Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 21, 2012

My oldest, Cruz, turned 7 on Saturday. I have only had 3 birthday parties between both boys outside the home. A Cosmic Bowling Party, a Chinese New Year/Ninja party we held at a dojo, and a hotel pool party. So out of 12 parties, 9 have been at our home. While I loved the "uncraziness" of having the parties at other locations, I also love to host parties. Eventually, the day before clean up, all the food prep and decorating, and the day after clean up all fade away from memory, and you are left with a warm feeling of sharing your home with people you like. I enjoy creating a happy experience not only for my children, but their friends and parents as well.

We had our Family Birthday Celebration Friday night because his party actually fell on his birthday this year. I had made a chocolate chocolate chip bundt cake with chocolate ganache to be auctioned off on Thursday at a Cub Scout charity auction with the proceeds going to 2 of our Cub Scouts whose mother had just been killed. I was proud that Cruz decided he wanted my cake above all others. He ended up paying $26 for a plain old bundt cake, but he was happy, and the money went to a great cause. And it worked out perfectly as our family birthday cake.

He said he didn't want anything this year. While it makes it a little harder to buy for him, I hit the nail on the head. He got his favorite book series, and is now all set up to learn to play baseball, down to the batting gloves and bases. He has expressed an interest in trying baseball instead of soccer next year, so we'll need to get him up to speed with the kids his age that have been playing for years. It's really a present to all of us since it is something the whole family can do together on a Sunday afternoon.

I gently guided him in the direction of a Scooby Doo party. He was obsessed with the show when he was little. When I promised him a mystery would need to be solved, he jumped right on board. I got lucky once again with a sale on the 4x8 photocards at Walgreens and photoshopped a 4x6 picture of my son with the gang and added the party information in the additional 2 inches of text space.

We bought a waterslide to keep the kids occupied until the dinner and mystery, so it became a beach Scooby theme. He wanted a red velvet cake, which I had never made before. I didn't realize how much red food coloring goes into one! Already at the food coloring step, and only having an eighth of the food coloring I needed, it surprisingly turned out a shade of red, even if it wasn't the bright red normally associated with the cake. The frosting I altered to include as much butter as cream cheese, and much less sugar than most recipes called for. Butter is good!

While the kids had some waterslide fun, the parents got to mull around the appetizers and drink cherry moonshine. After about an hour, hamburgers and hot dogs were put on the grill and it was time for our beach BBQ to begin. I made a lemon cashew rice, hawaiian coleslaw, cowboy beans, and a fruit salad for the sides. I of course forgot to take pictures of the food this time. I'm blaming the cherry moonshine on that one. But here is a picture of the food station before the guests arrived. The chip bowls went on the tables outside for kids to munch on while they played.

After dinner the kids had a mystery to solve. Cruz got wind of what the mystery was because a little girl had asked me if there would be a mystery and I showed her the note that the Birthday Phantom had left in the place where the cake used to be saying that he stole the cake and if the kids wanted it back, they would have to solve the clues. He was up in arms that his cake was gone. Since the adults had fed the kids before themselves, we were still eating, so the kids took it upon themselves to search for the cake until we finished. Luckily I did a pretty good job hiding the clues and cake, so nothing was found.

The first clue was the letter from the Phantom explaining he took the cake and told the kids to look where you lay down at night for the next clue. They found that one in Cruz's bed, and had to hold the clue up in a mirror to read it. It told them to pop the balloon that was Cruz's favorite color. After popping the green balloon, the next clue was a number code they had to decifer that told them they had to catch the Phantom in order to get the last clue to the cake. My husband dressed in a Halloween costume and I gave him a letter addressed to Cruz. But when the Phantom appeared, Shawn decided to ad lib some scary roars. Men. Luckily only one child was scared out of his mind by the Phantom.

After opening the last letter, the clue said the cake was in a place where groceries, luggage, and a spare tire go, and was the color of snow. Cruz screamed, "My mom's car is white!" and all the kids went running outside. They opened the trunk and found the cake. I told them they were all excellent mystery solvers. I think the kids had just as much fun with the mystery as they did with the waterslide! And it continued throughout the party as the kids tried to solve the mystery of who the Phantom really was.

After the case was solved it was time for cake and presents. I accidentally bought trick candles- I swear the word trick was unbelievably small and I had no idea they were. So of course the candles kept lighting back up. The joke ended up being on me.

After cake and presents the kids started a game of hide and go seek, which gave the adults a little more time to get their party on. It was a great mix of adults as well as children. As the guests left they were given a Scooby backpack filled with Scooby snacks and treats.

Another birthday down, man they come fast! Most importantly Cruz was happy all night. No small feat for my perfectionist son.

Happy 7th Birthday Cruz!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lemon Loaf Cake~ BWJ

Well, I made the loaf cake on posting Tuesday at 6:30am. I planned to post after my crazy day in the evening, but even with mental reminders as I sat at the computer working on some photoshop pictures for my son's upcoming birthday, it managed to slip my mind. Hopefully it's still Tuesday somewhere.

The link for this easy recipe can be found here and here. While I'd argue the 5 minute assembly the book Baking With Julia claims it takes to prepare, 20 minutes isn't too much for a fresh, springy feeling dessert such as this. I liked the texture of the Lemon Loaf, not quite as thick and buttery as pound cake, but sometimes less dense is a good thing.

The only changes I made were to make my loaf into mini loaves, which baked for 25 minutes. It makes it easier to give the calories away! And like many others I felt it needed a little something on the top to finish it off and make it more dessert like. A friend had just posted her lemon pound cake recipe, which had a topping of fresh squeezed lemon juice and powdered sugar. I dipped the tops of the mini loaves into the juice/sugar mixture, and it gave it just the right sweet yet tart flavor, while helping them retain moisture.

I had a loaf for breakfast and planned to get a shot of the cake cut in nice slices and reveal the texture of the loaf. Apparently it was too good to stop eating and remember to do that. In the future I can see a berry compote and fresh whipped cream on top of a slice for company dessert. A keeper recipe for this family.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pizza Rustica ~ BWJ

What I had envisioned in my head when I read "pizza rustica" was far from the actual product. I saw a classic pizza dough with olive oil, slices of tomatoes in place of sauce, grated cheese, and fresh herbs. Wow, how different this was! More like a pie, and kind of quiche like. My verdict is that it was good, and I'd make it again in the future, likely playing with the ingredients. My husband and I enjoyed the spinach. My boys however will not. You can find the recipe for it here and here.

I had a really hard time getting the crust to come together. I suppose it was finally time for me to experience difficulty in the rolling out department since my last two tries were almost too easy. It looked like it came together. But when I tried to roll it, it stuck and cracked. I added flour to no avail.

Because I had a serious time crunch since this was my husband's lunch, and I had already pushed it back a half hour. There could be no more wiggle room for the man with the huge appetite. So I put in what I had rolled out, broken and sad, and played with it in the pan until I got the coverage I needed, minus the beauty. I reminded myself this was supposed to be rustic, and pushed forward.

The recipe wanted procuitto, I did not. I also wanted more than just cheeses and a meat. I decided to go with bacon to add some crunch. When the bacon was cooked halfway, I added chopped onion, and once the bacon was nicely crisped I added 3 cloves of chopped garlic. All that went into a bowl and was set aside. Then I removed the water from about a cup of frozen chopped spinach, and mixed it together with the three cheeses. Finally the eggs were mixed in, and my filling was ready to go. The sweet and yet savory aspect was certainly there. My husband even commented on it, he usually has no opinion and just eats everything on his plate. Makes it hard to know what he really likes at times, but he says he liked this. It took about an hour from start to finish to prepare, 35 minutes at 375 degrees to cook, and it took the full 35 minute cooking time to clean up, my least favorite part. This wasn't an easy throw together lunch, but it'll be a nice treat every once in a while.

As ugly as the crust was, it was a great crust. My husband won't know the troubles I had or how hideous it really was until he reads this since it was tucked away at the bottom and didn't lack any flavor. I'll make it again in the future with more time to play with it and figure out what went wrong when rolling it out.