Wednesday, September 23, 2015

An Italian Dinner Party

Last weekend we celebrated my wife's birthday.  While we were in Italy for our honeymoon, after a few glasses of wine, Robin mentioned that we should have an Italian themed dinner for her birthday and call it "Aged to Perfection."  I didn't mention it after the discussion, but I tucked that idea into my back pocket and decided to do this - surprise style - for her birthday.  I started with an Evite, and I made sure to only invite people that Robin can really be relaxed around, since I knew a surprise party was already out of her comfort zone.  Here's the invitation:

Here's the menu:

Appetizer: Bruschetta + Caprese Salad Bites
Pasta Course: Gnocchi with meat sauce + Gnocchi with pesto
Entree: Two homemade pizzas (1 with pancetta + mozzarella, 1 margarita)
Dessert: Tiramisu

On Friday night (with the student organization I advise having their meeting in my living room), I made two batches of pizza dough, homemade roasted tomato pizza sauce, and tiramisu.  I was most nervous about the tiramisu because baking involves, well science, and I get nervous about getting the measurements, timing, pans, etc. correct.

 Making the custard using a double boiler for the first time ever.

Roasted tomatoes, garlic, and oregano fresh out of the oven.  I just blended it all up and it was a delicious pizza sauce.  The recipe is here.

On Saturday, our friend (and my Beachbody coach), Heather, took Robin out for a day of fun (AKA get her out of the house while I cook), and Heather's wife, Nicole came over to be my amazing and lovely sous chef.   We first got the house ready by figuring out to set a table for 9 when we had 8 plates, 8 wine glasses, 8 placemats, etc. etc. We ended up giving Robin the "special" sets of everything (i.e. the mismatched).  It worked out. :)

 Gnocchi life.  This isn't even a quarter of it.

 Best sous chef ever (she's also proof of how great Focus T25 is - she's so fit!)

 The "special" table setting with the Birthday Cake Candle

The Table

The cooking process actually went really well and the timing of everything worked out so that I had washed all of the flour off of my face and changed out of my pajamas before people arrived - phew!  We all drank prosecco and passed out the appetizers to start the night out.

Mini Caprese Salad Bites (from the recipe here)

After everyone sat at the table and we transitioned to some red wine, we served the pasta course.

 Homemade Gnocchi with meat sauce

Homemade Gnocchi with pesto (thank you Terry Hagen for the pasta-making lessons!)

I made two pizzas for the entree.  This is my second time making homemade pizza, and I love the recipe from Elise Blaha Cripe - The Only Pizza Dough Recipe You Will Ever Need (as well as all of the things on her blog - check it out!).

 Here is the pancetta and mozzarella version.  I really like using ciliegine which is just small cherry size balls of mozzarella cheese.  

 I love this picture - such an adorable couple.

Here's what we could salvage for pictures of the margarita pizza. It went fast.

For dessert we had the tiramisu I made on Friday night.  My friend, Amanda, who was our food photographer for the evening may have had a few too many glasses of Chianti Classico by then, because we somehow have no photos of the dessert.  Here is the delicious recipe I  used:

Here is a link to my Pinterest Board for the event in case you want other ideas:

We had so much fun with this themed birthday dinner, and with how little stress was actually involved, I definitely want to do it again.  Maybe a dinner that is on the food plan, but still delicious for next time?  Any ideas?


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