A new year means a calendar full of birthday celebrations. Birthstones have lots to do with birthdays, but not often with the celebrations themselves. A fun and tasty way to change that is by throwing a birthstone-themed party.
The good news, of course, is that since you know the birthday of the guest of honor, you have the key to researching their birthstone. How can this be yummy? Take a look at the easy ideas below for those with birthdays early in the year that may spur your own offshoots for the rest of the time.
Start with the birthstone color of the month as the uniform palette of all the decorations at any of this year's parties, such as the deep red of garnet in January, the lavender of amethyst in February and blue of aquamarine in March. You've got a starting point if you begin your planning with a favor and a memorable food item, like those below. After that, if you decide to think ahead to April, excitement awaits: The motif of diamonds should be your guide.
Favor: Inexpensive rhinestones or charms ready for a bracelet or necklace, online or in craft shops, are often sold in packs of 12, featuring the color of the birthstone of each month, such as garnet for January. A packet with a ribbon at each place setting is festive and assures that everyone receives their birthstone in the mix.
Food: Blood red oranges are seasonal December through May. Peel and separate their deep red sections and arrange in a flower shape on an appetizer plate. Layer decoratively with thin slices of prosciutto and freshly shaved Parmesan cheese. Top with freshly ground black pepper and ribbons of fresh basil.
Favor: Small ceramic or other pots of lavender to represent the color of amethyst can be inexpensive online or in nurseries. Tie a purple ribbon around each planter and in permanent ink in calligraphy style write the first name of each guest and leave by the plate.
Food: An easy purple salad will be eye-catching, memorable, healthful and tasty. Chop the following: purple cauliflower, red cabbage (which looks purple), dried figs and boiled purple potatoes. Toss with store-bought or homemade ranch dressing that you've mixed with a small amount of red wine vinegar.
Favor: Buy aquamarine colored inexpensive small plastic boats (that might be sold as bath toys) and fill them with wrapped candies at each guest's place setting.
Food: Serve blueberry parfaits as part of dessert. Layer Greek nonfat blueberry yogurt with granola and chocolate chips. Repeat twice and top with a dollop of whipped cream you've tinted blue by mixing with crushed fresh blueberries.
AFTER-WORK GOURMET COOKBOOK SHELF
TV Food Network star Bobby Flay has often challenged folks to "throwdowns" when it comes to cooking, hence the name of his popular series. Currently, though, the effervescent Flay is fitter than ever and possibly even better suited to real throwdowns. If you would like to tone up yourself, there are 200 recipes to help you get that way in Flay's "Fit." The secret to Flay's fitness is "flavor bombs" with which he accents healthful foods like fresh produce and whole grains. These are rubs, relishes, marinades and other super-charged condiments. The creativity is off the charts here with entire chapters filled with vinaigrettes, spice rubs and even pickles, such as pickled green onions and pickled saffron shallots. How does it work? Think of Brussels sprouts and then think of Flay's Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate-Orange Vinaigrette and Pecans.
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.