Monday, March 28, 2011

A Family Feast

Birthdays are a big deal in my family.  So, of course, good food always holds a center-stage place in our birthday celebrations.  My mom’s 76th birthday dinner for 13 people the other night was no exception.  We pulled out the good china and dressed the table for springtime – despite the fact that we’d had four inches of snow just the day before.  
We started off the evening sipping sparkling wine from our favorite cellar – Schramsberg, and nibbling on a store-bought cheese & cranberry torte.  Sparkling wine (or Champagne) have become regular additions to celebrations and even casual gatherings; why save it only for New Year’s? 
The menu:
n  Salad tossed with a homemade Dijon dressing that included sunflower oil and sesame oil, garnished with wheels of a goat cheese/brie combo rolled in coarsely chopped walnuts.  

n  Grilled swordfish served with an avocado butter.  The recipe included fresh parsley, fresh lime juice, and garlic.  Yum.  The recipe came from one of my favorite cookbooks, “Stop and Smell the Rosemary:  Recipes and Traditions to Remember.”  (See Items We Love.)   My sister, Janet, had just bought Pier 1 Import’s Tasting Party Food Decorating set, so I used it to swirl the avocado butter on the fish just before serving instead of doing a dollop with a spoon.

n  We sisters always help each other out when we’re entertaining for a family event.  Janet made one of our family favorites – asparagus cooked with shallots, balsamic vinegar and butter.   My other sis, Susan, made a new recipe with wild rice, butternut squash, and mushrooms. 

n  With dinner, we served an Australian Chardonnay that paired nicely with the fish. 
Table tips:
n  I put together the floral centerpiece with a $16 mixed bouquet from my local grocery store.  I placed glass stones in a globe vase to help support the arrangement and chopped away on the stems to get the shape I wanted.  The gal at the florist department recommended I add three stems of leather-leaf fern sprigs, which at 29 cents apiece definitely helped finish out the arrangement without adding much to the cost.

n  I found the whimsical dragonfly napkin rings at Pier1.  They were on sale 20 percent off as recently as last Friday. 
It was a great evening, filled with laughter and tasty food; our mom at the head of the table glowing from the light of the candles as we sang happy birthday… can’t think of a better way to celebrate!  Happy Birthday, Mom!

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