Saturday, January 26, 2008

Birthday fiesta

Today we celebrated the boy's first birthday. It was just family (the four grandparents, aunt, and us), but it was a lot of fun. I made four recipes from Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday. The book was a birthday gift to me last year (thanks, Mikki!!!) and I absolutely love it. Every recipe I've tried so far has been a winner. And, even more awesome, is that they really are "everyday" kinds of recipes. I don't know if you've ever checked out any of Bayless's other books, but the ones I've looked at tend to include pretty hard core, cook-all-day types of recipes. This one, on the other hand, features recipes that are really do-able in a reasonable amount of time (most in less than 40 minutes to an hour). And they are freakin' good!

Today we had Red Chile Enchiladas, a romaine salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing, Chipotle Meatballs, and Cowboy Beans. The enchiladas and beans I had made previously (so I knew I had at least two things that would be edible). The other two were what I like to term, "experimental"-- meaning something that I haven't cooked before.

The Creamy Avocado Dressing was fabulous. Very creamy, not too spicy, full of flavor, and a beautiful green color. And it was simple to make. A few ingredients (1/2 an avocado, mayo, oil, garlic, cilantro, salt) + blender = YUM! And, just as the book suggests, it was indeed excellent with just a salad of crisp romaine.

The Chipotle Meatballs were also quite good. The preparation was a little more extensive and time consuming, but the end product was worth it. The secret ingredient in these: mint. It really made a nice contrast to have the cool, refreshing mint flavor in the meatball paired with the slightly spicy red sauce.

The enchiladas and beans were very good (mmmm... Cowboy Beans....). Though the enchiladas are a more in depth process (heat the dried chiles, puree, strain, cook, simmer, add broth, simmer some more), there is just something really gratifying about knowing that I made the sauce myself (as opposed to just opening a can o' sauce).

To top off the festivities: birthday cupcakes! I used the Yellow Cupcake recipe from Baking Illustrated. Because the butter frosting offered in that book included eggs, I instead went with a Butter Frosting from an old Better Homes & Garden baking book-- confectioners' sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla. So simple, but oh, so sweet and good. They paired perfectly together.

It was a lot of fun watching the boy as he ate his very first cupcake. It was, of course, very messy-- but he clearly enjoyed it, and all of us had a lot of fun watching him! He ate almost the entire cupcake, too! Can't blame him... they were pretty tasty. :)

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