Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sophie's Birthday Dinner

Sophie and Stella

I'm not always very successful at pulling off a birthday dinner.  We don't usually have company, so that takes some of the heat off, but I still get stressed out.  I like to have something special for birthdays but when I am in a stage of barely handling the regular stuff, I get a little frazzled trying to do anything special.

The night before Sophie's birthday, she asked if she could pick a meal for her birthday.  Well, I had not planned on that.  I hadn't even really thought of it, because my brain is currently keeping track of many other things.  Her birthday really snuck up on me.

I felt pretty bad when she asked.  I explained to her that although I try to offer to fix a dinner of the child's choice on his or her birthday, it doesn't always happen. I told her I'd put on my thinking cap, and come up with something special.

A little while after I put the kids to bed, Sophie came back out with a couple of cookbooks.  She and Clara have each gotten a few simple ones from Grandma A., which they keep in their rooms.  Sophie had gone through a couple of them before drifting off to sleep.  She had picked out a pasta dish and a dessert that she asked me if I could do.

The pasta dish was pretty much the same thing as a pasta with Carbonara sauce. That would be easy enough.

The dessert she wanted was individually steamed pumpkin custards.  I make custard quite a bit.  I make it in a 9"x13" pan, however, and not individually.  I explained to Sophie that I didn't have any glass custard dishes, but that maybe I could do it in muffin tins.  She seemed fine with that, so everything was good.

But the day of Sophie's birthday did not go as planned.  Another thing I forgot was her birthday treat for school.  Homemade are not allowed (don't get me started on that one...).  I don't go to town very often.  So it generally happens on a child's birthday, that I've forgotten to pick up a treat for him or her to share with the class.  I end up running into town for the stupid store-bought treats (expensive, full of processed junk, lots of packaging...oh yeah, I was not going to go there.  Sorry.)  Where was I?  Oh, yes, in town.  I end up running to town for the treats, and then have to drive down to Plummer to drop off said treats in time for them to be shared.  Grrr.

But I love my kids; and I'm told that this is the sort of thing a "good mom" does.  And since I do so want to be a "good mom," ... well, you get the idea.

This time, it was a pretty quick trip. I only made two stops, but even so, it ended up being later than I wanted when I got home.  Going to town wears me out, so I always like to sit for a bit with a cup of coffee or tea when I get home.  I did a little writing while having a cup of tea, then pulled myself together for the supper rush hour, which that night would include a birthday celebration!

I started to get everything ready for the requested menu items, and realized I had forgotten to get pumpkin in town.  Now, I do have pumpkin in the freezer.  But since I had forgotten to get it out to thaw the night before, I planned to buy some since I was going to town anyway.  Shoot, there goes that plan.  By that time the kids were home from school, so I asked Sophie if I could make her a cake instead.  I offered to make custards for breakfast tomorrow.  That suited her fine.  But, alas, she asked for chocolate cake.

Now here I'm going to take another little side trip to tell you about something that tends to happen in kitchens where many different people help with the cooking and baking.  I'm sure it is familiar to some readers.  But I'm also pretty sure some of you will have handy little systems in place to handle such difficulties.  I'm pretty much a "systems" train wreck, so ... well ... , I don't have any such handy systems in place.  We pretty much just fly by the seat of our pants around here.

What happens is this.  I'm blessed to have girls who like to bake.  Just about every weekend, or any other day off from school, someone is in the kitchen baking.  I don't always keep careful track of what they make and what they've used.  So when I finally get into the kitchen to make something myself, often the supplies of several key ingredients have been exhausted. 

Now getting back to Sophie's birthday.  She agreed to have cake, but wanted chocolate. I planned to use the Fudge Cake recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, but adapt it for Gluten Free.  Alas, no sugar.  Very little cocoa powder.  No lard.  Hmmm.  Not to worry, though.  I'm pretty good at improvising.  The sugar, however, I couldn't improvise.  I suppose I could have done honey, but I already was adapting for gluten free.  Substituting honey for sugar is yet another risk factor in final product quality.  I wasn't willing to take the risk with a birthday cake at stake. 

So I called Connie.  And that Connie!  Not only did she have a brand new, unopened, four-pound bag of sugar, she even offered to bring it over so I wouldn't have to leave everything half finished to hop in the car and come over.  Thank you Connie!  What a friend.

Eventually I got the cake in the oven, and the Pasta Carbonara ready to serve.  I also made a wilted lettuce salad, since I had hot bacon grease from the Carbonara sauce.  We had whipping cream left over from the Carbonara sauce, so we whipped it up to serve over the warm cake in lieu of frosting, which I also couldn't make because I had no powdered sugar or cocoa powder.

This probably sounds very chaotic, and it probably was.  But unfortunately, this has become such a way of life that it didn't feel chaotic.  In fact I felt in control, and on top of things, all the snags considered.  When everything turned out great, I was very pleased.

Wilted Lettuce Salad
Gluten Free Pasta Carbonara
Gluten Free Chocolate Snack Cake


JennaT said...

Bravo, my friend.....and I will bet Sophie was smiling ear to saran's will always remember how her mom....theGOOD mom....gave her the best bray dinner!

theMom said...

Thanks Jenna! I enjoyed the sentiment in your comment. And I totally cracked up at its typos. not to tease you too much, but it really made me smile.