Favorite Summer Party Menu

birthday-cake.jpgJune is a celebratory month in our house, given Jon and my wedding anniversary, his birthday, and Father's Day. Over the years we've downplayed some of these special days over others. Typically low key about his birthday, this year, I was thrilled that Jon was open to having a birthday party and I assembled what may be my favorite summer party menu ever. All of the food was fantastic and simple to assemble (though it was a large menu...I tend to go a little crazy when it comes to food), and offered a good mix for the vegetarians and meat eaters among the group. I hope you enjoy these recipes, whether collectively, or sampled here and there to accompany your own favorite meals:

  • I told you I was going to make this awesome and easy bean dip soon. I made a double batch and was happy to stockpile the extras in the freezer. I served the dip with lots of tortilla chips of course.



  • I bought a tub of tzatziki and plated it with the most beautiful radish, turnips, and baby carrots from our CSA share (I also added cucumbers to the plate for contrast and variety). I have been so, so thrilled with our CSA share at Parker Farm; as of last week, they still had some open shares if you want to hop on board.



  • Fruit salad -- always a sure fire way to get some natural matter into the kids. I loaded my trifle dish with a simple mix of honeydew melon, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes.



  • I love this orzo salad with feta, olives, and bell peppers (I was surprised to search my archives and see that I hadn't posted about it already). I love it even more now that I've started eating olives.



  • This grilled red and green cabbage slaw was fantastic. It presents beautifully, the tarragon vinaigrette is an unexpected surprise, and it's nice and light compared to traditional mayo-based cole slaws that can spoil in the heat.



  • This amazing chicken salad does use mayo and thus requires refrigeration monitoring, but it is so worth it. It was fun to make this chicken salad for the first time this season, and think forward to our vacation in Maine (where I first picked up the recipe).



  • At the last minute, Laurel begged for deviled eggs. I ended up whipping up a batch.



  • We also had burgers, dogs, and condiments at the ready. And lots of fun beverages for kids and grownups.



  • For the finale, Laurel and I had such fun making the cake. I considered many recipes, but Jon loves this sour cream/lemon cake with cream cheese frosting. We wanted to make the cake feel more special so we decided to go vertical -- this large sheet cake recipe translates beautifully to a two-tier cake with 6 and 9 inch layers (4 cake pans total). To support the tiers, after the 9 inch layers are assembled, poke 5 straws in the center of the 9 inch layers, cut them to fit the cake height, then lay over a circle of cardboard cut to fit the 6 inch cake. Then build the 6 inch layers on top of the cardboard. We made the cake the night before and then made the frosting (I made 1/3 extra of the frosting recipe to ensure we had enough with our different assembly), assembled the layers, and decorated the cake the next morning. Letting Laurel loose on the decorations not only was fun for her, but also freed me up to do the other food preparations.