Today I turned 25 years old. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll probably know already that when it comes to birthdays and other celebrations, I don't believe in "skimping". I believe in celebrating, in style, and frugally too, because without the fun in life, life isn't worth living. A little bit of money spent in the short run makes it much more manageable and enjoyable to live a frugal life in the long run. At least that's my theory in life.
Celebrating birthdays, therefore, and having good times, are important to me. And I wanted to celebrate my birthday "in style".
I was trying to figure out what I could do for my birthday, and decided that whatever it would be, it would involve a few close friends, because that is what truly brings joy to my life. While I love my kids and my husband, sometimes I just want to enjoy myself with some gal pals, no kids (other than Anneliese, who I can't leave for too long, because she nurses).
I tried to figure out what to do with my friends for my special day, but was torn between a few different ideas. I couldn't do a party at my house in the evening, because my kids don't go to sleep until later, and I would not enjoy such a party if my kids were running around.
I was debating going out with a few friends to a gluten free friendly restaurant, but wasn't sure if I wanted to do that because a) I didn't want to have to pay for everyone's meal at an expensive restaurant, and b) I didn't want people to not come because they couldn't afford to go out, if I wasn't the one paying.
I really wasn't sure what to do. I had the idea of making a dinner party for some gals, because I really enjoy cooking for people and sharing yummy food with them, and I rarely am able to entertain a crowd in my house since it is so small. I asked a good friend who lived nearby if she'd be able to host the party in her house, so that I could cook and make the food, but we'd be able to have fun without my little kids "joining the party". She was happy to do so- that finalized it. And why dinner party? Because living gluten free, sugar free, and dairy free, making a "dessert" party is hard, as gluten free, sugar free, egg free, dairy free desserts are not my strong point- I have a few recipes here and there, but I didn't feel comfortable enough to host a party based on those foods. But real foods? I got that down.
I invited a few close friends, and some asked if they could do anything to help, if there was any food they could bring. I told them I preferred being the only one to prepare the food, so I could be sure I could eat it all. One friend had some nice disposables at home, so I asked her if she could bring some of those along, and she was happy to contribute in that way. Another friend lent the tablecloth. And it matched perfectly.
For a centerpiece, I used a blossoming branch from an almond tree, in a dollar store vase I had lying around.
So, what was on the menu?
First, I knew I wanted alcohol. Not a ton so people would be drunk, but a little bit to "lighten the mood" and make things fun. I bought a few bottles of Smirnoff Ice to share (our local variety is gluten free), and made some jello shots out of cranberry juice, apple juice, vodka, and gelatin. (They weren't very alcoholic- only 1 cup of vodka for 8 cups of liquid.) I made some non alcoholic jello "shots" for those that don't drink for whatever reason.
Now for food...
Garlic bread, made with my gluten free French bread. Granted, I overcooked the garlic bread, so it was a little too hard. Oh well.
Since I wanted to skip desserts, but still wanted to make a cake, I made a "sushi cake" out of sushi rice, carrots, cucumbers, scallions, and decorated it with sesame seeds and nori and radishes.
I wanted to serve a really yummy soup, that wouldn't be too filling, so that people would have room for the rest of the meal, but wouldn't be too "strange" so even the less adventerous people would eat it. I ended up making a Japanese style soup.
I cooked some chicken wings in water with some fresh ginger. I rehydrated dehydrated porcini mushrooms, and used that water with the chicken broth, together with a little bit of gluten free soy sauce. I served the soup with bean sprouts, scallions, porcini mushrooms, and grated carrots. It was a big hit!
For the main course, I served some veggies I grilled on my cast iron grill/griddle. Delicious with just a little bit of garlic powder, oil, and salt, and looks pretty too.
I served some homemade gluten free linguini pasta with homemade tomato sauce with fresh basil.
I also served mashed potatoes, and two types of chicken breast- one with mustard and date honey, and the other with garlic and paprika- both cooked to perfection, so they weren't dry at all!
Dessert was homemade chocolate peanut butter cups.
Because it was a dinner party, there was no need for any "activities"- we just ate, and talked, and talked, and ate.
I had a really, really, really nice time.
It was a perfect way to celebrate.
Good times with friends.
I don't need anything else for my birthday.
That said, I think I will surprise my husband tomorrow with something special for his birthday. His birthday was today as well, but didn't celebrate his birthday yet. Tomorrow, something special, I hope.
Ever make a dinner party with freinds? What would you serve if you were making a dinner party? How do you tend to celebrate your birthdays, or do you tend to skip it?