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Any fun food project ideas for a birthday celebration?

I love getting together with friends to do food-related activities - apple picking, Christmas cookie baking, etc. So, my birthday is coming up next month, and I'd like to have a birthday party-slash-food project day at my place, but I'm not sure what to do. Something where everyone can participate and hopefully enjoy the finished product all in a few hours, with not too much skill required. Some advance prep is fine. I thought about making a few varieties of breads, but that might take too long. Maybe a tapas party where I pass out recipes and ingredients? Hmm, I don't want it to feel like work...
Also, vegetarian is better, but not a must.
Thanks in advance!

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  1. Tapas is nice but a little tough for the vegetarian aspect.
    How about quick breads/scones/muffins or another baking project?
    It's still winter and there's not a lot of special food things happening now but maybe a soup party? Many recipes for quick soups right here on Chow.

    1. How about making cupcakes; big top cupcakes would be fun (you can buy these at cvs and bed bath and beyond).

      1. Ravioli or chinese dumplings! These actually are best to do with a big crowd of people to help fill & fold/shape.

        1 Reply
        1. re: weezycom

          Oh, dumplings! I hadn't thought of that. A definite possibility.

        2. Make pizzas!
          You can accomodate veggies, meat eaters and have a blast with your toppings.
          You can make the dough ahead of time, too. I use a very simple, easy recipe from Tyler Florence Food 911.
          I love making serial pizzas because you get almost instant gratification. While you're eating one pizza, another is baking away.
          Happy Bday and have fun!
          ps....fondue is also a hoot.

          1. Depending on the number of guests, fondue could be fun! Borrow multiple pots, and try hot-oil or broth (like asian hot-pot), cheese, and of course, chocolate! Lots of prep work in cutting things up, make several dipping sauces. Easy to go vegetarian, too. Make meatballs to fry in the oil. gofondue.com is kind of a blah site, but gave me great ideas for my new year's eve fondue party. Have fun!

            1. Adult candy making party. Sweet & savory. Last time we made lollipops with beer and wine; candy apples with apple jack, savory chocolate brittle, salt caramel and crazy fondue with cheesecake and pound cake pops. Have fun!

              1. Tamales!

                You can make the filling, masa, and sauce - more hands the better and perfect for vegetarian.

                Plus if you make extra of everything people can take home to freeze as a party favor.

                when I make moles or pipians I make big batches and freeze in 1/2 cup incrememnts. I can then make quick enchiladas or whatever on a weeknight - for one or for the family.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jsaimd

                  I second that. Plus in the hour or so it takes to steam them, guests can have cocktails and whack a piƱata.

                2. What about doing handmade pasta? The rolling can be fun, and different people can help make sauces/toppings... vegetarian easily.

                  You could also do a panini bar... get together, make toppings, different types of spreads, then allow everyone to assemble and "press!"

                  You could also supply a basic cookie dough, and then allow everyone to shape as they prefer and mix in the mix-in's they prefer!

                  1. Twenty years ago, I made a croquembouche with a few friends on a weekend away, and it was one of the funnest food-and-crowd experiences ever.

                    3 Replies
                      1. re: heidipie

                        I was going to suggest that too!

                        Or sushi (maki), and everyone could prepare different fillings?

                        1. re: heidipie

                          If you have a croquembouche party, be sure to source some great candied fruit, tiny candies, silvered sugar balls, etc. Make and have cream for waaay too many cream puffs (nuke chocolate bars to melt, to dip the extra cream puffs).

                          If everyone's a skilled cook, there will be fighting over who gets to drape the confection with spun sugar.

                          Expand the concept to include savory fillings for pate choux shells, and add a dark green salad with citrus pieces, and you've got a meal. Pass the wine.

                        2. why not a fun cook off - where you pick a food and everyone makes/brings their own version:
                          chili, casseroles, cookies, bit size whatever, tapas

                          chili is great because you can easily go vegitarian or even a vegitarian entre

                          1. I really like Lexpatti's idea!

                            I was also thinking of a homemade pasta party with various sauces and fillings/toppings.... I have made gnocchi in a group before - other pastas would be fun, too.

                            I've also had a homemade pizza party before, though that might be a little elementary for your tastes! :-)

                            1. I thought maybe sushi or raviolis or different types of salsa and/or hummus. Happy Birthday :)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: enbell

                                i suggested pasta above, but ravioli could be fun if you pre-make the dough, then make fillings and sauces, and cook them off together.

                              2. how about a make your own spring rolls?

                                definitely 2nd the ideas for the dumpling party. but on the thoughts of the fondue, how about hot pot or shabu shabu?

                                1. A lot of good ideas were already mentioned. Here are a couple more:

                                  Cookie decorating. I've found adults often get really into this also. It's relatively cheap, too.
                                  Chocolate-dipped strawberries/pretzels/berries/cookies. They let people be creative, they're super easy, and you have some time to sit and shmooze with your guests while they dry.
                                  Challah! I do group challah classes, and people seem to really enjoy it; especially the braiding aspect. The results are extremely pretty and tasty! Just keep in mind that it will take 3-4 hours (unless you do the dough ahead of time).
                                  Make-Your-Own-Crostini, with a variety of toppings available for people to choose from, like olive oil, truffle oil, various mushrooms, pureed white beans, greens, cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes, etc etc
                                  Fruit galette/tart/pie. It's a food that allows people to work on multiple steps at once; you can have a few people doing the crust dough, a few people prepping the fruit, others mixing the additional ingredients, then throw it all together and pop into the oven.
                                  Ice-cream making. You could see if friends have ice cream makers they can bring, and vote on flavors to make.

                                  I second the pizza idea. They're easy to make but everyone loves pizza! :)

                                  1. I have to say, you guys are amazing! I'm so impressed with all the great ideas, thanks for all your help. I have a few weeks to decide for sure, but I think I've narrowed it down these three:

                                    1) Fresh spring rolls with rice paper wrappers, with a combo of veggies, shrimp, mint, sauce. I liked the sushi/dumplings suggestions, but I think these will be more versatile and easy to assemble. Still mulling sushi, though I don't have the equipment.
                                    2) Pizza - easy, fun, comforting, can be creative.
                                    3) Croquembouche! I've always wanted to try it, this is a good opportunity.

                                    Obviously three completely different things, so I'll likely pick one and make something else in advance to go with it. Thanks again!

                                    1. Hey! I was just reading the Amateur Gourmet blog and saw this post: http://www.amateurgourmet.com/2010/01...

                                      I was thinking making Chinese dumplings would be a super fun group activity for your birthday!

                                      1. Spring rolls or egg rolls...they are so great eaten fresh and require a lot of hands to assemble, which would be perfect for a group.