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Bob’s 4th and Why We Can’t Do Small Parties

Angry Birds Party anyone?  All party photos, courtesy of my dad.

Angry Birds Party anyone? All party photos courtesy of my dad.

Sorry folks, no new recipe today. I tried. I got one about 75% right but it still needs more work. In the meantime, I keep writing down more ideas and ideas. I just need to find the time and more time to work on them. Meanwhile, life still goes on and little boys have birthday parties…

Bob’s actual birthday. Big one for my baby and cupcakes for his sisters. I finally figured out what to do with half used boxes of cake mix…

I never understood the small family party. Growing up it didn’t exist for me. Sure, sure, some parties are bigger than others with friends, godparents and their families, and if I was lucky friends from school but my smallest party ALWAYS at least included my mother’s own nuclear family with her four siblings, their kids, and my grandparents. 30 years later the tradition continues…

When my husband and I discussed what we would do for our son this year, the word was always “something small”. We even discussed *gasp* not doing something but my aunt and grandma wouldn’t have it (even offering to make food). I mean we did that whole football themed party last year with family and friends with all the Super Bowl type goodies that I made where I hardly got any sleep but still had a good time and managed to pull it off. And even though it ended well, that is not what we were going for this year. We even thought Chuck E Cheese and back to our house for cake and piñata. But then I thought, if I still have to clean up house for guests we might as well just have the darn thing at home again but just invite family. But therein lies the conflict. My kids, my sister’s kids, my uncle’s, my nieces…our small family party not including a new baby cousin is already 9 kids. I love it and I hate it. I hate eliminating friends too because that means most of my husband’s side because his side is only friends because his dad’s family lives in Texas and his mom was an only child. Suffice to say my husband’s upbringing was way different than mine with my mother’s four siblings and my father’s thirteen (who, sure we don’t get to see ALL of lots, but even split up into smaller nuclear family groups that we see more often still adds up to a lot of people).

I got this idea from Sesame Street faces I'd seen done in veggie and fruit form.  For veggies I just used ranch dip but I will post links at the bottom of the post for the fruit dips.

I got this idea from Sesame Street faces I’d seen done in veggie and fruit form. For the veggies I just used ranch dip but I will post links at the bottom of the post for the fruit dips.

So we didn’t have family friends THIS time (which adds about 9 more kids) but speaking of my dad’s family, I was so blessed to have my cousin and his wife come to the party. They live several hours north of us and were down south for the usual sights with his wife and kids. We were going to meet up but then I invited them to Bob’s birthday instead hoping they’d come and they did. There are a handful of cousins that live up north that I would say I am close to and my cousin Robert is definitely near the top of that list. We married weeks apart, we both have three kids, and his wife is just as much my cousin as he is. So the addition of them was fantastic and I like it when my mom’s family gets excited about seeing some of my dad’s family. I always did, even back before my mom passed and even when they were still married. It feels like that is what family is supposed to feel like (to me anyway)…BIG.

Got the idea for Angry Birds Cupcakes from  I came up with the black ones on my own.  It was my hubs favorite!

Got the idea for the Angry Birds Cupcakes from I came up with the black ones on my own. It was my husband’s favorite!

So while I complain about the work, it is always worth it. Where we cut back was regular food. We went with Costco pizza and salad. Way less work, and it made for a happy host. This was my last chance for something small too. My husband and daughter who usually celebrate together had a smallish one last year so I think we are going a bit bigger this year. Then we are going to combine my oldest with her middle school graduation so…even bigger. I don’t know if I’d have it any other way…or if I could?!

My GeekyLink for this week, I had bookmarked awhile ago but hadn’t read through it till today. Oh my goodness, this list of Free Stuff from NASA will provide hours upon hours of fun for my 9 year old! They have paper models with instructions! She had asked for big kid legos for Christmas and Santa obliged. She even bought a set herself with Christmas money. She is beginning to get into experiments. So I think she could get into the idea of a paper model. Especially if I make it clear she could work uninterrupted for most of it. There are links to free printable posters. She’d love them. I need to go back and look at the lists of apps and audio files that you can make into ringtones.

He's a good boy...

He’s a good boy…

The dip that I made for the strawberry Red Angry bird with blueberries for eyeballs and eyebrows and grape kiwi snouted Green Pig was a Brown Sugar Fruit Dip from Half Baked. I found it pinned as a cheesecake fruit dip so I thought it was perfect for the strawberries.

For the pineapple Yellow Angry Bird, I made this Coconut Cream Fruit Dip from Dessert Now, Dinner Later! This recipe was a revelation! I had never heard of using whipped coconut cream before. It was hard not to finish off the leftovers.

While, both recipes call for Cool Whip I used homemade lightly sweetened whipped cream, just my preference.

The Crafting Chicks link for Angry Birds Cupcakes that I loved! Can you believe I had every other chip in my cupboard except minis? I had to use individual jimmies for the eyeballs instead and poke them into the eyes of the birds. It worked. I used colored sugar on all of them. About those snouts…frosting a cut marshmallow is no easy task.

All the leftover fruit and veggies that I only used a few of in making the faces, made its way onto extra platters so nothing went to waste.

Thanksgiving and Birthdays, Triumphs, and Failures

This year, I didn’t really get to make desserts for Thanksgiving.  Which bummed me out but my family says that some people don’t cook so they can at least buy (!) and bring a dessert, whatever.  So I was not happy.  I really like the recipe I use for pumpkin pie and I was kinda bummed I didn’t get to make it this year especially since I was planning on making my own crust.  Then, I decided not to make one of my usual appetizers this year and my aunt wasn’t happy.  I love and usually make these Mini Pumpkin Tarts and I make chocolate ones too but I hate that I can’t fill the cups until right before we have to leave because if they sit too long they will become soggy.  Granted, there usually aren’t that many left to get soggy but I just wanted to try some new things.  So, even though I didn’t get to bake desserts I was still in charge of sweet appetizers, rolls and I did make some savory appetizers too.

I would have to say that my biggest triumph were the rolls!  O my goodness, so yummy, so perfect, I couldn’t believe that they came out of my kitchen!  I think I am going to write a post about them though, so no link yet.  Sorry, just a preview picture.

I made Bacon Pops as one of my savory appetizers.  These tasted great but were kinda messy to make, at least getting them into balls.  If I had a scoop that was half the size of my cookie scoop, it would have been way easier.  I thought that the sticks they use on the website were too big.  I just used toothpicks and it worked out fine.  I also didn’t use the apple slices to serve them because I didn’t want to have to deal with browning.  It is bacon, cheese, and basil, how much yummier and simpler could it get?  Easy to make ahead too, which is important when making lots of things.  I also made Broccoli Bites.  I added a little more seasoning to these and actually I think I added a bit too much.  I also had to add an extra egg because otherwise they would not have stuck together.  I would like to perfect these.  Overall, really easy to make though.

Pumpkin Pie Cookie with Brown Butter Icing.  This was after Thanksgiving and other cookies had been stacked on top of it.

Now on to the sweets!  I made Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing from Brown Eyed Baker.  There is a reason that these cookies are all over the internet.  They were like eating pumpkin muffin tops with the best icing in the world.  They are originally from Martha Stewart and the brown butter icing is DIVINE.  I had almost two tablespoons left after frosting all of the cookies (and it makes A LOT of cookies) and it was all I could do not to spoon it in my mouth.  One thing though, is I had to make these twice.  Both times I made them they needed more flour.  So if you make them, keep that in mind.  I also made, apple pie cookies from Smitten Kitchen.  These were a lot of effort but I really thought the overall effect was awesome and now I really want to try this crust in a pie.  It was crazy flaky and wonderful.  I also made some cream cheese cookies that I didn’t really like, I thought they tasted just like a regular sugar cookie so I am looking to adapt that recipe and maybe post about it.  I think a good cream cheese cookie would be worth it.

Apple Pie Cookie

We have three birthdays in our family from November 26 to December 1.  My brother didn’t come down so we didn’t celebrate his, so instead of something chocolatey I am sure he would have picked, I made my Mexican Chocolate Cookies.  I had to make these as extra, partly because my family was mad that I shared the whole first batch with my in-laws and they wanted some and partly because I made cheesecake and banana cream pie and not everyone is a fan.  First of all, quite simply if you are making any cheesecake other than Mixed Berry Cheesecake by Ina Garten, I don’t know what is wrong with you.  I actually didn’t put the berries on top this time, I made a caramel but I should’ve made the berries.  Every other time I have made this I do make the berries and everyone loves them on top.  At some point my oven shut off and so I had to wing it as to baking time to finish it but I actually think this is the best it has ever come out.  (Sorry, no picture!) That was for my Aunt.  For my Grandma, who is a big Banana Cream Pie fan, I made Banana Cream Pie with Chocolate Ganache & Salted Caramel Sauce.  O yeah, I loved it!  My Grandmother loved it.  I thought the pastry cream came out so well.  I had to make the caramel twice but I got it to work.  But the stupid (yes, I said stupid!) graham cracker crust fell apart!  The pie looked great and tasted great too but you just couldn’t cut a slice of it, dangit!  I do think it could have stayed chilled longer but I don’t think that was the whole problem.  It just really chapped my hide that the most difficult elements of the recipe I got right, but the simplest was a failure.  I would have posted it, I think, if it had worked completely.

Whether I make this pie again, I don’t know, but I WILL make this pastry cream again!

I am happy to show you that even though I might not post as often as I should, I am still baking quite a bit, it is just that sometimes I forget to take pictures, truly.  I am sorry and I will try my hardest to do better.  It is all about time management and that is something I have never been good at, plus being a procrastinator doesn’t help.

My GeekyLink today is like the biggest news of the day, or it should be.  NASA’s Kepler Confirms Its First Planet In Habitable Zone, this is so awesome and the fact that there are about fifty more or so that they have left to confirm that might be out there as well is just super cool.  If you think that is too “out there” for you, just be glad it wasn’t Ancient Aliens!  Dang, I can’t watch (or at least I shouldn’t watch) it.  There is so much crazy stuff on that show and I LOVE it.

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