feeding five fun food

A make-ahead birthday dinner for a crowd

May 29, 2018

A make-ahead birthday dinner for a crowd

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I love to plan menus, but the execution always gets me. Imagine my delight for Griff’s family birthday when I had almost everything made ahead! This was a fresh, fun, kid-friendly meal that the adults all loved too. Did I mention this works for vegetarians and non-vegetarians, with no drama? When’s the last time you had drumsticks? And I swear, the easiest way to make them is JoCooks’ Garlic and Paprika Chicken.

As someone exclaimed that this was the best blue cupcake they’d ever eaten, I got to preach quality even for kiddie baked goods. The birthday boy didn’t understand that pistachio meal in the cupcakes and mascarpone in the frosting made them delicate and delicious – but he fully understood that they tasted good! Forgive my frosting – I pulled it a minute too soon, so it was softer than I intended. Let me tell you – it really ruined everyone’s night. Especially Griff. He was so disappointed while stuffing it in his mouth!

We kept it small, but small when your household is 9 isn’t really accurate – 14 adults and 12 kids, to be exact. And for once, we didn’t have too many or too few leftovers. Although that would have been FINE with this meal!

All the Green Things Salad from Cooking Light

May 29, 2018
: 8
: 15 min
: 5 min
: 20 min
: easy

This salad tastes like spring, and even Dave (who'd call it rabbit food) loved it. We add some of the dressing to the avocado and serve in a bowl on the side. The salad holds up well the next day, and this way there's no gloppy brown bits to ruin your easy healthy lunch fun. I'll be honest - we did 1 1/2 times the dressing and added an extra avocado. No regrets. *For making it ahead, mix the dressing together in a jar and leave at room temperature. Blanch and cool the veggies, then store in the fridge. Add the dressing, herbs and greens 20 minutes before dinner.


  • 1 1/2 cups frozen green peas
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 2 1/2-in. pieces (4 cups)
  • 12 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed (about 4 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces pea tendrils, pea shoots, or watercress (about 5 cups)
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup torn fresh mint leaves
  • 1 firm, ripe avocado, cubed
  • Step 1 Bring a large Dutch oven filled with water to a boil over high. Add green peas, asparagus, and sugar snap peas
  • Step 2 boil until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse well with cold water
  • Step 3 drain well.
  • Step 4 Whisk together shallots, oil, rind, juice, mustard, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add blanched vegetables
  • Step 5 toss well to coat. Add pea tendrils, parsley leaves, mint leaves, and cubed avocado
  • Step 6 toss gently to combine.

Tortellini Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Basil and Corn from fivehearthome.com

May 29, 2018
: 6
: 25 min
: 10 min
: 35 min
: easy

We use frozen corn - sacrilegious, I know, but I don't think it makes that dramatic of a difference and it cuts down on prep time by A LOT. Especially when you're doing 4-5 times the recipe. I love that you can fully prep, cook, and dress this and shove it in the fridge for hours. Next time, I'll make some extra dressing and add it just before we serve for a bit more zing.


  • 22-ounce package frozen (or fresh) cheese tortellini
  • 3 cups (about 16 ounces) sliced cherry or grape tomatoes (halved or quartered, depending on size)
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels, cooked and sliced from the cob (approximately 14 ounces of corn, which comes from about 4 cobs)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced in a chiffonade
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Step 1 Boil tortellini in salted water according to package directions. Drain and cool. In a large salad bowl, combine tortellini, sliced tomatoes, fresh corn kernels, fresh chopped basil, Parmesan cheese, and pepper.
  • Step 2 Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously. Pour over tortellini salad and gently mix all ingredients until well combined. Chill for several hours before serving.

Pistachio Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting

May 29, 2018
: 12
: 15 min
: 17 min
: 32 min
: medium

Don't overbeat! You can frost these and tuck them in the fridge, but pull them out 30 minutes before you serve or they'll feel like frosted rocks. I'm in love with the pistachio meal (ground pistachios) - these will be used a lot. I ordered it on Amazon, but I suspect some bulk shops may have it for less.


  • 1/2 sugar
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 cup pistachio meal (ground pistachios)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 TB milk
  • green food coloring optional
  • 10 oz mascarpone
  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 TB vanilla
  • Step 1 Preheat oven to 325 F. Line muffin tin cups, or set up silicone cups on a baking sheet.
  • Step 2 Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy.
  • Step 3 Add one egg at a time, blending thoroughly after each addition.
  • Step 4 Add the milk and food coloring, if you’re using it. (I think a few drops gives it a beautiful color without getting ridiculous.)
  • Step 5 Add the flour, pistachio meal and baking powder a 1/2 a cup at a time until just blended in. Don’t overbeat, so watch closely as you add.
  • Step 6 Pour into muffin tins, about 3/4 of the way up the sides. Bake for 14-18 minutes. Pull when the tops are lightly golden, and it springs back if you poke it with your finger. Cool.
  • Step 7 For the frosting, beat the mascarpone in the mixer until creamy and any lumps are gone. Add the whipping cream and beat on medium low until it starts to thicken. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar, and raise the speed slightly once they’re incorporated. If you’re using food coloring, add a few extra TB of sugar with it. Let the frosting get stiff peaks, but not start to “break”, where the smooth texture starts to look bumpy. Frost cupcakes and set in a single layer in the fridge, or serve immediately.

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