Friday, July 14, 2017

Not Winning Any Cake Wars Here

When I asked Charlie what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, he was characteristically elaborate and imaginative.

"The cake should have little bits of whipped cream all around the sides, and strawberries in the whipped cream, and ice cream in a mountain in the middle."

After further questioning, I ascertained that the cake and the ice cream should be vanilla. Also that there should be frosting--vanilla, of course--but only around the edge. Underneath the little bits of whipped cream.

I feel sure someone with some kind of cake decorating skill could have made something lovely from those instructions. But this is me we're talking about here, so this is what he got.

Thankfully, the strawberries rescue it from a completely monochromatic and nuptial color scheme.

I'm not a proponent of non-chocolate cake and have never made a vanilla cake, so I had to find a recipe. I used this one from Smitten Kitchen--only a half recipe, which made plenty for us--mostly because it had buttermilk in it. I like buttermilk in baked goods. The cake reminded me in texture of pound cake, which is a good thing for me. Also, it was easy enough to make with all three boys "helping" me, which was another of Charlie's stipulations for his cake.

Strawberry season is over here, so I had to use the frozen strawberries I buy in big bags from the store for fruit shakes. Definitely not as good as fresh, but they did serve their decorative purpose. I fully intended to buy whipped cream in a can--something I actually have never purchased--to save myself the extra step of whipping cream to finish off the cake, but I couldn't find any at the gas station/dairy store I stopped at, so I bought the real cream and had A. whip it for me. Probably for the best in the end. 

Of course, it turned out that Charlie mostly ate the ice cream, whipped cream, and strawberries, because he doesn't really like cake all that much, but he seemed happy with my attempts to make his vision come to life.

Plus, he blew out all his candles on the first try. Success.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


Happy birthday to
the irrepressible Charlie.
A true original.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Not the Takeaway I Was Hoping For

I'm currently reading The Long Winter to Cubby and Charlie as their bedtime book. There are many valuable lessons to be learned from this inspirational story of the Ingalls family enduring a harsh winter of deprivation: endurance, fortitude, courage, industry (keep that coffee mill grinding for the literal daily bread, girls!), and gratitude.

So what does Cubby say to me yesterday? "How come in The Long Winter, Ma doesn't ever yell like you do?"

Probably because her kids didn't do things like lock the bathroom door behind them with poop in the toilet so no one could get in to flush it until the key was found. And not just because they didn't even have a bathroom.

She had four girls who were seen and not heard, and Pa would take a belt to them if they disobeyed their mother. Does that sound good to you, Cubby? No? Then be thankful for the yelling.

That's not what I said, but it's what I thought. What I said was, "Just because it's not in the book doesn't mean she didn't do it."

Though she did probably yell less than I do.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

All the Comforts of the Smugglers' Cave

Cubby burst in the front door yesterday, followed by his two minions, and asked me if they could use their jackets for the floor of their smugglers' cave.

Say what?

"What smugglers' cave?" I had to ask.

"The one we made under the picnic table," he replied.

"And what are you smuggling?"

"Peas from the garden. So can we use the jackets?"



The wily smugglers in their camouflaged cave. With a padded floor.

Monday, July 10, 2017

More Fat, More Better

It's kind of a running joke with A. and me that I'm famous for my potatoes. Whenever one of his friends would eat with us, that friend would inevitably ask how I made the potatoes. It didn't matter if they were roasted or mashed or whatever, the potatoes were always the best thing in any dinner I prepared.

I joke that it's because they're cooked with such love, because I myself really love potatoes. What I usually told his friends was that they were so good because we grew them ourselves, so they were really fresh. That's partially true, but I think what it really comes down to with potatoes is salt and fat. To make really good potatoes, you always need more of both than you think.

I have come to discover that adding fat to almost anything will make it better.

Tomato sauce for pasta is good. Tomato sauce with cream or bacon is better.

Yellow curry is good. Yellow curry with heavy cream is better.

Corn chowder is good. Corn chowder with sour cream is better.

And I can now add another to my list: Stir fry is good. Stir fry with a peanut sauce is better.

The peanut sauce I made to go along with our meatball lettuce wraps was not universally beloved by my family. In fact, I was the only one who really liked it, so I had a lot left over.

I decided to make stir fry last night to use up some of the carrots, kohlrabi, greens, and snap peas coming out of the garden, and to use up the rest of the peanut sauce.


My standard stir fry sauce is soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and a little sugar. Those things are all in the peanut sauce, too, but the addition of the peanut butter really makes the sauce just that much better. Tahini would probably work as well.

The only member of the family that didn't eat the peanut sauce this time was Charlie. Of course. But everyone else happily consumed the previously unloved peanut sauce.

Gotta have that fat. It makes everything better.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

They're in the Army Now

You thought I was kidding about Cubby and Charlie peeling potatoes for me, didn't you?

I was not.

We just won't talk about the incredible mess of potato peelings that had to be cleaned from every surface within a two-foot radius by the time they were done . . .