Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It's all about ME!

Happy Birthday to me...Happy Birthday to me...Happy Birthday Happy get the idea. I just celebrated a birthday! This year, my birthday fell on labor day, which means I partied all weekend long. Friday night, we kicked off the weekend with a family cookout.

The Menu

Cowboy Caviar with Chips & Salsa Bruschetta

main dish
Steak & Chicken Kabobs
Parisian Salad

dessert bar
Make Your Own Ice Cream Sundaes

Double Up Cupcakes with Pudding Icing

We stocked the bar with Yuengling, Bud Light, Pinot Grigio, Peach Iced Tea, Sodas & Lemonades. The kabobs took some effort (I started at 12:30 noon and was barely finished by 4pm), and a little more prep work than I had wanted. In the end, it was well worth it. As usual, I cut corners as much as possible, and I'm glad I did. If I hadn't, this would have taken months of planning, weeks of shopping, and days of prep work. But instead, pulled it all off in about 3 days.

The Appetizers

Cowboy Caviar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt & pepper, each
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black-eyed peas
  • 1 can (11 oz.) corn kernels
  • 2/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/3 cup celery, sliced & chopped
  • 1/3 cup red pepper, diced
  • 1/3 cup green peppers, diced
  • 1 bag tortilla chips

In a large bowl, whisk vinegar, oil, garlic, and salt & pepper. Add remaining ingredients (except tortillas) and toss well to coat. Serve cold or room temperature with tortilla chips. Or buy it at Costco and put it into a pretty container, like I did.


  • 2 loaves French bread, sliced 1/2" thick
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees Place bread slices on cookie sheet. While oven preheats, combine remaining ingredients (except cheese) in a small bowl. Spoon 1 tablespoon of mixture onto each slice of bread. Bake in the oven for 8 minutes. Top with cheese and serve warm. Or, just buy it at Trader Joe's, like I did.

The Meal

Chicken & Steak Kabobs

I didn't really follow a recipe on these, but here's what I did. Soak skewers overnight. (I planned 2 per person invited, plus a 5-6 extras). Cut chicken into 2" cubes. Soak in Yoshidas Teriyaki

For the steak, I bought stew meat already cut into cubes from Costco. I marinated it overnight in A-1. On the day of the party, I cut 4-5 zucchini, 4-5 squash and 2 onions into 1" cubes. Skewer the meat alternately with the vegetables onto the skewers.
I couldn't tell you how long to grill them. That's was my husband's department. I know he was aiming for about 3-4 minutes, then rotating a quarter, until he had grilled all four sides. However, he was "manning the grill" much longer than a total of 24 minutes. At this house, grills & conversations in combination with Bud Light on a Friday night can be a tricky'll have to judge done-ness of your own kabobs yourselves.
Sauces 4-6 hours (or overnight). Cut onions into cubes. Skewer the chicken, onions, and cherry tomatoes in alternating order. Make a few chicken only skewers for picky eaters.

Parisian Salad

Yup, picked it up at Costco. Yummy stuff. It took two bags for our crowd.


Again, I'm kind of a "dump whatever you've got in the pantry" kind of gal. So feel free to get crazy here. I started with a base of Uncle Ben's Converted Rice and cooked it according to the package directions for our size group. (I use chicken broth instead of water) Once it was almost cooked, I added 2 tablespoons butter, 1 cup frozen peas, 2 shallots (minced), a sprinkle of sea salt and a generous sprinkle of black pepper.

Grand Finale

The Desserts

The hit of the night was no doubt the ice cream sundae bar. The inspiration struck when Grammy came home with an incredible "end of the summer blowout sale" on polka-dot dishes. So, I stocked up on 2 gallons of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream. We kept in cold in a tin (if you wanted it out for a while, line the tin and fill around the ice cream bucket with ice). We all had a blast choosing our flavor, then topping it with a choice of cool whip, cherries, sprinkles, Oreos, m&m's, or chocolate chips. We also had a choice of Caramel Butterscotch and Dark Chocolate warmed up and ready to drizzle on top. The kids had fun with chocolate and cupcake flavored magic shell.

For my "cake" we had double decker cupcakes. Inside the dish was one small vanilla cupcake with chocolate pudding icing filling. On top of it was an extra large chocolate fudge cupcake with chocolate pudding icing filling
and topped with more chocolate pudding icing. Some folks even got carried away and topped these bad boys with extra sprinkles, Oreos and/or whipped cream. Warning: you will need to restrain yourselves, these will make you feel like a kid again. I haven't seen middle-aged adults get so excited in a long time. And yes, you read correctly, these were stuffed full of Twinkies, a ho-ho, a ding-dong...and they were yuuummy. I'll post later on how to fill the inside of a cupcake, it's pretty easy once you understand the right consistency and have the proper tools. I just can't reveal all my secrets in one night. But, I will reveal this little secret...egg beaters, skim milk and fat free cool whip were used in the cupcakes and pudding icings and nobody knew the difference. But I knew, and I felt a little better eating them knowing they weren't as bad as they could be. In fact, I think I hear one calling my name right now.

1 comment:

  1. Happy Birthday! Sounds like a wonderful birthday weekend!