Thursday, May 23, 2013

Birthday Party!

If you are a regular reader of TERP, you know I have a big family, made up of some big eaters, and we love big celebrations.  We love any excuse to get together and eat.  I love any excuse to cook for people.  It always comes together.

I don't host nearly as many family parties as I used to because over the years I learned the logistics of having a double-digit number of guests in my apartment are way too tricky.  These days restaurants or the bigger homes of other family members have been the way to go.  I'm often relieved, but there are times when I ache to host a big family party, particularly when I'm hoping to serve a particular food.

Mom's birthday is in May and it's always a big reason to get together and celebrate.  For the past few years we have had to go to restaurants because no one can accommodate a house party anymore.  This year, although we wanted very badly to have the whole gang over, my mother-in-law and her side of the family inconveniently went on vacation during the weeks of Mom's birthday.  She's spending the time in Italy (Sicily and the southern regions - I think she got the better deal), so while we missed her, we envied her too and wished her well for her trip.  With the guest list a little smaller this year, I decided to host a party.

My theme for this party was "Indoor Picnic".  I wanted to make a dinner on a beautiful spring day feel like a barbecue.  I served all kinds of traditional picnic foods.  You know how my posts have mostly been about foods meant to help me on my body transformation quest?  Well, if you're tired of those kinds of foods, you will find this post a welcome relief.  This birthday party was a major fat and carb fest.

It turned out to not be a beautiful spring day.  It was chilly and rainy, but the spirit was there. 

On the buffet was potato salad, mac & cheese (my brother provided), cole slaw (bro also provided), homemade biscuits, rolls (store bought), tarragon chicken salad, and the piece de resistance, a Latin-American-inspired pork shoulder with a little chimichurri to spoon on top.

I always seem to forget to charge my camera battery.  I grabbed the camera and saw the battery was dead.  I had to use my phone.  Sorry for the poor photo quality.

We finished it off with chocolate cake covered in chocolate-hazelnut flavored frosting.  The recipe was My First Chocolate Cake baked in layers instead of a sheet.  I frosted it with homemade Swiss meringue buttercream mixed with a generous lump (I'd say about a cup) of Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut butter (a little less sugar and no trans fat, unlike Nutella).

Mayo-Free Potato Salad

I just used the recipe for my Pickle-y Potato Salad, but left out the pickles this time in case any of the picky eaters (in other words, the under-21 crowd) didn't like pickles.


  • 8 small potatoes
  • 2 Tbl olive oil, divided use
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 Tbl lemon champagne vinegar
  • 2 Tbl dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender. Remove from heat and cut into chunks. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Whisk together wine, vinegar, mustard and remaining olive oil. You can serve it warm or cold as you see fit.

Tarragon Chicken Salad

I would also think some sliced toasted almonds would be good in this, but I didn't know how the pickier eaters in the crowd would react to them.  The kids probably had a hard enough time with the grapes.


  • 4 Chicken breasts, roasted, skinned, boned, and cut up small
  • 1 cup halved grapes
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-2 Tbsp fresh chopped tarragon
  • ¼ cup toasted sliced almonds
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the ingredients together. Taste for seasoning. 

Roast Pork Shoulder

I served this with a basic chimmichurri I found online.  For the pork roast itself, I played with a few different recipes to come up with my own.  I roast my pork in my clay pot.  It always comes out nice and moist that way.  You can use your preferred roasting pan though.

  • 1 6 lb picnic shoulder
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Juice of 3 oranges
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 Tbl salt
  • Few grinds black pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp tumeric
Mix together the juices, onion, and minced garlic.  Place in a large plastic bag with the pork and marinate overnight or longer.

Remove pork from marinade and scrape off excess.  Drain marinade and boil for a few minutes.

Cut several slits all over the pork.  Place the sliced garlic in them.

Mix together the salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and tumeric.  Rub this all over the pork.  Allow pork to sit out for an hour to come to room temperature.

Heat oven to 275 degrees (unless you are doing what I did and using a terra cotta pot, in which case, don't preheat your oven).

Place pork in a roasting pan with the marinade.  Roast for about 6 hours or until it is falling-apart tender.


Blond Duck said...

I love the indoor picnic idea! My mom can't eat mayo, so I can't wait to try the potato salad!

Sue said...

What a lucky family you have! I'm glad the picture problem is resolved!