Cassandra's Birthday Lunch

Cassandra's Kitchen Team

We are so excited to share some photos from the surprise birthday lunch we had for Cassandra earlier this month! Our Cassandra’s Kitchen team hosted a fun, casual outdoor lunch to celebrate Cassandra’s 40th birthday. We decided on the Grill Party Menu from Ina Garten’s Parties! Cookbook and we recruited Cassandra’s mom, Barbara, to help us put it all together. Our friend George Waldron brought his A-game to help us create the most amazingly gorgeous cake ever.

The white dinnerware looked great with the round natural placemats and napkins. We added a little greenery to freshen up each place setting - love the versatility of this dinnerware and serve ware, it's classic and works for every occasion. 

It's always a pleasure to have Barbara with us in the kitchen. She's full of knowledge and expertise...and always has the best kitchen tips to make the whole cooking and entertaining process smoother. Lunch was Endive and Avocado Salad, Grilled Herb Shrimp with Mango Salsa, and Spaghettoni Al Pesto. We toasted Cassandra with her favorite Real Margaritas. We had a blast! (All recipes can be found below and in the pages of Parties!)

George really outdid himself with his vision for the cake. He used Ina Garten’s Shortbread recipe (below) and used our parchment paper to make stencils of a 4 and an 0. There were two layers of each number. Then we whipped up some cream cheese vanilla icing to use for filling and decorating…but the most surprising and extraordinary part was the flowers, cookies, strawberries and candy that we used to decorate it. It was just so beautiful, we didn't want to cut it up! But we did, and it was delicious (minus the flowers, they were pretty but not edible). 


Hotel Silver Footed Bowl with Handles

It was such a wonderful lunch and we are so happy to celebrate Cassandra and to share the beautiful details with all of you! Please join us in wishing Cassandra a fabulous 40th year! Check out all the menu details below. 


Endive and Avocado Salad


1 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup good olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 heads endive
3 ripe Haas avocados, peeled and seeded * Haas avocados are the brown ones from California -the green ones don't have nearly as much flavor.


Whisk together the mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper to make a vinaigrette. Remove a 1/2-inch from the stem end of each endive, discard the core, and cut the rest across into 1-inch chunks. Cut the avocados into large dice or wedges. Toss the avocados and endive with the vinaigrette. Season, to taste, and serve at room temperature.

Copyright 2001, Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, All Rights Reserved


Grilled Herb Shrimp with Mango Salsa


3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, small-diced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup good olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 pounds jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), peeled (tails left on) and deveined
Mango Salsa (see recipe below)


Combine the garlic, onion, parsley, basil, mustards, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice. Add the shrimp and allow them to marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Prepare a charcoal grill with hot coals, and brush the grilling rack with oil to prevent the shrimp from sticking. Skewer the shrimp. I use 5 or 6 shrimp on a 12-inch skewer for a dinner serving.

Grill the shrimp for 1-1/2 minutes on each side. Serve with the Mango Salsa.


Mango Salsa (Makes 2 Cups)


2 teaspoons good olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced yellow onion (2 onions)
2 teaspoons peeled, minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 ripe mangos, peeled, seeded, and small-diced
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeño pepper, to taste (1 pepper)
2 teaspoons minced fresh mint leaves


Sauté the olive oil, onions, and ginger in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the mangos; reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 more minutes. Add the orange juice, brown sugar, salt, black pepper, and jalapeños; cook for 10 more minutes, or until the orange juice is reduced, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat and add the mint. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Copyright 2001, Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, All Rights Reserved

Spaghettoni Al Pesto 


Good olive oil
Kosher salt
1 pound spaghettoni, bucatini, or spaghetti
1 to 1 1/2 cups pesto (recipe follows)


Splash some oil in a large pot of salted boiling water and add pasta. Cook the spaghettoni for 10 to 12 minutes, until al dente but cooked through. Drain the pasta in a colander and toss it in a large bowl with enough pesto to coat each strand. Taste for seasoning and serve hot or at room temperature.

Copyright 2001, Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, All Rights Reserved



1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pignolis
3 tablespoons diced garlic (9 cloves) (note: watch the measurements if you don't want a very garlicy pesto -- 9 large cloves will create an intense pesto)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese



Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 30 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is finely puréed. Add the Parmesan and purée for a minute. Serve, or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Copyright 2001, Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, All Rights Reserved

Short Bread Cookies


3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.


Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter.(For the cake we used number stencils made from parchment paper.) Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.

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Happy Birthday Cassandra! We share the same birth date (except different year!)


Such a casually elegant celebration. So thrilled you shared it. Oh how I remember when…So proud of you all. 40 looks good on you Cassandra.

Maureen Biagini

Happy birthday. Thank you for the gorgeous photos.

Dani Mauer

So gracious of you to share your birthday celebration and Ins’s always delicious recipes.
Many many Happy returns of the day.i too was 40 once and close to doubling it. Every day is a gift. Continue to enjoy!


love your wonderful array of beautiful dishes, glassware,and food blogs,and of course, anything from Ina Garten!


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