A birthday this week + some time = a proper birthday cake for R. The cake was the main event, so I tried to keep things relatively light with a veggie-heavy pasta bake and a salad (that was also from leftovers, shame on me).
Baked Ziti and Summer Veggies
I despise red sauce, so any pasta bake dish I can find without it is a godsend. This has plenty of vegetables in it, and could hold even more if you wanted. The filling is enough to hold it together, but it isn't soggy at all and the pasta remains pretty distinct (this definitely isn't mac and cheese territory). You could omit some of the cheese on top if you want to be more health conscious.
Modifications: I couldn't find yellow squash anywhere (it has been a long cold "spring" and "summer" here in Seattle and the produce is very late), so I substituted it with zucchini. I thought that I had mozzarella cheese in my fridge, but it turned out it was Trader Joe's shredded gruyere mix, so I used that instead. I omitted the garlic, oregano, and red pepper. I multiplied the recipe by 1.5 to serve more people, which was essentially a doubling of the filling because how do you get 1/2 an egg?
Farmers Market Salad
This is a wonderful main dish salad when served fresh and warm. I had made this for dinner the night before and had a ton left over, so I refreshed it with some shredded carrots and more lettuce and served it as my side salad. That is probably a hostess faux pas, but I don't want to waste food! Although this salad is best warm, it is still pretty good cold as leftovers.
Modifications: I omitted the olives (ew), basil, shallots, and thyme.
Mom's Chocolate Cake from Macrina Bakery
This was my first cake with an infused syrup brushed between layers. I am not sure what to think about it -- I couldn't really tell if I liked the addition or not. An annoyingly large amount of vanilla was required for it (that stuff is expensive!), so I was expecting better. This cake batter is quick to put together, refreshingly not calling for creaming butter and sugar together. Everyone loved the cake, but I thought it tasted somewhat flat. I think I should have used better quality chocolate in the frosting. Although I love Macrina Bakery, I haven't tasted the original, so I don't know how it compares.
Modifications: I baked two 8 inch rounds (because I don't have 3 round pans except in the 6 inch size) and just layered them, instead of baking one large cake and torting it for the layers. I halved the frosting recipe because I couldn't stomach using 4 sticks of butter at once, and it was more than enough frosting.