Monday, June 18, 2012

Partners In Crime

How do you tell the story of your child's first year of life? How do you explain each overwhelming emotion from happiness and elation, to harrowing sorrow and guilt? How do you add up the lack of sleep with a clock that just keeps ticking, all the while wondering if you are doing anything right?

The gift of life is truly miraculous. This year has been amazing watching and reveling in all the human body is capable of. The growing and changing physical body beginning with pregnancy, the magnificence of the human brain, and the emotional heart that bonds us to one another is the most powerful combination of forces.

It has been difficult for me to say goodbye to the moments when they laid on my chest sleeping side by side sharing heartbeats in tandem, or when they gazed into my eyes needing and wanting nothing other than the comfort and closeness of their mother. Though each new exploratory moment is precious, it is painful for me to realize that each day they are growing ever closer to losing that magical innocence they wholly possessed as a tiny baby. At the same time, witnessing their excitement at diving into a tub of cookie cutters, the constant giggles and the expression of learning something new everyday is phenomenally rewarding.

It has been an incredible and momentous first year for both Gabriel and I as parents, and of course, for my (two) first born. So, in celebration, we threw a huge party to commemorate the occasion. 
Theme: Partners In Crime

Because these two little ones are constantly propagating mischief together, the theme of the party was a no-brainer. We fashioned their invitation after Elvis' famous Jailhouse Rock movie cover, and the theme continued throughout the party from decorations to games. We dressed our little hooligans in matching black and white striped inmate Alcatraz uniforms, and Gabriel and I wore sheriff badges as we welcomed everyone into the Sugarhood Penitentiary and ushered them into the jail. As the guests entered the front door they were immediately booked including donning an ID tag and posing for their mug shots.

Our color scheme was black and white with orange and purple accents. We had a 9 foot banner that was the centerpiece. Each end of the banner had an old west WANTED poster that Gabriel sketched, and smaller versions were posted around the room.

We composed a giant balloon bouquet for each baby, and each table had a smaller centerpiece of balloons weighted down by a rock. The balloons totaled over 100 in all! We decorated the room with orange and purple streamers and police tape. Each table was covered in a black tablecloths with white dishes and utensils.

Once everyone was booked, we opened the festivities with a catered lunch from Mo' Bettah Steaks. We even served the food on 5 compartment prison lunch trays! During lunch an inmate surprised the guests by sharing his life experiences about not looking both ways as he crossed the street and taking candy from his twin sister. His scared straight speech may have been a little too scary. (Note to self: Spring for the $30 Prisonmate uniform rather than trying to dye painters coveralls.)

We planned two games for the guests to play throughout the party. The first: Escape From Prison. Two guests were tied together with police tape and had to navigate through an obstacle course including passing through the police laundry, the exercise yard of jump ropes and ball weights, and then finally cross the low hanging barbed wire.

The second game was was more work than play: Color two license plates each. This game came with one rule - complete your quota before you were allowed to have dessert. We offered six different plates to choose from: 2 CUTE, 2WINS, DBL TBL, CING 2, TWNRS, and 1-BDAY. Prizes for participating in the games consisted of bubble tape and card games (Go Fish, Old Maid and Slap Jack).

We also issued everyone who attended a goodie bag filled with toy handcuffs, their own personalized WANTED poster, and a sheet of police stickers
Guests were served Chocolate Orange CupcakesAngel Fairy Cake, and Orange and Chocolate Macarons. (For Chocolate Macs replace one tablespoon of the completed mixture with one tablespoon of cocoa; for Orange Macs add one teaspoon of orange zest.) Each cupcake was adorned with a jail striped flag with the theme of the party: Partners in Crime.

We went back and forth about whether or not to give the babies a cake for their first birthday, until I came across this fabulous cake on Artistta. With a few additional variations we adapted the cake for our party and the babies were each presented with their own personal cake: sugar free, gluten/grain free, and dairy free.
Babies First Birthday Cake
½ cup mashed avocado
1 cup raw honey
Cream together for 5 minutes 
4 organic egg yolks one at a time until incorporated
Then add 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 
1 cup coconut flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Mix together until combined 
Gently stir in 1 cup almond milk
Then add 4 stiffly beaten egg whites 
Pour into well prepared cake pan (I opted for two miniature 4" cake rounds)
Bake at F350° until toothpick inserted comes out clean and cake is barely starting to brown
20-35 minutes based on cake size and thickness
Invert onto wire rack and allow to cool completely
Chocolate Ganache Frosting
4 oz. thinly shredded chocolate
4 oz. almond milk
Heat over low heat until combined
Allow to cool slightly, then pour over cake and allow to run down sides

Motherhood is a battle of constant circumspection while attempting to not dwell on the constant failures and moments of weakness. My only goal throughout their lives is to make sure they never go a moment without knowing they are loved.

One year ago: Just Another Sheet Cake, Chocolate Texas Cake
Two years ago: Adjustments, Brownie Cakes
Three years ago: 8 Mile, 8 Layer Chocolate Value Cake

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Little Mother

Growing up as the youngest of six children I relished in the moments when I got to play little Mother to my sister's children: dancing and singing to the "Little Mermaid" with Whitney; feeding Darrian and Danica in an oversized rocking chair; sliding down the giant staircase with my sweet little niece Erin; reading nighttime stories to Anna every night until she fell asleep; swimming in the ocean with Teddy and Johnny, and jumping on the trampoline for endless hours name just a few of my favorite memories.

As the years passed I silently reminisced as they grew into young adults, reflecting on those memories with fondness. Subconsciously they shaped me, influenced me, and taught me with such simplicity about the type of person that I hoped to be. Of course I've made mistakes, and done things that I feverishly regret, but it was always these children and my memories of our special bonds that made me always want to try harder to emulate the type of person they would look up to.

Now that I am a Mother I hope that my nieces, my children's cousins, my sisters and my own daughters will be little Mothers to my children. I desire those same memories to influence my children and anticipate a mutual affection. I hope these little Mothers will join with my children in reciting their favorite song lyrics word for word at the top of their lungs, listen joyfully as my children read their favorite books to them, and tickle them mercilessly. As they grow I hope they will offer advice about dating and life, patiently tutor them, and of course, share their favorite recipes.
Apple Spice Cake

This recipe is a long family favorite. It's a simple cake that children can offer their mother with just a little help from Daddy and it whips together in a manner of minutes.
Core and thinly slice 1 apple
Set Aside 
½ cup walnuts or almonds
½ cup white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon 
½ cup butter
1 cup white sugar
Mix until light and fluffy
Add 2 eggs one at a time until mixed 
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups white flour
Stir together just until mixed 
Pour half the batter into a well greased angel food cake
Layer the sliced apples over the batter
Sprinkle half the streusel mixture over apples
Top with remaining batter
Sprinkle remaining streusel over top of cake 
Bake at 375°F for 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean
Serve while warm with whipped cream
*I like a thicker cake, so I generally double the recipe

My family is spread in age and distance, but it is my prayer that these obstacles will not impede our ability to recognize the power of our connections and share in life's moments with both diligence and all the love we are capable of possessing, never ceasing to create new cherished memories to sustain us.

Happy Mother's Day to you, especially all you little Mother's! 

Two years ago: Failed Fusion, Chocolate Carrot Cake
Three years ago: Welcome Reprieve, Almond Strudel

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lunch Lady Bars

3 years ago I lamented my yearning for a high school lunch peanut butter bar recipe. And I quote:

Now I've searched across this great continent for this recipe, but after 10 years I've ultimately resigned myself to the fact that it's the ultimate in protected secrets of the lunch ladies union."

That smooth thick peanut butter cookie crust layered with creamy chocolate frosting just out of my grasp year after year! My desire for it was so great, I even considered sneaking into the school during lunch time and stocking up on a few. Then, when I reconsidered that plan, I realized how pathetic and desperate it was.

Well... no more! I can now proudly announce that I've concluded my quest!

High School Lunch Peanut Butter Bars

I found this recipe off of the Taste of Home website via Pinterest

¾ cup butter
¾ cup peanut butter
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup sugar
Cream together until light, airy and fluffy

2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

1½ cups flour
1½ cups oatmeal
¾ baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Mix just until combined

Drop dough into a 15x10 pan
Evenly spread and flatten dough (easiest to use your palms)
Bake a 325°F for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned
Let cool in pan, then frost

½ bag of powdered sugar (+/- )
¼ cup butter
¾ cup peanut butter
1½ cups melted chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ - ½ cup of milk  

Mix with beaters until light and fluffy
Spread over cookies

One year ago: 3.14 Pi(e), Peanut Butter Ice Cream Pie
Two years ago: How To Make Irish Potatoes
Three years ago: Dancing Irish Elves, Irish Shortbread Cake 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cheap Date

There are some desserts, though wildly popular, I've just never been drawn to - like Boston Creme Pie, Cherry Pie and Tiramisu (probably because mine turned out awful). However, because I'm obsessed with having a well rounded repertoire and knowledge of all aspects of dessert making, I have decided they all must be conquered (sooner or later)! 

There is something to be said for doing something that you don't necessarily want to do. It builds character; it broadens horizons; it opens doors, and in some cases, it makes you fall in love.

Up until very recently, Pineapple Upside Down Cake could be found in the above list. Gabriel, quite aptly, said he thought it always sounded like a "cheap dessert". Having never found a reason, or excuse to make this cake, there it wasted away in the 'cheap' category. But then about a week ago we invited some friends over for dinner, and they requested this very cake for dessert. As a polite host, who had demanded a request for dessert, I quietly obliged.

I really should do more things I don't feel like doing. This cake is A. to the M.A.Z.I.N.G. In fact, it may very well now be my ultimate favorite cake.
Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I knew off the bat I was never going to add nasty maraschino cherries to this cake, so I set out to find a beautiful rendition of this cake, that I could adapt, which led me to Smitten Kitchen's version. Other than mistaking her directions for the caramel topping to read as ¾ cup of butter, as opposed to ¾ stick of butter, and needing to double the caramel topping, I followed her recipe exactly.

The resulting candied pineapple atop moist, butter rum cake is the consummate in fresh, tart, sweet confections. Its flavor is rich, deep and resonates with each bite.
Remember: Double the caramel topping, use fresh pineapple, and bake in a cast iron pan.
One Year Ago: Break From Tradition, Cookie Truffles
Two Years Ago: My Alarm Clock, Banana Coffee Cake
Three Years Ago: Step Two, Candy Fondant

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Surprise Treat

There is a lovely little specialty bakery in Gresham, Oregon, by the name of CloudTree & Sun Inc. (112 N. Main), that sells: The. Most. Delicious. Sticky Buns! They are coated in gooey caramel and baked with ripe, crunchy, nutty pecans throughout. The bread melts in your mouth; a buttery pastry that beckons and invites the senses to partake in this sweet privilege.

This is how food is meant to be created.

My mother and I used to visit this shop on our way home from my sister's house. I always felt that I must have been a very special little girl to be treated to such a delicacy. One whole sticky bun and my favorite treat in the whole world from the prettiest boutique, all to myself. This one small and rare indulgence made me feel like a princess.

These sticky buns are what initiated my journey down the study of gastronomy.

A few years back I got my hands on the recipe for another of my favorite desserts, also from CloudTree & Sun. All these years I never much paid attention to the fact that it was part of a two columned piece of paper; the left containing the prized recipe and the right a bunch of hand written gibberish.

All these years I've been missing out. Turns out that gibberish is quite a treasure!
Apple Cream Cake

This flan combines apple pie with cheesecake. I've tried this combination before, however, this recipe is uniquely different. The texture is not wholly equivalent to cheesecake alone, but instead possesses two distinct flavors: apple and cream.
Whip 8oz. cream cheese until light and airy
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 eggs
½ cup sugar
Mix until light and fluffy
Roll out crust dough, and layer along bottom and up edges of an 8" tart pan
Slice and core 2 apples and arrange on the bottom of the flan
Pour cake mixture over apples
Bake at F350° for 30-40 minutes
Allow to cool before removing base of pan
Chill and enjoy

One Year Ago: In A Rut, Boston Cream Pie
Two Years Ago: Sundae Crêpes: Avocado Corn
Three Years Ago: Eat More Fruit, Walnut Pear Tartelettes

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