Day 1: Fourth, Family, Food, Fun, Fireworks (And Appetizing Alliterations)

by kattiewampus

I kicked off my cooking/baking adventure first thing Thursday morning. When I came down to the kitchen, my dad was already there making coffee and washing dishes so that I would have space in which to work. Can I just say that my family is awesome? I mean, seriously. Am I blessed or what?

First up on the 4th of July menu: Poppyseed Bread

This was a great way to start things off because the recipe instructions pretty much read: “Mix all of the ingredients together and then bake.” For all of the complex chemistry that goes into cooking, simplicity is still a beautiful thing.

DISCLAIMER THAT APPLIES TO ALL ENSUING FOOD PICTURES: I am not a professional photographer. I do not have professional photography equipment. I used my (very basic) point & shoot camera for all of these pictures. The pictures aren’t really intended to show how awesome the food was but rather simply to prove that I did, in fact, make it.

If you want testimonials about how it tasted, I will happily refer you to my family.

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I think many people associate a lemon flavor with poppyseed bread. This recipe did not call for any lemon, instead using almond extract, which added a very distinct flavor.

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Mom wanted to add the orange in the picture as a sort of visual garnish.

We spent breakfast planning out a grocery list for the next few days. Then a trip to the grocery store to stock up on our supplies and soon it was time to start on the next food project: cake batter truffles

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I’m a sucker for any food that has the words “cake batter” or “cookie dough” in its description. I’m also a sucker for putting rainbow sprinkles on anything. When I make crepes, I still put sprinkles in the batter. When I make nutella on toast, I still garnish it with sprinkles. The rainbow nonpareils are my favorite.

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Part of this recipe entailed rolling the truffle filling into little balls. During this process, I discovered that my hands are defective when it comes to forming round shapes. As I rolled the truffle filling, I consistently produced the above geometric shape. I then had to re-shape them with my fingers to get something more…spherical.

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I was very pleased with the end result.

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I tried putting them in mini muffin wrappers for a fancier look.

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Cross-section!

Immediately after I finished making the truffles, it was (obviously) time to make brownies. There was, in fact, a method to my madness: as part of the 4th of July festivities, my mom had gotten an ice cream maker so that we could make our own ice cream. So, clearly, we needed home-made brownies to go with it. Having recently come across this recipe for brownies from scratch, all I needed was half an excuse to make them. Perhaps the most distinctive (or delicious) part about them was the chocolate frosting, which was spread on while they were still warm, melting into the brownies for an extra fudgy effect.

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By this time, it was well into the afternoon. I was multi-tasking between finishing up the brownies and starting the dinner appetizer: artichoke spinach dip-stuffed mushrooms, as well as what would be one of the main entrees for our BBQ: roasted garlic chipotle cheddar sweet potato burgers with avocado ranch.

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I love stuffed mushrooms. And I love spinach & artichoke dip.

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The combination was delightful.

The sweet potato burgers turned out to be a messy endeavor, with lots of ingredients.

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I was pretty excited about all of the different flavors going into this mixture.

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Frying them was tricky. The thing about mashed sweet potatoes is that they don’t really like to hold together. So, the “burger” aspect of this recipe was a bit misleading. A better description would have been “sweet potato hash.”

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Food processors are a wonderful invention.

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While the lighting in this picture does not make it look particularly appetizing, the avocado ranch was like a sort of glorified guacamole.

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It’s blurry, but this gives an idea of the finished product.

So much credit goes to Sous Chef Mom and Head Dish-Washer Sister who kept me company in the kitchen and helped out with prepping vegetables, stuffing mushrooms, managing the steady stream of dirty utensils and dishes that kept piling up in the sink, and giving second opinions when needed.

After dinner, we drove out to my dad’s workplace, conveniently located on a hill, in search of fireworks. For a city where fireworks are technically illegal, there was a panorama of shows lighting up the night. The entire time we were there, the popping, cracking sounds never stopped. We could look in any direction and see fireworks going off – some were close, many were in the distance.

After we’d had our fill of fireworks, it was back to the house for the long-awaited, much-anticipated home-made ice cream and brownies.

So, I spent my 4th of July almost entirely in the kitchen. In previous years, I’ve seen my share of July 4th plans that did not pan out as nicely as I had hoped: strep throat that kept me at home with a 104 degree fever when I was supposed to see the symphony perform their outdoor 4th of July special; soporific baseball innings for the sake of a good fireworks show, the enjoyment of which would be immediately nullified by the hoards of people exiting the stadium, and the resulting nightmarish traffic heading out.

Every year, my mom and I talk about how we want to do something fun for the 4th, and then it always sneaks up on us and we end up making last-minute plans, often opting for “fun” social events when we’d rather just stay home and relax. This year, I spent the day with my family. I made food. We grilled burgers. We found our own uncrowded spot to watch fireworks. We did things at our own pace.

It was really nice.

And the food was pretty good too.

Up next: tackling raw meat and dirty dishes, more fun with sweet potatoes, and my budding career as a cake decorator (or not).

Coming soon: dreaming of donuts, salmon success, and midnight muffins.

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