My wonderful family came over to celebrate Birthmas this weekend, and it was everything I hoped it would be and more. Above: the gorgeous Poof displays two of the seven Birthmas cakes that she decorated--while somehow evoking the religious ecstasy found in popular portraits of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith and Bill Paxton in the opening credits to Big Love.
And now, a bunch of photos, a couple of recipes, and a video!
Presents galore! Most of these were supposed to be opened on Christmas. I made a point of wrapping mine in random, multicolored boxes and bags, as "multi" is the color theme of Birthmas. A tiny stuffed llama is poking his head out of a bag; that llama is for Poof.
O Birthmas tree! It's a renaissance for my homemade ornaments! I see no reason to take them down after Birthmas, either...unless these lousy bugs decide to start eating them.
Poof enjoys our wireless connection while Mom tailors a pair of pants for Tyler, who just got a job last week and is now a big shot attorney!
Appetizer table. If you look closely, you can see Jeff and his daughter Melissa being antisocial. (Actually they're checking the roast, which I will tell you about in a future post.)
These nuts were a big salty-sweet hit among those of us who do not have nut allergies. The recipe is from, of course, Nigella Christmas, although I think they'd be good any time of year.
- 2 heaping cups mixed nuts
- 1½ t garam masala
- 1 t celery salt
- 2 T olive oil
- 2 T light brown sugar
- 3 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped to make about 3 teaspoons, plus 1 sprig for garnish
- Pinch salt
Put a large frying pan on a medium heat. Line a large baking sheet or Swiss roll tin with foil or reusable baking parchment and put at a handy proximity to the stove.
Tip the nuts into the now-warm pan and toss or push about with a spatula for 3 minutes or so until they are lightly toasted.
Add the garam masala and celery salt and push the nuts about in the pan again so that they are evenly coated.Add the oil, sugar and rosemary and stir about again to mix. When the nuts have darkened a little and are slicked with the sugary spice mix, tip them out briskly (before they burn) onto your prepared, lined sheet, and sprinkle with salt to taste.
Preferably when still warm, arrange in small bowls, and tuck in a sprig of rosemary on top for a seasonal fir-tree flourish!
Above, an encore presentation of Rocky Road with Caribou, arranged by Poof.
Oh man. I am so glad I made these cocktail sausages, recipe also by Nigella, as appetizers. People were eating them like they were going out of style. But they are in fact very stylish and delicious. You'll find that eight people will have no trouble consuming dozens of them.
- Cocktail sausages, lots of. I bought two one-pound packages of Lil Smokies.
- 2/3 C sweet red chili sauce
- 1/4 C cranberry sauce from a can
- 1 T dark brown sugar
- 1/4 C soy sauce
- 1 lime
- 1 clementine
Preheat oven to 400. Put the Smokies in a large Ziploc bag and add sweet chili sauce, cranberry sauce, brown sugar and soy sauce. Also squeeze in the juices of the lime and clementine. Slosh the ingredients around.
You can leave this bag in the refrigerator overnight, or you can freeze and thaw it whenever, or you can dump everything in a foil roasting tin and put it in the oven for about 30-40 minutes. The Lil Smokies are already fully cooked, so really all you're doing here is heating them up and giving them some color. I found that the liquid remained kind of liquidy and did not become especially sticky as advertised, but so what? They were still fantastic and no one could stop eating them.
We had some fancy supertoothpicks that everybody wrote their names on and saved near the sausages.
After our big feast (rolled pork roast, Parmesan smashed potatoes, green beans), we opened our Birthmas presents. My brother Ryan opened some presents on behalf of his adorable little daughter Ashley.
Mel received some comic books from my folks.
Jeff got a keyboard and mouse that ended up being the wrong kind of mouse, but that problem has already been solved.
And now, on to the cakes!
I can't get over Mom's carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and many gems! The carrot cake recipe is from Joy the Baker, and it is simply the best carrot cake any of us has have ever had. Mom went nuts over it.
Jeff's airplane cake. I am so happy I asked Poof to decorate the cakes. Her creations are so much cooler than mine would have been.
Dad's strawberry money cake. I tinted the cream cheese frosting a pink that seemed a little outrageous, but I think the fake money butches it up.
Mel's semi-pirate cake. This is a buttermilk chocolate cake with a raspberry cream filling and chocolate ganache. It looks a little different from the others because the 3-tiered cake pan I used did not release this kind of cake very well. I had to crown two "bottom" layers with an upside-down cupcake, resulting in a jumbo cake.
At first I was disappointed in the lemon glaze (the juice of a lemon and a lot of powdered sugar) I made for my beloved lemon yogurt cake. I wanted it to be more opaque and not pool at the bottom, but actually it made a convincingly swampy setting for the Army men Poof festooned the plate with. And it tasted great. I had a similar cake decorated with crayons.
Tyler, being a man of the law, got a bunch of deputy badges. I bought all of the decorations, which were bags of little kid party favors, for a dollar or so. Besides being cute, they hid a multitude of frosting sins. I wish I could frost cakes more beautifully, and I told Poof to cover up any problem areas with this stuff. Everyone had fun eating as much of their cakes as they could, and then it was nap and leisure time. Tyler soon found himself covered with cats.
Later on I was a guest on a video Poof made for her YouTube channel, and in case you're not totally Birthmas-ed out, here's more coverage. The video is about the three blockbuster gifts I gave her for Birthmas, and it's interspersed with footage of the day's activities. Poof worked really hard editing this. Watch it and be amazed at her cuteness and how low my voice is.
Awesome Birthmas, everyone!