Friday, May 1, 2009

The Birdie Birthday Menu

As I've mentioned in a few previous posts, my daughter, who turns 3-years-old today, is having a bird-themed birthday party this Sunday. I'm not sure which of us is more excited. Of course, I'm very excited for her, since she's bound to have a great time, and we get to see some people that we don't see too often (we're expecting about 40 people, adults and kids), including her much-adored cousin. But since I'm the caterer, I'm always a little too intently focused on the food.

The food is inspired by birds. To clarify, especially if my father-in-law is reading, this does not mean that we will be cooking birds! I can't think of a less honorable way to celebrate them. I also declined to serve actual worms and insects, which birds are known to eat. Once again, the idea is inspiration. So, a lot of dishes contain seeds, berries, and/or grains, and one contains fish (though not a fish that birds are likely to hunt). Many dishes don't contain bird foods, but look like something birds would eat (worms), or they look like something associated with birds (nests, eggs). There are no actual birds being served, and I managed to avoid using eggs, as well.

My other consideration whenever I throw a party is guests' dietary issues. There is the obvious peanut allergy, which belongs to my daughter, so none of that will be served. She's also allergic to avocado; otherwise we'd certainly have some guacamole around. We invited people who are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-intolerant, diabetic, and kosher. So, most of the food works for all of these people. As it turns out, the gluten-intolerant people will not be able to make it. Those who do come will not suffer for having eaten gluten-free food. Finally, I always need to make a dish that will please the typical American palate, which is not always so adventurous or interested in my health food spread. Last year, I made turkey chili for that crowd. This year, given that serving turkey would be a big no-no, I went with a big pot of homemade mac n cheese. It's not Kraft, and it tastes homemade, so hopefully no one will find objection with that.

Here is the menu (recipes to follow in subsequent posts):

- Cheese Plate (featuring mostly local, pastured cheeses) served with squares of dark rye with sunflower seeds

- Nest of Sticks & Twigs and crudite served with three dips:
**Roasted Red Pepper
**White Bean Hummus
**Spinach Tofu

- Nests of Crispy Shoestring Veggies (in muffin cups) each with one of three "eggs":
**Falafel (served with Tahina Sauce)
**Fish fritter (served with Cucumber, Dill, Yogurt Sauce)
**Veggie burger (served with bbq sauce)

- Worms & Seeds (with black and white sesame seeds and stir-fried shredded napa cabbage)

- Birdie Slaw

- Mac n Cheese


- Pineapple Right-Side Up Cupcakes with Pineapple and Raspberry Topping

- Chocolate Cupcakes topped with Coconut Pecan Fudge Nests and Dark Chocolate Eggs

- Shredded Coconut Nests each with one of two desserts "eggs":
- CB&J (Cashew Butter & Jam)
- Trail Mix

- Fruit Salad (apples, grapefruit, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, lemon juice)

This menu should please the crowd I'm expecting, but not everyone has to accommodate so many dietary issues. Even so, for a crowd this big, when I'm trying to keep spending and environmental impact to a minimum, I'd still rely heavily on vegetarian and vegan fare. It just makes sense. But the best way to serve healthy, eco-friendly, cheap food at a party is to make it yourself (and try not to serve rack of lamb!).

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