Luke’s Birthday Dinner & "Julie & Julia"

Usually on birthdays and anniversaries and holidays like Valentine’s Day I cook a slightly more elaborate dinner, a “special” dinner, than usual. Sometimes we will go out for those occasions. Except Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t matter what day of the week it falls on, all the restaurants are WAY too busy! We’ll get a nice bottle of wine and I’ll go crazy (sometimes literally) and try all new recipes. Luke’s birthday was the most recent occasion and every single recipe I made was a new one, with the exception of the salads. I thought I’d share the menu and where I found the recipes for each.

The first course was a salad and these absolutely divine cheese straws from Smitten Kitchen. I honestly think those cheese straws were my favorite part of dinner. They came pretty close to being better than dessert! Basically they are like glorified cheese puffs. I honestly ask you to try to find one person in the world who doesn’t like cheese. Ok, so maybe there’s one or two but we all know they’re crazy. These are made “grown up” a little bit by looking like fancy breadsticks and by adding in some red pepper flakes.

For the main course we had what the Pioneer Woman calls Potato Bundles, and a recipe I copied from a library cookbook (I’m thinking written by Gourmet Magazine?), Shrimp, Asparagus and Pesto Fettuccine. The Potato Bundles, in true Pioneer Woman fashion, didn’t let me down. I honestly can’t say I’ve ever tried a recipe of hers that didn’t work and that wasn’t fantastic. The pasta though, I was disappointed.

For starters, I wound up not having any pesto. That was probably the biggest problem with it. I bought a nice pesto (since it would cost me more to make than to buy and I don’t have a food processor anyway), but didn’t realize that the jar was cracked under the label. When I opened it up the lid seal had already popped and about 1/4 of the jar’s worth had already leaked out. So out with the sauce. The best part of the pasta was the roasted red peppers. It said to use canned red peppers but since I was already spending $$$ on pesto, I decided to roast my own pepper. I sat it on a gas burner turned to med-low, and turned it until it was charred on all sides. Then I popped it into a plastic bag and let it sit until I was ready to use it. Then I just removed the seeds and chopped it up. I had never had roasted red pepper before and I almost couldn’t resist eating the whole thing before even putting it in the pasta! The asparagus and shrimp were fine but without the sauce it wasn’t as good as it could have been.

For dessert I made another Pioneer Woman recommendation, Molten Chocolate Cakes, although it wasn’t her recipe. It was from her recent recipe site launch of Tasty Kitchen, and this recipe definitely is worth keeping and making over and over! I was a little confused at first because some baking chocolate squares are 1 oz. and some are 2 oz., but reading the comments it was 1 oz. squares. Also, I don’t have any custard cups but I used a muffin tin and only cooked them for 10 minutes. They were a little smaller but just as good! Serve them with whipped cream – oh. my. gosh.

I think Luke’s dinner was a hit, he usually likes what I cook though. =) I’m really blessed that he likes so much of what I make.

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Luke took me to see “Julie & Julia” today! I’ve been waiting to see it and he kept teasing me, saying “I’m sure it’ll be on DVD by Christmas.” I really enjoyed it but first I have to say it’s definitely a PG-13 movie at moments. There, you’ve been warned. That said, I loved Meryl Streep as Julia Child! She really had her down and for several moments you really thought you were watching Julia! The best thing for me about the movie was seeing how Julia & her husband Paul were so close and how Julie and her husband Eric became so close. Anyway, watch with caution but I did love the movie. (Why do they even feel the need to put that stuff in sometimes? Really.)

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