I’m back with another If I Can Make It, You Can Too recipe. As I’ve told you before, I’m not much in the cooking category but what I lack in the skills department, I make up for with creativity. (Remember the rainbow cake from the first installment of If I Can Make It, You Can Too? )
Recently, I hosted a small birthday dinner for my friend Tracy. On the menu: shrimp and scallop paella and birthday cake, of course.
The paella recipe comes from Ingrid Hoffmann of Simply Delicioso on the Food Network and I first tried it in North Carolina where I was invited to speak at a Women’s Leadership Conference at Lowe’s headquarters. On the last night of the event we ate a meal I will never forget. We were treated to a live cooking demonstration by Ingrid herself, while we ate the delicious paella that she showed us how to prepare. She was charming and funny and I hung on every word she said because I was loving the food! Then we finished with a Duff Goldman cake decorating demo and a chance to decorate our own. Like as in, one mini cake for every single person in a huge ballroom! Duff was as great as he is on TV. (Is it any surprise that Ace of Cakes is my favorite cooking show ever? I mean, it was more about decorating than it was about cooking!) Here’s the cake I decorated at the event:
But anyway, let’s get back to the paella. You can click here for Ingrid’s recipe but I recommend reducing the seafood. It calls for an insane amount and it almost overwhelms it. For this batch, which served 8 adults with plenty left over, I increased each ingredient by 50% but I kept the seafood amounts the same. I’d also like to mention that the recipe calls for Spanish dry-cured chorizo but the meat man in my supermarket recommended a Premio chorizo that was kind of soft and I think it was much better than when I had made it with the more dry, hard stuff.
I started out by getting all the chopping done earlier in the day. The red and green peppers, onion, and garlic were all chopped and put away while I ran to the Y to see Sophia star as Joy the Jellyfish in the Westfield Y Drama Camp’s production of A Little Mermaid. (It goes without saying that she was sensational. But thanks for asking!)
Then about an hour before I started cooking, I measured out the tomato paste, rice, and olive oil. I also chopped and portioned the lemon and chorizo. (FYI: My bowls – which I LOVE – are from Anthropologie. You can get the little ones here and here and the big ones here.)
As the first guests arrived, the oil, onion, garlic, peppers, saffron and chorizo went into the pan.
In less than an hour, we were ready to eat. I served a simple green salad and some ciabatta with the paella. Everyone loved it!
As for the cake, I was stumped. Knowing we were making a birthday cake, Lily immediately asked her “Aunt” Tracy what her favorite color is. (I love that even my 4-year-old knows that when you’re getting creative, you need some inspiration first.) The answer was blue.
I knew I was going to make a box mix cake with my homemade buttercream frosting from this recipe but I didn’t know what else to do. So, I sent a text to the birthday girl asking what her favorite candy is. She replied with this cryptic message: “Twizzlers, reeses peanut cups, sour patch, I’m random.” Suddenly, I was more confused than ever.
Then I tried a Pinterest search for the most general thing I could think of: “Birthday cake”. And I worked! I started to see a bunch of pennants and since that was something I had always wanted to try, I figured I’d do it. Luckily the girls had a bunch of arts and crafts supplies out already so I made the whole thing in less than 10 minutes. (Swear!) I grabbed some paper and cut it into little triangles. Then I took some foam alphabet stickers and spelled out Tracy’s name. (One guest thought I made the letters with fondant! Ha!) Next I glued the triangles to some twine and tied them to a couple skewers that I had in a kitchen drawer. And that’s how Tracy ended up with a vanilla cake with buttercream frosting topped with blue sugar, mini Reese’s peanut butter cups and a personalized pennant.
Everyone loved the paella and the simple cake was a hit too. Happy 40th, Tra!
Sue at Home