Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Best birthday dinner EVER.

That's a direct quote from my mom.  It's her birthday today and for part of her present I decided to make a dinner especially for her!

Ok, backstory.  My mom has been suffering with lots of bizarre-ish symptoms over the past few years which she recently discovered is due to some crazy allergies.  When she was tested, she learned just how severe her allergies and subsequent reactions are.  This makes eating out nearly impossible and eating in almost as impossible.  For example, here is a condensed list of things she can't have:  wheat, oats, rice, soy, garlic, apples, chicken, beef, mushrooms, celery, tomato, onion... and those are just the ones I remember.  And that does not include environmental allergies like grass, every pollen, ragweed, mold, dust... or the animal ones, like cats, dogs, hamsters, gerbils, horses, chickens, and birds.  And lest you think I am simply making this up so it appears she is allergic to everything under the sun, and probably the sun as well, I swear to you that it is true.  She should live in a bubble.  But she'd probably be allergic to the plastic.

Soooo, Yummy Monday's have been a bit of a downer lately.  I always feel badly that there are so many things I make that she can't eat.  It's really hard to keep track of things she CAN have...  

So today I did my research.  Turns out that pretty much the only protein she's not allergic to is pork, shrimp and lobster.

Hmmmm.  Lobster.  I've never made that before...

And that's how this dinner was born.  If you are in need of yummy food ideas for the allergy consumed, here you go!

First off, a salad.  About the only thing that's totally safe is lettuce.  Practically all other veggies are offensive.  So, I made a salad of just greens and some carrots.  Then I needed a dressing.  Did you now that virtually all vinaigrette dressings use rice wine vinegar?  My mom loves vinaigrette but can't have rice wine vinegar.  So I found a recipe that totally worked for us and tweaked it a bit.  Here it is:

Creamy Vinaigrette Dressing

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 T Dijon mustard 
  • 4 T mayonnaise
  • Dash of Dried Garlic
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Cup olive oil
  • (feel free to half everything for a smaller serving)

  • Measure vinegar (or lemon juice) and mustard (or mayonnaise) into a 2-cup measuring cup. With a small whisk, stir in garlic, a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Measure oil in another cup. Slowly whisk oil into mixture, first in droplets, then in a slow, steady stream to make an emulsified vinaigrette.

The dressing was really good, and I was super surprised that you could get a vinaigrette flavor without using vinegar.

For our veggie side, I decided on asparagus.  Another safe vegetable, and also one of my mom's favorites.  I wanted to jazz it up a bit, so I also made a bernaise sauce to go with it.  The recipes:

Parmesan Asparagus
olive oil
parmesan cheese

Wash the asparagus and break the tips off.  (Just hold the asparagus by the ends and bend, letting it snap where natural.)  Lay the tips in a baking pan and drizzle with olive oil.  Preheat the oven to 300.  Bake the asparagus for about 5 minutes, then turn the oven to broil and broil for 3-5 minutes.  Keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn.  Remove from the oven when it is bright green in color and tender but still crisp.  Transfer it to a serving dish and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

Bernaise Sauce 
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup dry white wine

  • dash of lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup hot melted butter

  • Combine the vinegar, wine, lemon juice, tarragon, salt, and pepper in a small saucepan. Boil over medium-high heat until the liquid is reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Strain vinegar reduction into a large bowl; set aside.  Bring several inches of water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat, then reduce heat to low or medium-low to maintain the water at a bare simmer. Whisk the egg yolks into the vinegar reduction, then place the bowl over the simmering water. Whisk constantly until the yolks have thickened and turned a pale lemon yellow color. The mixture will form ribbons when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. Once the yolk has reached this point, remove the bowl from the simmering water.  Slowly pour the hot butter into the egg yolk mixture while continuing to whisk vigorously. Do not stop whisking until all of the butter is fully incorporated or the sauce will separate. Once finished, the mixture will have become a thick and creamy sauce. Serve immediately.

Now, the asparagus would have been PERFECT save for the fact that I didn't take it off the pan right away, so the hot pan cooked it more than it should have been cooked.  One of these days I will learn, I swear.

As for the bernaise, well, I'd call it a fail, but it really tasted yummy.  I cooked the yolks a bit too long which caused some lumpiness and made the sauce separate.  It's disgusting to look at but pretty yummy to consume.  I may retry this later.

The lobster itself?  Totally easy to make.  I decided on tails only after doing a bit of research (and deciding I didn't want to remortgage my house just to buy it...).  If you need some lobster advice, go here.  Very helpful.  And if you're trepidatious about trying something so audacious at home, I say - you only live once!  I think big fancy to-do's like this need to be done every once in a while.  So I splurged.  Here's how I cooked and served the tails.

Boiled Lobster Tails

Slice the tails down the length of the shell.  (This will ensure that the tails don't curl up, like mine did.)
Fill a pot with enough water to comfortably cover the tails.  
Add salt to the water at a ratio of 1 teaspoon to 1 liter.  For instance:
4 tails
14 Cups water
3 1/2 tsp salt
Bring the salt water to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt.  
When the water is bubbling, gently place the tails in.
Boil the tails for 1 minute per every oz.  For instance:
4 tails at 5.5 oz each
22 minutes
The shells will turn a pinkish/red.
Drain the water.
Slice the lemon into wedges.
Melt a stick of butter.
Serve garnished with lemon wedges and a small bowl of melted butter.

Here is where I admit that I was really, really surprised at how yummy the lobster turned out. Why?  Well, first of all, we're pretty landlocked here in WI, and fresh seafood is, well, nonexistent.  I was pretty scared of that fact.  Also, it's me.  I mean, food failure isn't exactly RARE around here.  BUT.  It was so yummy.  I mean, really.  We all loved it.  And furthermore, my dad HATES lobster.  Hates it.  But loved this.  So, I say, go for it!  BUT, a little tip.  Run a knife down the shell before boiling.  Then they won't curl all up and look scary like mine.

Here's the spread.  A delicious, allergy-free, birthday dinner!

And, if you need further proof that even the kids loved the asparagus and lobster, here you go.

Amazing.  Considering how picky they're getting.

Now, what can you make for dessert when someone is allergic to wheat, oats, soy, peanuts, chocolate and all related products??

Thank goodness she's not lactose intolerant.  I made these cute little cheesecake muffins.

And they were TASTY.  I totally accidentally changed the recipe, and we all loved it anyway.  Phew.  Here it is.

Cheesecake Cupcakes
2.5 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line cupcake pans with paper cupcake liners.  In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar. Stir in the eggs one at a time, then mix in the vanilla. Spoon into cupcake pans to fill about 2/3 to 3/4 full.  Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 to 10 minutes.  To make the sour cream topping, whisk together the sour cream, 1 cup sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Spoon into the well on the top of each cupcake. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until set.  Set cupcake pans on racks to cool, do not remove cupcakes from the pan until they are completely cool. For a finishing touch, you can add a dollop of your favorite pie filling on top.

And because I felt she needed an actual cake with a candle, I made flan too.  I used this recipe (and my dad - who lived in Mexico for a while - said it was the best flan he'd ever had.)  

cup sugar
large eggs
1 (14 ounce) can condensed milk
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
teaspoon vanilla extract
4 oz cream cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Select 2 oven safe containers, one that can easily fit inside the other.
  3. The large one will be used for a water bath and the smaller one will actually house the flan.
  4. Fill the larger container a little less than half way with water and place in the cold oven to heat up while you prepare the caramel and the custard.
  5. In a large pan, using a wooden spoon caramelize the sugar until it turns a light golden brown.
  6. While still hot, transfer the melted sugar to the smaller container, swirling it around until the entire bottom is covered then set aside.
  7. In a blender add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
  8. Open up the oven where you have placed the water bath and then place the small pan with the caramel inside the large water bath pan.
  9. Pour the custard into the pan being careful not to splash it.
  10. Bake for 30- 45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the center passes a toothpick test.
  11. Remove from oven and allow to cool on rack.
  12. You may invert this onto a large serving dish with lip or just server out of container you cooked it inches.

But I forgot to take a picture.  Which is ok, because I forgot to buy birthday candles, too.

And that's how I say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the world's super greatest mom!


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Mom said...

Truly Scrumptious!
Thank YOU Kim... Mom :)

Lisa said...

Mmm, this dinner just has spring written all over it. Everything sounds so fresh and tasty.

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