Wednesday, March 14, 2012

an (almost) paleo birthday party

When I decided to start the Whole30 on March 1, it was partially because March would be an easy shot. I saw nothing ahead that would throw a wrench into the works.

We have a huge, really huge, party on Easter with dozens and dozens and dozens of eggs to be hidden and found, more food than eggs, a sacrificial lamb (cake), Champagne and wine. This is not a kids-only kind of party or egg hunt, clearly, though the little ones are well represented, usually. It's a fun day. I want to fully participate. And it's in April this year. March looked great.

In the past, too, I've loved to simmer corned beef and cabbage in Guinness and make black and tans for St. Patrick's Day. That's not happening anymore for lots of health-related reasons. No conflict there.

March 11 is my son's birthday and March 14 is his son's. Sometimes we get together on his birthday but not every year. Sometimes he has a kids' party for the little one, not always. This year we invited Jeff over here for his birthday. I was thinking small family Bar-B-Que. I always seem to forget, however, we don't have a small family. As his birthday approached, I finally realized we weren't really talking small BBQ; we were talking party. Birthday party. The reason you can handle being a year older party. And with Adam's birthday only a few days later, it was also a child's party. Kids live for their birthdays. Yikes!

BBQ to me meant steak, maybe chicken or salmon, on the Big Green Egg. We'd toss a salad, add a veggie. Easy. Kristen offered to make some cupcakes for the little one, complete with Angry Birds. No biggie.

Not Paleo, the only exception in fact, but too darned cute.
Party meant PARTY. Lots of choices, probably a buffet since people would come and stay awhile. Goodbye BBQ. That's way too much hands on during the PARTY.

Fresh veggies piled on a platter lined in lettuce leaves looks fancy and is SO easy.
My current go-to where parties are concerned is a meat and veggie buffet that is becoming more and more Paleotized with each event. A year ago I would have been scrambling to find something I could eat in the mass of food I presented as party fare. This time, other than the cakes, we only had one item I skipped, the marinated mushrooms. They were perfectly Paleo, but the bare pinch of sweetener in the marinade kept them out of Whole30 status. No problem. Mushrooms are not leaving the planet.

One of the easiest party foods for me is a big, bright, beautiful platter of fresh vegetables. Virtually all of these can be cleaned and trimmed in advance. I like to blanch some like the French green beans and asparagus. Carrots and cauliflower do well with a quick blanching, too, but it is not required. When I say quick, I mean 30 to 60 seconds in boiling water---no more, followed by a dip in ice water. We usually wrap each type in paper towels and store them in plastic bags or storage containers in the fridge. A large platter, like a turkey platter, or even a cookie sheet works beautifully when lined with fresh, leafy lettuce. This is a great use for those big, heavy leaves from lettuce that has begun to bolt. It isn't great in a salad, but it's perfect for a lining. I'm always looking for uses for lettuce in this condition because that's what I usually get in my farm box. It's too tough and bitter to be a good salad option, but neither of those qualities are a problem here. Veggies look a bit artistic, too, in piles showing off their color, shape, and textures.

Without rare meat, no one would know it was our house.
Crudites is fine, but prime top sirloin, grilled in large chunks and sliced, is just plain fun party food. We also had a small platter with well-done meat for those who prefer it, including one of the birthday boys.

In addition to the beast, I grilled lemon chicken, which we served in half inch slices on skewers, and my take on Ginger Lime Shrimp from Melissa Joulwan's Well Fed. Also from Well Fed came baba ghanoush, ranch dressing, and the inspiration for adding sun butter and coconut milk to the base of our (formerly peanut) sauce.

Mixed olives and two types of almond flour crackers inspired by Elana Amsterdam's Elana's Pantry rounded out the food. Oops, almost forgot our marinated mushrooms---a hit at every party.

Our buffet just needs a few finishing touches and we're good to go.
It turned out great. It turned out Paleo (if we ignore the adorable cupcakes.) It turned out comfortably Whole30 safe for me. I never eat everything at a party, anyway.

I'm pleased with the direction my party planning is going. I'm getting closer and closer to serving only good, healthy, great tasting food. I love it, too, that my guests are expecting just that.

Happy birthday Jeff and Adam.


  1. That sounds rad! And looks beautiful

  2. Thanks, Christine. It's fun to be able to combine tasty, pretty, easy, and healthy.

  3. That is BEAUTIFUL!! I love the tips on using fresh lettuce as the "plate" and sharing so many different types of "finger" foods meat!! I LOVE it! Man, I would love to throw a party like this. I am going to bookmark this post for inspiration!

  4. Thanks, Carrie. I really love it when good food can be both easy and pretty at the same time. Healthy is a cool bonus.


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