(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Birthstones have lots to do with birthdays, but not often with the celebrations themselves. A fun and tasty way to change that is by throwing a birthstone-themed party.
The good news, of course, is that, since you know the birthday of the guest of honor, you have the key to researching their birthstone. How can this be yummy? Take a look at the easy ideas below for those with birthdays early in the year that may spur your own offshoots for the rest of the time.
Start with the birthstone color of the month as the uniform palette of all the decorations at any of this year's parties, such as the lavender of amethyst in February, blue of aquamarine in March, and glitziness of diamonds in April. You've got a starting point if you begin your planning with a favor and a memorable food item, like those below.
Fun fare like this also proves food preparation - even for parties - can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
Favor: Small ceramic or other pots of lavender to represent the color of amethyst can be inexpensive online or in nurseries. Tie a purple ribbon around each planter and in permanent ink in calligraphy style write the first name of each guest and leave by their plate.
Food: An easy purple salad will be eye-catching, memorable, healthful and tasty. Chop the following: purple cauliflower, red cabbage (which looks purple), dried figs and boiled purple potatoes. Toss with store-bought or homemade ranch dressing that you've mixed with a small amount of red wine vinegar.
Favor: Buy aquamarine colored inexpensive small plastic boats (that might be sold as bath toys) and fill them with wrapped candies at each guest's place-setting.
Food: Serve blueberry parfaits as part of dessert. Layer Greek nonfat blueberry yogurt with granola and chocolate chips. Repeat twice and top with a dollop of whipped cream you've tinted blue by mixing with crushed fresh blueberries.
Favor: Inexpensive rhinestones or charms ready for a bracelet or necklace, online or in craft shops, are often sold in packs of 12, featuring the color or type of the birthstone of each month. A packet with a ribbon at each place-setting is festive and assures that everyone receives their "birthstone" in the mix. Party favor stores often also sell big glass crafted "engagement rings" that look like diamonds.
Food: Diet ginger ale looks like and even tastes a bit like champagne, which meshes with the theme of diamonds. Squeeze in the juice of fresh lemons, limes and tangerines for a lively bubbly beverage for toasting.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: TV Food Network star Bobby Flay has often challenged folks to "throwdowns" when it comes to cooking, hence the name of his popular series. Currently, though, the effervescent Flay is fitter than ever and possibly even better suited to real throwdowns. If you would like to tone up yourself, there are 200 recipes to help you get that way in Flay's Fit. The secret to Flay's fitness is "flavor bombs" with which he accents healthful foods, like fresh produce and whole grains. These are rubs, relishes, marinades and other super-charged condiments. The creativity is off the charts here with entire chapters filled with vinaigrettes, spice rubs and even pickles, such as pickled green onions and pickled saffron shallots. How does it work? Think of Brussels sprouts and then think of Flay's Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate-Orange Vinaigrette and Pecans.
Lisa Messinger at Creators Syndicate is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet (Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.