Where to start?
I spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning either baking or cooking or cleaning in preparation for the party we had for Julia on Sunday. Someday when I'm rich (hahahahaha) I would like to pay someone else to clean for me. I don't like cleaning. I don't mind laundry, or all the cooking and baking. But vacuuming? Ugh.
Oh - and this will be random thoughts because I no longer remember the order of everything. I suppose I could consult my lists, but they're in the other room and I prefer sitting in this chair to getting up right now.
Bill asked me at some point before the party how many people where coming, and I told him I really had no idea. We'd invited all Julia's classmates and another friend who doesn't go to her school...and I also passed the word that siblings were welcome, too. Most of Julia's classmates have younger brothers and/or sisters, and I figured it might be easier for the parents to just bring them along. So...friends, and siblings, and one or two parents...plus our friends across the street, maybe. And my sister and her kids, but her kids are in their teens, so for my purposes they were more on the adult end of the spectrum, and another friend of ours....I think that's everyone from that round. My parents came up BEFORE the party - they've done their time with little kid parties and were wise to head home an hour before everyone was due to arrive. They brought ice cream for the party, too, which was nice.
I ended up with, overall, 19 little kids, one baby, two teenagers and 16 adults. Everyone wasn't there at the same time, so the number during the bulk of the party was a bit less.
That's a lot of little kids in the back yard.
And for most of the week, the weather forecast for Sunday wasn't great. It wasn't awful, but (at least according to the news channel I watch), it was going to be cloudy and a bit cooler and then, on Friday and Saturday, they were calling for maybe showers in the afternoon.
So what in the world were we going to do with all of them INSIDE?
On Saturday morning I got up early and went for a 40 minute walk. I needed that.
Sunday morning, when the sky was grey and foggy and the air had that very still feeling you get sometimes when a storm is coming, Bill (who was in charge of games) came up with a craft idea for the kids in case it did rain - he cut up egg cartons the long way (we had a lot of them) and had me draw wings on a sheet of paper, and he made copies of the wing, and figured we could use bendy straws for legs - Come to Julia's Party and Create Your Own Bug!
We were ready.
Well, he was. He meandered about, skimming bits of leaves out of our little above-ground pool, weeding gardens...he'd mowed the lawn the night before.
I, on the other hand, spent the morning finishing Julia's cake (the decorating part), and making lots of pizza dough (more than enough) and baking the pizzas, and reheating the other food and setting out bowls of ships and pretzels and dip, and basically feeling like a challenger on Iron Chef, glancing at the clock and watching the time pass much too quickly, tick tick tick.
And then, three hours later, it was over.
In between, it was totally fun.
And - the sun came out. No one was expecting it to turn into a NICE day, weather-wise. Some of the moms zipped home to get their kids' bathing suits after all, and there was no need for organized games or crafts at all - the kids just played and splashed and screamed in the pool.
The food came out good...the cake was a hit...and it tasted good...one of the moms brought Sangria she'd made (thank you again!!), and all the kids were well-behaved.
It was a nice, nice afternoon.
And for those of you interested in the menu, here's what we had:
Pretzels, popcorn, salt-and-pepper kettle-cooked potato chips, Doritos, Triscuits, and two kinds of rice crackers, and a little veggie platter of carrots, green beans and red bell pepper.
Dip #1 - 2 cans of cannelini beans, drained, several sprigs of fresh rosemary, a bunch of roasted garlic, salt and pepper, and enough olive oil to make everything into a smooth puree.
Dip #2 - 3 cubes of Red Thai Curry Paste, 2 pints plain Greek-style yogurt, olive oil, fish sauce to taste. Strain the yogurt in cheesecloth until it's the consistency you like, mix in the curry paste, add a little olive oil to smooth out the consistency, add a little fish sauce (or salt) to taste.
Two kinds of pizza...
#1: I made a double batch of this pizza dough and instead of dividing it into small balls of dough, I divided it in quarters and let it rest about fifteen minutes. Then I spread each a quarter of the dough out to fit two parchment-lined half-sheet pans with 1" edges. I baked these plain for about 15 minutes, then I spread tomato sauce (I made mine, use whatever you like) and then topped that all with shredded mozzarella cheese. Back into the oven they went for about 20 minutes or so. I let them cool and then slid the pizzas out of the pans and sliced them into squares or rectangles. I did the same thing with the other two quarters of dough.
#2: I made a single batch of that same dough, divided it into quarters, and this time just made free-form pizzas on parchment-lined pans. I baked them plain for about ten minutes (they are thinner) first. I had made a sort of pesto oil out of a package of fresh basil, two big cloves of fresh garlic, salt, pepper, about 3/4 cup of olive oil, and a bit of grated parmesan. I smeared a quarter of the oil on the surface of each crust, then topped them with oven-dried cherry tomatoes and pieces of fresh mozzarella. I baked these for about fifteen minutes each.
And I made these little tiny turkey meatballs that seemed to go over really well. I had bought 2 lbs of ground turkey. To this I added 6 egg yolks (the birthday cake only called for egg whites, so I had a lot of yolks left), salt and pepper, about 2 tablespoons of roasted garlic, 1 small onion, minced and softened in a blend of vegetable oil and sesame oil, the zest of one lemon, and about a teaspoon or two of sesame oil. Oh, and minced fresh chives. Probably about a tablespoon. I think that's everything. I mixed all the ingredients together really well by hand (it's the best way), and made one little meatball and cooked it, just to make sure the flavor was what I wanted. Actually, originally there was no lemon zest or sesame oil; I added those after that first meatball. I may have added ground coriander, too...I don't remember. Sorry.
Anyway, I made meatballs about the size of a quarter in diameter...a bit smaller, actually, but that's close enough. As I shaped them I dropped them in a dish of seasoned (salt and pepper) rice flour to coat them. I didn't keep count, but the meatballs covered three dinner plates, if that helps give you an idea. I heated up my largest pan, coated it with more of the vegetable/sesame oil blend (which is leftover from a batch of scallion pancakes I made recently), and I browned the meatballs in about 6 batches, leaving plenty of space between the meatballs so they'd brown and not steam. I added a bit of water now and then to keep them from sticking, and a bit of the oil blend now and then for the same reason. Actually, the meatballs were so small that browning them also cooked them completely, fyi. At the end, after all the meatballs were done, I deglazed the pan with a 12 oz bottle of Narragansett beer and cooked that down until most of the liquid was gone. I scraped the gravy/glaze stuff in with the meatballs, tossed them to mix, and let the whole thing cool. I made these on Saturday, and they all kind of absorbed the gravy overnight. When I slowly reheated them the next day (slowly so they wouldn't dry out) I basically had a big container of slightly sticky meatballs.
And this may be bragging, but they were really, really good. This may be due, to a large degree, to the egg yolks. Turkey tends to get dry quickly, but I think my eggy component went a long way toward preventing that. And the other flavors worked well together, too. Oh - and the meatballs were really good dipped in the red curry paste dip. Just thought you should know.
And then, of course, there was the cake. I'll get that post up later today.
For now? I'm a bit hungry. And there's pizza leftover. No meatballs, though. I'll have to make those again.