Bear with me, folks–this could be a long one. It was my birthday this past week, and my brother’s birthday the day before, so naturally I cooked about a thousand different things and left piles and piles of dishes in my wake.
I got the birthday off to a bang-up start with some pumpkin-flavored oatmeal and a little Criminal Procedure reading (because the rights of the accused are no less important on the day you turn 25, people). Here are most of the ingredients–including my trusty rooster canister full of slow-cooking oats–lined up and ready to go.
I put the following into a small saucepan and cooked and stirred for 5-6 minutes:
- 1/2 c. oats
- 1/2 c. water
- 1/2 c. almond milk
- 1/4 c. canned pumpkin
- about 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- a small pinch of nutmeg
After I took the oats off the heat, I drizzled them with honey and topped the whole concoction with some pumpkin seeds and a spoonful of peanut butter. (Breakfast without peanut butter is kind of like a year without a birthday, in my opinion.)
With a start like that, I don’t see how this year can go wrong. The rest of the birthday was lovely as well, and included apple-picking, apple turnover-eating, and dinner and drinks with a bunch of wonderful friends.
When I finished class for the week, I drove to Des Moines for some family-style celebrating. One of my older brothers has his birthday the day before mine, so I usually feel the need to show up and bake a communal birthday cake. I love going to my parents’ house for a lazy Friday evening and Saturday. Everything there is so pretty and un-cluttered (i.e. no textbooks and dirty laundry piled everywhere). For example, my mom is some kind of plant whisperer, and has all kinds of gorgeous blooms going on at any given time.
Birthday cake recipe selection was pretty easy this year, because I had just picked those apples at the orchard. I used a Smitten Kitchen recipe yet again, and made just a few modifications to change it from pineapple upside-down cake to caramel-apple upside-down cake. I swapped the pineapple juice in the batter for apple juice, added a half teaspoon of cinnamon to the batter, and omitted the rum. I used a 10-inch skillet, as the recipe suggests, but it wasn’t cast-iron and still seemed to work just fine. First, I peeled, cored, and sliced three apples.
I had four, just in case, but 3 was more than enough. I’m not sure what kind these were, either, because we just kind of wandered around the orchard picking them indiscriminately…but my guess would be Jonagold. Next, I made the caramel layer in the 10-inch skillet.
Then, I arranged the apples on top of the caramel in a spiral-y sort of way, overlapping the slices a little.
After that, I made the batter. (Yes, this took awhile. That’s why I made sure to create a special birthday-cake playlist before getting started.)
Now, if you make this cake (and you should, because it was gooooood), make sure you put the batter on in several dollops and spread it out CAREFULLY over the apples. There’s no sense in ruining your artful arrangement of apple slices before the party even hits the oven. Throw that skillet in the oven and bake as directed by Ms. Smitten Kitchen. Check in about 5 minutes early–mine was done in a little less time than the recipe suggests. When you’re done baking and have let the cake sit for 5 minutes, steel yourself for the inversion. This is not for the faint of heart, or those without heavy duty oven mitts.
Say a little prayer if you’re so inclined, flip, and if a few bits stick to the pan there’s no need to swear like I did. Just scrape ‘em up and put them where they belong. And look at this beauty!
Before I could cut into it, though, the whole fam insisted on eating a proper dinner. We had lettuce wraps–most folks ate a them with a ground chicken, veggie, and soy-saucey- filling, but I made a vegetarian filling that was pretty good. I sauteed the veggies for a few minutes, threw in the sauce ingredients for a few more, and then we ate the filling in romaine, radicchio, and endive leaves, with a little rice on the side. Here’s what I used:
- 1/2 red bell pepper
- about 5 scallions
- 1 small can water chestnuts
- handful of chopped mushrooms
- one diced yellow summer squash
- about 1/2 c. frozen shelled edamame
- 2 cloves chopped garlic
- 1 tbsp grated ginger root
- 1/4 c. peanut butter
- 1/2 c. coconut milk
- juice of half a lime
This was really good and definitely worth experimenting with some more. I wouldn’t recommend the radicchio, though–the purple color is pretty but it’s kind of bitter when served like this.
So there you have it–one marvelous birthday in the books! Now I’m pretty sure I’m coming down with a cold, so perhaps the next post will feature dishes brimming with vitamin C. Farewell for now!