Tag Archives: birthday

a december to remember

(or, “how I attempt to fit a month’s worth of blogging into one post”…)

Vintage home goods by Hugh at the Detroit Holiday Food Bazaar

Did I really let the whole month of December go by without posting a single time? I guess that’s what will happen when you decide to plan a big event in early December AND take on a few freelance jobs in addition to attempting to supply the metro area with homemade jam for their gift-giving needs.

The main room at Food Bazaar- the Beau Bien table is at lower left

At the risk of sounding like one of those end-of-year holiday letters, allow me to recap for posterity. I brought the Detroit Holiday Food Bazaar back this year, dubbing it the “2nd annual”, so I guess I’m committed to making it a yearly event now! It was quite a bit bigger than last year’s, with 26 vendors (as opposed to 16) and a much larger venue, in an unfinished space above Cost Plus Wines in Eastern Market. The evening wasn’t without hitches (just ask my friend James), but considering my inexperience with event planning and the “rustic”, on-the-down-low nature of the event, I’d say it was a pretty slamming success. We added more prepared-food vendors as well as some tables (borrowed from Tashmoo– thanks Suzanne & Aaron!) where people could take in the city views from the large front windows. It will be an interesting challenge to see where things go next year- I think the Bazaar has already outgrown something that can be sustained as an underground endeavor, so I’ll likely have to figure out how to proceed “above board” (i.e. pulling permits, etc) while keeping the spirit and purpose of the original event.

A selection of chocolate truffles from Pete’s Chocolates

Naturally fermented pickles by Suddenly Sauer

Incidentally, thanks to my pal Evan over at Gourmet Underground Detroit for the food bazaar photos, since I was too busy running around to take any. If you check out this post, you can see a slideshow with more pics from the bazaar as well as the GUDetroit holiday party. The first image in the slideshow is from a fun little photo shoot we did at our house. Update: I just came across another Food Bazaar slideshow on the Drought Juice website here– nice pics, ladies!

A sampling of our jams

Seeing as how Beau Bien sold out of product at the Food Bazaar, the weeks between 12/9 and Christmas were kept busy scrambling to fill holiday orders. Big ups to my partner Molly who really kept the ship afloat while I was tied up at my desk job! We have big goals for 2012, so stay tuned on that.

A shopper browses Marvin‘s (mostly) food photos at the Bazaar

Speaking of desk jobs, as of right now I have 12 more weeks until I will officially be self-employed. Eek! I’ve always felt deep down that I’d be best suited to work for myself; I’m anxious to test that theory. I’ll continue to do freelance writing and recipe development as well as take Beau Bien to the next level… Scary but exciting!

After the blur of Food Bazaar and jam-making, the final days before Christmas were still full-steam-ahead as I got last-minute gifts and planned holiday food. Christmas Eve (or “Puerto Rican Christmas” as I call it) was spent at my mother in law’s and, like always, the food was spectacular (more about this in my next post). The next day we were off to Okemos to see my dad. We had a venison ham, which was new to me, and smoked turkey. Since we had to travel, I opted for simplicity and made a spinach salad and some brussels sprouts. I’ve been making b-sprouts this new way, in a skillet with bacon, mustard diluted with a little stock, and caraway seeds (shredded cabbage is also good with this combo). I like to think it pays homage to my German side, although I have no idea if Germans would put caraway seeds in a vegetable dish. Either way, the dish was well-received even by the brussels sprouts skeptics.

My birthday, 12/27, was 24 hours of fun (ahem… literally). I really am getting too old to celebrate like that anymore! It started off innocently enough, with a small brunch at our place with my siblings and a few friends. After a leisurely afternoon we hit Roast happy hour and didn’t look back… an obligatory trip to the Sugar House was next, followed by the Lager House to see some bands, and ending up at Northern Lights. The party carried on back at the house, where we finished up a previously started euchre game in true Lothamer style.

Gaylord, MI | photo by Marvin Shaouni

After all of that celebrating and running around, it was heavenly to spend a few relaxing days up north with friends for New Year’s (hey, at my age, partying is getting to be hard work!). It was the most down time I’ve had in ages- I actually got to read a fair bit (this and this), we cooked, made fires, went sledding, cuddled with canines, played cards, drank wine, saw a movie, and soaked in the fairy-tale atmosphere of a Michigan winter surrounded by snow-laden pine trees (pretty magical in a place with floor-to-ceiling windows).

Aaron & Riley

So now it’s back to the grind, at least until April, and then it’ll be a hustle instead of a grind. As one of my goals for 2012, I’m going to try my best to get back in the swing of regular blogging- as my friend MK likes to say, “It’s easy to start a blog; it’s hard to keep one going”. In fact, I’m working on a new layout and design and hope to launch the blog under my own URL in the next couple months (I’ve owned simmerdownfood.com for over a year but for the time being it just redirects here).  Lots of things in the works, people. I hope all of you have exciting plans and projects for this year as well, and I wish you all a happy New Year! More recipe posts coming very soon.

holidays 2009

The past few weeks, my Google reader has been filled to bursting with posts about seasonal treats such as roast goose, gingerbread houses, candied nuts, and all other manner of holiday goodies.  I’ve watched and read enviously from the sidelines, wishing that I had the time, energy and wherewithal to make my own festive recipes, let alone have time to blog about them.

Holidays for me as a “single gal” have always been about going somewhere else.  None of my family are here in the immediate Detroit area, so Christmas always involves traveling. Since there’s just one of me and several of them, there’s never really an option to host a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal at my house.  Perhaps that’s why I never feel fully in the holiday spirit to do things at home, such as put up a tree or lights, make Christmas cookies, or blog about holiday food. Instead of puttering about the kitchen, I’m packing bags and making travel plans.

I’m hoping that will change in 2010- a few days ago on my birthday (Dec. 27), Marvin proposed, and I accepted! We’re going to start looking for a house of our own, and by holiday-time next year we should be all settled in.  I am eagerly anticipating all of the firsts, especially our first Christmas in our own home, and I’m sure I’ll be much more motivated to decorate, make goodies, and basically “nest” more so than I have in my bachelorette flat.

This holiday season in particular involved quite a bit of hither-and-thither: Detroit on Christmas eve, East Lansing for Christmas day, and finally, South Carolina.  The day after Christmas we got up early and packed up the car for a marathon drive to SC to see my mom.  We arrived late on the 26th and drove home New Year’s Day.  More details to come, but the highlight of course was my birthday and the proposal.  It was somewhat of a comedy of errors- he had told my sisters, one of whom couldn’t keep it to herself (ahem, N,) and told my mom, so everyone knew what was going on and contrived for us to go to the beach with wine, lawn chairs, etc.  And then he ended up telling me he had told them, so I didn’t even have the illusion of surprising them!  But in the end, it was great to be surrounded by family at such an important and special moment.  At dinner, I announced the “news” during grace by saying I was thankful for my “fiancé” (upon hearing the word, the table broke out in a chorus of hoots and hollers), who “has a big mouth but an even bigger heart”.  (Hokey, yes, I know!)

I have much more to write about our holiday food (look for a post on Marvin’s mom’s roasted salsa) and travels (we had some great roadfood), but for now I just wanted to share my big news with you and wish you the happiest new year yet!  I also want to give a BIG THANK YOU to all of those who participated in the $2-menu challenge– you helped raise $100 for Gleaners!  (Since participation was a little on the lean side, I rounded up…) It’s no Menu for Hope, but I’d like to think it was a fruitful exercise and that we raised awareness a little bit.  Perhaps we can do something similar in the summer when the farmers’ markets are more bountiful.

Photos: lamppost in Savannah; old church in Bluffton, SC; the beach at Hilton Head where the proposal took place

a homely cake for a lovely friend

sarah-cake-cropI understand what it’s like to have your birthday fall close to a holiday and feel a little bummed out when people are too busy to get together, or out of town, or whatever.  So when my friend Sarah, whose birthday was Dec. 19, invited me out to meet them for drinks that night, I wanted to do something to make it a little bit special.  They were having a holiday/birthday party the following night for her and her husband Steve (whose birthday falls on Christmas- I guess I shouldn’t complain!), but I wanted to do something that was “just for her” rather than lumped in with everything else.   I told Steve I would bring a cake; the only problem was that we had had a HUGE snowstorm and the prospect of going out to the store for supplies was not an option with the time-frame I had.  I keep my pantry fairly well stocked with baking supplies, but every recipe I looked at seemed to have one ingredient I lacked, until I came upon a recipe for a “pudding cake”.  I’m sure you’ve had one of these at some point: it’s a cake with a thick, brownie-like batter topped with a liquid “sauce”; as the cake bakes, the batter rises to the top, leaving a chocolate sauce on the bottom to be spooned over the cake.  (They’re often made in individual ramekins and turned out on a plate to serve, so that the sauce tops the cake, but that would have been trickier to transport.)  The cake isn’t the prettiest thing, but eaten with a scoop of ice cream it’s pretty tasty.  

Homely Hot Fudge Pudding Cake (adapted from Birthday Cakes: Recipes & Memories from Celebrated Bakers)

1 1/2 cups strong black coffee, cooled (feel free to use decaf if serving to kids!)
1/3 cup cocoa powder (see note)
1/3 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda

6 tbs butter (= 1 1/2 sticks)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1/3 cup milk
1 tbs vanilla extract
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Note: The original recipe called for Dutch process cocoa (such as Droste), but all I had was regular, so I made adjustments.  If you happen to have Dutch process cocoa on hand, by all means use it- just omit the baking soda altogether and up the baking powder in the batter to 2 tsp.

Adjust your oven rack to the lower third of your oven and preheat oven to 325F. Lightly grease an 8″ square or round glass or ceramic baking dish (it should be at least 3-4″ deep; see photos).

For the topping: mix together the cocoa, baking powder and two kinds of sugar in a bowl; mix well to eliminate lumps in the brown sugar.  Set aside.sarah-color-adjust-11

For the batter: Put the butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on low power for a couple minutes.  As it starts to melt, take it out and stir it periodically until the mixture is fully melted.  (Alternately, you can melt it on the stove by placing the bowl in a pan of simmering water, but I find the microwave much easier as long as you take care not to let it get too hot.)  Stir in the cocoa powder, whisking out any lumps, and set aside to cool.

Combine the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder; set aside.  In a larger bowl, combine the milk, sugar, vanilla and egg.  I do this in my stand mixer but a regular whisk or hand-held mixer works fine.  Next, add the cooled chocolate/butter mixture.  Stir to incorporate, then slowly add the flour mixture and mix until everything looks smooth.  Put this batter in your baking dish, smoothing it so that the surface is fairly even.  Sprinkle the cocoa/sugar mixture evenly over the top, then gently pour the coffee on top.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until the cake starts pulling away from the edges of the pan; do not overbake.  Serve warm, with vanilla or coffee-flavored ice cream.

“simple” welcome home birthday supper for marvin

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