Memorable Birthday Dinner

I love birthday's celebrations or anything that involves cake and candles!  Since I love to cook, a homemade birthday cake is more like fun that work.  I have always enjoyed cooking and like to spend time on the weekend trying new recipes.  My husband has been a willing guinea pig for 16 years now!

Birthday's are a good time to keep it simple and classic.  This year's birthday celebration menu includes:
  • Catfish Allison
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes
  • Fruit salad
  • Yellow cake with Chocolate icing
Seasonal and fresh cooking are ways to ensure that you meal is fresh and flavorful.  The farmers market is always a great place to start for these items now that the market season is in full spring.  

One idea for a fresh, fruit salad is:
  • Fresh berries that are in season - can include strawberries and blackberries
  • Peaches, oranges or other fruit for contrasting flavor or color
  • Honey
Wash and slice fruit to desired size.  Drizzle with honey and serve.  About 2 tablespoons will work for a mixture of about 3 to 4 cups of fruit.  You can also add mint if you like to this salad.  

The Catfish Allison is a recipe that I acquired from a friend several years ago and has long since been a family favorite for company.  It is simple poached catfish finished with a broiled cheese and onion sauce.  When you read the ingredients you might be slightly creeped out, but I have given in to the fact that many Southern recipes include some type of mayonnaise.  This is no exception.
  • Catfish (purchase the quantity that you will need)
  • Mayonaise
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Tabasco
  • Green Onions
Mix together roughly equal parts of mayonnaise and parmesan cheese.  I used about a half cup each for this recipe.  If you are serving a larger crowd, use about a cup each.  Stir in approximately 1 tablespoon of worcestershire sauce and a few dashes of tabasco.  Chop green onions .  Add the bottom portions to the mayonnaise mixture and reserve the green tops for finishing.

Poach your fish in water.  I like to add lemon slices to the poaching water.  Once the fish turns, remove from the liquid and place in a greased baking dish.  Top is mayonnaise mixture and place under the broiler until browned and bubbling.  Top with green onions that have been reserved.  

Finally, the cake is a recipe from Southern Living's Comfort Food recipe book.  This is a cookbook that is a must buy!  If you are looking for a simple cake that has hands on ingredients and turns out perfect every time the birthday cake from this book is always a winner.

This cake begins with a simple batter that is butter, shortening, sugar, egg whites, flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla and almond extracts.  Bake in three layers, and you are on your way.  One tip for cake baking success is cool your cake completely!!!  And I mean completely.  The slightest amount of heat will create a mudslide of frosting that is more than anyone can deal with!  Obviously, I learned this the hard way.  Therefore, I had a cake with a mountain of frosting on the exterior and think little ribbons of frosting between layers 2 and 3.  But, as my husband would say, "Does it have sugar in it?  Well, they will eat it!"  This was his response to all of the class parties I threw when I was a teacher.  And yes, this rule applies to birthday cake too!

The frosting is equally simple.  Confectioners sugar, butter, milk and cocoa powder.  There is nothing wrong with anything from that list.

Birthdays can be as simple or complicated as you like.  This meal involved a little prep time but was easy in the end.  I made the cake and prepped my salad and sauce for the fish while I was baking.  My mother cubed the potatoes, but those could have been done while baking as well.  The night of our dinner, I only had to start the potatoes early for them to roast.  At the end, I started the fish while setting the table and putting the fruit out.  Super simple and delicious!

If you are planning a special dinner follow these simple rules:
  • Make something homemade that you can prepare ahead.  
  • Don't feel that you have to make a lot of complicated dishes.  Simple fruit salad will lighten your load tremendously.
  • Roasted or grilled veggies are easy and great!
  • Prep things early that can sit in the fridge until time to finish.
  • Take you time staggering your final cooking.
  • Enjoy your guest(s) of honor and your meal!

Have a great week!