Help Planning a Special Birthday Dinner for Young Marrieds

Dear Home Ec 101,

I’m a young wife who doesn’t have a lot of experience cooking.  My husband’s birthday is tomorrow, and I really want to make him something nice.  I tried asking him what he’d like, but he says it doesn’t matter. Well, it matters to me.  I want him to have a nice birthday dinner.  Can you suggest something that doesn’t take a lot of advanced cooking skills but isn’t the normal Thursday night casserole type of meal?

Signed,

I’ll Cook It and He’ll Like It

Heather says:

I know the feeling. What would you like for dinner this week? The answer is either “Whatever.” or something so insanely out-of-season and complicated that I wish I hadn’t asked.

In our house, birthday meals are special and don’t follow our usual rules of in-season or please-don’t-make-me-turn-on-the-oven-from-June-to-September. I’m offering a bunch of options, all geared toward a less experienced cook that should still give good results.

Remember that setting does a lot to make a meal feel more special. Simple meals served at the table, by candlelight, even if it sounds corny, just seem so much more special than the fanciest of meals eaten in front of the television.

Dinner #1

Fettuccine Alfredo with Blackened Beef Tips and a  Caesar Salad

To make this dinner extra pretty, add a few diced tomatoes or slice some grape cherry tomatoes in half and add them at just the last minute to the blackened beef. Spoon this over the alfredo just before serving.

If you don’t eat beef, serve it with shrimp, chicken, or salmon. I like to “faux” blacken salmon, I use the same cooking method as my dilled salmon, but instead of the yogurt or mayonnaise dill sauce, I just add a generous topping of Cajun seasoning.

Dinner #2

Roast chicken marinated in balsamic vinegar, roasted green beans, rice and peas or baked sweet potatoes

Dinner #3

Salmon with Lemon and Rosemary, Roasted Broccoli, Roasted Potatoes (the benefit is all of this can be done on a single baking sheet) oh, and there’s a video with me fixing it, too.

Dinner #4

How about the grill?

Herb crusted steaks, grilled tomatoes, and grilled zucchini and yellow squash

or swap out the tomatoes for baked potatoes and some burgundy mushrooms (like the ones at Outback®)

Dinner #5

Lasagna, tossed salad, and garlic bread

If there aren’t enough ideas here, I wrote up some meal ideas for Valentine’s Day that may fit the bill and I’m sure the Home Ec 101 audience has a few ideas of their own. Have at it, ladies and gents.

Good luck and happy birthday to your husband.

Send your domestic questions to helpme@home-ec101.com



6 Comments

  1. Toy Lady on August 5, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Growing up in our family, the traditional birthday dessert was always vanilla ice cream with strawberries. (I have no idea how or why it started that way, only that it must have come from my grandparents.) Perhaps, as newlyweds, it might be a good time to start some sort of special birthday tradition?

  2. @MrsBYork on August 4, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    hmmm… don't know where the 2nd half of my comment went to! As I was saying…

    In terms of specific recipes, how about something like his favourite pasta or pizza? Or if you want to do something "fancier" try steak – but keep the sides to something simple like baked potatoes or salad. Roast chicken & veggies is also nice & easy, and can mostly be left to its own devices while you set the table, wrap the gift & get dressed up.

    Good luck, & happy birthday to Mr!

  3. @MrsBYork on August 4, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Above all, keep it simple – hubby would almost certainly rather sit down to a basic meal with a happy wife than a gourmet experience served up by a sweating, stressed out Mrs! Heather's suggestion of candles etc is a great idea – a little bit of setting the mood can make an everyday dish into a romantic treat.

    • Stacy on August 4, 2010 at 8:54 pm

      I agree with this completely! Also, I love Heather's fettuccine alfredo with the beef tips.

      Make something simple that you can feel comfortable with that he might enjoy. You'll both have a better time that way. My "go-to" is really simple: baked whole chicken with some kind of seasoning like Cajun, poultry seasoning, curry powder with salt, etc., mashed potatoes, and either grilled or roasted vegetables (onions, squash, zucchini–which is a squash, of course–bell peppers, maybe tomatoes. One thing I've done lately is to skewer the vegetables in chunks about 1.5 inches thick, put some oil and seasoning on them and put them on the grill. For dessert, I've been making easy bread pudding or a fruit crumble. They're all pretty easy. I'm also not confident making fancy or complicated meals, so I find that going with something homey and simple that tastes good is usually a good choice for me. I feel more relaxed knowing it will be good, even if it's not exotic.

  4. asyhre on August 4, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    My husband would not tell me what he wanted this year, so a few days before his birthday I drug him along to the grocery store with me and went through the deli section. I did end up with three meals instead of one, but I then at least had a start.

  5. Milehimama on August 4, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    What is your husband's favorite meal? If it's something not doable by a beginner chef on a newlywed budget, then perhaps you could at least make his favorite vegetable or side dish. For example, my husband really likes brussels sprouts, but he specifically likes them cooked with bacon and onions which I rarely do for a regular meal. Other things like making a special sauce – cranberry relish or fancy gravy or cheddar sauce for the broccoli – can really make a meal special, too.

    Man pleasing meals at my house might include:
    Pioneer Woman's super easy fried porkchops, mashed potatoes, and green beans cooked with bacon bits.

    A ham (very easy, but fancy and festive), with rolls, cauliflower with cheese sauce, brussels sprouts. Plus, you can eat the ham in a bunch of dishes later. http://www.milehimama.com/2010/03/30/leftover-ham

    Chicken enchiladas, refried beans, spanish rice (my husband loves Mexican food but I don't make enchiladas that often, it's a lot of work)

    Or even just homemade hot wings, bacon topped potato skins, and spinach/artichoke dip eaten on the couch with one of HIS movies (read, starring one of those martial arts guys who can't really act.)

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