Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Three Birthdays Down, One More to Go

My parents' birthdays are both in January, but we wanted to surprise them this year so we saved their parties until February. Don't be silly, it had nothing to do with not being ready on their actual birth dates. We just wanted to celebrate when they least expected it.

Somewhere along the way between January and February, I got the great idea to recreate their favorite dishes from King Tsin, the family's gotta-have-it Chinese restaurant in California. At the time of our move, we offered the establishment the chance to go with us and be our personal chefs, but they were short-sighted enough to turn us down. Their loss. Thus I was forced to cook all the yummies myself.

Never again. There is a reason that Chinese restaurants have something called "staff". I pressed Caleb and Tiggy into service as my rather reluctant sous chefs, but even that wasn't enough. Plus I had limited space and equipment so I could only tackle one dish at a time. Good thing Chinese food tastes good at room temperature!

My mom was banned from the premises while we were cooking and my dad was frowned at fiercely if he went in the kitchen. I would have banned him, too, if he'd a-listened. At last everything was ready, cooked to perfection, and some dishes quite a bit past perfection in the quest to keep them warm while I frantically finished the rest.

The menu makes my mouth water just thinking about it...

Sizzling rice soup: a watery soup with water chestnuts, snow peas, and mushrooms. When served, hot rice is poured in and sizzles in the steaming broth.

Egg rolls: nuff said!

Deep-fried asparagus: a seasonal favorite dipped in tempura batter, fried, and served with sweet sour sauce.

Tofu-chicken salad: an iceberg salad with cucumbers, carrots, snow peas, crunchy noodles, and crispy tofu slices. It is drizzled with a sesame dressing and mixed right at your table.

We also had our traditional family dish of shish kabobs with homemade gluten steaks and a sweet sour stir fry on rice.And for dessert, we had fortune cookies and some lemon shortbread bars I made.

The whole clan was there, I'm sure primarily to honor my parents' birthdays, but it also helped that EVERYONE loves King Tsin. The dishes got many positive reviews, even though they weren't identical. My rice didn't sizzle and my egg rolls weren't as good as store-bought, but hey, it's the thought that counts, right? The asparagus was spot on and there was enough of it to have leftovers---that's never happened before.

Just a few days later it was Devon's birthday. Since this week is Spring Break for Westbians, the Gibbs family was taking advantage of the time off and planned a road trip that began the afternoon of Devon's birthday. It also ended on Devon's birthday, but that's another story.

Since Devon was going to be gone in the afternoon of his birthday, we decided to hold a surprise Breakfast Party. Hit 'em when they least expect it, that sort of thing. So I was over at my parents' early to help my dad get the waffle feast ready. When everything was just so, we sent out the word for the kids to head over. Then we waited. And waited. And waited.

It had snowed the night before, and Damon was supposed to do a quick sweep of some businesses downtown, something that would normally take about 15 minutes. He'd been gone about an hour by now. Caleb watched from the window and kept us informed as Devon joined Damon up the hill.

"They're still up there. Still up there. Now they're headed this way." Ten minutes go by.

"Caleb! How are they doing?"

"They're almost to the end of the driveway, but they've stopped to play with a branch."

Maybe we should have told Devon that there was a birthday party inside. At last they made it to the end of the driveway and I took position in front of the door, ready to capture Devon't shocked expression as he entered. I waited. And waited. And waited.

"Caleb! How are they doing?"

"Now Devon fell down."

At last Jack came in and forced the boys inside. I don't think surprise Breakfast Parties are a good fit for this crowd. Devon and Damon are like Billy from Family Circus and Tiggy didn't even show up; she'd slipped back to bed when no one was looking and Noni had to go back and get her.

At last we were all assembled and ready to partake. SOMEONE had forgotten to get party plates, but we had Thanksgiving plates left over. We tried to tell Devon we were using them because we are so thankful for him....I'm not sure he was convinced.

Noni was busy preparing for their epic trip, so I made the birthday cake. I used a blueberry muffin mix, but poured it in a pan and covered it with a crumble topping. It turned out pretty well and was just the thing for a Breakfast Party. We had quite a bit left, but that was only because the rest of the food was so yummy no one had room for much cake.

Then it was time for presents. I had gotten Devon a scratching post for his beloved cat. My mom delved into more fiendish territory; she got Devon a book on folding paper airplanes and three packages of paper. Right before a road trip. I think someone may have a touch of latent hostility there! (Actually, it was my idea, so I'd better not say too much...)

We had a great time, and now we can look forward to my Grandpa's birthday on the 25th. He'll be 97, two years past when he was told he was dying, so it'll be an extra-special occasion.

My breakfast swatches....

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