It's your birthday, and you'll eat what you want to! But when your celebration includes a big bash, your guests' tastes are important too. Offer a spread that has something for everyone, and use your new age as a theme wherever possible -- number-shaped balloons and candles aren't just for the preschool set.
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Feed your pals bite-sized snacks. These are foods that people really love to see at a party, and being able to eat while walking around encourages everyone to mingle.
Load trays with kebobs stuffed with roasted vegetables and cheese, crostini topped with pesto, mini quiches and mini pizzas. Fill small cups with spiced nuts, fruit chunks and candy so that guests don't have to dig around in communal bowls.
Gourmet and Grand
If a swanky feast with your nearest and dearest is more your style, go big with a sit-down meal. But the last thing you should have to do at your own party is stress in the kitchen, so prepare only dishes that can be made ahead, either by you or your spouse or loved ones. A light vegetable soup, gourmet lasagna -- think butternut squash and mushrooms -- and cheese biscuits are bound to satisfy everyone, and all these dishes can be made ahead and frozen. Order the cake from a bakery, or invite friends to bring desserts.
If there's one time to openly celebrate everything that's great about you, it's your birthday party. Organize all your food options around your history, talents and likes. For instance, if your family heritage is Italian and Irish, plan a half-and-half menu of colcannon -- an Irish mashed potato dish -- corned beef hash, manicotti and biscotti.
Maybe you're not much of a cook but do have one or two killer recipes you're known for -- make those foods in big batches. You might also plan a menu around your past year. Serve clam chowder that reminds you of last summer's beach vacation or order a bunch of the pizzas you lived on during a kitchen remodel. If you're serving food buffet-style, label each dish with a note card explaining its significance.
Number the Foods
When you were a kid, you were thrilled to tell everyone your age. Now that you're an adult, adopt that same proud attitude by using your age as the food theme. For instance, celebrate your 30th birthday by setting up an ice cream sundae bar with 30 different toppings, or set up 30 small food stations around the house and challenge guests to try something from each one. When you turn 40, serve 40-year-old Scotch. At a 40th or 50th birthday party, serve a domed cake frosted green to poke fun at the idea that you're "over the hill."
The year of your birth can also serve as inspiration. Hunt down cookbooks from that year and whip up some of those recipes. If you were born in the '50s, '60s or '70s, you can expect to find a treasure trove of bizarre recipes involving Jell-O and canned meats; these foods shouldn't be the main course, but some brave friends will try them, and everyone else will get a kick out of watching.