Sunday, December 20, 2009

Birthday Meat and Potatoes

Say the word birthday and one invariable thinks of cake. In fact the celebration of a birthday may seem incomplete without cake. For my birthday, I asked that there NOT be any cake.

I will explain.

Every week during the month of November, there is a birthday in my family. That's one cake every week. This translates to a slice of cake almost everyday if it is not to go to waste. By the time my own birthday rolls around in mid December I am pretty much sick of cake! Yes! It absolutely can happen that you can have too much of a good thing.

So this year instead of cake , I wished for a family dinner. I decided that it would be nice if for a change we could all sit down to eat together. I applaud all of you for whom that is a normal occurrence. In our home it seems like at least one person is always standing, doing something or other while some are eating.

Also I must confess that we let the kids look at television while they eat. We are going to parent hell, I know. In our defense it's a welcome distraction for the younger ones. If it's a school night we usually use this time to pack the children's lunches for the following day while they eat and look at their favourite shows. Hey don't judge me. Hire me a maid and I'll focus on etiquette 101. Until then Sponge Bob you are my #1 man in square pants. I so heart you.

So in the interest of being less like cave people, my one wish for my birthday was for us to all sit in a civilized manner and have dinner together. In my mind's eye, I envisaged a perfect evening, sharing a delicious and lovingly prepared meal with the people I cherish most in this world.

Here is how it actually went down.

The baby screamed LOUDLY and a lot. He screamed as we attempted to guide his spoon to his mouth. He is learning to self feed and wants to do it all on his own. He screamed with frustration when we did not help and food was unintentionally catapulted out of his bowl. He screamed with joy when he finally got it right and into his mouth instead of my hair. Cheers all around.

My eldest doesn't like pak choi (bok choi), so lots of grumbling on her part with threats on ours in order to get her to eat it. BTW, a ban on Nitentedo DSi can be a powerful tool in getting a child to eat their veggies:-)

The four year old whined. He was upset that the TV was off, therefore no Sponge Bob.

At first I was distressed that my little soirée seemed to be a disaster. My darling husband tried his best to help me rally our mutinous troops by pouring us both, very, VERY generous glasses of wine. We needed fortification. My son took this as a cue to stop whining about cartoons. He raised his juice cup. "Hey mummy let's ching ching." Glasses were raised and a toast was made. Happy Birthday was sung.

After the usual reminders to use the cutlery provided and not eat with your hands, my son then picked up his knife and fork asked "So mummy, how was your day?" My husband's eyes smiled at me across the table. I lifted my glass to him as I beamed at my 4 year old's gentlemanly attempt to make conversation. " My day was perfect sweetheart. Just perfect." And then I picked some potato out of my hair.


Roasted Potato With Rosemary
Serves 6

Potatoes don't need to be boiled before oven roasting. However boiling them first, results in a better texture that is very much like steak fries.


2 1/2 lbs of potatoes
1 or 2 tablespoons herbes de provence *
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper


Wash potatoes. Boil them with 1 tsp of salt until just tender. (5- 8 mins) Drain and cut the potatoes into halves or quarters. Small potatoes can be left whole. Drain the water (reserving some if you are making a gravy).

Arrange the potatoes in a baking tray with herbes de Provence, then drizzle the olive oil and sprinkle some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Bake the potatoes for about 40 to 50 minutes or until the potatoes turn crispy and the flesh is tender.

* you can season potatoes with which ever is your preferred spice blend

Braised Pak Choi Recipe

2 lbs pak choy
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large oniions sliced
4 cloves of garlic (sliced in slivers)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1. Trim the base of the pak choy, then chop off the leaves. Cut the base in half lengthwise, then cut the halves crosswise on a diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick strips. Cut the leaves crosswise on a diagonal into 1 1/2-inch-wide strips.

2. Place a large wok or a pot large enough to hold all the pak choy over high heat. Add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and stir-fry until browned. Then add the onions. Cook , 2 to 3 minutes. Add the pak choy and season with the salt and pepper. Cover and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Serves 4 to 6.

Pot Roast in the Pressure Cooker
I have never done a pot roast in the pressure cooker before, so I followed the recipe from Cook's Illustrated as closely as I could. It was good but I feel it can be made more to my taste with a few adjustments. For one thing the the cooking time of 1 hour needs to be shortened. Great for sandwiches. Not so great for slicing and serving.


  1. Oh, I love this story. First, the Norman Rockwell picture of a family dinner. Then the reality of imperfect people sharing their lives together, doing their best. Finally, the moment when it all comes together, and it really IS the best thing of all. What's better then that? Thanks for this story.

    Oh, and for the recipes as well!

  2. Hehe this was such a great read. Love your last line too! Sometimes all you need is a bit of cooperation! :P

  3. Wow, and I though our family was swamped with birthdays and anniversaries at this time of year. I loved this -- it brought back so many memories of my boys growing up. We did eat at the table 4 nights in the week. Miraculous. Now with 3 of us (and my youngest is nearly out the door...) we flop on the sofa with our plates and watch tv, gabbing the entire time. Family time is family time however you do it! Oh -- GREAT dinner!

  4. What a great story... And I do understand completely!

    Happy birthday, and Merry Christmas!

  5. Hah, I should read your blog more often because I'm getting good parenting tips here. Way to go! :-)

  6. Now, where's my comment? Gosh, I made a comment days ago. I even sang the birthday song for you. What the heck! I'm truely sorry for that! Again, Happy Birthday to you. And many happy returns! ((hugs)) & kisses.
    Best wishes, Kristy