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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Birthday Treats

Newton recently had a birthday, for which the celebrations ended up stretching more than a week, with his "friend" party the Saturday before and his family party the weekend after. Here's a shot I recently snapped for his soccer ID card (!):

The day of his birthday party, he had the world's loosest tooth. He wouldn't let me pull it, and wouldn't pull it himself. He would wiggle it with his tongue, but otherwise just moped around the house all morning, not eating. I finally made him sit down and eat dry Peanut Butter Crunch and blueberries (his breakfast he never ate, which had been sitting there waiting for its milk), popping them in individually so as not to bump the tooth. Thankfully, it fell out at the beginning of the party when he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. I shudder to think about the cloud of doom that tooth would have thrown over the party otherwise. Here's the tooth hanging by the tiniest thread, turned around 180 degrees:

At the party the boys (he did invite a couple of girls, but they didn't come) played on the slip n' slide, swapped books, and ate homemade ice cream sandwiches (The Thin with vanilla or chocolate-peanut butter ice cream). I whipped up a platter of crudités (multicolored cherry tomatoes, jicama, blanched green and yellow beans, cucumber, carrots) with garlic herb dip for the grownups.

Newton's actual birthday was a busy one. All the kids had swimming lessons in the morning, and then Newton had his well-child checkup (at 8 years old, 59 lbs = 59th percentile!). After a quick lunch, he had a play date with a friend from school which included soccer in the park and a trip to Ben & Jerry's. In the evening was Newton's back-to-school ice cream social, and then he went to a Portland Beavers game with another school friend. Wow.

My family has a tradition of letting the birthday person pick the menu on his or her day. Since Newton's day was so full, we postponed the meal picking to the weekend. For Sunday's dinner with just our family, we had spaghetti carbonara, and then homemade Peanut Butter Fudge ice cream for dessert.

Peanut Butter Fudge Ice Cream
adapted from the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Book
makes about 1 quart

2 eggs
3/4 C sugar
1/4 t salt
2 C heavy cream
1 C milk
1/3 C creamy peanut butter
chopped peanuts (optional--I didn't use them because Newton doesn't like nuts)
chocolate fudge or ganache (I used the ganache from the cupcakes recipe below)

Whisk eggs in standing mixer until foaming, then gradually add sugar and salt. Keep whisking at medium speed until light yellow and fluffy, then gradually whisk in cream and milk. Transfer mixture to medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until the mixture reaches 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (you can skip this step if you don't mind eating raw eggs or are in a big hurry). Remove from heat, then add a little of the cream base at a time to the peanut butter in a small bowl, whisking to blend. When thoroughly mixed, let cool almost to room temperature and then chill in fridge overnight (or less time if you didn't cook it).

The next day, freeze in an ice cream maker according to machine's instructions, adding pieces of fudge or ganache late in the process (so they don't break down or sink to the bottom). If you're using an ice cream maker that doesn't let you add ingredients in the middle of the process, layer in the fudge/ganache pieces when you transfer the ice cream to another container. Let cure in freezer for at least several hours and preferably overnight (yes, two overnights--good ice cream means planning ahead!).

Monday was the family dinner, and we just had simple grilled fare in the back yard: buffalo burgers on whole wheat buns, tomatoes and lettuce from J&J's garden, Walla Walla sweets their friends had brought them, corn on the cob, French potato salad with blanched green and yellow beans, corn, and more of those garden tomatoes, watermelon, peaches, and potato chips with ranch dip. For dessert, the famous cupcakes made a reappearance. Inexplicably, Newton wanted some without ganache filling (!), so I made one dozen (minis) without, and two dozen with. Again, frosted with cream cheese frosting. I've figured out the secret to perfect cream cheese frosting! Here is how I made it this time, and it turned out PERFECT.

Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 C unsalted butter
1/4 t salt
1/2 t vanilla
1-1 1/2 C powdered sugar

The cream cheese and butter should be softened to cool room temperature, just under 70 degrees. Beat them in stand mixer with whisk attachment until well blended, smooth and creamy, scraping down bowl periodically and adding salt and vanilla mid-way. Then add powdered sugar and keep beating and scraping until it's light and fluffy.

RESIST the impulse to add more sugar! It will just make it sweeter and hide the cream cheese flavor. I know because I made cream cheese frosting for the Wizard's birthday cupcakes, and it was too sweet and not cheesy enough.

You know what's crazy? Newton's birthday food is not yet done. Another tradition in my family is to have waffles with fruit and ice cream for birthday breakfasts. Newton wants peaches. So, this coming weekend we'll have sourdough waffles with buttermilk syrup, peaches, and vanilla ice cream. Mmmmmmmmm.

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Blogger The Laundry Queen said...

It's no wonder Newton's teeth are falling out left and right...all that SUGAR! I can't believe you eat syrup along with the ice cream and fruit on the waffles! Just ice cream seems like enough to me. But, hey, I don't really like sweets, so what do I know?

September 3, 2008 at 8:17 PM  
Blogger ME said...

I had a dangling tooth like that. I was too scared to just yank it out. The orthodontist scraped it out of my mouth on my next visit--which was more traumatic than doing it myself would have been.

September 4, 2008 at 12:33 PM  

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