We had a small election night party, and I had no energy to make anything other than drinks, so I ended up buying everything. Now, I love to cook, but there are days that it's just not going to happen, and somehow those days are always the ones I end up having people over. In that vein, here are my rules for buying food.
1) Don't buy anything you haven't tried before, unless they're VERY good friends. Like the kind of friends who wouldn't have any problem spitting something out and telling you it nasty. I feel like there are a number of people in my life who would do that. I'm very lucky like that.
2) Don't get more than one or two things that need to go in the oven. Room temperature food is just fine and gets you out of the kitchen and doing important things, like watching returns from Ohio.
3) Veggie or fruit trays are not necessary at any party, but it's always nice to have something a little lighter. I tend to go with fruit on a cheese tray or veggies with hummus, but don't go too overboard. It's good to have them, but they're generally the least popular thing at the party.
4) Always something salty (nuts or olives) and something sweet (mini cookies or brownies) makes it a little more rounded.
5) Making a big batch of a theme drink is very simple and makes you look more organized than you really are. (Side note - when pureeing watermelon for flavored lemonade do not use a food processor. I'm still finding pink spots in my kitchen from this summer.) For example, I made a big batch of cosmopolitans and a rum/lemonade/blue Curacao drink for election night. Party appropriate, and makes for easy serving for a long night of returns.
I would also like to commend a friend for bringing Obama themed cupcakes. They were chocolate/vanilla marbled with blue frosting. A perfect munchie for the historic night.