Birthday Week Menu

Okay, I sadly don’t have time to write an in-depth post about every meal in Scott’s birthday week.  But I do have time to tell you what recipes we used.  Not one was a loser.

And who gets the credit for this tasty menu?  Scott.  Birthday boy picks birthday food.  His birthday week always includes more fun recipes than mine does, but I have no one to blame but myself.  Now I just have to figure out what our kiddo wants for his first birthday week.  Cheerios covered in avocado?  Hmm.

  1. Nicoise Salad (The Kitchn)
  2. Fried Chicken (Pioneer Woman) with Buttermilk Biscuits and Salad
  3. Pesto-ish Chicken with Farfalle (inspired by Giada DeLaurentiis)… this is the only one that I did very much off-recipe.  I used a Southern Italian Herbed Chicken recipe from Giada and was going to use a Pesto Farfalle recipe as well.  Turns out the sauces were very similar, so I pieced them together into one recipe.  Made the chicken, made the uncooked sauce (much like pesto), made the pasta, combined into a heaping pile of deliciousness.  It saved lots of time, and we still had all of the tasty elements.  But I can vouch for the flavors of the Southern Italian Herbed Chicken.  You can find that recipe here or in Giada’s Feel Good Food.
  4. Green Chile Chicken (Pioneer Woman)… I used to swear by her Tequila Lime Chicken recipe, but I think there’s a chance that this is even better.  Maybe I would have to make them both in the same week so I could properly compare.  It’s a tough life.
  5. Bucatini All’Amatriciana with Spicy Smoked Mozzarella Meatballs (Giada De Laurentiis)… This one was not for the faint of heart.  There are multiple kinds of meat and cheese in the recipe.  Not a ton of veggies.  But.  It’s delicious.  So if you’re feeling like a bit of hearty Italian fare, you’ve found your recipe.  The flavors are rich and layered.  The pasta is a nice back-drop of simplicity for all of the richness.  It’s a winner.
  6. Thai-style Steak Salad (Serious Eats)… the only heresy I committed here was adding edamame to the salad.  It was nice to have the extra veggies in addition to all of those delicious herbs.  Lots of light, fresh flavor here.  Plus some steak so it isn’t too herby and light.  You would hate for it to be too light, you know?  🙂
  7. Cake!  The cake is important.  Hazelnut Crunch Cake with Mascarpone and Chocolate (Giada again, because we like her).

fullsizerender-6The cake was probably my favorite food of the week.  Big surprise, right?  The chocolate cake base was simple to make (thanks to the use of a box mix as recommended), and then it got fancy after that.  I’m terrible at making caramel anything, but the caramelized hazelnut crunch element wasn’t a killer.  And then everything together was just amazing.  Mascarpone whipped cream?  WITH CRUNCHY CARAMELIZED HAZELNUTS?  Yes, I’m screaming because it was so good.  But the kicker was the orange-chocolate crumble on top.  It was so unexpected and wonderful.  Thank you, Giada!

Happy birthday, Scott.  I’m glad you have such fun food taste.  Now it’s time to eat some lentils and spinach and 15-minute meals.  Whew.

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:


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 Observed

You know how some holidays exist on one day and have an “observed” day on a different day?  Scott’s birthday is on that list this year.  There just wasn’t any way to make the actual holiday feel like a holiday.  Between leaving for work an hour early, getting home an hour late, and having a Scott who’s committed to rugby practice, it wasn’t happening.

And thus “birthday observed.”

On birthday observed, the menu was fried chicken with sweet potato pancakes and six-layer chocolate cake with salted caramel and chocolate frosting.  Yum.

The star of the menu turned out to be the fried chicken, courtesy of The Pioneer Woman.

fried chickenI did make one chicken-fryin’ mistake.  I’d been measuring flour and sugar and things for a while in pursuit of the perfect chocolate cake, so I guesstimated the flour for the fried chicken.  I think the spices in the mix would have been more effective if I had actually measured the flour (think I used too much flour, not enough spice).  But…

Despite my error, it was crispy, flavorful (buttermilky delicious), and I would say a huge success.  Especially for my first time out.  I’ll admit that I was terrified to try fried chicken for the very first time for an important birthday observed dinner.  PW got me through with her solid advice and helpful pictures.  Her suggestion to fry with the lid on helped keep things less greasy in the kitchen, too.

Sweet potato pancakes are a great side to go with fried chicken–a play on the old combo of fried chicken and waffles.  My sweet potato pancakes, however, could use a tweak or two before they make a public recipe debut.

The birthday sheep approved of the combo.

sheepAnd then moseyed on over to the cake.

cake with candles litOne of them got turned around.  You know how sheep are about following directions.

Anyway, the cake was good.  It was rich.  So rich!  The caramel between layers was supposed to stay kind of solid, but instead it seeped into the chocolate cake to make one solid layer of moist, chocolate caramel.  It was incredible, but I can only make it through half a piece at a time.  Trust me, if you want to eat one thing from birthday observed, it’s the fried chicken.

Birthday Week (Not Mine)

Welcome to Scott’s birthday week!  What does birthday week mean at our house?

Well, it means that the family member of honor gets to pick the food for the week.  It also means the honoree gets to pick TV at night and generally make reasonable requests.  An example of a request that would not be granted is, “I’d like a brand new Ferrari.”  Nope.  Maybe next year.

So welcome to the adventure of Scott’s favorite foods and a brand-new-to-us cake.  It’s going to be a tasty week.

But first things first, today another friend had a birthday.  We had cake for her, too.

photo from

photo from

I have to say, waking up early and baking a cake didn’t sound good when I made that plan last night.  But this morning, it was wonderful.  Think about chocolate icing hot off the stove at 7 AM.  There aren’t a whole lot of ways I would rather wake up.  This cake was a favorite a year ago, and it’s still a favorite today.

(Favorite) Texas Sheet Cake

I’ve done a variety of things today that weren’t super fun.  And how will I make myself feel better?  By making my very favorite (at this exact moment) dessert and pretending it’s a kindness for the people around me.  

photo by Francesco Tonelli

Sure, I am going to give half of the cake to neighbors as a “Thanks for welcoming us to the neighborhood” gesture.  And I’m going to enjoy the other half with Scott and some of our family members who are visiting tomorrow night and Saturday morning.

I’m really making it for me though.  It’s delicious.  It’s sweet and chocolate and crunchy and special.  I can’t pinpoint what it is that makes it special exactly, although I would guess it’s the cinnamon, if I were a betting woman.  All I know is that it inspired me to write “Delicious!” in my cookbook, and I don’t enjoy writing in books for the most part.  I couldn’t risk forgetting how much I like this recipe.

Please make it, I’m begging you: delicious recipe.