Monday, October 19, 2015

A Birthday Brunch

On Christmas day 2014, Lila got a much-anticipated gift from a dear family friend, her American grandma- a DVD of the Disney movie Frozen. She watched it twice that day and has watched it almost every weekend since then. I will let you do the math. Yes, this little girl joined a substantial portion of the younger population of North America by being totally caught up with Frozen fever.

As a consequence, for eight months straight, Lila has begged us for an Elsa cake for her birthday. So when she turned four last month, at least this one aspect of the celebration was already decided on.

Lila's birthday party was a celebration at home, with 8 or so of her close friends in attendance (a few with their older and younger siblings in tow), along with their parents- so the guest list quickly grew to about 25 people. We decided on a 10 AM Saturday morning brunch birthday party, for several scheduling reasons. Around here, morning parties are not the norm but they are not unheard of either.

Incidentally, the time of the party was very appropriate because the birthday girl has been a morning person from day one. She was born in the wee hours of the morning and has committed herself to waking at the crack of dawn ever since- weekends, holidays, Mondays, you name it. We actually had to buy an alarm clock to make her stay in bed- it glows green at 5 AM and she knows that until the clock turns green, it is still night and she should try to sleep.

Anyway, back to the birthday cake. While I love baking, I am no good at decorating cakes. A friend of a friend opened a bakery in town only a couple of months ago, and I decided to outsource the cake to her expert hands. Lila specifically wanted "Elsa in blue standing on chocolate" so that's what she got: a three-layered vanilla sponge with strawberry filling and chocolate frosting, with blue candy ice crystals and Frozen figurines from Target.



The brunch buffet had three hot dishes. The first: soft fluffy idlis with cilantro coconut chutney.

I made idlis the weekend before the party and stored them neatly in the freezer in airtight boxes. It was a good idea because I wouldn't have had the time to do the grinding and steaming on the day before and day of the party. I thawed them overnight in the fridge and reheated them in the microwave just before serving- they were good as new. We had regular idlis and mini idlis, perfect for the little ones.

The next hot dish was a hash brown breakfast casserole was straight from Alanna's recipe. I doubled the recipe to make it in a 9x13 pan. I used spinach as the optional middle layer- two boxes of frozen chopped spinach that I thawed over 2 days in the fridge and then squeezed dry. This casserole is hearty and tasty and was a huge hit. 
The final hot dish was a kid favorite and requested by Lila: classic mac and cheese. I use a pretty standard recipe, much like this Martha Stewart one. I made the bechamel sauce the day before, and boiled macaroni and baked the mac and cheese on the morning of the party. 

As part of the brunch spread, I made two kinds of sandwiches. One was the ever-popular PB&J except that two of the little guests were allergic to peanuts so I chose sunflower butter instead of peanut butter. 
The other sandwiches were cream cheese-cucumber. Because this was a special occasion, I cut the crusts off (save them in the freezer to make breadcrumbs or use in vegetable patties) and cut them into small triangles to make two-three bite sandwiches. 

Also on the table: a tub of hummus with baby carrots and pita chips. All store bought. 


The yogurt bar was store-bought vanilla yogurt served with several toppings: (a) cut fresh fruits- apples, strawberries, pineapples, (b) homemade granola, (c) cheerios, (d) dried fruit- raisins and cranberries. I set out bowls and let everyone assemble their own yogurt parfaits.

The menu worked well and everyone seemed to find something that they liked to eat. We made plenty of fresh coffee for the grown-ups. Much of the food was store-bought (yogurt, hummus, pita chips, cheerios), easy to prep (fruits, sandwiches) and easy to make ahead (idlis, mac and cheese). This was very important because Friday was a working day and the guests started pouring in quite early on Saturday so there was not a lot of prep time.

The party was noisy, chaotic and lots of fun. I wanted to organize a few party games like pinning a candle on a cupcake/passing the parcel but never got around to it, and anyway the kids were busy running around and doing their own thing. It was all over by noon, and the birthday girl went to take a nap. After cleaning up and devouring the leftovers, we had the rest of the day to relax and watch her enjoy her presents- including a book, a memory game, an art kit, a play tent. And so started the fifth year of my little girl's life, in the company of friends, family and the Elsa cake of her dreams. 

56 comments:

  1. Lovely cake - I did wonder why it wasn't white but I can see that Lil has taste and understands that chocolate is important! The food sounds great. I particularly love the sound of the yoghurt bar! Happy birthday to your little girl - lovely to see her growing up wise and happy!

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    1. Thank you! For a little 4 year old, she has a mind of her own and very strong opinions. The yogurt bar was lots of fun, Johanna. People could combine the ingredients or just eat the one they liked. Good way to please a crowd.

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  2. Happy birthday Lila! Sounds like a wonderful party.

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  3. Happy Birthday Lila. Wishing you the best always from a fan of your mama's blog.

    - Madhavi

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    1. Madhavi- you're very sweet- thank you!

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  4. Happy bday to sweet little Lila! I can guess what she is going to be for the Halloween :)

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    1. Sonali- without knowing your guess, I can tell you- you are right ;) She will join the hundreds of other Elsas out trick or treating!

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  5. The best kind of party:home-made, the cake of one's dreams, friends and family and simple fun. I grew up on these kinds of parties. They are the most memorable. Happy fifth year Lila!

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    1. Hi Amber- I too had just these kinds of parties. Although I must say my parents went all out with a wonderfully decorated cake, and with party games and all. Thanks for the wishes!

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  6. Happy Birthday Lila! It's crazy how big they are growing. Mehuli went through a frozen phase too. Now she is crazy about Peppa Pig and wants to jump in ' muddy puddles' all the time.

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    1. I know- the girls are getting so big too quickly!! Lila's stuck in her frozen phase for months now. Although she also like Curious George and some other things. But Frozen still rules around here. Ugh Disney :)

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  7. Belated Happy Birthday Lila! What a fun party! So the Frozen fever reached your home too :-)) did you hear 'Let it go' a million times? I enjoyed the movie in 3D and loved the song. I like the newer disney princesses who don't wait for a prince to make their dreams come true or built a castle or two.

    The birthday brunch sounds fantastic! The cake looks delicious and I loved the spread you got together. Homemade birthday parties are the best! I am going to try that breakfast casserole next time I have company. The yogurt parfait bar sounds so fun and a sweet ending to a lovely brunch.

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    1. OMG Priti if I hear Let it Go one more time....LOL. I haven't watched the full movie, only bits here and there, because when Lila watches the movie, I go off and catch up on chores or sewing or something. I am so not into the disney stuff, but have to agree that the princesses are more plucky these days.

      Do try the breakfast casserole, I'll be making it again for sure, maybe with fresh potatoes instead of frozen.

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    2. I was thinking of using fresh potatoes too...was wondering if I need to bake them for a bit before layering them or would they cook along with the rest of the casserole?

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    3. Personally I'd try par-cooking them in the microwave- would be quicker than baking. Hmm. If I try this recipe with fresh potatoes, I will update on how it goes.

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  8. Happy Birthday Lila!
    I'm a long time reader and can't believe she's four, feels like you announced her birth a short while ago...time flies!

    Brunch party is such a great idea!

    -Anu

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    1. Anu- Yes, time does fly! Strangely it feels like she was born just recently, but also I feel like we've had her forever...know what I mean? Brunch really is my favorite meal so I did enjoy throwing this party.

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  9. My nephew planning his 7th birthday "I want to invite EVERYONE Amma"... and much to our consternation, that's exactly what his completely clueless but well meaning parents did haha. They live in a classic grad student community set up so we had 75 kids running round like monkeys in a banana factory. They made short work of the ~120 samosas, 2 large sheet cakes, pizza and gobs of other food we'd got and then some. Most of the adult Americans joked that's likely more people in their weddings + funerals combined. Next year birthday boy said "I think I just want a small home party" as we all heaved a big sigh of relief.

    Lila and the frozen cake are adorable. Hugs and kisses to her!

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    1. What a great story, Janani! That was a memorable party for sure!

      My little one also wanted her whole class of 26 kids, but sadly there's just no way that many kids and their parents would fit in our home, and I just did not want to rent a place. It was crazy enough with a dozen kids! Cannot imagine 75!!

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  10. A Happy Happy Birthday, Lila!
    The party is sure to be a hit, Nupur, with all the yummy food and the lovely cake.
    The Frozen fever is all over here too and every little girl loves the theme ( so do I, despite the age).
    We have a local radio station here and every morning when I drive S to school, at least one little girl will come on air and ask the RJ to play 'Let it go'.
    The boys have their own version too :)

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    1. Hi Manasi- Thank you so much!! The party was fun, crazy but fun, and more importantly for me, people did seem to enjoy the food and cake. I am sick and tired of the Frozen theme and patiently waiting for Lila to outgrow this phase :)

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    2. BTW Lila's dad came up with a Hindi version of Let it Go- it goes "jaane do, jaane do" which he sings loudly, much to her annoyance!

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    3. LOL! 'jaane de, jaane do'! That is hilarious!!

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    4. The 6 year old boy version is: let it go..let it go... let the toi- - t overflow...
      The boys were sick and tired of *everyone* singing Frozen praises. 6 year olds are very creative.

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  11. Awww- Happy Birthday to darling Lila! the party and eats sound (and look) great! I enjoyed hearing the details of how you planned the food for the brunch.
    My daughter had a birthday this month too (she turned one earlier this month). We had planned a family 'outing' in lieu of a birthday party but my husband fell sick so that plan fell through. To salvage a bit of birthday 'spirit' , I baked some brownies using a friend's recipe - date puree in lieu of sugar. I loved it and ate most of it..LOL. I made it mostly for my 2.5 (almost 3) year old son who loves dark chocolate. But he didn't really like it as much as I did! :D

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    1. Happy birthday to your little girl! The first birthday is all about the parents and their survival through that crazy first year :) so I am thrilled that you got to celebrate with some yummy treats. Hope you'll still go on that family outing on a later date!

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  12. Belated Birthday Wishes to Lila. May God bless her always. Sounds like a fun party and that Hash brown casserole is bookmarked! :)

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    1. Madhuli- Thanks so much! That hash brown casserole is worth a try!

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  13. Happy birthday sweetie Lila!

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  14. Belated happy birthday to Lila! How quickly four years have flown by!
    What a delightful birthday party. Reminds me of when my kids were young - the simplest, least structured parties were enjoyed by one and all, with minimal stress and fuss.
    How is Duncan doing? I miss your updates on him!

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    1. Hi Kamini! I have been meaning to write an update on Duncan and will do so very soon. He is the MOST darling dog in the world and he's doing great.

      I do like the simple birthday parties- especially at this age, the kids make their own fun without much adult supervision. Provide the food and just sit back!

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  15. Happy Birthday Lila, reading your blog is like listening to your ( dil se) stories. Simple pleasures of life-:)
    Can u please share ur idli recipe when you get a chance. I used 4 : 2 proportion for rice and daal, it turns good most of times but wanted to know what proportion rice you use, thanks

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    1. Thanks for the kind words :)

      For idlis, I use 4:1 of parboiled (idli) rice and gota urad dal and it works well. For me, the learning curve for making good idlis has been more about learning how to grind the batter properly to a good consistency.

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    2. Lovely party and menu. Could you share tips on how to grind batter to a good consistency? Will a regular blender do?
      Thanks! Seya

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    3. Hi Seya- No, I'm afraid I can't get a regular blender to make good idli batter. I use a wet grinder (with grinding stones) which is specialized to do this.

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  16. Happy birthday to your precious girl! The food spread and the cake looks super. We have a 2 year old son, and his current craze is school buses. He has a small toy school bus, and he sits on it and waves us bye bye! We were joking that when the time comes for him to go to school, he will just ride the school bus and come back home without going to school! lol. But from what I have seen at home and kids around, they can become pretty obsessed with a particular thing, and these 'phases' end up being long ones, with serious obsession! Part of growing up, I guess. :)

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    1. Neha- How cute! School buses are ever popular (along with garbage and recycling trucks). Lila waves to the school bus every morning as it picks up the older kids in the neighborhood and can't wait to take the school bus herself.

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  17. Happy Birthday not so little L! What a scrumptious looking cake :) The menu looks amazing and sounds like the kids had a lot of fun.

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    1. Yeah, not so little any more! The cake was pretty good, I think I still have some left over in the freezer that we should eat soon!

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  18. Happy 4th birthday to Lila! Sounds like she had a wonderful party. A 10 am St morning party is tricky without some prior prep and planning. I love how your menu is simple and at the same time amazing and delicious. I make idlis and freeze them too - a huge time saving tip. Your mac and cheese and casserole look amazing - should try it out. My 9 year old son likes savory breakfast and is not a big fan of cereal, jam, etc. He will love this.

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    1. Sapna- Yes, morning parties take some extra planning! 10 AM worked for me because I too am an early riser, so between 5 AM and 10 AM I had a solid 5 hours to get prep done.

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  19. Happy birthday dear Lila, hope u had a fantastic day, Nupur , i am still waiting to see what you cone up with as a take home gifts for the kids after the boo boo bags last year

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    1. Forgot to take pics! But we made library tote bags to give this year- my parents who were here in summer helped a lot with sewing and painting the bags.

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  20. A very happy birthday to Lila! The party sounds like it was so much fun. As I am learning now, planning these kid parties can be such a hassle but you make it sound effortless.And how about that lovely Elsa cake! I have to get Jay to watch Frozen.

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    1. Don't stress about kid birthday parties! Kids need precious little to enjoy a party- some good snacks, a few toys/games (balls, balloons, bubbles, music depending on the age) and they entertain each other :)

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  21. Hi Nupur, how are you? I've been reading your blog regularly, but leaving a comment after so long. Mainly because I've been reading it on my phone and I'm one of those people who hates typing on the phone. The party sounds wonderful. Best wishes to Lila!

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    1. Thanks, Amruta! I'm doing well, and it is nice to see you here :)

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  22. Happy 4th birthday to Lila. This is such a fun age; they begin to share all sorts of stories from Pre-school. Cannot imagine organizing brunch for a birthday and you've planned and executed it all so well. :-) I love Lila's cake; though I don't have a girl of my own, the theme and songs are all too familiar :-)
    I've seen friends who host a brunch party and some of the guests tend to stay on well beyond noon and some stay until dinner as well. Saturday mornings are pretty busy for us at the gym, so I have never tried a brunch party as I'm not much of a morning person. But your food ideas seem simple to execute. Idlis, yogurt bar, casserole all good. :-) I'll have to try this sometime....

    Thanks for sharing Lila's birthday with us.:-)
    Take care
    Meena.

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    1. Meena- Thanks for the birthday wishes! I specifically put down a time (10 AM to noon) on the party e-mail invitation because as much as I love hosting, I would not be happy with brunch guests lingering until dinner. 2-3 hours tops is my entertaining limit, then I need alone time to recharge ;)

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  23. happy belated birthday to Lila, the party sounds like fun and I love how you schedule them to have a bit of time to reclaim your peace afterwards. I haven't entertained in AGES, but brunches are my fav time of the day too. It just ensures that I am awake when the last guest decides to leave. I have been known to leave the husband to deal with people who stay well past designated party time and just go to bed at evening / dinner parties hosted in my own house :P

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    1. Thanks Arundati! I love hosting but have to say that I need parties (at my house) to be over in 2 hours, 3 at the MOST! After the socialization, I just crave alone time to recharge.

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  24. Hi Nupur,

    How long did you microwave the idlis for? Thanks.

    Angel

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    1. Angel- a plate with 4 frozen idlis sprinkled with water needs about a minute to reheat to piping hot in my microwave.

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