A Birthday Barbecue for Ben

Today we got together at Ben’s mother’s house, for a little celebration in honor of my soon-to-be-hubby’s birthday. In case you are wondering, he’ll be 28 on the 28th! Happy Birthday sweetie :)

One thing my almost-mother-in-law, Hillary, and I have in common is a love food and making things pretty. So I guess if you were coming to a dinner party prepared by us, you should come hungry and expect great food! We’re both fairly creative, and enjoy fresh, colorful ingredients. I definitely think that comes through in our food, and that we can put some great stuff together!

For an appetizer, I was inspired by the Westfield Farms Wasabi Goat Cheese I bought on Saturday. I definitely wanted something Asian-inspired, and with that in mind, I wandered around Trader Joe’s. Into my basket went a bag of frozen, cooked shrimp, a mango, and a bag of won ton chips. A little chopped fresh cilantro from Hillary’s fridge completed these cute and tasty little canapes.

A few weeks ago, I was busy drooling over the prepared foods case at Whole Foods when I came across a tropical sweet potato salad. A quick read of the ingredients card showed many of my favorite ingredients, so I had to try it. Of course it was delicious, and something I could easily make myself rather than spend a fortune on again! Here’s my inspired recipe for sweet & delicious Tropical Sweet Potato Salad.

3 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
chili powder, salt, pepper, and evoo
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 can pineapple chunks, drained, 1/2 cup juice reserved
1/2 cup shredded coconut, toasted
1/2 cup sliced green onions
juice of 2 limes
cumin, crushed red pepper, salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 450F. Arrange sweet potato chunks on a foil-lined baking sheet. Spray with evoo, season with salt, pepper, and chili powder, and toss to coat. Roast for 25-30 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Combine roasted sweet potatoes with red pepper, pineapple, coconut, and green onions. Whisk together pineapple juice, lime juice, and season to taste with cumin, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. Pour over potato mixture and stir gently to combine. Chill before serving.

Bean salad – an oldie but a goodie. I actually had a hard time finding a recipe for the classic, and instead found many new-fangled versions. So, I ended up working with something that close to what I wanted and tweaking it just a bit to get the right tangey-ness in the dressing. I must say, there’s nothing wrong with this classic! It’s always a nice treat at a barbecue and makes a nice alternative to starch-based salads. Just be sure to make ahead and let it marinate overnight, so that the flavors really come together. I did find that I needed to drain it before serving, however, which was no problem.

Five Bean Salad
1 14.5 oz can green cut green beans, drained
1 14.5 oz can wax beans, drained
1 15oz can EACH black beans, kidney beans, and garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 small or 1/2 large red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper AND 1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cider vinegar (I probably would have used even more, but that’s all I had left)
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
small handful chopped fresh herbs – I used thyme, basil, oregano, and mint

Combine beans, onion, and peppers in a large boil. In a small saucepan, combine vinegars, oil, sugar, and seasonings. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Pour over vegetables, mix well, cover, and refrigerate for several hours or over night, stirring occasionally.

Here is a real treat – Hillary’s corn relish. We love it so much that we eat it like more of a salad. It’s become a tradition, always requested and always gobbled up!

Hillary’s Corn Grilled Corn Relish
3 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp cooking oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 fresh ears of corn
1 tsp chili powder
1 small avocado, seeded, peeled, and diced
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup snipped cilantro
1/4 tsp salt
In a medium bowl combine lime juice, oil, garlic and chili powder. Brush mixture on corn, reserving remaining juice mixture. Grill corn on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium heat for 20- 25 minutes, turning occasionally, until tender.

Add red pepper, cilantro and salt to lime juice mixture. Cut corn kernels from cob and stir into mixture. I add the avocado last to keep it from getting “mooshed” from all of the mixing. Here’s my tip for the best way to cut up the avocado. Cut it in half all the way around the pit. Give it a slight twist and it breaks into two pieces. I then cut slices, about 1/2″ wide, peel off the skin and cut the slices into pieces, adding them last to the corn mixture.

Sometimes, the best food comes without a recipe. For this lovely dish, I unfortunately did not get a recipe. Another Whole Foods inspired delight, Hillary created this Asian noodle salad with udon noodles, asparagus tips, red and yellow bell peppers, peas, green onions, and cashews. I can tell you that the dressing most likely contained sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. It was delicious!

I did say this was a barbecue, so you’re probably wondering where the meat is. Don’t worry, we had citrus-marinated grilled drumsticks, teriyaki steak kabobs with peppers, onions, and mushrooms, and bbq-spice-rubbed chicken thighs. I just get a lot more excited by pictures of beautiful side dishes than I do of meat :)

And finally, she’s certainly not food, but she definitely is cute. Say hello to my blog-worthy beagle, Miss Phoebe! She was happy to come to the party and celebrate with Ben too!
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One Response to “A Birthday Barbecue for Ben”

  1. 1

    MrsSisler — June 26, 2007 @ 2:37 am Reply

    Everything looks amazing!! Your FMIL must be quite the cook also. That grilled corn relish looks delicious!

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