Need advice for a simple, but tasty buffet
I'm trying to put together an impressive, but inexpensive buffet luncheon/dinner for 70 co-workers AT work. I won't have access to anything more than a toaster oven, microwave, refrigerator, and 120V electrical outlets. I have a new, electric, mini-fridge sized smoker, a 50qt (I think) roasting pan, a commercial sized rice cooker, crock pot, and basic cooking gadgets that I can plug in to add warming options to the menu.
My group is blue collar and average, but likes to eat. Our usual parties are burgers and potato salad type fare, wings, etc. We're considering catering from an italian restaurant, but I feel like we can offer a more impressive set up for the price range if we did something ourselves. The catering will cost about $800 for a basic pasta meal with salad and dessert, and i'd love to bring in a delicious and memorable celebration for about $500.
The biggest problem is I love cooking and feeding people, but I'm just not that a great cook. I'm hoping to find alot of suggestions for foods and recipes that are fool proof at the last minute, or can be made ahead and served without heating in an oven, so if I screw it up there's time to make more.
I was thinking that with the smoker, I might be able to fill it early in the morning with a variety of marinated meats, and skewers (of course I haven't tried this out yet), and they might keep moist and flavorful for a few hours in the smoker on low. If I made the food ahead of time, stored in the fridge and move to the smoker for warming, maybe it'd be okay? I need lots of party tray ideas for appetizers, dessert items, side dishes, etc, but it all has to be easy and look or taste like a special occasion meal. Please HELP!! I plan to experiment with the smoker over the next 2 weeks, but I have to know soon if that would work. Any advice or recipes would really be appreciated. Maybe there's an easier way to put something together without hauling my smoker to work, even. Thanks!! (Sorry this is soooo long).