Charming and Inexpensive Dinner: Ja Cie Kocham and Cleanliness is Next to Godliness Celebrate The Mommy’s Birthday!
Yes, that is a homemade birthday cake. And yes, I baked it. And yes, it actually turned out! At some point I will learn how to put icing on a cake, but right now I’m just excited that the cake itself wasn’t underdone. Let’s just say that I was going for a rustic look.
Emmy, of Cleanliness is Next to Godliness, and I decided to throw The Mommy a fantastic birthday dinner that surrounded her with good food, family, and lots of laughter. Being The Mommy means that she cannot stand by and let us have all of the fun in the kitchen. She wanted to help cook, too!
The Mommy prepping the tomatoes for the Mediterranean-Style Stuffed Chicken
My sister was a good sport because she and I were supposed to cook everything together, but unfortunate circumstances (mainly traffic and last minute food purchases) led me to arrive a mere 30 minutes before dinner. I manged to bake the cake and make the salad, but the majority of the work was done by my sister. Thanks, Emmy! Although, I don’t think she completely minded because normally we celebrate The Mommy’s birthday at my house and I do all of the cooking. Now that Emmy has a house of her own and is getting married in LESS THAN A WEEK it was her turn to show off her culinary skills that she has mastered for her husband-elect.
Above: Please note the Birthday Wine glass on the table. The Mommy uses it every year!
Emmy sauteing the chicken on her new stove!
Emmy did a fantastic job hostessing for the very first time! Not only is it so exciting to have been there and shared in the joyous occasion, it is equally wonderful to share it with all of you! Our (mainly Emmy’s) meal served 8 people and was incredibly inexpensive. This feat in itself is something that should make Emmy proud.
And just because it’s fun: I bought The Mommy a pot of herbs from Trader Joe’s and we used it as a centerpiece. It smelled fabulous as we ate!
So please take notes! This is how you can prepare a charming and flavorful dinner for 8 people without having to break the bank but all the while being super proud.
Now onto the food!
Emmy made this fabulous Pea Pesto served with crostini and crackers. (I’d like to note how simple it is! A few ingredients can take you a long way!)
Source: Giada DiLaurentiis
1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas, defrosted
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
1/3 cup olive oil
Pulse together the peas, garlic, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a food processor. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil until well combined, about 1 to 2 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Mediterranean-Style Stuffed Chicken
Source: Food Network
8 boneless, skinless breasts of chicken
3 cloves minced garlic
1-1 1/2 packages thawed, drained frozen spinach
1/2 cup white wine
4-6 ounces. Feta cheese, cut into 4 pieces
3 tablespoons Olive oil
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2-3/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoon dried basil
Cut a two inch pocket into the thickest part of each chicken breast. Stuff each pocket with spinach and feta cheese and seal with a tooth pick. Season each breast well with salt and pepper. Heat oil over medium high heat and saute the breasts until golden brown on all sides. Remove chicken to a plate and cover with tin foil.
Add onion to remaining oil in pan and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in white wine and bring to a simmer. Stir in tomatoes and basil. Bring to a simmer and return chicken to the pan and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove lid and season sauce to taste. Serve with butter noodles tossed with parsley.
Smashed Red Potatoes
I’ll have to double-check with Emmy about how she prepared this one! I know it involved milk and red potatoes with the skin on it. I mentioned preparing this first and then putting it in a crock pot while we prepared the rest of dinner.
If you are able to prepare anything and put it in the crock pot or in a warmer drawer of your oven, I highly suggest it! It alleviates so much stress of having to make sure everything is served hot.
3/4 c. water
lemon slices (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
2 small or 1 large bag frozen broccoli
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil (optional)
This is how The Mommy makes her broccoli: Place water in a small pasta pot or large skillet. Add lemon slices, garlic, and broccoli. Place on medium heat and cover. Turn broccoli every minute or so to make sure that all broccoli is getting adequate steam. When broccoli is ALMOST done, turn off the heat, and drain. The broccoli will keep steaming when you transfer it to your serving dish and cover it. (If you wait until your broccoli is fully cooked there is a good chance that it will keep cooking and turn yellow and mushy.)
Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and gently toss when ready to serve.
This is how Emmy makes her broccoli: Place the water and broccoli in a microwave-safe casserole dish (she omitted lemon slices), cover it and heat in the microwave for 4-5 minutes. Toss it if some broccoli remains frozen and heat for an additional 30 seconds to minute. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
The Mommy’s favorite Salad – Purple and Blue Crunchy Salad
Unfortunately I had already tossed the lettuce before taking the picture so you can’t see all the purples and blues that are hiding underneath!
We call this “crunchy” salad because The Mommy LOVES when her salads are very crunchy. The radicchio and walnuts add the crunch that she considers to be a stress reliever
dressing of your choice – mom likes balsamic or citrus vinaigrette*
2 heads romaine lettuce, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
half a head radicchio, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup walnuts
2 oz. feta cheese, cubed
salt and pepper to taste (we like LOTS of freshly cracked pepper)
Place 1 Tbs. of dressing at the bottom of a large serving bowl, add remaining ingredients and gently toss. Garnish with extra blueberries, walnuts, and feta.
Southern-Style Strawberry Cake
Source: Joy the Baker
Ingredients for Cake:
1 (18.5 ounce) box white cake mix (without pudding)
1 (3 ounce) package strawberry jello
1 Tablespoon self rising flour
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup fresh strawberries, finely diced.
Directions for baking cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
To make the cake, combine to cake mix, Jello, flour and sugar in a large bowl. Mix well. Add the oil. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition Add the water and strawberries and mix well. Divide the batter evenly into three 8-inch round baking pans that have been oiled and floured. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean and the layers pull away from the sides of the pan.
Transfer the layers from the oven to wire racks. Let them cool, still in their pans, for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, run a knife around the inside edge of each pan, then unmold each layer onto the racks to cool completely.
Ingredients for icing:
1 (8 ounce) block cream cheese, softened
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 box (1 lb.) powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
pink food coloring
4 sliced strawberries
Directions for icing:
To make the frosting, in a bowl combine the cream cheese and butter. Beat until soft and pliable and no lumps remain. Add half of one box of the powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Beat until incorporated. Taste test it. If it isn’t sweet enough, add the second half of the box and mix until incorporated. If you would like a smoother consistency, and a slash of milk. If you would like a thicker consistency, and a bit more powdered sugar until the desired consistency is achieved.
Put the coconut in a small bowl and sprinkle with two or three drops of pink die. Mix with hands to distribute the color and wash hands immediately. Once the cake is frosted, decorate the top of the cake with the shredded coconut and sliced strawberries.
After an amazingly satisfying meal, we sat and had coffee and chatted.
Starting in the front and going counter-clockwise: Emmy, Dad, my hubby (looking at the ceiling for some reason), Emmy’s husband-elect, Uncle D., Kitty, The Mommy.
The party didn’t stop there! The Mommy loves the fact that Emmy lives in a prime location for walking to different parks, restaurants, and shops so we stopped at a local Mexican restaurant for drinks.
And if you haven’t noticed, I’m in absolutely NO pictures because (clearly) I’m the photographer. Emmy took some photos as well and will be posting about this fabulous day so maybe she has some of me in my flour-covered Phillies t-shirt.
Anyway, thank you for stepping into the lives of Ja Cie Kocham and Cleanliness is Next to Godliness! We certainly had fun together and hope that you can take something away from our charming and inexpensive birthday dinner!