use fresh shrimp if you can catch it on sale. You can use store-bought pesto, but we make our own using basil, walnuts, grated parmesan cheese and olive oil. Coat the shrimp and let them marinate for about 30 minutes to an hour. Grill until shrimp is firm and pink.
— Wild-caught shrimp and barbecue sauce skewers: Same shrimp. We used a zesty store-bought barbecue sauce from Trader Joe’s and added some teriyaki stir fry sauce . We also let these marinate. Bake or grill until shrimp is firm and pink.
— Baked sweet potatoes: Slice them in thin rounds and fold them in packets of foil. Add some cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar if you’d like. Roast in the oven until tender. The steam inside the packet will cook the potatoes.
— Fresh “Creole” corn: Take fresh sweet corn ears and cut them in half. Put a pat of butter, the amount is up to you, for each half ear in a packet of foil with as much corn as you can hold without spilling. Add creole seasoning such as Tony’s or Zatarain’s, a generous amount of garlic powder. Wrap them in foil and roast in the oven until tender.
— Farm fresh squash and zucchini: Toss with olive oil, grill in a grill pan on the stove, outside if you have the space (we didn’t), or roast in the oven.
— Reese’s baked mac ‘n cheese: You’ll need pasta and at least two kinds of shredded cheese. Use whatever kinds you like, just not pre-shredded. We used monterrey, pepper jack and gouda. You’ll need about 1/4 cup of milk and seasonings such as garlic, onion powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste. You’,ll also need butter. Cook the noodles until Al dente, stir in about half the cheese and butter. Add enough milk to make it creamy but not watery. When the cheese has melted, transfer to a baking dish. Add the leftover half of cheese and stir until it is well mixed. Top with another 1/4 cup of shredded cheese and breadcrumbs if you’d like. Bake until brown.
We broke out our folding chairs, blankets and the Too Thrifty Chicks Photo Shoot playlist on Spotify and hung out in the park until long after dark! Good Friends + Good Food = Good Memories! This whole shindig was put together for less than $100 and a good time was had by all. To us, that is the hallmark of a successful, thrifty gathering!
Until next time,