Top ten lists for Birthday Party month.

We are so much busier around here than we have been in a while. Baby Chuck is a baby no more (he's 7!) and Mr. Dumpling has just turned 11! We did two birthday parties, we're getting ready for a dinner party with friends, Mardi-Gras party for their friends, AND we are heading to France for 10 days to stay with some friends (who happen to be spectacular cooks too, yippie!)

Top ten list of stuff I'm making and enjoying:

1. Healthier Ranch dressing- 1 part commercial ranch dressing to 3 parts plain yogurt, add a shake of pepper and a splash of lemon juice. My kids haven't really noticed the change except that they now say plain Ranch tastes 'weird'.

2. Hot dog appetizer- Steam your hot-dogs and roll them in split loaves of small arabic bread. Slice, use toothpicks to hold. Serve with cups of mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise.

3. These five weeknight dinner recipes from Martha and Everyday Food Magazine. Solving the 'what are we going to have' dilemma in advance is critical to the happy functioning of this busy house.

4. Easy ice-cream cake. One store bought pound cake, one quart ice cream, one pint fruit or a cup of nuts (or both). Slice the pound cake thinly, line a cake pan with 1/2 the slices, top with 1/2 ice cream & the fruit, cover with remaining slices and ice cream. Freeze at least 1 hour before serving. Suggestions- chocolate pound cake, coffee ice cream & toasted hazlenuts. Vanilla pound cake, vanilla ice cream apricots, almonds. Vanilla pound cake, butter pecan ice cream, bananas, sprinkling of pecans.... I could go on here forever. Sprinkle your cake with liqueur for extra-richness if your friends aren't Muslims.

5. Obsessing over sandwiches of whole wheat pita topped with smoked salmon, labneh with zaatar, tomato and spinach.

6. Camembert and St. Andre

7. Vodka and lemon cocktails.

8. Pulled pork in the crock pot. Grill a shoulder quickly to crust up the outside, ,throw it in the crockpot with a bunch of herbs and spices. Slow cook 8 hours. Remove meat, discard rendered fat, add shredded meat back into pot with a good cup of BBQ sauce. Cook until headed through.

9. Chick-pea salads. Chick peas, tomato, cukes, feta, lemon based dressing, herbs.

10. Making your own buffalo wings. The secret is butter....

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