Alfresco Birthday Dinner

Finally I can finish this post that I started a few weeks ago. I have been away from my blog and I've missed writing. I think by now you know that I love to cook and entertain. I just enjoy all aspects of entertaining, planning the menu, choosing the theme, decorating, everything. I recently threw a birthday dinner for my twins. You are never too old to celebrate your birthday in our family. Over the years I've collected outdoor entertaining pieces. I personally like to use real plates, glasses, table cloths and silverware outside and I use as little plastic or paper as possible. You can get these items on sale and in the long run save money and the environment.
I planned a family barbecue for the birthday dinner. About a month before the dinner I started planning the menu, I like to try new recipes and mix them with old favorites, Some say that you should try the recipes before you make them for company but I just try out a recipe on company, remember no fear. Just have fun and enjoy preparing the meal. The dinner was a causal get together on our deck. I started with fun summer drinks, dips and then followed with the meal and dessert. Every year for my twins' birthday I make a cake, decorated with both names, this year I did something different. I made my daughter red velvet cupcakes, her favorite and my son a blueberry pie, which he loves.(though he told me a decadent cake would be greatly appreciated next year!) I find that when I try new recipes I always have one or two that are a keeper and crowd pleaser. And this time was not different. The menu follows:

Raspberry Lime Rickey's
Buffalo Chicken Dip
Caponata with Flat bread*
Assorted olives, cheese/crackers  
Spicy Grilled Shrimp* 
Grilled Buttermilk Chicken*
Red Bliss potatoes salad
Layered Tabbouleh
Bobbie's Asian Coleslaw
Summer Salad with berries       
Red velvet Cupcakes    
Blueberry Pie with vanilla ice cream

* These are new recipes that I haven't made before. I found them in June 2010 Martha Stewart Living. For me I will only make the shrimp again. Everyone loved this shrimp dish. I am including the recipes that I will make again . The red bliss potato salad is mine own creation, all the other recipes are from other sources and some I've modified over the years.
As you can see I love to serve a lot of food. You don't need two entrees and all the side dishes. I like left overs the next day!!
Elaine's Birthday dinner for Twelve
Raspberry Lime Rickey
8 oz vodka
3 oz lime juice
2 oz Chambord 
12 fresh raspberries                        
plus 4 for garnish
fresh lime for garnish
club soda

Muddle the raspberries in the bottom of a pitcher(I used a martini pitcher). Fill with ice and add remaining ingredients. Stir well and pour into 4 tall glasses. Top with club soda and garnish with lime wedges and fresh raspberries.

Buffalo Chicken Dip- My version of an old favorite
2 packages of cooked chicken strips (I used short cuts) cut into bite size pieces
2 packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup ranch dressing
3/4 cup pepper sauce( I used Frank's Red Hot)
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar Cheese

Heat chicken and hot sauce in a skillet over medium heat, until heated through. Stir in cream cheese and ranch dressing. Cook, stirring until well blended and warm. Mix in half of the shredded cheese and transfer the mixture to a baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until hot and bubbly. Serve with celery sticks and cracker

Spicy Grilled Shrimp
http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/spicy-grilled-shrimp

Layered Tabbouleh salad
http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=10

Red Bliss Potato Salad
2 1/4 lb. Red Bliss potatoes 
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fig balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives sliced ( I use pitted)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Scrub potatoes and cut into bite size pieces. Cook until almost tender.Drain. Rinse with cold water and drain again. Put potatoes in bowl. Combine next three ingredients, shake well. Toss over potatoes. Add olives and feta cheese and toss again lightly.
Serve at room temperature or chilled

Summer salad with strawberries, blueberries with Poppy seed dressing
1 package of spring mix salad or greens of your choice
2 cups of blueberries
1 cup strawberries cut in fourths
1 can mandarin oranges drained
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Clean and dry greens. Toss with all the ingredients and serve with Poppy seed dressing.

Poppy seed dressing
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated onion
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon salt  
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon ground mustard

Combine all sugar, vinegar, salt. mustard, and onion in blender for 20 seconds. Gradually add in oil. Stir in poppy seeds.

Bobbi's Cole Slaw

1/2 head cabbage( I used Dole 24 oz bag of classic Cole slaw)
3 tsp. sesame seeds
3 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
6-8 scallions, chopped
3 Tbsp. silvered toasted almonds
1 pkg Ramen noodles(chicken or vegetable flavor), uncooked, crumbled
Dressing
1/2 cup oil
3 Tbsp, sugar
1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
4-5 Tbsp. white vinegar
1/2 pkg of seasoning from the noodles
Mix together dressing ingredients(it works well in a jar with a lid, so you can shake it up and store until needed). Toast sesame, sunflower seeds and almonds lightly. Add remaining ingredients and coat with dressing just before serving.

Red Velvet Cup Cakes  I am still perfecting the Red Velvet Cup Cakes made with beets or beet juice not red food coloring.. I made a recipe that called for beet juice and unprocessed light cocoa. Everyone loved the cup cakes but the cup cakes did not have the deep red coloring normally associated with Red Velvet Cup Cakes. Once I perfect or find a really good dye free cup cake I will post the recipe.

Blueberry Pie   I love blueberries just plain or in a pie.

Pastry
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup soft shortening
1/3 cup butter, but into pieces
7 Tbs. cold water
Filling
6 cups blueberries, rinsed
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
4 1/2 Tbs cornstarch
3/4 tsp ground allspice
1 Tbs butter
Glaze
1 egg yolk
1 tsp whipping cream

Pastry: In a large bowl combine flour, sugar and salt. With pastry blender cut in shortening and butter until mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Sprinkle the water over top and work mixture together with pastry blender or fingers until it comes together to form dough. Shape the dough into a ball. Place into plastic bag and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.(If I am in a hurry I have used the Pillsbury pie crust in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.)
Filling: Place rack in lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Empty the blueberries into a large bowl. In another bowl combine brown sugar, sugar, cornstarch and allspice. Add the sugar mixture to the blueberries and mix gently.
Divide pastry in half. On a floured surface roll one half into 13 inch round. Fit into a 10 inch pie plate, letting the pastry hang over the edge. Fill with blueberry mixture. Dot with butter. On a floured surface roll remaining pastry into a 13 inch round. Place over pie. Seal edges and crimp to form a decorative rim.
Glaze: In a small cup wish egg yolk and cream. Brush top of pie with mixture. Cut vents on the top. You can use mini cookie cutters to make a decorative top.
Bake pie 10 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake pie 35-40 minute longer or until nicely glazed, Cool on rack.

Well I think that I've included everything that I made. What I also try to do is keep a record of  what I made at different celebrations so I can find the recipes again. I learned the hard way!! I am still looking for the exact Health bar cake recipe that my twins say is the best.

Enjoy and share any of your favorite recipes with me!


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