Turning 40 can be a festive affair for some, while quiet for others. With my husband turning 40 in July, we wanted to go the festive route and began planning the party. We wanted it to be a casual, kids and grownups kind of gathering, so we opted to have it at our place. To keep the costs in check, I decided I would try to do most of the food, which I knew would be a challenge with an anticipated 70+ coming, but I was game. Our house is best described as pretty tiny, but with a nice-sized deck and yard, it really is perfect for entertaining in the Seattle summers. For the lawn, we reserved an outdoor movie projector to entertain the kids with some movies as dusk settled in. It was going to be a great evening.
The set up sounded ideal, all except for the fact that Seattle summer had been very reluctant to arrive. I mean, very, very reluctant. It rained pretty much all week and temperatures were barely in the mid-60s. Normally, by mid-July, Seattle is rolling into its glorious sunny and 70s mode. Not this week. By Friday morning, the day before the party, with a very grim looking forecast in front of me, I began to panic. Prepping all the food became a secondary concern. My bigger issue was where was I going to put these people? I knew the adults would grin and graciously bare it as they jostled drinks and food, elbow to elbow, but all the kids (25+ by my count)? I frantically went into rain shelter mode, hunting down pop up tents, either from the party rental place, or friends and family. With many phone calls, emails, and loops through my neighborhood and beyond to pick up loaned tents (thank you friends!), I secured five pop-up tents to cover most of the rented tables. At least, I thought, now there will be an opportunity for everyone to eat under cover, but I still kept my fingers crossed for the rain to stop, knowing that all would be happier if the kids would be free to play outside.
Friday night was a torrential downpour. Saturday morning rolled around. Still raining, just not as hard. We opted to not get the video projector as we had no place to set it up if it was raining. We thought if the rain stopped, the ground would have been too wet to sit on, even with blankets. We were resigned to just rolling with it . . . people were flexible, right? Especially, us hearty Seattle weather people. As the early afternoon approached, we began in earnest to set up things outside. We began figuring out the tents, arranging the tables for eating, drinks and so on in the on again, off again drizzle. The sun seemed to be trying to peek through the clouds, but than darting back again, with dark tones. The game of peakaboo went on for an our or so, but the sun seemed to be winning the battle over the next few hours, getting brighter and warmer. By four, as the first guests began to arrive the clouds had all but disappeared. The rain puddles evaporated in the steadily rising heat. Could it really be true? It was 70 degrees and mostly sunny? We couldn’t believe it, but the weather gods somehow smiled on us, and very brightly. Just about anyone who wanted to could be outside, many without jackets for most of the night. The kids happily played outside, many running loops through the front and backyards. Of course they were all bummed that we didn’t get the video projector, but I’m thinking they understood, especially the ones who enjoyed climbing our trees. Thank goodness. What a great party, with great people and great weather! And did I mentioned the rain started again later that night? Crazy lucky we are.
- Pulled Pork with slider buns: I made tons of this ahead of time in the slow cooker and froze it. The recipe using apple cider stinks the house to no end, but tasted the best of the ones I tried. To reheat it, I defrosted the meat, put it in a foil pan, added a splash of apple juice, covered it with foil and reheated it to 140 degrees (use a meat thermometer) in a 225 degree oven
- Chicken apple sausages, Jalepeno Chicken sausages, hot dogs (All from Trader Joes)
- Spinach Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette
- Potato Salad (thanks, Costco!)
- Honey Balsamic Bean Salad
- Quinoa Caprese Salad*
- Lemon Cake
- Strawberry lemonade and of course, a keg of Manny’s, the birthday boy’s favorite.
*The most requested recipe of the evening, by far was the Quinoa Caprese Salad. I would have included a photo, but failed to do so ahead of time and only the dregs remained after the party. For me, nothing quite screams summer like a caprese salad made with wonderfully ripe tomatoes, fresh basil and mozarella. I love the combination of flavors, colors, and textures, and of course the simplicity of pulling it together. This is a spin on that salad. Originally, my mom made this, using couscous, which is delicious and has always been a hit whenever I have made it in the past. I decided to make it with quinoa to increase the protein of my salad offerings, knowing that a vegetarian could make it part of a meal if they wanted. It worked great and was a hit. I usually use cherry tomatoes, as they’re sweet and easy to dice. If you can get your hands on larger ripe tomatoes from your own garden or a farmers market, use those by all means. A mix of yellow and red tomatoes would be pretty.
Happy eating and happy summer, wherever you are, and whatever the weather may be! And happy late birthday shout-out to my husband, too!
Quinoa Caprese Salad (find pdf of recipe here)
Servings: 6 side dish portions
2 c diced tomatoes (I use cherry tomatoes)
¾ c fresh mozarrella, diced (regular, part-skim will do in a pinch!)
3 T shallots, minced
2 t extra virgin olive oil
½ t salt
½ t black pepper, ground
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 c water
1 c quinoa
¼ c fresh basil, chopped
Combine the first seven ingredients (tomato through garlic) in a large bowl, cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil in a medium sauce pan and add the quinoa. Simmer for about 15 minutes or so, until the water is absorbed and you see the curly-cue endings of the quinoa clearly. Fluff with a fork and let it cool.
Add the tomato mixture plus the chopped basil to the cooled quinoa. Toss gently.
If desired, add additional basil leaves as garnish when serving. Serve immediately, or chill for a few hours.