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home » Party Tips » Birthday Parties Made Easy
Birthday Parties Made Easy

My kids are adults, but still my babies. Every year, within a week of each other they turn another year older. I throw them a celebration. My husband wishes I'd stop throwing them this ritual birthday bash-he's never been one for hosting parties, not even when they're family. One of our offspring is married and a mother herself. Yet here comes another one.

Through the years I've done more than get older, I've also become wiser and arthritic, so I've changed perspective on how I throw this bash. In the beginning, it wasn't all that populated. The four of us, my parents and sister, sometimes my inlaws would attend. Then of course family members got married, had kids and our children would ask their closest friends to join us. I loved it! I'd roast a turkey, make my famous mashed potatoes (recipe to follow), set up a salad bar and make homemade birthday cakes.

As the crowd grew, the mashed potatoes turned into a baked potato bar (I had a theme going here with "bars"). I switched to paper plates. Then when the crowd got to 15 plus, well, I realized things had to change. Physically, it would take me a week to do the shopping, chopping, cooking, setting up and cleaning and then the "putting everything back". The following week, I was too exhausted to do much more than the bare basics.

So, I changed. I also found out something wonderful-EVERYONE ENJOYED THEMSELVES MORE!!!

This year our menu will be trays of vegetables, fruit, cheeses, meats and sandwich makings. All courtesy of the local bulk buying venue. I will also purchase artisan sandwich rolls and ciabatta bread. Hummus fixings will not give me a blender to dirty this year! It will be bought and scooped out into a bowl and served along side the trays and chip bowls. I'll also grab a container of gourmet salsa. The drinks will be chilling in a big chest. Later, coffee will be set up so everyone can pour and serve themselves. Birthday cake? Whoever eats it anyway? Since the guests of honor are adults and so are most of the guests, I'm buying a gourmet cheesecake that has been individually sliced and contains four different kinds in one box. For those who'd rather, I'll have angelfood cake and non-dairy topping available and replenish the fruit tray.

You've probably noticed I'm not cooking one single dish. The only thing to clean will be the coffee pot. My guests will have a good time. I will be able to sit down and enjoy them and the occasion and going to work the next day will not be the problem it has in the past.

As for my famous mashed potatoes, well, I'll continue to save them for my part in the yearly Thanksgiving Potluck. They've been published in a major women's magazine and in a large daily paper in Orange County, CA-they are one of my most requested recipes. I'll share it with you now.

The best part is they are very low in fat! In honor of our daughter (who loves them so much, she had the caterer serve them at her wedding) I've always called them:

Sarah's favorite mashers:

Serves 6-8

3 lbs, baking potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 large head cauliflower, in florets

1/4 C each skim milk and margarine (food allergies have me using soy milk)

kosher salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Place potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer, uncovered just until fork tender. Drain well and mash (I prefer a ricer). At the same time, in another large pot, bring 11/2 cups of water to a boil and add cauliflower. Lower heat and cover, steam for 15 minutes, or until very tender. Drain and place in blender with milk, margarine, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Fold into potatoes. Serve.

Carine Nadel is on The Reader's Advisory Panel of Woman's Day magazine and has had numerous articles and recipes published both on various websites and print publications. To read more of her work, log onto: http://www.Carine-whatscooking.blogspot.com
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