A friend of ours, Jan Crandall, used to always say, “Girls, have a plan!” and every time I met with her on work projects, she would say we needed a plan.
Mike and I always looked up to Jan and her husband Doug as parents and tried to model our parenting skills after them. Their three daughters turned out pretty well and I think our daughter Emma has, too. So, in memory of our friend Jan, and in honor of her daughters Kate Crandall Pickering, Sarah Crandall Angelette and Beth Crandall who don’t live here anymore, I made a plan for our Birthday Girls’ party. I know they all would be a part of our Birthday Girls group if they were here in town with us – but since the girls are away from their hometown, this one’s for you!
Our Birthday Girls’ group is actually a second generation reincarnation of a group of Carthage woman-who many years ago met once a month to celebrate their birthdays. The current group features several of the daughters of the women in that original group.
We meet once a month and there about 20 of us when we can all get together, which is rare. We celebrate whoever’s birthday it is that month with a card, food, drinks, and laughter. Lana, Tracy, and I along with our newest member Sharon- a.k.a. the Dance Moms – are hosting this month. Thanks to Lana’s sister Carrie, we’re able to use the party barn at her house. It’s a place that holds really special memories for our four girls and for the four of us. Lana suggested we have charcuterie, lemon bars, and – to celebrate the end of summer -lemonade. So we have two varieties of lemonades – a really yummy one that is non-alcoholic and one that is called a Sorrento Spritz.
Now, let’s talk Charcuterie boards. I first got hooked on them when I watched Bravo’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Heather Dubrow started doing charcuterie boards and all her friends were mesmerized by them. Basically a Charcuterie Board is a meat, cheese and veggie tray. But, if you put them on fancy boards and call it Charcuterie, it elevates the tone. I really don’t think there are any rules for the boards, and that’s what’s so fun about them.
For Birthday Girls I thought it might be fun to do a variety of Charcuterie boards instead of just one big one – and go crazy on some of them. So using Jan’s “you’ve got to have a plan”, I sketched the boards out and color coded them for two reasons – one to make sure the colors mixed well when I had it put together and two because I have to work the day of the event. If I have everything done ahead of time and in baggies with notes, the layout of food goes super fast in preparation for the party.
Because our Birthday Girls group has a variety of allergies and some members are gluten-free, I started off with a Keto Friendly board. I don’t personally do Keto, but research shows the following items that fall in that category: radishes, bell peppers, carrots, olives, tomatoes, walnuts, blueberries and strawberries, artichokes hearts, pea pods, pepperoni and herbed chèvre.
Then to celebrate our daughter, Emma’s spring semester studying in Italy, I did an All Things Italian board. It reminded me of some of the snacks they would give us when you had a glass of wine there. In Italy you don’t just have a glass of wine, it’s almost always served with a snack of chips, nuts, or cheeses; or sometimes olives and meats, so why not put it all together on one board and call it All Things Italian?
My favorite Charcuterie board we own have is one that I think looks rustic. I think it might actually be cut from a piece of tree and it has a logo is stamped on it. It was a more expensive piece and I never told Mike how much I paid for it because…well…because that’s how we’ve stayed married so long. I thought that board would be a good one to be called All Things Rustic. This board features foods that are hearty and remind you of just a casual, rustic time sitting outside with a glass of wine, or just chilling out in front of a fire on a cool day with a few great snacks.
To me food is art. You eat with your eyes first which sets the tone for how it’s going to taste. So why not use my artist palette board to create condiment art and make it simply All Things Condiments? It’s always fun to top off cheese with a dot of honey, use a fruit curd on a baguette, or have a coarse mustard with a pickle and a slice of salami. You can just build your own, and be your own artist.
The Yummo board is my favorite, because it’s all things that I think are yummy. Fruits, vegetables, and my favorite pickled carrots sold at Annie’s in the Woodshed on the Carthage Square are featured Yummo items. Add in some grapes, a mixture of cheeses and meats and of course, when you’re talking meats, there’s nothing better than candied bacon. Yummo is all my faves on one board.
Serve these with either Simply Lemonade floating slices of lemon, or a Sorento Spritz with a blackberry for a little kick.
Lana tops off the night with her amazing lemon bars – something I still struggle with making in the kitchen. She’s our baker-extraordinaire! She’ll be teaching us her baking skills in this space soon – and they are amazing!
So, our party is ready. And, thanks to Jan, for always telling me I needed a plan. I spent two days prepping in my downtime between laundry, spending time with Mike enjoying the last dog-days of summer, and catching up on my Soaps. Thanks to Mike for letting me commandeer the kitchen and his blog. I love to cook with him even though we have our own unique methods … and I think mine is always better.
No matter what, we’ve got a successful set of Charcuterie boards to celebrate the September birthdays – all prepped by The Dance Moms using the color-coded drawings. And the best thing about a plan – it’s a guide – and we changed up some contents on each board and everyone’s board was absolutely perfect – just like our friendship.
So eat up, Birthday Girls and let’s toast Jan for making me “make a plan!”