Since I was a child, the tradition in our family was always that the birthday boy or girl got to choose their birthday menu, anything under the sun they wanted. As a kid, I always wanted my Mom's Chicken Chow Mein and my Nannie's (grandmother) Banana Bread.
As adults, we've created a slight twist on the tradition with my cousin James where he tries (not very hard, LOL) to "stump" Auntie Miranda and I with his menu choices. I usually make the dinner and Auntie does his cake from a clue or direction rather than a specific dish. Last year he said "European peasant food" and since we're Swedish/Norwegian I went to from scratch Swedish Meatballs with cranberry sauce and Jansson's Temptation, while his direction to Auntie was "checkerboard cake" from which she created an incredible Cherry/Vanilla checkerboard cake. Yum!
This year we were told "Greek" and "Pineapple Upside Down Cake". Since I had to work the night before, Auntie very kindly created both the cake and the entree: Pastitsio and Greek Pineapple/Coconut cake. Holy Crap, she "did good!", as we told her last night. Today I have Pastitsio recipe and tomorrow will upload the cake recipe and link back. These are great recipes for anytime but, definitely, any birthday boy or girl would give you tons of hugs and kisses for making these!
Ina Garten's Pastitsio (Greek Lasagna)
Makes a deep 9"x13" or slightly larger casserole baking dish full. Will feed 10-12 people easily.
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large)
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 pound lean ground lamb
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 large cloves)
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes in puree
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan or Kasseri cheese
- 2 extra-large eggs, beaten
- 2/3 cup Greek-style yogurt, such as Fage Total
- 3/4 pound small shells