Birthday Love

It turns out that when you don’t post on your blog in 8 months, a lot of things happen.  So the little cutie on the top right was born, then the handsome guy in the bottom right corner had a birthday (hence the lobster and the cake), and the little guy on the top left is about to turn 2.  What?!  It’s like time is moving forward or something.

So the lobster turned into tasty lobster rolls, and the cake was on the complicated side, thus I don’t think I would ever recommend that you make it.  But if you want to try, here’s the recipe (through link).  It was delicious.  Don’t try to make it late at night while your baby and toddler intermittently cry and sleep.  You’ll regret all of your life choices that brought you to this moment.  Your husband will regret his fine taste in cakes.  You won’t regret eating the cake, however.

What do I recommend?  Maybe going to Christina Tosi’s bakery and eating one of her much prettier layer cakes that you didn’t have to make yourself.  They’re probably amazing.

And why am I writing this summary for you?  I’m here to tell you about my favorite recipe out of the birthday week mix.  It turns out that we’re too cheap to buy good seafood on a regular basis, but not during birthday week.

Drumroll, please.

The birthday week winner of 2017 was…

Grilled Tuna with Grilled Ratatouille and Israeli Couscous and Deconstructed Pesto, thanks to the fantastic Bobby Flay.

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photo from FoodNetwork.com

Yum!  Now, I’m way too lazy (read: feeding a baby, thanking God that my toddler is napping, and making homemade yogurt) to type the whole recipe here.  Sorry about that.  But if you’re feeling fancy enough to buy pine nuts and tuna steaks, this is worth it.  So worth it.  Making it isn’t super complicated.  Can you make pasta?  And grill things?  If so, you’re all set.  This will be making more appearances at our house for any special occasion that even borders on summer.

Oh, and it’s pretty healthy.  Celebratory AND healthy?  In my book, that’s extremely rare.  Macaroni and cheese is where my heart rests, not tons of veggies and grilled tuna steaks.  Except with this recipe.  It even makes me love eggplant.  Thanks, Bobby Flay!

And happy birthday to everyone, since I probably missed your birthday in the last eight months.

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Blueberry Cake with Lemon Buttercream Icing

Okay, so mid-November ’tis not the season for blueberries and lemon buttercream, but Scott’s mom recently found this recipe and passed it on to me.  I couldn’t resist trying it out as soon as possible.

The occasion?  Birthdays, of course.  There were a few birthdays among our friends, and our favorite almost one-year-old is on that list.  I’m saving him an actual piece of cake for his actual birthday.  In the meantime, I discovered that while he’s okay with lemon buttercream icing, he’s absolutely in love with blueberries.  Love our kid.  I can’t get enough icing and just like blueberries.  He has his life in order.

Oh, and there’s zucchini in the cake.  I didn’t actually taste it, but you can feel good about having at least 1/10 of a zucchini in your cake, right?  This stuff was delicious.  It was essentially one of the best blueberry muffins I’ve ever had topped with light but flavorful buttercream icing.  As a huge fan of lemon, it was pretty dreamy.

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Blueberry (Zucchini) Cake with Lemon Buttercream Icing

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 cups finely shredded and drained zucchini
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries (save a few for the top, and this is about 2 cups if your blueberries don’t come in pint-sized containers)

Icing

  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large lemon, juice and zest (about 2 tablespoons of juice, also save some of the zest for the top)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter two 8-inch round cake pans (or 9-inch or use cooking spray–do what you normally do here… I used butter and a paper towel to get a thin layer of coverage on each pan).

Grate zucchini (one large or two small should get you to 2 cups–used the small part of a box grater) and place in a clean dish towel.  Squeeze until most of the liquid is out of the zucchini.  Set aside the 2 cups of zucchini after they have been drained.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar.  Hand-mixer works well here, but go with what you’ve got–spoon or stand mixer would be okay, too.  Fold in the zucchini.

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in another bowl and stir to combine.  Then slowly add those dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until combined.  Gently fold in the blueberries.  Divide cake batter evenly between cake pans.

Bake 35-40 minutes in preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean (blueberry stains permitted).  Cool 20 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.  If you need to hurry that process along, a few minutes on the wire rack in the freezer will do the trick (said the person who never allows for cooling time before the cake needs to be done).

For the buttercream, combine butter, sugar and salt and beat until combined.  Add lemon juice and vanilla and beat for 3-5 additional minutes or until creamy (maybe even a tiny bit fluffy).  Fold in the lemon zest except for the zest reserved for the top.  Frost the cake as you please (d0llop on the bottom to hold it in place, then between the layers, then top and sides).  I thought there wasn’t quite enough icing when I was putting this together.  You definitely have to ration the icing.  BUT when I was eating it, I realized that the buttercream is fairly sweet, so if there was more icing, it would be too much.  So trust the recipe even if you have a tiny bit of cake showing through your icing.  It tastes just right.

Top with blueberries and lemon zest, and then eat some cake!

 

 

 

 

Highs and Lows: Chocolate Nutella Strawberry Cake, Dishes, and Dogs

You know that chocolate nutella strawberry cake I was mooning over?  Yeah, this one from The Pioneer Woman’s blog:

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photo by Ree Drummond

It was in fact made for my birthday week, and it lived up to expectations.  Because it was going to travel, we made one layer at a time and consumed it at two different times.  It worked well that way, but man, one slice wasn’t enough.  I would have eaten that entire cake by myself if no one had been around to watch my shame.

Fortunately, I have friends who save me from myself.

The cake was actually so good that we made it again for family weekend a few days ago.  This time, we went all out and put both layers together at the same time.  It was more satisfying per slice, but definitely more prone to collapse.  Which The Pioneer Woman herself has experienced, but only when she made it into a four-layer cake.

photo by Ree Drummond

photo by Ree Drummond

Two was enough to topple ours.

photo-14Still, it was absolutely delicious and practically perfect in every way.  I would eat it again.  And again.  (Please ignore my poor photography.  Ours might have looked like the sad version of PW’s cake, but it did not taste like the sad version at all.)

In other news, I have washed dishes before going to bed several nights in a row.  It’s a major household upkeep accomplishment for me.

And Peanut was well, then he was really really sick, and now he is on the mend.  Whew.  I did not enjoy thinking about our household sans Peanut.  I know he’s a dog and his life expectancy is limited, but I’ll channel my inner Scarlett O’Hara for now and say, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”  I’ll worry about Peanut’s short life expectancy tomorrow.  Today, I will enjoy leftover chocolate cake and will simultaneously give my dog a pat on the head.

Birthday Food

Yesterday was Scott’s birthday–a Monday, poor guy.  But I’m glad to report that the day was a success.  Do you know how I know?  This is what I found on our laundry hamper last night:

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In case you’re unsure, that’s one half of the mixer attachment, licked clean of icing and placed carefully in the side of the laundry hamper.  And that, my friends, means that Scott had at least some version of a fantastic birthday celebration.  Yay!

If I do say so myself, there was some good food last night.  There was La Madeleine’s Tomato Basil Soup.  And The Pioneer Woman’s Grilled Ribeye Steak with Onion-Blue Cheese Sauce.  And a salad (but honestly, that was just to make me feel better about the heavy cream and butter in the other recipes).  And last but not least, there was Billie’s Italian Cream Cake, also via The Pioneer Woman.  Oh, man.

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The soup and steak and sauce were pretty fantastic.  They’ve been “special occasion” favorites around our house for a while.  The cake was totally new to us, however, and it will definitely be making another appearance.  It’s a fluffy, buttery cake mixed with rich, nutty/coconut flakey cream cheese frosting.  I don’t have words to express how delicious it was.

Honestly, after steak and blue cheese sauce, I didn’t even want cake.  But you have to have birthday cake, right?  I’m so glad I had a piece.  You’ll be glad if you have a piece, too.

Also, I made a commitment to cake yesterday.  I bought 2 new cake pans, which means I can make a 3-tier, 9-inch cake any old time I want.  It’s exciting.  And as my dad pointed out, I’m finally living up to my childhood nickname, “Babycakes.”  Let this be a lesson to you.  If you nickname your kid after tasty food, you’ll thank your lucky stars as you eat that tasty food in your old(er) age.