Sunday, June 20, 2021

I Threw Myself 3 Bday Parties in 1 Week!

You read that right! I threw myself three birthday parties in one week! Ha ha ha. Turning 48 on a Wednesday isn't really the most festive thing in the world. But after our beloved Snoopy died, I knew that I needed to plan something fun to look forward to. 

Plus... it's the beginning of summer and my pals and I are finally vaxxed up (what an amazing relief!), so it seemed like fun to gather again. That said, I wasn't in the mood for any huge festivities. First of all, my heart is still a bit sad. And secondly, after such a quiet and introspective and challenging year/16 months... I feel much more drawn to small, cozy gatherings. So, that's another reason I decided to have more than one party. I still have so many more friends I can't wait to see and connect with again.

I really love having people over and I love entertaining and cooking for my friends, so I did almost all the cooking for my parties. Ha ha ha. What a nut. It was so much fun - and I gotta say... it really did help to lift my spirits. What an absolute joy to be with friends and loved ones again, sharing serving utensils without fear!!!

Birthday Party Number One:

Friends & Middle Eastern Food! 

For my first gathering, I invited a small group of pals who I've really stayed connected with throughout covid - some of the people whose support and love and conversation helped me the most during the last year. It was a really sweet group - and although not everyone knew each other, they were really compatible. A small dinner is fun because everyone can hear and be heard. I knew I wanted to focus on mostly healthy foods, but also wanted it to feel special and summery - so I decided on Middle Eastern inspiration.


I used a couple different cookbooks for inspiration here - Modern Flavors of Arabia and Arabesque. Have you ever made Fattoush? Oh man, it is just a delicious salad: romaine lettuce, cukes, tomatoes, red peppers, fresh herbs, toasted pita chips, sumac, pomegranate molasses... You can't tell, but this is a HUGE platter of salad. I really wanted the Salad to be the main centerpiece! 

Kabobs // Roasted Cauliflower with Citrus-Tahini Sauce

The Kabobs were really fun to make - I used big tofuz and various veggies and marinated them the day before in a marinade with olive oil, lots of lemon juice, tamari, sumac, various dried and fresh herbs... I kinda ad-libbed it. They turned out great! I accidentally burnt them a bit, but luckily one of my highly competent friends showed up first and she skillfully cut off the burnt bits, salvaged whatever was salvageable, and tossed the rest. Friends to the rescue!! 

This cauliflower recipe is from Modern Flavors of Arabia, and I know it doesn't look beautiful, but it's such a great recipe. The flavors are absolutely elegant - roasted cauliflower, onions, tahini sauce with lime and orange, topes with roasted almonds... ugh, it's so special. You can't tell here, but I made a huge double batch! That's a great cookbook by the way. It's not at all vegan, but there are a lot of vegan recipes there, and it's easy to gain inspiration from the meaty dishes. It's also a very, very beautiful book. 

Spinach Pies "Fatayer bi Sabanikh"

Ooooh, these little stinkers were so good! It's been a long time since I made anything with puff pastry - that was fun! I knew the puff pastry would make these special, and it did! This recipe is from Arabesque, and the filling is spinach, onions, pine nuts... with a simple seasoning with sumac and allspice. Really good! The recipe also made lots so we all got to stuff our faces and there were STILL a few left to enjoy the next day. 

(protip, in case you don't know: Pepperidge Farms puff pastry is accidentally vegan!)

Fresh Limeade! 

We have sooooo many limes still. Even though our lime tree is technically slowing down, there are still so many limes in every direction. So naturally, I made fresh limeade to go with dinner! What a fun treat! Super simple - lime juice, simple syrup, and fizzy water = perfection! 

Fresh fruit, because it's June and I love fresh fruit so there. 

Ma'amoul // Chocolate-Dipped Stuffed Dates

Dessert! I know birthday cakes are fun, but I love a good theme, so I decided to stick with more traditional desserts. First up: Maamoul cookies! Have you ever had these? Ooooh they are so good. The dough is made with semolina flour and has a lovely crisp, crumbly texture. Inside the cookie is a filling - kinda like a fig newton or a dumpling. There are many filling recipes out there - I used the dough recipe from Tahini & Turmeric but used a different filling recipe because I wanted a filling that included dates. 

Chocolate-Dipped Stuffed Dates: HELLO, LOVER. These unassuming little guys completely stole the show. Whut. This recipe is also from Tahini & Turmeric (this is my only all-vegan Middle Eastern cookbook, and I recommend it!). These dates are stuffed with a deceptively simple combo of walnuts, maple syrup, and orange zest (I think I added some orange blossom water too), and then dipped in chocolate. I pretty much want to have these premade and just sitting in my fridge for nibbling. They were fantastic! 

One of the cool gifts of covid has been all the outdoor visiting and gathering. I loved that with all my parties, the assumption was that we would at least start outside. This gathering was an early dinner, and we enjoyed our dinner out in the backyard... but soon enough the cool ocean air crept in, and by the time we were ready for dessert, we were also ready to warm up a bit. 

So... do you know what we did? WE WENT INSIDE. This was the first time we'd had a group of pals in our house in 16 months. WHOA! But we were all 100% vaxxed, and so we did it! What a special, special feeling! In a lot of ways, all my bday parties felt more like "oh my god we can see each other again!" parties than "birthday parties." Either way, what a treasured gift to gather together again. 

Birthday Party Number Two:

Bagels & Vegan Pastries for Breakfast! 

The actual day of my birthday was a busy teaching day for me, so I didn't plan anything special for that day. Good thing too, since I ended up having a headache for about 3 hours. What a jerk, headache! But, I am a great fan of breakfast, so I asked my family if they could do a Thursday morning breakfast on the day after - and, amazingly, it worked with almost everyone's work/life schedule! So fun to do something out of the ordinary like that. 

The Spread!

This was such a great and low-key way to kick off my bday 2.0! We procured a bunch of bagels from the bagel spot near our house, and I custom ordered a box of vegan pastries from a local baker - I ordered fruit danishes and strawberry scones. MMMMmmmm what an absolute DELIGHT to have access to such delicious vegan pastries after 150,000,000 years of living without vegan pastries. I am grateful and stoked! It was so fun to be able to share such delicious pastries with my family! (for locals: Sweet Bean Bakery - follow @sweet.bean.bakery on Instagram for updates, you won't regret it!) 

Our orange trees have been going strong lately, so I also made fresh-juiced Orange Juice for everyone!! How cool is that?! The oranges this year are really good and this OJ is so nice without being super acidic. I also made a big jar of cucumber-lime water, and now Mr. VE&T and I are kinda obsessed with cucumber-lime water and we drink it all the time. Such an easy way to make water a little more special.

More cherries of course. Did I mention that cherries are one of my favorite fruits of all time? Cherries! 

The Spreads!

We had lots of spreads on hand - so that everyone could have their needs met: peanut butter, homemade marmalade, earth balance, Kite Hill cream cheese, tomato slices, and two toppings directly from the Bagel shop: hummus and - my favorite - Tofu del Fuego! 

Tofu del Fuego is a lightly spicy tofu spread with some crunchy celery and onion bits in there. I don't really know what all is in it, but I wish I did, because it's so good. Kite Hill is my favorite vegan cream cheese so far - what's your favorite? We also had non-vegan cream cheese for those people, ha ha ha. but I didn't photograph it, obviously! 

In the morning the backyard was still quite shady, but as we chatted, the sun crept in and we shifted ourselves around to be in the sun or in the shade as desired. We even brought the toaster out so folks could toast their bagels ... almost everyone seems to prefer a toasted bagel, right? Look what a sweet spread! 

It was so nice to gather with my family and feel so relaxed and at ease together. We chatted and visited well into the early afternoon - it was perfect.

Birthday Party Number 3:

Friends and Italian Food! 

My final gathering was with a really sweet little group of friends who all know each other so well. When we all get together, there's just an immediate sense of ease and we are free to show up in any emotional state, and know we will be received with love. What a gift. Two of these special buddies are moving up to Portland next month, so it was especially sweet to all be together again. For this party I went with a loosely Italian theme - always my favorite culinary path to walk. 


Faithful readers of this blog will know that I am a fan of the Aperol Spritz! And may also know that in general I don't actually drink alcohol. I pretty much have 3-4 spritzes a year and that's it. But one of my very special buddies doesn't drink at all, and I don't like it when she's left out of the spritz fun. 

So this year for her bday, I did some searching around for non-alcoholic Spritz alternatives and came up with this Spritz mix from Lyre's. I bought a bottle for her and one for me - so that she could have spritzes at her house and at our house! I finally busted my bottle open and decided to try it instead of an Aperol Spritz. Wow! So good! 100% delicious and spritz-y! I really, really recommend this and will probably switch to this for the most part, since I'm not really an enthusiastic drinker.

That said, we had a whole elaborate Spritz Station, including the Prosecco and Aperol for all those folks who wanted the original deal! 


Romano Beans - is it too embarrassing to admit that I used the green beans from Buca di Beppo as my inspiration? ha ha ha. Mr VE&T loves that place and so sometimes I go with him, and usually just order a family-size of the green beans and eat them all. They've got some garlic, lemon juice, a little olive oil, a little salt... so good. I bought soooo many green beans, and there were none left by the end of the evening so I guess I should have bought more. I love these giant Romano beans - such great flavor. I lightly steamed them first, then sautéed them with all the flavor bits. 

Focaccia - I had two of my pals pick up some focaccia from a local restaurant that makes it right. I still haven't really tackled making focaccia, partly out of the fear / knowledge that I will immediately eat it ALL. Focaccia is one of my top foods of all time. I love it so much. If you ever need me to confess state secrets, try bribing me with focaccia and it might work. 

Farinata (aka Socca) - have you ever had Farinata? I love it sooooo much! It's made with chickpea flour, olive oil, water, salt and pepper. Sounds so blah, huh? Well it's not blah at all!! It's savory and yummy and crunchy on top and smooth on the inside. It's a great high-protein and gluten-free carbo blast! Highly recommended.


I believe in giant salads! I included myself in this pic so maybe you can see how huge this giant platter is?? I made a big ol classic "Italian salad" - romaine, cukes, radishes, olives, tomatoes, red onion... maybe that was it? For the dressing, I looked online and found this lovely recipe that used fresh basil and fresh parsley and everyone at the party agreed that it was a really good dressing: here's the link. (except that I think I only used 2 tbsp of olive oil instead of 3/4 cup - WHOA). 

Stuffed Shells!

Stuffed Shells are so delicious, and I have perfected my recipe, if I do say so myself. I made a double batch and actually made two big dishes - one with regular jumbo shells and one with gluten-free jumbo shells. One of my besties is gf, so I looked around online and found that Tinkyada makes brown rice jumbo shells. They are great!! They're totally delicious and just as good as the gluten-y ones! So that's super fun to know that I can make stuffed shells for her again in the future.

My filling is a mix of tofu, Kite Hill ricotta, spinach, browned onions and mushrooms deglazed with white wine, nooch, seasonings, and a handful of shiitake bacons for an UMAMI BLAST. mmm. Honestly, I don't even really like mushrooms, but they all sort of disappear into the overall mixture of YUM in these shells and they're just so good. I was kind to myself and used store-bought tomato sauce. <3 

Strawberry Pie & Still More Cherries

This Strawberry Pie is a favorite of mine - it's from Julie Hasson's book Vegan Diner. It's got an Oreo cookie crust, with ganache, berries, and more ganache drizzled on top. ZOMG it's sooooooo good. The ganache has a little bit of raspberry liquor in it and that just kicks the whole thing up a notch. And it's so easy to make gluten-free so that everyone can partake - I just used "glutinos" which are gf Oreos. It's always more fun to have a treat that everyone can enjoy! 

A few sweet pics

I didn't do a great job of taking pics at my various gatherings - but my pals took some! The bottom two pictures were from a fun game we were playing called "Say it/Do it" - where everyone draws a card and then says or does what the card asks. It was such a sweet game to play with friends - some of them were really deep and meaningful conversations, and some were very goofy: like when my friend here had to have a staring contest with someone else in the group. I lost within about 3 seconds.  ha ha ha. Also, two of my friends made me bread with my name on the loaves!! How rad is that!? One loaf is olive and rosemary and one loaf has dark chocolate chunks in it! I sliced them up and froze them and have been enjoying bday toasties ever since. 

SO!! There you have it - after a long covid of very few gatherings, we broke the dry spell with three parties in one week! Now we've been eating leftovers and enjoying some much more simple cooking this week. Thanks for reading such a long post! I thought of splitting it into three posts... but then I was afraid I'd just never do it! 


  1. What a wonderful week of celebrations! It makes me so happy to see that you were able to spend your birthday parties with your loved ones and so much glorious foods!
    I would lose a staring contest before it even began, so three seconds is an achievement.

  2. Aw, this is great, Amey! It's clear you are so very loved. Happy birthday! All of the food looks so amazing, fresh, and healthy in the best way.

  3. Happy Birthday, Amey! Your festivities look so lovely and especially meaningful after Covid. I'm so glad you were able to enjoy being with your people. And I am always so impressed and inspired by the foods you cook for your gatherings! It all looks so good - I'd like a little of everything, haha!

  4. I love this post! The only problem is, I can't decide if I'm inspired now or have an inferiority complex- all your gatherings are so elegant and special.
    Happy belated Birthday Week!

  5. I love this. Happy birthday Amey! You are the absolute best of making the best of a painful situation and sharing your joy with your loved ones. I’m dying to visit again some day! Xoxoxo -Gabrielle

  6. Oh what a perfect way to celebrate your special week. You throw the best parties ever! I also prefer a smaller more intimate gathering...with plenty of amazing food of course. Hope you had a wonderful birthday!


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