Sunday, February 23, 2014

throwing a grown-up birthday party with a comfort food menu and some bowling

So this week my husband turned 34. He stoically took it all in as usual. He is such a kind and generous person that I selfishly feel, he is pretty universally loved. Sometimes, because he is so low maintenance it can feel like he is putting a lot more in than he is getting out (according to me not him). So, I wanted to make sure that he had a great birthday. The boy wanted workout clothes as his birthday present (kind of lame, but I am also secretly glad that I may be able to remove his current high waters from the rotation), so we outfitted him with some new duds.

On his actual birthday we went out for a family dinner (his side). Then the day after I organized a small birthday get together with our friends. Namely, dinner and some bowling. He loves throw back nostalgic activities.

Dinner Menu

grilled cheese with bacon, avocado, and sprouts

Since it was a party I  wanted to prep as much food as I could ahead of time, by frying the bacon in the oven at 400 degrees for approximately 15 minutes, slicing the white cheddar cheese that I bought, leaving the butter out to soften, mashing the avocado with a bit of acidity to prevent browning, etc. Did this actually happen, not so much ... where does the time go. 

When we got back from bowling, I assembled on most of the sandwiches a couple of Tbsp of avocado, 1/4 C. sprouts, a couple of pieces of bacon, and a couple slices of cheese. Butter the outside slices of bread and fry away on the griddle on a medium heat til golden brown and melty. Mmm 

creamy tomato soup
I cheated and bought pre-made since I knew that we were going bowling first

chocolate eclair cake
adapted from Cook's Country (America's Test Kitchen)

1 1/4 cups sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
5 cups whole milk (I used skim)
4 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces
5 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons water
1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin 
2 3/4 cups heavy cream, chilled, divided
14 ounces graham crackers (I used about 2 of the 3 packages in the box)
2 cups chocolate chips
5 tablespoons corn syrup 
ideally you would make this the day before!!

Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a large saucepan. Whisk milk in until smooth and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom with a rubber spatula over medium high heat. Immediately reduce heat to medium low and cook, continuing to scrape bottom, until thick and large bubbles appear on the surface, 4-6 minutes. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla. Transfer pudding to a large (don't make my mistake and put it in one that is too small then have to transfer and dirty yet another bowl, since you are going to add the whipped cream to this) bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface. Refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours or overnight.

Stir water and gelatin together in a bowl and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Microwave until mixture is bubbling around the edges and gelatin dissolves, 15-30 seconds. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, whip 2 cups cream on medium low speed until foamy, about a minute. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Add gelatin mixture and whip until stiff peaks form, about a minute more.

Whisk one-third whipped cream into chilled pudding, then gently fold in remaining whipped cream, one scoop at a time until combined. I used a trifle bowl here, thought it would give a more dramatic effect which is why I probably used additional graham crackers. Cover the bottom of a 13 X 9 inch baking dish with a layer of graham crackers, breaking the crackers as necessary to line the bottom of the pan. Top with half of the pudding mixture and another layer of graham crackers. Repeat with remaining pudding mixture and remaining graham crackers.

Microwave chocolate chips, remaining 3/4 cup cream and corn syrup in a bowl, stirring occasionally until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Cool glaze to room temp, about 10 minutes.Cover graham crackers with glaze and refrigerate cake for 6 - 24 hours.