Cake-top

I’ve been a member of various BabyCenter birth boards since March of 2007, when I found out I was pregnant for the first time.  It’s always been my go-to site for tips on how to introduce solids, or how get my wailing baby to sleep through the night.  And perhaps most important – how to throw an over-the-top 1st birthday party.

Unbeknownst to me, all babies expect lavish 1st birthday parties complete with themes, printed invitations, goody bags, and of course, the centerpiece – a beautifully decorated cake with its own side kick – the smash cake.  The latter being the cake that baby gets to smash with her clenched little fists and then smear all over her face like someone who just played a mean joke on herself.

Let’s just say I wasn’t that organized that first year.  Not even close.  Not that I aspire to be the kind of mom who throws lavish parties every year for my children, but even having my across-the-hall neighbor swing by for leftovers would have been a nice compromise.

Cake-oven

Feeling a wee bit guilty, the plan to bake a cake for Lauren’s 1st birthday happened on the day of her birthday…at 5PM when I got home from work.  And this wouldn’t be any old birthday cake.  It was going to be a butterscotch layer cake, towering and impressive for my audience of 1.  Those smash cake moms had clearly camped out on my eardrum and were gently bouncing up and down, telling me to do something historic or nothing at all.

As you can imagine, by 7:30PM, I was covered in flour and caramel, racing to get my layers iced.  Lauren was perched on the counter in her bouncy chair, staring daggers at me because it was past her bedtime and she wasn’t pleased with this last-ditch effort to bake her a cake that she didn’t even want. 

But at long last, the cake was done.  Rodney and I stuck a candle in it, turned the lights down, sang happy birthday in a sing-songy whisper, and presented her with her beautiful cake.

She took a bite and gummed it around for a minute, frowning.  And then vomited.  On-the-cake. This apparently happens in real life, not just in bad sitcoms.  Like watching a fake wipeout on TV, viewers would be shaking their fists at me, yelling “I hate this show.  That would NEVER happen!”

Cake-Lauren

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KiwiberriesKiwis are great, but the annoying part is that you have to peel off all of that fuzzy skin with a tiny little knife.  Like lamb chops, it always seems like a lot of work, despite the deliciousness that lies within.  It would be so great if someone figured out how to make a kiwi where you don’t have to peel the skin.  Oh wait – they do – and they’re called kiwi berries.  How brilliant!

ME: “OK guys, here we go, these are called kiwi berries.”

LAUREN: “Oooh, I want to try.”

ME: “They look like kiwis on the inside but you can eat the whole skin.”

LAUREN: “Is the skin easy to peel off?”

What does it look like?”

LAUREN: “It looks like a green apple, but it’s smaller than a green apple.”

What about the inside?

SAM: “Seeds.”

LAUREN: “It looks like the apple seeds with the big center in the middle.”

What does it smell like?

SAM: “It smells like bananas.”

ME: “That’s probably because you just ate a banana.”

LAUREN: “Do we need to take the seeds out?”

What does it taste like?

LAUREN: “You don’t even taste the seeds.”

LAUREN: “Too sweet.”

ME: “Too sweet?  Impossible.”

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BLTs-finalTonight I made the best thing I’ve ever eaten.  It’s also the least healthy thing I’ve ever eaten.  Maybe a fried Mars bar is worse.  Maybe.  But when you eat a pretty healthy diet on a regular basis, it’s OK to go nuts on occasion.

I was feeling a little crazed at the end of the day and had no idea what dinner would be tonight, but eyed some nice looking cut-to-order slab bacon at the grocery store and started obsessing about BLTs.

BLTs are, in my opinion, on of the best meals on earth.  Come spring I start obsessing about feeding the addiction with perfectly ripe tomatoes and good smoked bacon.  

BLTs-mayo-bowlBut tonight things got weird and wonderful when I chose my tomatoes at the store.  I was worried that they wouldn’t taste great since we’re still early in the season, so I started to overcompensate with the other parts of the sandwich, kicking up the flavor a notch.

First, I made an intense smoked paprika mayo.  Spicy with a hint of garlic and lemon, it was the perfect base for the rest of the goods.

Next, I cooked my bacon until perfectly crispy on a grill pan so as not to lose that flavorful grease.  No paper towel in the micro routine.  And here’s the kicker, the step that probably cost me a year of my life.  I grilled the bread in the leftover bacon grease.  Slathered the mayo on top of the grilled bread, layered on the bacon, topped with arugula and the cherry tomatoes, and showered the whole thing with smoked Maldon salt and freshly ground pepper.

BLTs-mayo

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pea shoots 247Pea shoots are a strange thing.  My kids say they look like “weeds” or “trees” yet eat them with reckless abandon.  I think they were amazed by the fact that although pea shoots may look like weeds, they actually taste like peas.  They’re sweet and crisp, and easy to mix into salads to change up your usual routine.

ME: “So these things are called pea shoots.  Have you guys ever seen these before?”

LAUREN: “It sounds like a rattle when you shake them.”

SAM: “It sounds like a drum.”

What do the leaves look like?

LAUREN: “Like leaves growing out of the ground in the garden.  Like weeds.”

And what do they taste like?”

SAM: “Plants.”

M: “What kind of plants?”

SAM: “Trees.  I love them.”

ME: “You know what they are?  They’re the tiny little shoots of the peas that are starting to grow.  You know what peas are right?”

SAM: “Edamame.”

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Steak-saladWhen it comes to farmers’ market visits, I’m ashamed to say that I hibernate like a bear.  I stay indoors, hunkered down in front of my laptop, ordering butternut squash and broccoli crowns from Fresh Direct and pretending I’m OK with it.  I do love the farmers’ market, but for most of the winter, it’s just too cold and dreary to head outside for the predictable assortment of apples and root vegetables.

But this weekend, the skies parted, and we were gifted with one of those glorious near-spring days.  The kind of day that puts a bounce in your step and jumpstarts you out of your bad habits.  It’s such a treat to live near the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City. Not only do I love to walk around the many stalls, but the kids also have a blast checking out all the crazy produce.  Purple carrots, candy cane-colored potatoes, and of course the massive containers of their favorite Honeycrisp apples.

Steak-salad-kids-3

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