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March 31, 2016

Birthday Dinner Party | Baked Shrimp Scampi, Penne Pasta, Strawberry Layer Cake

Make Ahead Birthday Dinner

Last weekend we hosted a birthday dinner for Mike's Mom, Joy.  It was on Friday night and we had a packed day starting with Emma's ballet class in the morning, Disney on Ice (with Mimi for her birthday) in the afternoon, then straight to our house for the dinner.

Because we were all heading here together around 5pm after Disney on Ice, when we left the house on Friday morning the house had to be ready to go for a party and everything had to be ready to go for dinner.  Knowing this, I planned the entire menu around ease and the ability to be made ahead.

We had 8 adults for dinner + two preschool aged girls, so we also had to make sure we had a menu that would suit everyone... and be easy to execute while toddlers and grandparents were running around.

The menu details are below.

I set the table on Thursday afternoon to get that checked off my list (and is also when I took these photos).  I used Lexington Wheat Tapers in my pewter candle holders.  I just love the soft, buttery color with the bright blue of the muscari.  This color of candle is a staple in our house. 

The adults sat at this table, and the girls had their own small table.  
 I have found when entertaining with kids/toddlers, the evening works best when we feed them just before we sit down, then let them watch a show or do an activity while the adults enjoy dinner.  I know that some might not think that is ideal, but that strategy has worked for us and allows everyone to relax a little and enjoy ourselves.   It can almost seem like a magical moment for us parents, actually getting to sit down and have a real conversation over dinner (especially when we have friends over with kids and the parents rarely every get to actually sit and relax - ever!).  

I don't love the TV, but I love the TV for 30 minutes while we sit down and enjoy our company.  We pick our battles around here... and every once in a while Mom and Dad get to win : ) 
Just trying to keep it real, in case you thought we were perfect.  With all of the "perfection" (ick, hate that word!) that happens on social media, I always find it refreshing to let people know that it is ok to be normal!

I love how the muscari look in these Blue & White (Elizabeth) planters, 2 for $18.  It is almost a week after the party and they are still on my table looking great.

I also made a purple hyacinth and muscari planter in one of the larger Brown & White Square planters... also still going strong day!

Make Ahead Dinner Menu

Roasted Asparagus with Parmesean
Birthday Strawberry Layer Cake

I don't like to take photos when we are entertaining, so these are photos from the recipe posts I've made in the past.

Prosciutto & Fresh Mozzarella Toasts

This is one of my favorite appetizers... but not really make ahead.  They were delicious, but did add a little bit of work when we got home.  Next time when we are trying to make it easy, I will probably make a baked dip instead, but this is so delicious if you have the time!

So good!

Baked Shrimp Scampi

Oh my gosh.  This is so good.  So full of flavor.
In the morning, I put the shrimp in the baking dish and made the butter mixture.  Just before I put it in the oven, I added the panko crumbs to the butter and crumbled it over the top.  It bakes for about 20 minutes and is so, so good.

Penne Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes & Spinach
(this recipe link includes adding grilled chicken, but for this dinner I didn't)

I wanted something light and fresh to go with the shrimp, so I thought this pasta would be perfect.  I made the sauce, sliced the cherry tomatoes before the party and washed the spinach.  On the night of, I cooked the pasta, reheated the sauce for a couple of minutes (while the pasta was cooking) and then added the tomatoes, pasta and spinach to the sauce.

Roasted Asparagus with Parmesean

I can't believe I don't have this recipe on my site because it is a staple in my home.  I put the asparagus on a Large Baking Sheet ($8), add some sliced garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil.  I also add big shards of parmesan cheese.  I baked it in the oven for 15 minutes (along with the shrimp!).  It is so good and soooo easy.  I will do an official recipe post of it soon.

  I really wanted to make a Lemon Layer Cake with Blackberries, but Emma saw this cake in the Barefoot Contessa Parties book (that we were browsing for ideas) and got her heart set on it for her Mimi.  So, I made 2 round white cakes, whipped cream and let the two girls build the cake... just like this one.  They spread the whipped cream and piled the berries, then topped it with a lot of sprinkles and Gold Celebration Candles.  It was quite the site and the perfect birthday cake for Mimi : )


  1. Jenny,
    This is how I love to entertain, with as much done in advance. I'm aways so happy to have recipes you can make ahead for the most part, then enjoy with guests.
    Your dining room table looks lovely and I love the blue muscari. Great post.

  2. You entertain so beautifully! I love how you incorporate a simple, yet very luxurious atmosphere. Just lovely!

  3. We do the same with our children! Much more relaxing for the adults.


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