Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

Even though today is my 28th Birthday, Brian and I celebrated it over the weekend.  On Saturday, my hubby cooked me a three course dinner paying tribute to squash.  Let me explain...

For the last 2 or 3 years worth of our birthdays, we have celebrated Iron Chef style.  Here's how it goes:  the birthday boy or girl gets to name a "secret ingredient" and the other person makes a special meal using that ingredient, but the actual dish is a surprise until it is served - a la Iron Chef.  We do things a little differently than the TV show though (ya know, since neither one of us has any professional training,  sous chefs, or a fully stocked grocery store in our kitchen).  First, we allow more than just one hour to prepare the meal.  Some days I can barely get a "regular" dinner on the table in an hour or less, let alone a special birthday dinner, so we can take as long as we need.  Second, the one celebrating their birthday tries to give "the Chef" about a week's notice on their choice of "secret ingredient" so the Chef can come up with a meal plan and pick up the necessary items from the grocery store.  And last, there is no requirement on number of courses to be served and no judging, just enjoying!

This year, Brian took our little Birthday Secret Ingredient Challenge to a whole other level!  He planned and executed three elegant courses that showcased my choice of ingredient and elevated it to something worthy of a more prestigious title than simply "squash".  Not only did he plan and cook, but he printed out a menu, set the table, lit candles and had jazzy Christmas music playing in the background.  All I know is, I better bring my A-Game for his birthday next year!

The Menu

The First Course was the most divine soup I have ever tasted.  Brian roasted butternut squash and then pureed it with vegetable stock, cream, ginger and honey (and probably a few other things).  He topped it with a delicate swirl of sour cream and a dusting of fresh thyme.  Wow, totally blew me away!  I could have been satisfied with just the soup but there was more...

To my delight, the Second Course highlighted three more kinds of squash!  Brian roasted acorn squash and mashed it to serve as a bed for a pan-seared chicken breast.  Then he assembled a trio of julienned summer squash, zucchini and carrots which he sauteed and as a side dish he created an Herbed Quinoa Pilaf with Leeks.  I loved the sage and thyme in the quinoa as they complimented the nuttiness of the roasted acorn squash and the earthiness of the summer squash, zucchini and carrot trio.

On to dessert and Brian wowed me again!  He managed to incorporate yet another species within the Cucurbita genus (at the bottom of the menu Brian prepared, he even gave some scientific information and history the squash, similar to the commentary provided by Alton Brown during each episode of Iron Chef).  We ended the meal with a delicious homemade pumpkin roll with cream cheese filling that he served with some decaf (pumpkin spice) coffee.

I couldn't believe the amount of thought and level of detail that Brian went into in order to make such a special, elegant and delicious meal.  It was definitely one of the best birthdays I've ever had, and if it's any indication of how the rest of my 28th (or is it 29th?) year is going to look, I am in for a great year!


  1. Love the attention to detail, the paragraph about squash on the menu, the handmade-ness of it all. Bravo, Brian!

  2. Just catching up here (can't imagine what I've been busy with) and this post demanded a comment. WOW. What an inspiring idea for birthday feasts. Fantastic pics, looks like Brian is going to have to think very hard about topping this gift!

  3. It was...EPIC! Definitely raised the bar with this one! Hope life is beautiful with those two sweet girls of yours!


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