Cooking for 25… Happy belated birthday, Aunt Ginny!

My Aunt Ginny’s birthday party was last weekend, and my mother and I (and several amazing helpers) concocted and executed a menu for 25 people:

Appetizers:

Mini Sandwiches: Egg salad, Tuna salad and Avocado-Cucumber
Onion Dip

Potato Salad (contributed by my lovely Aunt Darlene)
Pasta Salad
Shrimp and Orzo Salad (contributed by my lovely Aunt Candace)
Arugula Salad (my mom made this is and it was far and away the most popular dish; almonds, green apples, fresh Parm, evoo and s&p – adapted from a Whole Foods salad)

Main Dishes:

Chicken-Zucchini Skewers
Poached Salmon w/ Avocado Sauce and Dill-Tomato Sauce

Desserts:

Birthday cakes!

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Tuna Salad Sandwich Rounds (20-24 rounds)

Ingredients:
2 cans tuna in olive oil, drained
3 tbsp mayo
1 large roasted red pepper bottled in oil , rinsed, drained, and finely chopped
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon (I used less)
Salt and pepper
Unsalted butter, softened
24 thin slices whole grain bread (or whatever kind you like; we used a mixture of white and wheat)
Small bunch fresh parsley, very finely chopped

Method:

Mix the tuna and next 3 ingredients in a bowl; season to taste. Chill for 15 minutes up to overnight. When ready to prepare, Scoop salad onto rounds of bread, top with remaining rounds and lightly butter the edges of the sandwiches. Roll in fresh parsley. Stack, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Egg Salad Pita Pockets (20-24 pitas)

Ingredients:
8 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and chopped finely
4 tbsps mayonnaise
2 tbsps Dijon mustard
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
24 mini pita pockets (we used a mixture of white and wheat)
unsalted butter, softened
watercress sprigs for garnish

Chicken kebabs

Makes 6-8 kebabs (we quadrupled this recipe… it was epic)

1lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 zucchini, sliced very thinly lengthways
6–8 metal or wooden skewers or sticks of fresh rosemary, lower leaves removed, tips kept on

Marinade
1 handful of fresh coriander
1 handful of fresh mint
3 cloves of garlic
6 spring onions
1 red chili
zest and juice of 1 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes and place in a bowl. Blanch the zucchini strips in salted boiling water for 30 seconds then drain and allow to cool.

Blitz all the marinade ingredients (except the olive oil) in a food processor, then loosen to a paste with a little olive oil. Add the marinade to the chicken pieces and mix well. Allow to sit for up to an hour. Then weave the zucchini strips in between the chicken pieces on the rosemary sticks or skewers. Grill for around 8 minutes, turning regularly, until cooked.

If you need to keep warm, sprinkle with a bit more oil and cover loosely with foil.

**Recipe from: JamieOliver.com

Poached Salmon with Dill-Tomato Sauce

Sauce (for 1lb salmon)
1/4 cup light mayo
1 tbsp low fat milk
1 tbsp minced fresh dill or 1 tsp dill weed
1 tbsp lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
1 small tomato, diced

Poaching (in the microwave!)
sprayed or lightly oil-coated ceramic or glass dish
2 salmon fillets
3 tbsps water, if more salmon use more water
1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
4 lemon slices
Cover dish and salmon with plastic wrap; poke holes to vent.
Microwave on high for 6-8 minutes, turning 1/2 way through (unless, of course, you have a rotating tray in your microwave). Fish should flake easily with a fork.
Let stand 2 minutes, serve with sauce.
Thanks to my Aunt Ginny for this recipe! So easy and so delicious.

Gemelli with Tomatoes, Olives & Ricotta

Coarse salt
8 ounces gemelli (or fusilli or penne)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
10 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed (optional)
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/3 cup fresh basil, torn
Fresh ricotta cheese, for serving

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente. Drain. Drizzle with just enough oil to coat, so the pasta doesn’t clump.

Pulse sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, capers, and garlic in a food processor. With machine running, add oil in a slow, steady stream, and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Toss together pasta, sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, grape tomatoes, olives, basil, and salt. Transfer to serving plates. Top with a scoop of ricotta, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with pepper.

**Recipe from: Zested (the picture here is prettier than mine… check it out)

Photos:

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It was a wonderful party. I got to see my cousin Anna for the first time in years, and our two new baby cousins were there looking precious and perfect. And my Aunt Ginny, who has been there for me my whole life, was I hope at least a little surprised that we were all there!

A funny thing happened on the way to this Monday… Classic April Fool’s Day pranks on YouTube (and more), New trend: dyeing chicks instead of eggs?

-o- Happy day after April Fool’s Day! -o-

History of April Fool’s Day from The Washington Post.

– NPR‘s list of headlines, products of several members of the staff, that could have made it as the April Fool’s Day headline. The winner? “NPR Source: Tweets Will Shrink to 133 Characters.”

Google News picked up a prank news item and ran it as a legitimate piece, according to Mashable. Here’s the article and the screenshot from Gawker.

– The most serious literary figures, such as Virginia Woolf and Edgar Allen Poe, came up with some pretty playful pranks. Check out “April foolery of the literary heavyweights” by John Dugdale of The Guardian.

– Also: Classic April Fool’s Day pranks on YouTube, from Mashable.

-o- Longest kickball game EVER -o-

Seriously. A game of football in Connecticut with players from several parts of the United States set the Guinness World Record for the longest kickball marathon. Why the epic game? To support cancer research. Here’s the article from the AP. Pretty cool, huh?

-o- Hiring slump at an end? -o-

According to this Reuters article, the time of long, tough job searches riddled with rejection and disinterest is coming to an end… at least for recent college graduates.

Here’s an excerpt from the leading paragraph of the piece:

“Sean Chua expected the hunt for his first job after college to be tough. After all, he watched his brother struggle to find a position when he graduated back in 2008. But his fears were unwarranted. The 21-year-old justice major at American University sent out only seven resumes before getting an offer earlier this month from IBM for an IT consulting job, making him a beneficiary of a turnaround in the labor market for U.S. graduates.” – Jilian Mincer and Jennifer Merritt, Reuters

-o- What came first, the dyed chick or the dyed egg? -o-

Anyone have a problem with coloring chicks for Easter? Here’s a New York Times article discussing the controversy over these dyed baby birds.

(Image Source: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg News)

-o- What to do with all those leftover Easter eggs? -o-

– Here are some cooking ideas for leftover eggs from Epicurious. Among them? Scotch eggs.

Scotch Egg

(Image source: Zach DeSart, Epicurious.com)

-o- Recipes of the Week -o-

My friend Lindsey is coming over tonight and we are making Parmesan Chicken with Caesar Roasted Romaine and a side with goat cheese, red peppers and maybe baby spinach. Currently I’m ogling these Goat Cheese Stuffed Peppers from FoodieMob and these Mini Cheese Stuffed Peppers from The Simple Skillet. How does one decide between goat cheese and the winning mozzarella-ricotta combination? I also love the look of this simple spinach sauté from Beantown Baker.

Parmesan Chicken with Caesar Roasted Romaine

(Photo credit: Romulo Yanes, Epicurious.com)