Two Birthday-Worthy Dishes

Thank you to all of my blogging friends who left kind, warm comments after my last post on sticky buns and the people who have stuck by me. I was moved the effusive, heartfelt words of each of you. To those of you who shared personal stories with me, thank you. I think we all have two choices in life: to become stronger in the face of adversity or to let it crush us. To eat more cake or to die feeling unsatisfied. Seriously.


We can look at our experiences and feel pity or we can choose to make our life our own: the best it can be and meaningful. I see so much strength is many of my family and loved ones, and certainly blogging friends. This strength and perseverance to live fully and well inspires me…


Along with copious amounts of cheese and chocolate. The cheese and chocolate food groups (oops, I mean recipes!) are both covered in today’s superbly scrumptious blog post.

One of the best things in life is enjoying a birthday. What is better than celebrating the life of a loved one and chowing down on treats, prepared especially for the birthday boy/girl. For my husband’s birthday, he will most certainly request a medium-rare steak or rack of lamb and crispy potatoes. My preference would be a creamy inside, crisp outside, gourmet macaroni and cheese. A great salad with either meal is a must.

Of course, there must be a grandiose, show-stopping cake.


As far as birthday cake goes, we have a new winner everyone can agree upon. It’s a rich, two layer chocolate hazelnut cake with dulce de le leche, hazelnut brittle and sea salt (recipe here). The cake is covered in a rich, traditional Southern chocolate sour cream icing (recipe here).


For the four cake components, I decide not to invent the wheel…

I dare not tamper with precise baking measurements!

DSC_2975Still, the addition of extra dark chocolate and hazelnuts to the cake, along with handfuls of chocolate shavings over the tower of brown beauty, is no problem at all.

I also fail to properly measure the dulce de leche drizzle, a welcome and intended “mistake.” The cake is served with luscious hazelnut gelato.


Unlike the healthy, hearty mac and cheese recipe below, this cake is pure indulgence. It’s a complete small-wasitline-buster that is worth each, euphoric bite. Curls and Carrots is filled with healthy recipes – as well as indulgent ones for special occasions.

The cake has emerged as ever dark chocolate, dulce de leche and hazelnut brittle lover’s dream. The creamy frosting, salted dulce de leche, crunchy nuts and moist chocolate cake combined satisfy every every part of the palate. It’s a true sensory experience to devour – and a cake-making endeavour completely worth the effort and time.


Macaroni and cheese is one of our family’s most cherished meals. Lately, I have been in less of a meat or fish mood and more in a carbohydrate state-of-mind. Every pregnancy is different, and this one seems to have its food craving origins in Italy (though the baby is 100% New Mexico conceived!).


This version of macaroni and cheese is lactose-free, light and whole grain. It is brimming with tasty cow’s milk alternatives, such as flavorful, mature goat and sheep cheeses – and even creamy, rich goat butter! I am a lover of all fine cheeses. Generally, the stinkier and more expensive, the better. I basically have my own “cheese account” specifically dedicated to fromage expenditure – and whole drawer filled with various cheeses. Feel free to mix and match any favorite, fine cheeses you have on hand into this recipe.


This dish reflects everything wonderful about good cheese. It is rich and boasts myriad layers of flavor – without becoming a fat-laden, calorie dense, high-cholesterol nightmare.

Food should taste good while nourishing your body and palate. If you eat and enjoy mac and cheese as much as our clan of 4 point three persons, this recipe is for you.


This mac and cheese if flat-out fabulous served with a bright, colorful and refreshing salad and a your favorite, whole grain artisan bread. Our families prefered, crusty loaves are Sage kalamata farm loaf, Whole Foods rosemary sourdough and La Brea multigrain.


You don’t have to wait for a birthday to make this recipe, nor should you. I found the original recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, My Lilikoi Kitchen. My adaptation is similar, with the addition of some extra vegetables, a crispy topping and a few “new” cheeses. The mild flavor of small amounts of truffle oil is a must when paired with juicy, bright red tomatoes.


There is a bit of whisking and sautéeing involved in the preparation. But, once the macaroni and cheese is assembled, you can refrigerate it until it’s time for dinner. Don’t you love a great make-ahead meal? Just allow the oven-proof casserole to come to room temperature before baking it off.



Billy Goat Light Mac and Cheese (Lactose-Free)

Adapted from My Lilikoi Kitchen and Real Food Has Curves

Serves four as a main course or six as a side dish


1 ounce semi-aged goat gouda or extra-sharp goat cheddar

2 ounces goat’s milk blue cheese, such as Billy Blue by Carr Valley

2 ounces grated País Basco or any semi-aged sheep’s milk cheese (such as six month Manchego)

3 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, divided

1 tablespoon goat butter or Earth Balance

2 Tablespoons black truffle oil, divided

4 thick-cut slices of turkey bacon, chopped (Optional. Omit for a vegetarian meal)

1 small onion, chopped

8 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced

1 pound organic, frozen broccoli florets, defrosted and thoroughly drained*

3 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour

3 cups low-fat, organic lactose-free cow or goat milk

1 1/2 tablespoon good quality Dijon mustard

1 Tablespoon minced, fresh rosemary

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces organic, Italian pasta, such as 100% whole wheat semolina

two small slices of multi-grain bread, processed in food processor to create breadcrumbs

1 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped

1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped

1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced


  • Mix the cheeses in a small bowl, except for once ounce of the parmesan. Set aside.
  • Cook the pasta according to the package instructions.  Set aside.
  • Preheat a pan over medium heat. Add one tablespoon of truffle oil to the hot skillet.
  • Sauté the bacon, mushrooms and onions until mushrooms release their liquid, the bacon is crisp and the onion is translucent. Set aside.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan. Over low-heat, stir in the flour to create a roux. Slowly whisk in the milk. Whisk until no lumps remain. Stir in the mustard, rosemary, salt and pepper.
  • Continue whisking until the mixture starts to bubble and the liquid thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the cheeses set aside earlier.
  • In a large bowl, combine the cheese sauce, cooked pasta, broccoli, mushrooms and onion. Transfer to a 9×13 pan sprayed with cooking spray.
  • Combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan, thyme and oregano; sprinkle evenly over the macaroni and cheese.
  • Evenly distribute the tomatoes on top. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of truffle oil and a bit of salt and cracked black pepper.
  • Preheat oven to 375•F. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until heated through to the middle of the dish, bubbling  and light gold on top. Allow to set for about then minutes, then serve.

*You may add four cups fully cooked, sautéed kale or collard greens in place of the broccoli, if desired.

©Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, (2013-2014), unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author, Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, and/or owner is strictly and completely prohibited.

52 thoughts on “Two Birthday-Worthy Dishes

  1. what beautiful birthday food! Am all over your sentiment about birthday parties being opportunities to pull out any and all stops. Am busy with the puppy cake right now, though waiting for the birthday girl to come home and give final placement directions for ears, etc. It’s all so much fun and I get that from your menu as well. What a mac-and-cheese–wowza. And the cake has left me five pounds heaver just by viewing and reading about. 😀

  2. As always, everything looks delicious. I agree that sometimes you simply must indulge. Almost any type of dish that combines pasta, cheese, and vegetables is yummy–how could it not be? And that chocolate-hazelnut cake–OMG–I’m salivating! I’m certain your husband enjoyed his birthday feast!

  3. Dulce de leche drizzle on one, truffle oil drizzle on the other! Both look simply amazing and birthday worthy, though I probably wouldn’t wait for a birthday to make either. 🙂

  4. Wow! Everything looks so good, Shanna! I love the creaminess of the mac and cheese. And the cake!….oooh! Reading how you describe the ingredients just made me drool. 😀 Looks like the birthday celebration was a success and everyone had a great time. Snu Magoo is looking gorgeous as ever and the littlest guy is growing to be a handsome boy as well. Have a fantastic weekend, Shanna. Best wishes to you and your family. Hugs. 🙂

  5. Shanna, that is a monster of a post. It is a show stopper. Mind you, that cake is a show stopper too. I love the addition of the sea salt. I am drooling in the bed at 8.30 on a Saturday morning. Delicious.

  6. There’re few (if any) things that excite me more than a birthday party. Especially all those previous preparations and planning. Great party and amazing recipes!
    I wish there were always a birthday party to celebrate 😉
    Besos, preciosa! ❤

    1. Thank you, Rosa! I am not sure if the cake is as delicious as your recent hot cross buns (YUM!), but it will do. A birthday is wonderful… even better in España, where the food and people are amazing. Take care of yourself, amiga. xx Un abrazo, Shanna

  7. The cake looks wonderful. We are big chocolate and hazelnut lovers so this is right up my alley. Nothing like a birthday to bring out the best cakes. My boys will be decorating my jumbo birthday cupcakes later this week, curious to see how that goes! The mac and cheese looks heavenly too. Ewan is a HUGE mac and cheese lover. I keep meaning to post a recipe of two and haven’t done it yet. Guess it will wait until the fall as it is getting hot here! Happy birthday to your hubby!

    1. Thanks for the visit, Gretchen. Yes, you do enjoy hazelnuts and chocolate, like our family. Very German, as well. I look forward to your mac and cheese recipes and your cupcake photos; they all sound lovely.

  8. This post, Shanna, should have been called “Decadence”, for that’s what the 2 recipes surely are. That cake looks so rich and is perfect for a birthday, while your mac & cheese is a real celebration of cheese. It looks so good and creamy. You guys know how to celebrate birthdays!
    Wishing you all a happy Passover, Shanna.

  9. Oh wow! that cake is amazing.. it contains everything I’d like to have in my birthday cake! beautiful and sweet post, is easy to understand how much your love celebrating birthdays in your family!

  10. YUM!!!! goat cheese and truffle oil. This is not your ordinary mac! And the cake….chocolate and dulce de leche. Not. Fair. As for your musings. I agree with you 100%. Life is what you make of it. I still owe you an email, but it’s hard because work started blocking our access. However, you said it. And you seem firmly in the category of living and dealing with things and celebrating. Your reward is the lovely life you get to live. Keep at it. xox. Talk soon.

  11. Hello dear, sorry for the absence: how are you?
    I would have much more time to cook like you… I’m always so short in time…I love the creaminess of the mac and cheese! and the cake … it’s absolutely gorgeous: it’s just a cake I will do for myself ( to eat all alone ;D) Enjoy your Tuesday!xoxo Cris

  12. No one will ever end up unsatisfied in your household, with that kind of cookery-bakery happening on a regular basis! But with your strength of character, your compassionate and patient heart, and the wisdom to embrace the struggles and sorrows but never let them rule you, no one in your household, family or visitor, will be left unfulfilled spiritually either. You are a great gift, and I hope that the kind comfort you lend to others returns to you tenfold in your hour of need every time.

  13. Belated birthday greetings to your best half. Thanks for sharing all those beautiful pictures and the heavenly chocolate cake. I have confirmed that you truly adore chocolate. My son loves mac n cheese, and your version sounds delightful. I wish you a pleasant week. Best…Liz

  14. Gosh, that cake looks absolutely amazing, Shanna! You sure do have a way with words and your photography skills make the pictures practically jump off the page. What a wonderful wife, cook, and mother you are! The kids look adorable, as usual!😊 Hope your feeling well. All the best to you, Shanna. –Linda

    1. Thank you, Linda. You say entirely too many nice things! This being said, each of your kind words are equally true towards you. 🙂 I hope you’re work isn’t keeping you away from the kitchen and crafts. Best, Shanna

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