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The Birthday Express

CDKitchen Cooking Columnist Pamela Chester
About the author: Pamela Chester
Mom of two; graduate French Culinary Institute; kids cooking program instructor; Master's degree in food studies. Creates kid friendly foods and loves her slow cooker.
As time goes by, I realize that the older I get, the faster it goes. However I was totally unprepared for this first year of my second child to go by so quickly. But here we are chugging full steam ahead towards the little guy’s first birthday. As I take a momentary break from the chaos that is my kitchen, while I get ready for his birthday brunch party this weekend, I wanted to share with you a few birthday party planning ideas for the little ones in your life.

Whether you plan a simple party with cake and ice cream or set up your backyard as an elaborate birthday wonderland, complete with petting zoo and popcorn machine, a fun birthday celebration is the way most of us mark each passing year of our child’s life. My son’s party will be a farm themed brunch, complete with a cow shaped cake. There is no shortage of great ideas available for this and other popular birthday themes.

First off, in order to really enjoy the event (and this is a reminder to myself too), keep it simple. You don’t have to spend tons of money to make a birthday memorable for a kid. There are scores of party planning pages and different party ideas on the Internet, and blogs devoted to kids parties, complete with photographs of each detail.

When I see all these wonderful ideas, my mind goes into overdrive. Especially when it comes to the food, I am the first one to over-plan and come up with a menu a mile long, leaving myself frazzled in the end trying to execute it all. But I know if I am to preserve any sanity and really enjoy the day along with my family, then I’ll need to rein it in.

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That means that I can rely on a few already prepared items, and (gulp!) maybe even a boxed cake mix. A friend of mine tipped me off that you can buy party dogs, i.e. pigs in a blanket, at the local farmer’s market pretzel stand. These are also available in many a grocer’s freezer, along with many other appetizer choices fitting any party theme. I found some nice looking quiches at that same market and am relying on bagged salad and a ham to round out our brunch menu.

You could also avoid having to prepare a whole meal by having the party at a non meal time, like mid-afternoon. Or go the standard route of the school age birthday child—the beloved pizza party (in fact my older son wouldn’t let us have his any other way). One of my favorite birthday memories of a childhood party was when my mom made the pizza dough and we all got to decorate our pizza however we chose. Many local pizza parlors offer parties with the same type of concept.

Secondly, accept all offers of help. I am very fortunate to have a family in which each member will offer to bring some kind of dish to the party. This really cuts down on the workload. I just check around a bit to make sure there will be no duplicates, but do generally leave it up to each person for whatever they want to bring.

So when your children’s next birthday party rolls around, remember to keep the simple joy in it and don’t drive yourself too crazy with all the details….and you’ll have as much fun as your kids and their friends!

Homemade Pizza and Cornmeal Pizza Crust

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Made with vegetables, Mozzarella cheese, extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl, kosher salt, active dry yeast, sugar, water, all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface, cornmeal, plus more for

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