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Help me plan my daughter's 1st Birthday!

Hi guys,

Wanted to reach out to you for some assitance in planning my daughter's first birthday -- which will be on 2/20. It will be from 11-1pm and there will be 16 adults and 9 kids.

Here's what I have so far...
- I was planning to make my husband's grandma's special pasta sauce and meatball recipe (which I can make adhead of time since it freezes really well). And we will also have Korean food which my sister is taking care of (my daughter is half Korean).

- custom ice cream cake from Carvel

What I need are some ideas for finger foods... pigs in a blanket, spring rolls, mini burgers??

What do you think? I don't want to blow the bank on this but I'm willing to spend some money. I also don't want to be slaving in the kitchen -- I really want to hang out with my family and spend time with them.

I was thinking along the lines of frozen apps from Costco. Have you had any luck on those? Any you'd strongly recommend?

We'd also have a veggie and cheese plate. Maybe a cheese pizza for the kids??


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    1. How about a mixed antipasto platter, with food/veggies from a variety of cultures? You could have a soy sauce dip/dressing for some, and an olive oil/garlic based for the others. Considering people will only be there for 2 hours, I wouldn't think you need to have much though given all the food you will be having for lunch.

      1 Reply
      1. re: escondido123

        I tend to be like my mother -- prepare to feed an army!

      2. When we have to feed the parents during our kids' parties, we order a gourmet sandwich and wrap assortment (all kinds of good stuff from high end food store), a spinach or arugula salad and a fruit salad. It costs about $200. A case or two of bottled water, box coffee and a hot water dispenser for teas. Catering costs more, but at the end of the day we have found it makes much more sense for us. This is usually in the spring and not at our house,so we dont really need hot foods and ordering out makes life much easier when you need to fill goodie bags and blow up balloons!

        If you do pasta, Id suggest making a baked ziti, penne or rigatoni, making the meatballs bite size and serving them on the side. Maybe add a colorful roasted pepper platter. Kids like meatballs too, but go with long cuts if you are going to serve them pasta-much easier for kids.

        You could do a taco or fajita bar. Black bean chili or black bean salad. You could serve skewers of all kinds with different dipping sauces. You could do a shrimp cocktail platter. Seafood or lobster salad (oil based-not mayo). You could do mini crab cakes. Slice up some brats and serve with kraut. Braised short ribs and polenta. Miso cod fish chunks served with toothpicks. Smoked salmon with creme fraiche, pickled onion and caper served on brown bread circles.

        For kids, pizza is the standard fare, but Ive also seen nuggets, hot dogs and mac and cheese (and a combination of both). You can find all natural versions of all of them (applegate hot dogs for example).

        I know the feeling, but keep in mind its only two hours. It goes by fast and the parents are usually busy observing the kids. Dont stress it!

        1. is it 9 other 1 year olds?

          and as far as cake..we did a publix cake...they give u a extra little cake for the baby...my daughter had cake from head to toe...but she had blast eating it it....

          1. I like the spring roll idea and think you could build on that by focusing on appetizers that you can make ahead of time and then freeze. Cook them in batches as you need them the day of. That way al you have to worry about on that day is throwing food into the oven to warm. PLUS, whatever you don't need can stay in the freezer for snacks in the future. I've done gougeres, puff pastry mushroom and cheese tarts, hoisin pork filo cigars, my mother's crabmeat and Old English spread appetizers (which are really much better than you'd think). Then a few days later, if you have a lot in the freezer, make a big salad and eat leftover crab appetizers. Or stir-fry some veggies and serve with the pork cigars.

            2 Replies
            1. re: katecm

              Judging from my daughter's 1st birthday party (about the same size) I would be inclined to suggest staying away from anything that you have to dash into the kitchen to heat up or assemble. We did "barbecue" chicken sandwiches, made and served in the crockpot, and several other buffet-style salads, along with chips/dips, cheese/crackers, a fruit plate and so forth; I delegated everything I could and made the food as self-serve as possible, and still was too busy to manage to take a single photo. Putting together apps on an as-needed basis just seems like one more thing to deal with, and when there's a toddler involved -- or a group of them -- I've found that it's best to streamline as much as possible, so you can make Kid priority A and Having Fun priority B. (You'd think that with all that family around, child care would be easier, but somehow it isn't. Amazing how people scatter when there's a diaper to be changed. And meanwhile, you still have a party to tend to . . .)

              1. re: darklyglimmer

                I agree, for our open-house style birthday parties I only do things I can set out at the beginning and forget about. For young kinds, cheese, crackers and fruit are always winners. To cover my basics I order deli trays: fruit, veg, meat and cheese. Then I decide how much effort/money I want to spend on more adult/interesting food, which usually means local specialties like my favourite samosas, mini spanakopita, hummus - I go for things from small businesses in my neighbourhood rather than the grocery store. That way it's "special" with little effort, except for picking things up, and I delegate that where I can.
                For bigger parties I've also done an additional fancy cheese/pate platter but with young families, I'd cover basic cheddar cubes before I went to higher end stuff. The kids need something other than sugar in their bellies but they are generally happy to graze on finger foods. I do juice boxes for the kids and self-serve beer, wine and soda for the adults. I don't usually buy bottled water but it can be handy for these parties.

            2. Hi scout1,
              Especially if the party is going to be in your home, I would be careful about how you serve the pasta - that tomato sauce could end up all over the place.
              At our home parties, we do a mix of "Canadian" food and Filipino food. For a lunch party, we would normally have pizza (one cheese, one pepperoni, and one deluxe) for the kids. We would not serve hot dogs because of a) the potential choking hazard and b) messy condiments. Kids like spring rolls - have lots of those. We would also have a tray of chicken fingers, either home made or frozen ones, oven fries (potato and sweet potato), and lots of veggies and dip. Guacamole goes over very well at our parties. Some of the kids like pancit (Filipino noodle dish), and most of them will eat some rice. Remember, most children do not eat too much at parties - they have little stomachs, and are way too excited. A fruit tray with a nice yogurt dip, homemade cookies, and a nice cake will round it out for the kids.
              With regard to the cake, I see that you have an ice cream cake, which likely goes a long way to eliminate the food dye problem. I know that a number of parents, myself included, are concerned about food dyes, especially red, in icing. I always specify plain icing to the extent possible, and ask the bakery to use toys, etc. to decorate the cake. I also always check with parents in advance re: any allergies or sensitivities. We have a party coming up and I will be having a specialty cake made so that a couple of kids with allergies/sensitivities can share in the cake-eating.
              I would suggest finding a way to serve drinks that does not involve open cups. You might try juice boxes, or else give each child a novelty cup with a straw and lid to be used at the party and as part of the "goody bag".
              From my experience, I can tell you that most parents are not expecting a gourmet meal at a child's birthday party. They will eat what is there, but I still do put out some more adult items such as tea sandwiches and salad, as well as any suitable Filipino dishes. For a winter lunch party, I would have a pot of mulled cider on the stove, in addition to tea and coffee. I would offer beer and wine, but normally at lunch, no one wants it.
              Have lots of napkins and damp cloths on hand. Most importantly, enjoy the day. It's your day, too, Mom and Dad - you've been through a lot this past year!

              1. Oh, and yes I know my post sounds like I am petrified of any mess in my house. Normally, no, but the minimum number of children at one of our parties would be 35-40, in a small-ish house, so I have to think of these things.

                1 Reply
                1. re: foodiemommy

                  No, you sound like a sane and organized parent! Great advice.

                2. You don't really say what you are having in the way of Korean food, but here is what I would suggest...keep it simple. And you also don't say how old the kids are....all toddlers?

                  I would start out, as escondido suggested, with an antipasto platter with things like marinated artichokes, marinated bocconcini, roasted peppers, salami, etc. I would also have a cheese platter with crackers and crudite platter with some dip. All of these things can be put together early in the day and don't need to be tended to.

                  Snce you are having the pasta and meatballs, I would keep a separate bowl of plain pasta for the kids. Most kids will eat pasta, but not all of them like sauce on it. Maybe a green salad or caesar salad on the side. Then whatever Korean food you are having.

                  As much as I love them, I would not bother with pigs in a blanket. Or spring rolls or burgers. It will create work for you. Just putting things in the oven and taking them out is work at a 1 year old party (your 1 year old's party!).

                  If you want something additional for the kids, you could make chicken fingers (I buy the Tyson breaded chicken breast tenderloins at Costco). You could cook them ahead of time and serve them at room temperature. I have lots of kids around all the time -- they happily eat chicken fingers at room temperature.

                  I can't say this enough...keep it simple (I would even consider ordering in food!). But if you want to do it all yourself, do as much as possible in advance.

                  1. I have an almost 1 and a 2 year old. Here are some ideas:

                    1. I make my own cake and serve ice cream...but an ice cream cake is easier.

                    2. Veggie tray with dip, fruit tray with dip.

                    3. PB&J or cream cheese and jelly sandwiches for the kids. Cut into quarters or use cookie cutters for cute shapes. Serve some goldfish crackers.

                    4. You can make cones out of construction paper and fill with popcorn or another snack. Put them in a flower pot.

                    5. Trader Joes has some great hot apps that are easy to make...just throw them in the oven for 20 minutes...and you can do them in batches.

                    6. Do a punch bowl...super easy and cheap. It works for adults and kids. No need to buy soda/juice boxes/etc. Have water available too.

                    For my older son we always have the party outside, but the younger one is in February so it needs to be indoors. Ours is complicated this year by our 2 year old have adenoid surgery about 5 days prior so we can only serve soft food. We are doing lasagna, salad, meatballs, bread. My grandmother and parents are making some finger sandwiches. I'm making caprese salad on a stick...cherry tomato, mozz, and basil. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic. I think I may make some spinach squares too. And I'll have cake, ice cream, and maybe homemade fudge sauce for dessert.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: rizzo0904

                      Thank you! These are all great recommendations and suggestions! And you are all right -- I want to enjoy the party too -- my husband and I have somethng to celebrate as well!! :)

                      I am now leaning towards getting it catered. My feeling is that it will be a little more expensive but it will save me the stress of running around (my husband will prob be happier as a result). We live in a condo building that has a party room, so fortunately, we don't have to worry about the mess.

                      As far as the ages of the kids... my daughter will be the youngest - the oldest, her cousin is 10 years old.

                      Someone asked about Korean food... my sister is making the rice, and kalbi (which can be served at room temp) and will be bringing in the kimchi and dduk. hurray!

                      Two hours will go in a flash!!

                      Please... any suggestions/advice are more than welcome!! Love hearing about all your experiences!

                      1. re: scout1

                        I don't know if it's possible but you may want to make mini meatballs as an appetizer and do another entree that's a little more harmonious with the Korean food. You can do appetizers of - cheese and veggie plate, mini meatballs and spring rolls and then entree of the Korean food, a sesame noodle salad, and grilled chicken.

                    2. If you want to make it easy on yourself a few ideas from costco are their shrimp platters, the spinach dip (near the cheeses), the veggie tray, the bbq chicken poppers (not sure of the exact name, but they're often on sample), and a the wheels of brie they sell. Bake the brie for 20 min. or so with oney and pecans on top and serve with bread, was a big hit at my recent party. I know how you feel, you want to to do everything from scratch, but sometimes you just don't feel like it!

                      1. I'd keep some meatballs out of the sauce for the children, not because I don't think they'll like the sauce but a lot of parents who are likely to be busy chatting, children and red sauce, not a good combination (kids run around and eat--think of your couches, carpet, cushions--personal experience). Bake mac and cheese in little cupcake holders, the silver ones, not paper ones. Add a big salad and some bread/rolls, both will be easy. If you do have cheese for the children, it's fun to cut them w/ little cookie cutters, done in advance. As children parties go, I'm mostly about minimizing the mess. Parents hand their children food, no plate and they run around w/ it is what I've found. I try to do either cleaner food, or food where you have to sit down to eat.

                        1. IMO I don't see the need to cater a kids party for only the amount of people you have coming unless you just want to spend the money. You're already making an entree with the pasta/meatballs and your family is bringing Korean food so why spend money on a caterer if all you need are finger foods? I suggest a nice garden salad with a couple of dressings to compliment both the pasta and whatever type of food your family is bringing.

                          Add some appetizers like spinach or other turnovers, grilled chicken, beef or veggie skewers, or mini bite sized quiches which can be made at home with a batch of mix and any types of fillings to add to them. One batch of pie dough or buy refrigerated dough & cut into tiny rounds. Fill and bake. Easy. If you absolutely don't want to cook then go to Sam's or other store and find some pre-made appetizers. Add chicken strips and maybe a pizza for the kids, along with cheese, fruit & veggie platters and that's all you need for a two hour party for a toddler who's not going to even remember her 1st birthday party. I suggest saving the big blowout for when she's old enough to remember how fancy her party could be.

                          14 Replies
                          1. re: Cherylptw

                            "I suggest saving the big blowout for when she's old enough to remember how fancy her party could be."

                            Good thought. I had a big party for my son's first birthday and for the life of me can't remember what I served but do remember that I was too busy being a hostess to spend time (days before and during) with my son and that kind of defeats the purpose.

                            1. re: chowser

                              All really great points and tips... You guys have given me a lot to think about!! Was thinking I could make pulled pork sliders -- easy enough, right? Can make it ahead and in thr crock pot. Maybe I'll do that, add in some fz, pre-made apps from Costco, cheese and fruit plate and the pasta. I'll throw in some chips and salsa/guac and call it a day?? (after a tall glass of wine??) What do you think? Too much? Too little?

                              1. re: scout1

                                Sounds utterly doable, particularly if you have people make their own sliders -- although I still think meatballs and Korean food and pulled pork (essentially, three entrees, although I know a slider is often used as a hearty app), plus the frozen Costco apps, is a lot of food. Having said that, though: you know better than we will what will make you happy! Just be sure you leave yourself enough energy to enjoy the party.

                            2. re: Cherylptw

                              Yeah, but catering doesn't have to mean champagne flutes and white tablecloths and lemon slices in the water. It could mean some good sandwiches or baked ziti or something, and it wouldn't necessarily break the bank. When you have a toddler, time becomes a precious, precious commodity, and cutting all of the prep time down to "go pick up food/wait for delivery" might well be worth it -- as well as freeing the OP from the "too busy being a hostess to spend time with the baby" dilemma Chowser posted about.

                              I love to cook, I love to eat, I love to serve people food I've cooked -- but in this case, Scout1, a big ol' fat +1 to catering.

                              1. re: darklyglimmer

                                :) I guess I should also mention that the reason I initally made it a big deal was not just because she's turning 1, but also bc ALL my family is coming in from out of town. We live in NY and my parents and bro are flying in from Chicago, my sis in law is flying with her 3 little kids from Indy... and my in laws are driving from OH. And it's not often that ALL of us get together -- maybe once a year at best.

                                1. re: darklyglimmer

                                  Sure, you're right; I had two babies to tend to (18 months apart ) and a 4 year old so I well know what it's like to have a baby when you have something to do but it's not hard to go to the grocery store and pick up something from the frozen food section.but why buy ziti if she's making pasta with meatballs? Hey, not that I care but it's her money. Hope it goes well.

                                2. re: Cherylptw

                                  Catering does not have to be a "big blowout". It could mean ordering various sandwiches and salads. Or bagels, lox, cream cheese, etc.

                                  As much as I love to host a party and make everything from scratch, it is a lot of work and you don't get to spend time with guests. I host a July 4th party every year. I do everything myself. My guests have a great time. I don't get a chance to sit down for a minute. I am happy in the end, because I am proud of what I did, and everyone else is happy too, but if the priority is spending time with guests, ordering in food is a good idea.

                                  1. re: valerie

                                    OK... ANOTHER thing (sorry, I'm just vomiting information)... I got a quote from a nice caterer around here... For a pinwheel sandwich platter with a side of pasta salad, mini cheese burgers, pigs in a blanket and mini pizzas (he said enough to feed my crowd) would cost $250. Does THIS change your minds?? Food from the grocery store is expensive too and then having to prepare it... Starting to lean again towards catering...

                                    AHHH!!! I promise, I'll make a decision already! :)

                                    1. re: scout1

                                      That's way too high a quote. Go with supermarket or Costco platters.

                                      1. re: greygarious

                                        Depends where they are in NY. From Scout1's profile it looks like she's in lower Westchester county, parts of which definitely fall into the the Pretty Durn Spendy category.

                                        1. re: darklyglimmer

                                          Ok, in Westchester, I would order platters from either Fairway or Stew Leonard's. If you decide on Stew Leonard's, get a few pounds of chicken fries for the kids...trust me, they love them.

                                          And fwiw, I don't think that $250 is too high. By the time you go to the supermarket and buy all the food, you will have spent that much or if you spend less, how much less? Not much. And you have to do the work yourself. Do yourself a favor, cater it.

                                      2. re: scout1

                                        I'd jump on it. Sounds like $250 well spent to me. But from my posts on this thread so far, I doubt that surprises you. :)

                                        Frankly, if you're having a bunch of family in town that rarely gets to see each other, all the more reason to free up more time to spend with them. You can still add in something that you feel is really special or necessary, like your sister's Korean food or your husband's grandma's pasta sauce. Also, have you tried calling around to restaurants? Most restaurants in our area will do food for events, if you give them enough notice -- maybe not the hot apps, but a tray of nice, interesting sandwiches, or the like. Might be cheaper than a caterer.

                                        1. re: scout1

                                          I really think, since it is only two hours and you are actually serving a proper meal (rice, meat, sides and maybe even another dish?) that all you need are simple apps: fruit, veg, cheese & crackers. The two hours is going to pass pretty quickly.

                                          1. re: scout1

                                            $10 a person. Not bad. But not sure I would pay a caterer for pigs in a blanket or mini pizzas. If those are for the kids, you can get those cheap.

                                            And you need some green in that menu. IMHO

                                            When we do the sandwiches its from a premium Italian deli-that we know only uses top quality ingredients.

                                      3. ."they give u a extra little cake for the baby...my daughter had cake from head to toe...but she had blast eating it it"....

                                        "I suggest saving the big blowout for when she's old enough to remember how fancy her party could be."

                                        "I had a big party for my son's first birthday and for the life of me can't remember what I served but do remember that I was too busy being a hostess to spend time (days before and during) with my son and that kind of defeats the purpose."


                                        Your daughter will only have one (1) First birthday party.....Don't miss it!!!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. You mentioned that your family is coming in from out of town, and I agree with others that you really want to spend time with them. The last party I went to like this had the larger party for the two hours, then half the party wound up back in the family's apartment opening gifts, drinking wine and spending time. So it might be interesting to think for the party stay simple - 2 hours go by really fast as others have said. Imagine:

                                          11 am - 11:30 people arrive (if your family is anything like mine, there's always a bunch late). Have trays of cheese, veggies, antipasto, and simple prep ahead things out

                                          11:30 - 12:00 everyone will be so excited to see each other and mingling, that it will fly by until you realize it's time to get the main courses out.

                                          12:00 put out the main courses, and continue to mingle and spend time with everyone while keeping an eye on your daughter

                                          12:30 Cake time!

                                          1:00 people start to leave, but maybe family stays. Eat leftovers for dinner. Collapse in exhaustion from excitement! Congratulations.

                                          1. Make. Little. Mini meatball subs with melted. Provalone on top they will be a hit and get some garlic Texas toast and cook as directed but when done cut in half and make mini pizzas with them oh so yummy and you can always make cucumber sandwiches mini style fine mince some cucumbers add mayo or miracle. Whip salt. And pepper and spread on some bread making a sandwich. Then cut into squares. And remove the crust they are cute and tasty. Veggie. Platters and dip work great as a fresh side finger food and mixed melon salad basicly is the sweet side other than cake and icecream just cut different. Types of melon into cubes and place. In a big bowl