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Nate has told me before that the dinner he always looked forward to his mom making when he was growing up was pasta with sausage and tomato sauce, with broccoli and garlic bread. So when his 30th birthday was fast approaching, I knew this is the meal I would make for him.

However, when we were down at the shore visiting my parents the weekend before his bday, my mom made a delicious red sauce, and being that Nate’s bday was only a couple days later, I asked him for his next choice.

He told me his second favorite pasta sauce is a light garlic sauce. I immediately thought of a sausage and broccoli rabe combo…but Nate insisted on broccoli. And I’m not one to argue with the Birthday Boy.

*As some readers have pointed out, this sauce wasn’t actually a garlic sauce, but when I set out to make the recipe I thought it was. The sausage and chicken broth impart a seasoned/salty flavor that tastes a lot like a light garlic sauce but without all the oil. And if you really wanted, you’re more than welcome to add garlic!

I knew I wouldn’t have much time to cook when I got home from work, so I did all my market shopping the day before. It’s not like me to do this, but I bought some premade garlic bread…you know the one that comes in foil that you put right in the oven? It made my life a whole lot easier. This really came together super quickly and is perfect for dinner on a birthday, or any day of the year!


Pasta with Turkey Sausage and Broccoli
Adapted from Gourmet (3/06)

Print this recipe!

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

cooking spray
1 lb italian turkey or pork sausage, casings discarded and sausage crumbled
1/2 lb broccoli florets, coarsely chopped
3/4 lb dried pasta (whatever shape you desire)
2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 oz finely grated Pecorino Romano (1/2 cup) plus additional for serving

Spray a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook sausage, breaking up any lumps with a spoon, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water. When pasta is al-dente, remove using a slotted spoon and set aside. Add broccoli to the pasta water and blanch, 1 min.  Reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain broccoli in a colander.

Add broccoli to sausage in skillet and sauté, stirring frequently, until just tender, about 1-2 min. Add broth, stirring and scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet, then add pasta and 1/2 cup reserved cooking water to skillet, tossing until combined. Stir in cheese and thin with additional cooking water if desired.

Serve immediately, with additional cheese on the side.

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Ever since Nate’s last birthday, I’ve been plotting and planning a cake to top what I made him last year. He told me that his fave cake flavors are Red Velvet or Carrot Cake.

But I knew a Red Velvet Cake alone wouldn’t be special enough for his 30th birthday. So I thought bigger.

Nate told me that when he was younger, he loved rainbow sherbert and tye-dye, and basically all things colorful. So I knew when I was scoping the web and saw pictures of Rainbow Cakes, I’d have to do something similar.

However, I don’t have 6 separate pans for different colors, so I thought about putting all the colors in one pan, for more of a tye-dye effect, and only used 2 pans for 2 layers. I had seen that others had already tried this so I knew it would work out.

The only thing that worried me is that all of these were done with white cake, so the colors were very vibrant. I’d be using red velvet batter, though, which is already tinted slightly brown from the cocoa.

In the end, it certainly wasn’t as bright as it would have been with white cake, but it was pretty darn awesome.

But the best part was seeing everyone’s face when I cut the first slice. Nobody had a clue of what was inside that innocent looking white-frosted cake 🙂

Happy 30th Birthday, Nate! I can’t wait to celebrate many more with you…


Rainbow Velvet Cake with Raspberries and Blueberries
Adapted from Bon Appetit

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Make one 9-in layer cake

Ingredients:

Cake
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Violet food gels

Frosting
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

3 1/2-pint baskets fresh raspberries
3 1/2-pint baskets fresh blueberries

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides.

Sift sifted flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl.

Whisk buttermilk, vinegar, and vanilla in small bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Beat in dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 3 additions.

Divide batter evenly into 6 small bowls. Add food gel to each of 6 bowls, about 1/4 tsp each or until desired color is achieved.

Drop the colours, one by one, into the middle of the pan, in neat concentric blobs.

When you’re three colours in, start doing the reverse with the other pan. Since I’m going in rainbow order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, I got from red to yellow in the first pan, then purple, blue, green in the second. This is so that your two pans are equal if your measurements aren’t exact (and they’re not likely to be).

For a good visual of how to do this, view here.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25-30 min minutes. Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks; cool completely.

Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.

Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Spread 1 cup frosting over top of cake.

Arrange 1 basket raspberries and 1/2 basket blueberries atop frosting, pressing lightly to adhere.

Top with second cake layer, flat side down.

Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Arrange remaining berries decoratively over top of cake. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.)

Cut into cake and watch the amazement on everyone’s faces!

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One of my dearest friends, Erica (and the one I’ve known the longest!), celebrated a special bday this past weekend- the big 3-0. Because I wasn’t able to make it to her bowling bday bash, I did what I always do and baked her a cake 🙂

It’s so nice to love cooking and baking, because it makes giving presents so easy, enjoyable and special (I also sometimes paint/draw/crochet my gifts). I mean who doesn’t love some homemade treats? Plus, it’s so nice to put some thought and effort into a present and give it that handmade touch rather than just picking up a random gift from the store because you’re “supposed to” give presents on bdays.

And I have to say, I think my gifts tend to be much more appreciated! So when it came time to get thinking about what type of cake Erica wanted, I went straight to the source. I like to be creative, but Erica wanted the basics: yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I suppose that IS the traditional bday cake combo.

Of course, I had to add my touch and make it a little different and more gourmet- adding white chocolate chips to the batter and making a sour cream chocolate frosting. But I also have been so busy  that I took a few shortcuts- using a boxed cake mix that I jazzed up.

Yes, Erica is wearing scrubs in those pics. She works in tv and is currently filming a show and is in the hospital all day long. I wish I could wear such comfy clothes to work!

Anyways, the cake result was nothing short of amazing…a birthday tradition from now on, to be sure.

Happy 30th Birthday, Erica!!!

I’m so happy to have you as my friend and I can’t wait to celebrate many more birthdays with you 🙂


Yellow Birthday Cake with White Chocolate Chips and Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

Cake recipe by me, Frosting recipe taken from Smitten Kitchen adapted from The Dessert Bible

Print this recipe!

# of Servings-who cares, it’s your birthday! (Makes one 2 layer bday cake)

Cake:

1 box Classic Yellow Cake mix
1 cup water
1/3 cup oil
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1/2-1 cup white chocolate chips
1 recipe Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting, recipe below

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter two 9-inch round cake pans (or two 8-inch, depending on how high you want the cake to be) and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment.

Place cake mix, water, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a bowl. Beat well. Add eggs and beat to incorporate, 2 min. Stir in 1/2-1 cup of white chocolate chips, depending on how much you like.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 30 min. Cool in pan on a rack 15 minutes. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour (put in fridge if you want them to cool faster. Sometimes they’re easier to frost when cold). Do not frost until cakes are completely cool.

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

15 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons instant espresso (optional, but can be used to pick up the flavor of average chocolate)
2 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the chocolate and espresso powder, if using, in the top of a double-boiler or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Alternately, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave for 30 seconds, stirring well, and then heating in 15 second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is melted.) Remove from heat and let chocolate cool until tepid.

Whisk together the sour cream, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup and vanilla extract until combined. Add the tepid chocolate slowly and stir quickly until the mixture is uniform. Taste for sweetness, and if needed, add additional corn syrup in one tablespoon increments until desired level of sweetness is achieved.

Let cool in the refrigerator until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. This should not take more than 30 minutes. Should the frosting become too thick or stiff, just leave it out until it softens again.

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