Or just pick up some wine.
  1. Fresh guacamole and chips
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    People go crazy for guacamole, but the key here is to make sure it's really really fresh. Mash a bunch of ripe avocados together with minced onion, garlic, chopped cilantro, minced fresh jalapeños, salt, and a ton of fresh lemon or lime juice. Scrape it all into an airtight container and top it with sliced lemons or limes to keep it from getting brown on the way to the party. Serve it with chips or fresh vegetables.
  2. One fine cheese platter
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    I like to make sure I have one creamy triple creme (ie: brie), something a little stinky (bleu, cambazola, Camembert), something familiar (aged cheddar) and one wildcard (truffled cheese, drunken goat cheese). I also like to add a cheese-friendly goodie or three, like dried apricots, fresh figs, ripe grapes, toasted nuts, and honey. Then slice up a baguette or pull out some fancy crackers, and you're ready to go.
  3. DIY pizzas
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    One of my favorite party tricks (and the thing that inspired my second cookbook) is the fun of bringing fresh pizza dough (store-bought is fine) to a party along with ziplock bags of toppings. Everybody gets to make their own personal pizza however they like it. Put parchment paper on baking sheets, put everyone's creations on the parchment paper and write each pizza maker's name directly on the paper next to their pizza. This is especially great for kids' parties.
  4. Pizza pinwheels
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    I also call this Picnic Pizza, since they are so good at room temperature, and therefore ideal for a picnic. Basically, roll out pizza dough into a large rectangle. Spread it with tomato sauce, pesto or anything else you like to put on pizza, top it with cheese and any other toppings you like, then roll it up tightlyinto a cylinder as if you were making cinnamon rolls. Slice it into one-inch rounds, bake, and serve warm or at room temperature. Recipe: brokeassgourmet.com/articles/picnic-pizza
  5. Fresh bread
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    Whether you make it at home or pick it up at a great bakery, every dinner table or appetizer buffet is improved by a loaf of fresh bread.
  6. Salted brownies or cookies
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    Besides pot, flaky sea salt is the best thing you can add to bake goods to make people go absolutely crazy for them. I make standard issue chocolate chip cookies or brownies, and then when I get to the party, top each one with a few flakes of sea salt. The salt intensifies the chocolate and everybody goes fucking crazy.
  7. Vietnamese spring rolls with peanut sauce
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    These are always a hit. Recipe: brokeassgourmet.com/articles/vegetable-summer-rolls
  8. Interesting deviled eggs
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    Add something yummy to the yolks along with the mayonnaise, like sriracha or wasabi paste. So good.