Oh, what a night!

Everyone around here looks forward to my sister’s birthday celebration on Labor Day weekend. The weekend makes some of us wish we had summer birthday’s too.

We always have a Mexican feast, and cake. You can read about previous birthday celebrations here and here.

This year, my mom upped the ante with a shaving cream mural activity at cocktail hour.

For dessert we had a Hellman’s mayonnaise cake. This is an amazing, soft and moist chocolate cake that doesn’t taste a bit like mayonnaise. The story goes, it was invented by a Hellman’s mayonnaise salesman’s wife. A few people said it was the best cake they’ve ever had!

• Hellman’s Mayonnaise Cake •
original recipe here

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 eggs
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup Hellmann’s® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise
1 1/3 cups water

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and lightly flour two 9-inch round cake pans; set aside.

In medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder; set aside.
In large bowl, with electric mixer at high speed, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in Hellmann’s® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise at low speed until blended. Alternately beat in flour mixture with water, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour into prepared pans.

Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. On wire racks, cool 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely. Frost, if desired, or sprinkle with confectioners sugar.

I frosted the cake with a basic confectioner’s sugar, butter and cream cheese frosting, with a bit of cocoa mixed in with the confectioner’s sugar.

Some things I’ve managed to make

It a’int easy, this working full time thing. Leaving home at 7:30 and not returning until 6:30 leaves little time for planning, let alone actually cooking dinner. Fortunately, we have my parents, and Shane who hasn’t started working yet.

Although friends and family alike have been encouraging me to relinquish dinner to those more able, I can’t let it go completely. At least once a week, I try my hand at getting dinner on the table before 9pm (school’s starting soon, after all). Occasionally I succeed.

Here are some of the meals I’ve managed to make: Chicken Baked in Creamy Tomato Sauce – tip: add white beans and it doubles as a loose-interpretation vegetarian meal. Fusili with Ricotta and Spinach – easy, quick and can be a one-dish meal, sort of. Make a tomato salad too, if you’re ambitious, or my mom. Nachos – what the heck, right? Pile some chips with beans and shredded cheese and bung ’em in the broiler. A jar of salsa, guacamole, leftover steak and an easy salad is all you need on the side.

We’ve got Europeans!

We felt very fortunate this weekend. One of the things we were feeling good about was the fact that we had some wonderful Europeans visiting. Jeff and Susan from England and Pat & Trish from Ireland.

Shane orchestrated dinner so well, that he said he didn’t end up doing any of the actual cooking. The blue cheese caesar salad (recipe below) was a hit and is a good one to make for a crowd (18 tonight).

We were not feeling so good about the fact that my dad was so sick he missed dinner.  Feel better soon Morg!

• Blue Cheese Caesar Salad •
6 servings
original recipe from the Seattle Times

Parmesan croutons:
2 cups 1/2-inch French bread cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 large head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and broken into bite-size pieces
1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 (2-ounce) can anchovy fillets, drained, rinsed and patted dry
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
2/3 cup crumbled blue cheese, divided
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. To prepare the croutons: Toss the bread cubes with the olive oil and put into a baking pan. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven 15-20 minutes, until golden. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the Parmesan cheese. Set aside.

2. To prepare the salad: Prepare the romaine and place in a large bowl. Cover with paper towels and refrigerate.

3. In a food processor blend the garlic and anchovies to a paste. Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise and 1/3 cup blue cheese. Blend until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil, blending until emulsified. Add several grindings black pepper. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate. Remove from refrigeration 30 minutes before serving. 4. When ready to serve, toss the romaine with the dressing, remaining blue cheese, Parmesan and croutons.


Ahoy young fisherwoman!

Friday_IMG_2118Anna & Chris taught Rose to fish this week. Today, she caught 10 bluefish! Drew grilled them up for dinner.

Friday_IMG_2123We also had chicken (a Cape Friday tradition), roasted peppers, a yummy salad and potatoes. Happy Friday!




Celebrity guest dinner!

Celebrity_IMG_2054We had dinner with celebrities tonight! Oh la la. Our guest were Bruce and Steve, real-life characters from Suzy Becker’s book One Good Egg.

My mom took care of dinner, immediately upon returning from a trip to Mass MOCA. Isn’t she amazing?

She made the foolproof and always elegant Salmon Baked in Parchment, a delicious risotto, roasted peppers and salad. A grand time was had by all. Bruce and Steve were incredibly gracious considering all the very personal questions we asked them (read the book!)
Celebrity_IMG_2057 Celebrity_IMG_2053

Mac & cheese, al fresco

Lanterns_MacCheese_IMG_2044On Mondays I work from home. This means it’s somewhat feasible for me to make dinner.

Tonight we had the quick (particularly if you prep the breadcrumbs in advance)  Stovetop Mac & Cheese outside, on a beautiful evening, with beautiful paper lanterns. Also spinach salad with apricots, cucumber and cilantro.

Cape weekend

In an effort to save time, here’s the whole Cape weekend in one somewhat concise post.

Friday night we had chicken with chorizo and potatoes from Jamie Oliver. With salads, of course, and yummy gazpacho by Britta.

In the morning, Sid helped me empty the dishwasher.

Saturday evening, the babies ate pond-side while the kids practiced leaping and the grown-ups drank margaritas.

Much later, we had grilled meats (pork ribs and sausages), grilled veggies, and every starch except pasta (rice, bread, corn and potatoes). Even the Beanie Boos got in on the dinner action.

It was a tremendous amount of food, but we still managed to pack in a dessert of brownies and ice cream.

Rose was the only one smart enough to work off dinner with a late-night trampoline session.


Epic pasta birthday

Tonight we celebrated my mom and dad’s birthdays with an epic pasta-making enterprise and meal. The lousy weather provided a perfect backdrop for the monumental task of making fresh pasta for 17 people (or maybe it was 15).

Shane spearheaded the operation with help from pretty much everyone in some way or another. A lot of the meal and prep is not pictured because I was totally obsessed with documenting the pasta-making process.

Not pictured are the three racks of ribs Shane had pre-smoked at home on Thursday, two types of homemade barbeque sauce, Ronni’s delicious salad, the preparation of Chris’ sauce, and dessert prep.

Inconsistent documentation aside, it was a delicious meal and a grand time was had by all. Happy Birthday mom and dad!