Monday, June 10, 2019

A Birthday with Lasagna, Spumoni & Spritz!

Yesterday was my birthday (46! woot!), and this year I was in the mood for a little party... so I threw myself a fun and festive shindig. I really like having my actual birthday free to do whatever things I feel like doing... so I had my party on Saturday night and had all day on my actual day for yoga, lazy times, and time with friends. It was a pretty perfect birthday weekend. 

Aperol Spritz 4EVR

Even though the New York Times had a mean-spirited article saying that Aperol Spritzes are terrible and cheap, we remain devoted fans of this crazy orange drink. I almost never drink alcohol... but the Italian part of my spirit just loves an Aperol Spritz every once in a while. We had lots of fizzy water and fizzy fruity drinks for the non-imbibers, but we also have lots of "spritz supplies" for those in the mood. 

We started with some appetizers, spritzes, and hula-hooping in the backyard! I got some hula hoops at a swap meet recently and I love them so much! Even my mom and my auntie hula hooped! 

My birthday lasagna

I really love lasagna, and so sometimes I decide to myself lasagna for my birthday. Lasagna is a lot of work, but it is also a lot of yum... and a lot of food... so I think it's worth it! This year I made THREE lasagne - a regular one, a gluten-free one with brown rice noodles (really good), and a small secret one (not pictured) that I saved so we could have leftovers all to ourselves the next day. Ha ha. 

I am pretty proud of my lasagna recipe... you can find my recipe here from a birthday celebration blog post many years ago.

Trio of Summer Salads

My mom is kinda the Queen of Salads. She has so many super delicious and varied salads in her repotoire, so I asked her to bring some salads to my party. As you can see, she did a great job!! These were all so delicious, and a great balance with the lasagna. I mean, y'gotta have salad, right? 


When I lived in Florence I ate a metric tonne of Schiaciatta on the daily, which is essentially Florence's version of focaccia. I just LOVE me some high-quality bread product. Sometimes I bake my own bread for parties, but I had a busy weekend planned and 3 lasagnas to make... so I bought some simple focaccia at the farmers market and popped it in the freezer until the day of our party. Perfect! There's actually a whole 'nother one in the freezer waiting for the mood to strike. 

Doesn't it look great??

The whole inspiration for my Italian dinner theme was a vision of creating vegan spumoni ice cream. I remember spumoni ice cream from when I was a little girl, but haven't ever seen a vegan version of it. When I was visiting my friend Sophia in Brooklyn earlier this year, we were looking at the spot called "Spumoni Gardens" ... and that's what got us started thinking about Spumoni and how to veganize it. So, I set about getting to work!! 

I read lots of articles online about the history of spumoni and read lots of different recipes to have a good sense of my options. In the end I went for Pistachio, Cherry Amaretto, and Chocolate-Chocolate Chip. 

Amey's 100% Pistachio Ice Cream
I used Somer's recipe for Pistachio Almond Ice Cream, but super-pistachio-fied it:

1 can full-fat coconut milk
1/3 cup pistachios soaked overnight, then drained
1 cup pistachio milk
1/4 c. pistachio butter
2 cups packed organic baby spinach
1/2 cup-2/3 cup agave syrup, to taste
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup shelled raw pistachios, roughly chopped

Put everything except the chopped pistachios in a blender and blend it until it is SUPER smooth and there are no spinach flecks or nutty bits. Then add in the chopped nuts and blend just for a second to integrate. Pour into a container and put in the fridge to cool for several hours or overnight. Freeze your ice cream container at the same time. Then pour the mix into your ice cream maker and you are good to go! 

 Cherry Amaretto Ice Cream 
I modified the Amaretto Gelato recipe from Wicked Healthy

1 cup raw cashews
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup soy or almond milk
1/4 cup Amarena Cherries & Syrup
1/3-1/2 cup fresh cherries, chopped
1/3 cup Amaretto liqueur
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp guar gum or xantham gum (optional)
1 cup fresh cherries, chopped

Freeze your ice cream tub overnight. Soak the cashews overnight, or boil them for a few minutes to soften them... then drain off the liquid. Add into your blender: the soaked cashews, coconut milk, soy milk, Amarena cherries, 1/3-1/2 cup fresh cherries, Amaretto, agave, almond extract, and guar gum. Whiz it up good until it's all super smooth. Gently mix in the remaining cup of chopped cherries. Transfer the mixture to the fridge and chill for several hours or overnight. Then make ice cream according to your ice cream maker's instructions. 

the soy milk, I used Fabbri Amarena cherries and their liquid. Then I also added about 1 1/3 - 1 1/2 cups of chopped cherries - I got them at the farmers market, pitted them, froze them, and chopped them. I pureed 1/3-1/2 cup of the cherries in with the rest and then added the remaining 1 cup.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
For the Chocolate Ice Cream I used this recipe from Minimalist Baker. I'm copying and pasting it here so that I won't lose track of it. Let me tell you, this is some of the best ice cream I have EVER had. The only change I made was to add chocolate chips.
3/4 cup water
1 1/4 cups full-fat coconut milk
2/3 cup organic cane sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
6 ounces vegan dark chocolate (finely chopped)*
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
scant 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Put your ice cream freezer tub in the freezer.
To make the base, add the water, cane sugar, coconut milk, cocoa powder, and salt to a large saucepan and whisk to combine. Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat, whisking frequently. Once it reaches a low boil, continue cooking and whisking for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate and vanilla. Whisk until melted. To remove any graininess, add to a blender and blend for 30 seconds on high. Then transfer to a tub and chill thoroughly overnight. It will get super thick!
The next day, add your chilled base to the ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions - about 30 minutes or until it looks like soft serve. Enjoy as sort serve, or transfer to a parchment-lined dish or loaf pan, cover securely, and freeze for 4-6 hours, or until firm. Let thaw 10-15 minutes before serving to soften.

*note: I used 6 ounces of Cioccoarancia spread instead of melted chocolate, it was great and gave the ice cream a dash of orange flavor. 

A slice of Spumoni!!

OMG. You guys. I was SO DELIGHTED at how delicious and beautiful my spumoni turned out! It was so pretty and all three flavors were super delicious. We all loved it and it was such a fun and super special treat. I did a crazed happy dance of joy - it's so fun to take on a culinary project and have it turn out perfectly!

 I actually made two whole spumonis - I lined two banana bread loaf pans with saran wrap. Then I made the pistachio ice cream, and spread half of it evenly in each loaf pan. Then, repeat with the cherry-amaretto, and with the chocolate. It was easy to get them out of the loaf pan and remove the saran wrap. 

Cookie Platter

Just in case the spumoni was a total failure, I thought I'd better have a whole lot of cookies on hand. Plus, you know I love cookies. I made Somer's Chocolate Chip Cookies and a batch of Amaretti and some Cowboy Cookies - both of which were gluten-free. Why are cookies so perfect and delicious? Of course the Spumoni wasn't a failure, but the cookies were a perfect compliment. 

Having a birthday in early June means that often my birthday is cool and foggy, or even rainy. But this year, the weather gods graced me with a truly perfect weekend. The day was warm-bordering-on-hot... and even the evening was not too cool. That's pretty rare with our coastal weather here.

We had our fire pit going, and a few blankets for extra coziness... and we were able to enjoy our dinner and our dessert outside all night long. It was such a beautiful and peaceful, intimate gathering of pals and family. Such a perfect way to celebrate - to love and feel loved. 

Usually we bring Footie in before dark, but since we were enjoying the evening with the doors open and in the great outdoors... we let Footie enjoy the evening too. Mr VE&T got this beautiful picture of him up on our back fence... enjoying the stars. What a good kitty. 


  1. What an absolutely stupendous post! Apart from the delicious food and great company, I love how the post shows the progression from early summer evening to full nighttime. A nice little story line. Happy Birthday! XXOO

  2. Happy birthday Amey! What a wonderful way to celebrate. I am in awe of your spumoni.
    I hope Footie enjoyed his star gazing, he looks so content. <3

    1. He sure did!! He's such a sweet kitty. I think you would like him! xo

  3. Happy Birthday, Amey! Sounds like a wonderful celebration. I always love reading about your culinary projects. And that photo of Footie is just perfect - so sweet and beautiful!

    1. Thanks for reading along Elizabeth! It had been a while since I tackled a proper culinary project. SO FUN.

  4. Happy Birthday Amey! It looks like you had the perfect day. And I am so jealous of the spumoni, i used to love that as a kid!! I've had your birthday lasagna recipe pinned for a few years and one day I am going to whip up the energy to make it.

  5. As always everything looks amazing. Everytime you make a party post I always wonder how I can become friends or at the very least just crash your parties lol The food looks so good!

  6. Oomg your ice creams are incredible looking and sounding ! I need to make them but don't have a maker. I'll figure it out :) Happy belated bday <3

    ~Have a lovely day!


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