For me, planning a party without a theme is like making a sandwich without bread. I wouldn’t know how to enjoy it, and would likely end up with a huge mess on my lap. Themes provide inspiration for menus, decorations, etc. You can probably guess my favorite part-the menu of course!
When my youngest turned two last year we had to cancel her little party because both of my kids came down with strep throat two days before. Ever since then, out of the blue, she would tell me she wants a birthday party, a pink and purple one. And so, a year later, she finally got to have her cake, and eat it too.
The party was set for 3-5 p.m., so I didn’t have to plan a full meal. Pink and purple finger food (healthy-ish, or at least from scratch anyway) for kids? Interesting.
The first thing that came to mind was “pink and purple” fruit with my Aunt Rose’s fruit dip-recipe below. (Now she is a theme party queen! She even orders her bread for little sandwiches to be specially dyed by the bakery to go with her theme colors. Hard core, I love it!) I know marshmallow crème and cream cheese are rather devoid of nutrients, but hey, there’s a little protein in there right? As an added bonus, the kids actually eat more fruit (at a party no less).
Next, a must-have at all my parties is baked brie wrapped in homemade Challah dough. To add some pink, I wrapped the brie first in applewood smoked ham before the dough. These beauties go into the oven just as guests are scheduled to arrive, and disappear soon after emerging (the brie, not the guests). Again, not the healthiest of appetizers, but well worth the extra pogo-sticking. And I challenge you to compare the ingredient list to that of a Hot Pocket!
My husband’s big idea for party food, a snack, or meal replacement for that matter, is always chips and salsa. Blue corn tortilla chips are sort of purple I thought, so maybe. Years ago I fell in love with that cabbage stuff served like a salsa with tortilla chips at some Mexican restaurants. Two winters ago, while still mourning the loss of tomato season, I decided to make my own cabbage-based salsa using all my favorite salsa ingredients-garlic, lime juice, and cilantro. It became an instant family favorite-even my picky 7 year old digs in and enjoys the fresh flavor! I’ll eat it straight from the bowl with a fork, and our grilled fish tacos are much cheerier now. The clincher-cabbage comes in a natural, fantastic, in-your-face purple! I won’t bother with the pale green version anymore. Purple cabbage tastes just as good, but is sooo much prettier! (Scroll down to the bottom of my superbowl post for my recipe: cabbage salsa)
Punch and Cake
If only the cake had been that simple. Well, making the cake was easy-The New Best Recipe cookbook from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated has a basic chocolate sheet cake recipe that turned me away from cake mixes forever. I bolstered the chocolate, and used two round cake pans instead of a 13×9.
I had a little too much fun experimenting with fresh blueberry and strawberry/cherry juice as natural food coloring for my cream cheese frosting. The act of frosting the cakes, however, was quite a challenge. My mother-in-law (esteemed sous chef for the day) can attest to that. Pale pink and purple frosting may be lovely, but chocolate cake is not terribly forgiving of amateur decorators. Chocolate sprinkles to the rescue!
Aunt Rose’s Fruit Dip
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 jar marshmallow crème
Fresh seasonal fruit
1) Blend softened cream cheese and marshmallow crème until smooth. Add a few drops of food coloring if white is too boring
2) Serve in a pretty little bowl surrounded by seasonal fruit.
1 wedge brie
½ pound Challah dough (from “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day”), or 1 ½ cans Pillsbury crescent rolls
4 large slices good deli ham (if you want the pink)
1) Preheat oven to 350 for Challah dough, or according to crescent roll directions.
2) Cut brie in half lengthwise so you have two pie wedges.
3) Roll out your Challah into a ¼ inch thick rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Or, unroll crescent dough on a clean, flat surface. Press seams firmly together so you have one cohesive rectangular sheet of dough.
4) Cut the rectangle in half and wrap each wedge of brie. Try to make the dough evenly thick so that it will bake evenly. Press the seams firmly together (so the cheesy goodness doesn’t leak out) and make it relatively smooth. If using Challah, let it rise for at least 20 minutes, up to 40 if you have time.
5) Bake at least a few inches apart on a rimmed cookie sheet until deep golden brown, 15-18 minutes for crescent rolls, 20-22 minutes for Challah.
6) Cut into warm gooey slices and pass the plate around with lots of napkins.
Notwithstanding my husband’s next-day trip to urgent care for a freakish pollen in the eye incident (photo withheld for obvious reasons), the party was quite a succes. A pink and purple dream come true.