Friday, October 24, 2014

pulled pork sandwiches

I love fall, I really do.  (Have I mentioned that about a hundred times yet?)  But sometimes I can't let go of summer, not everything anyway.  I love BBQ year round.  Like, especially under a couple of feet of snow.  That's when it is the BEST.  Of course, you can't exactly go outside and whip out the grill, so what do you do?  Well, if you're me, you use your slow cooker and you improvise. 

And let me just say, I am not a particularly big fan of baked beans.  In fact, prior to this recipe (adapted from The Best Baked Beans Ever from Pioneer Woman), I have never had any I truly liked.  But these?  Oh wow.  She's not kidding when she says they're the best, you guys.  So how do you manage this tastebud explosion?  I'll tell you how.

First, the essentials:

For the pork, you'll just simply put the pork shoulder in the slow cooker and add the water.  It's just enough water to keep it moist, you're not making soup here.  Then add the spices to the top.  I dropped a dash or two of hot sauce onto the top as well.  Then you'll slow cook it all day.  I think mine was in there around 6 hours.  The longer it's in there, the better it gets.  When you're just about ready to eat, go in with two forks and pull it all apart and mix it in with the juices it's created.  If you like, add a dash of apple cider vinegar and any other seasonings you like to finish it off.

For the coleslaw, shred your cabbage and carrots and put them into a bowl.  Mix with enough mayo just to get everything covered, but not goopy.  You don't want to be eating spoonfuls of mayo here.  If you have an aversion to mayo, you could just go for an oil & vinegar dressing, it would totally be as good.  Add the seasoning salt and poppy seeds as needed.  I like the seeds for some crunch in there, you don't have to add them.  We like our coleslaw to be savory, especially when you're eating it with sweet pulled pork and sweet baked beans.  It balances it all out.

Now, the beans.  Oh those beans!  First you need to deal with your bacon.  Here's the thing, we're using the bacon in the baking of the beans, but you don't want to have a layer of bacon grease over the top of your beans so we need to render the fat.  Fry your bacon until the fat is rendered, then set aside.  Do not make it crispy please!  Leave the bacon fat in the pan, and if it's not too much, you can use it for the next step.  If there is too much, empty some out, but leave about a tablespoon.  Saute your onion and green pepper until they are clear and softened, about 10 minutes.  Then add in a can of pinto beans, drained of their canning liquid, and let them cook just a few minutes.  While they're working their magic in the pan, assemble your sauce.  BBQ sauce of your choosing, ketchup if you want (we didn't have any so I skipped it, but it would be totally good), hot sauce, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar & mustard.  I used yellow mustard and it was BOMB.  The original recipe called for dijon and I'm sure that's great too.  Mix & stir into the beans.  Then you'll take this whole glorious mess and put it in a baking dish, put those slices of bacon on top, and bake that thing for 2 hours at 325.  Low and slow, that's the idea behind BBQ.

There you have it!  Assemble and serve.  Sit back and wait for everyone to praise you.  You deserve it!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

dinosaur mud...yuck!

Like most kids, my boys like to get messy and explore everything.  I try to set up some sort of activity for them to do each day if possible, and I thought it might be nice to share what we do.  There are so many super creative parents out there who do what we do much prettier, and I'm sure you can find that out there, but you know what?  We have fun.  Lots of fun!  So it's messy and a little crazy and may give you heartburn to see how little precaution I take in anticipation of cleanup (I seem to forget that part is required) but I hope you enjoy these little glimpses into how we get our hands dirty and our brains in motion.

The first "up-tivity" as Nikola calls them is Dinosaur Mud.  It's very simple, and though the mess can get easily out of hand (and boy, did I ever let it), the cleanup is pretty easy and the prep is even easier.

What do you need?
- Cornstarch
- Water
- Food coloring of your choice
- A container to put that in
- Toys to play with in the "mud"

Sounds simple, right?  Totally.  Just mix it up and you're done.  You want the cornstarch to just barely be wet, so more cornstarch than water.  To get the brownish color, we just added a couple of different colors and mixed until it looked gross enough to be mucky dinosaur mud.  We've used a couple of different containers to do this in, from a small pie pan (in photos) to a large plastic bin and they have had fun with everything.  When I do it in the pie pan, it's just mud.  In the large plastic bin, I add some rocks and trees and create more of a muddy dinosaur habitat.  As you can see from the photos, it gets messy, but dude.  It's just cornstarch and water, nothing a wet rag or a trip to the sink won't just clean right up.  My boys were amused with this for well over an hour, until it was all dried up and caked on their hands, which made them want to walk around and be dinosaurs for a while with their "scales" on their hands.  (In the photo of the kids, they are both doing their best two claw T-Rex impressions.)  Let your kids get messy for a while, you won't regret it! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

zombie party party!

I love a good party.  I even love a bad party, if it gives me something to talk about!  I just love parties.  A passion of mine, since having a child with allergies, is creating and hosting parties with awesome food and awesome desserts that are safe for everyone.  In this day and age, food allergies are so prevalent in children and adults, but that should totally not stop us from partying like it's 1999.  I'm going to start sharing some parties I've thrown over the years, and I hope that you come away either feeling inspired, or got a good chuckle out of it.  Whatever butters your toast! 

Today I'm sharing a very small party we threw for one of our host daughters, Nozomi.  She turned 20 during her stay with us, and we needed to celebrate.  20 is a pretty darn big deal in Japan!  Aaron couldn't pronounce her name, so he called her "No Zombie", and it stuck.  I took it and ran with it!  Who says a zombie themed birthday party can't be cute? 

For the bunting, I took origami paper and created mini flags.  I then went totally insane and freehand cut out the letters for her name, glued them to the flags, and sent her home with it. 

For the cake topper, I once again freehand cut a zombie out of heavy black card stock and hot glued it to two toothpicks.  Have you ever tried to freehand a zombie with scissors?  Don't be like me.  Draw it first please. 

The cake was a simple vegan vanilla cake, one layer, with frosting from a can.  Because I'm classy.  And because we had planned this party for a different day, and then plans had to suddenly change and so I got off work and rushed home to frost the cake as quickly as I could.  A homemade frosting would have been better, but you know what?  It was delicious anyway, and most store bought vanilla frosting-in-a-can is safe for Nikola so he got to enjoy some cake.  I chose the red inside and green outside because I wanted a cartoon-ish zombie feel and I think it was achieved. 

So there you have it.  A really simple birthday party, thrown together in almost no time, but filled with personalized touches.  We love Nozombie and I think it shows.  Party on Wayne!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

sausage & potato soup

When the weather starts to change, all I want to do is hunker down in my snuggie and drink red wine.  Oh, and eat soup, lots and lots of soup.  Isn't soup just the snuggie of the food world?  Warm and comforting.   It's a hug in a bowl.

The other night I wanted soup, so I threw a bunch of stuff into a pot and called it dinner.  And it was GOOD.  Because soup is so forgiving.  You can throw almost anything together and it'll be magical.

I sauteed yukon gold potatoes, andouille sausage, garlic and red onions in a pot for a few minutes, until the onions started to get clear.  Don't let your garlic burn, please.  Then I added my spices and let them mingle with the hearty meat and veggies for just a few minutes.  Add them to your liking.  I added primarily parsley, but about a teaspoon or two of the oregano and sage.  Because I used dry spices they tend to be very potent so start small and bump it up as needed.  Then add chicken stock (about 2 to 3 cups, just eyeball it - when it looks like soup, you've added enough) and simmer for about 30 minutes.  You need those potatoes to soften up, and give away some of their starch to make this almost a stew.  Serve it with some toasted bread or a salad and there you have it, a snuggie in a bowl.  Enjoy! 

Monday, October 20, 2014

pumpkin pancakes

Well, it's fall.  And like the rest of the universe, I love myself some pumpkin.  But I'm not someone who will put pumpkin in everything, there are just some places where pumpkin should never go in my opinion.  But pancakes, well that's just a match made in heaven.  As long as it's done right!  And not to toot my own horn here, but I do them right.  If you get too little pumpkin, you just have orange pancakes.  If you get too much, they're soggy and heavy.  You want a pancake that makes you dream of pumpkin pie.  Fluffy, rich pumpkin pie. 

Because we can't use eggs, I like to use Bisquick for pancakes most of the time.  The mix helps create really fluffy pancakes in spite of the lack of eggs.  I have yet to find a really fluffy pancake recipe using an egg replacer that doesn't require a lot of extra ingredients and work.  On weekday mornings, and when feeding two littles who take breakfast very seriously, time is of the essence. 

Here's what I used:

Add roughly 2 cups of coconut milk (or your favorite milk) to the mix.  Start with one cup, mix, and add up to the 2nd cup as needed.  It should be thick but soupy.  Once that's mixed together, I throw about 1 T of chia seeds into the mix and let it sit for just a minute to activate them.  You could soak them in water as well, but for this recipe I find that it makes the batter too thin.  Then I throw it into the blender and make it smooth, because who wants lumpy pancakes?  (Remember when Rick is smack talking Lori on The Walking Dead about her pancakes with lumps of flour in them?  Yeah, don't be the person that is remembered for their bad pancakes in the zombie apocalypse.  Blend that batter up.)

I make smaller pancakes, I can control them easier that way.  Flip when the sides start looking firm and golden.  This will make a lot of pancakes, but don't worry.  They freeze amazingly well.  Just take the left overs, place them on a lightly floured or greased cookie sheet in a single layer and place them in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  Then you can take them out and throw them into a freezer bag.  The initial freeze on the cookie tray makes it so that they will not stick together and be one pancake clump in the bag, so you can pull them out and eat them one by one.  I just throw them into the toaster and bam!  2nd breakfast. 

I don't know about you, but my first pancake always comes out a little overdone, so I get to eat it right away.  Just a little drizzle of maple syrup and it's delicious.  And see how fluffy that is?  Dang.  These are good pancakes!  The kids devoured the rest so fast I couldn't get any other pictures.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

12th man ribs

Football season.  Best time of the year!   We do football in this house big time.  Football = food, family and fun!  But mostly food.

When the Seahawks played on Monday Night Football, we decided to do it up.  One of our favorite game foods is pork ribs, they're so easy and no matter what you do, they turn out amazing.  We tend to get a little buckwild when it comes to what we put on our ribs, or our "theme" for the night.  For MNF, we went with south of the border profile.  It turned out great!  I was a little nervous, I'm not the professional chef, and we had a dinner guest...but it ended up ok.  It almost always does when we worry, doesn't it?

I have no recipe of course, I was just winging it!  Here's how you can recreate it:

For the salad, I used a spring greens mix and very thinly sliced some red onion to mix in.  The dressing is honey, lime juice, salt and olive oil blended.  I didn't measure ingredients, just mixed and added until it tasted great.  Remember, always start small - you can always add more of any ingredient, but you can't take it away.  Go easy on the lime juice especially, it's difficult to fix too much acid in a salad dressing without getting all crazy.

And now, the meat.  MEAT.  

You need:
Ribs.  We used pork ribs, but you could use beef if you prefer.  Sauce.  I threw one bunch of cilantro, lime juice, salt, pepper, cumin, olive oil, garlic and chives into the nutribullet.  Bzzzzzz!  Done.  Slather that all over the meat.  Use your hands.  Get in there.  Once your meat is drenched in yummy sauce, bake them at 350 for about an hour.  (Always temp your meat.  Make sure it's done people.)  When they're done, the meat will be pulling away from the bones and calling your name, but don't heed the call just yet.  Let them rest.  Those juices need time to redistribute. 

Once you've let them rest, it's simple.  Slice, plate and devour.  We used a tomato and red onion vinaigrette to top them, but you don't need a sauce.  These things speak volumes for themselves.  Fingers were licked.  Seconds (and maybe thirds) were had.  You're welcome. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

pizza night!

In many homes, Friday night is pizza night.  I'm not gonna lie, we don't do pizza often because of the lack of cheese.  I mean, cheese just makes a pizza.  Or so I thought.  This pizza just changed my mind.

It's simple.  Loaded with fresh toppings.  And SO GOOD. 

I'm sure there are very good pizza crust recipes out there, and I'll probably go looking for one, but here's the thing.  Trader Joes makes such a great pizza dough, and it's so inexpensive, that I just haven't bothered.  I usually get the garlic and herb flavor, but they have whole wheat and original as well.  (I believe they even have a gluten free option.)  So, that's where we started.  You need to let the pizza dough rest at room temp for around 20 minutes to let it puff up and become pliable.  Please don't use it right out of the fridge, it'll break and not rise correctly when baked.

While letting the dough rest, I made a quick bechamel of sorts.  It wasn't a true bechamel, because I used more chicken stock than coconut milk, but I followed the process.  First you make a roux out of some sort of fat (I used Smart Balance Light with Flaxseed Oil) and flour.  You heat it on high, creating almost a nutty brown paste-like substance, then you add your milk or cream or broth.  You're making a gravy here.  It should get thick.  Make it to your desired consistency.  You can see above what ours looked like on the pizza.  Then I added salt, pepper, garlic powder and nutritional yeast until it tasted somewhat cheesy.  Set aside.

Preheat your oven to the highest it'll go.  My oven goes to 550, so that's what we use.

Your dough should be pliable and soft now, so go ahead and pull it out of the package.  Use a rolling pin or your hands, up to you, but stretch it out to at least 12 inches long.  We like a thinner crust, so ours was longer.  Pizza is not an exact science.  Do what you like!

Now, for sauce we used a little bit of jarred spaghetti sauce (the Market Pantry brand from our chicken(no) parm) and spread it thin to about an inch inside the crust.  Then, we put our bechamel/"cheese" sauce into an icing bottle and put it on top of the sauce.  We don't use vegan cheese, so this sauce is in place of cheese.  Lay it on.

Then, the best part.  TOPPINGS!  Do what you like.  Live!  We put on spinach, mushrooms, green peppers, onion, chicken sausage, olives and tomato.  Once all of our toppings were piled high, we drizzled the pizza with olive oil and sprinkled on some kosher salt.  When you don't have cheese, you really miss that richness, so adding the oil and salt to the top will help balance that out.

Then, you're ready to bake!  It'll take about 8 to 10 minutes, per the package, though we used so many toppings we actually left it in more like 13 or 14 minutes.  When you pull it out, try not to eat it right away, ok?  It's hot.  SO HOT.  It'll be crispy and steaming and amazing.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!  And I really hope when you finish, you say OMG I barely even missed the cheese.  Happy Friday friends!

little dude lunch: chicken (no)parm

If my kids had their way, they would eat turkey sandwiches for lunch every single day.  Kids are not adventurous creatures when it comes to food, not by nature.  You can nurture it though.  The easiest way I've found to do that is to always keep them on their toes.  Don't provide them with "kid" options all of the time, have them eat what you eat.  Over time their taste buds will develop and you'll be so glad you put up the fight.  (And sometimes it is a fight.  For realz.)

Today I grabbed the turkey and the bagels and got ready to make them their favorite lunch...and then I stopped.  I put back the turkey.  I grabbed 3 ingredients and made them a healthy and "fancy" (their term, not mine) lunch.  And you know what?  Plates cleaned in record time.  Even Aaron who has a slight aversion to pasta with red sauce.

Of course, we can't do a traditional chicken parmesan due to a dairy allergy, but the kids don't know the difference.  And this is a quick lunch, no fuss, no mess.  Three ingredients:  jarred spaghetti sauce, noodles, chicken nuggets.  (Note:  we generally make our own spaghetti sauce fresh when we have pasta, but when Target is selling their awesome Market Pantry jars of sauce for $1 a piece, I buy a bunch.  You can't make your own that cheap and it's great to have on hand for a quick meal!  The best part?  Look at the ingredients dairy and no soy!  It's hard to find a jar of spaghetti sauce without soybean oil.  We aren't totally strict about avoiding soybean oil, but when we can, we do.)

So there you have it!  A lunch fit for little dudes in 10 minutes or less, and it isn't a turkey sandwich.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 13, 2014

scalloped potatoes

I grew up with a single working mom.  She worked long days, and making a huge dinner from scratch after a hard day at work was the last thing on her mind - she just needed to get something relatively nutritional on the table for my brother and I in as short a time as possible.  Oh, and it had to be inexpensive, because you can't be eating caviar in a single income family.  We ate a lot of potatoes and pasta, and I carry a torch for those two items to this day.  They're the ultimate comfort foods.  Often, we would have some kind of meat, and as a side we would have the boxed scalloped potatoes (or potatoes au gratin...but is there really a difference if it's all from a box?).  I love those potatoes, no joke.  LOVE. THEM.  Total guilty pleasure.  A few years back, when Richard went on tour with his band, I bought a box and ate it for dinner two nights in a row.

We haven't done scalloped potatoes since Nikola has been around, but I got a little crazy yesterday.  I had a hankering for nachos.  I looked all over Pinterest until I found what looked like a viable "cheese" sauce, and dove in.  It tasted just like that nacho cheese that Tostitos makes in the jar, you know the one, down the chip aisle.  And it's so good.  But the catch for this one?  It's good for you.  I know, I know.  The nerve of me to imply that something as stupid good as a "cheese" sauce could be good for you, but it can.  And like me, you probably won't stop at just one dish.  The recipe made a TON of it, so our nachos yesterday for gameday (GO RAVENS!) turned into scalloped potatoes tonight, because how could I not test that out?  The nachos were ok in the sauce, but the potatoes?  Heaven.  It tasted just like the potatoes out of the box, only just that much better.  The sauce was ooey gooey, just like it had cheese in it.  But not only did it have no cheese, it didn't even have a cream in it.  How, you ask?

Let's see!  Here's what you'll need:

2 C potatoes, skinned and boiled  (I actually had dried potato flakes, so I used those this time)
1 C carrots, skinned, chopped and boiled
1/2 C nutritional yeast
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
lemon juice, I cut a lemon in half and squeezed just half into the sauce
1/2 C water
oil (your choice, you'll need 2 to 3 T of oil, depending on your preferred consistency)
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste if desired (I didn't use it this time, but it would be good)
(Recipe adapted from Vegan Yumminess)

You just throw all of that into the blender and voila!  Sauce.  It'll look like melted cheddar, and taste enough like cheese that it'll fool your four year old into having a mini-heart attack when you feed it to the dairy-allergic younger sibling. First we ate it mixed with salsa on tortilla chips, then we had it on nachos yesterday, then the potatoes tonight.  It took all of that just to go through the volume that the recipe made.

If you want to make the potatoes, it's pretty easy.  I sliced up 4 small-ish Yukon Gold potatoes using my mandolin, then layered them in a baking dish.  Then I added about 1/2 to 1 C of water to the sauce (it thickened up quite a bit over night) and dumped it on top, it amounted to roughly 2 cups of it.  Bake for 1 hour at 350, then broil for a few minutes to get it golden and crispy on top.  Serve warm and try to stop eating it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

BLT with a twist

The BLT.  Two years ago, we made a variation of a BLT every Sunday for football.  We had DirecTV, we had six or more games going at once, and we had bacon. We love football, and we love bacon.  It's the perfect pair! 

We used to buy a loaf of the warmest french bread we could find in the grocery's bakery, but now that Nikola isn't supposed to have soy (and nearly every loaf of bread uses soybean oil and/or soy flour), we have been making our own bread.  Thank goodness for bread machines!  With french bread, you don't cook it in the machine, you just mix and let it do it's first rise in there.  I make the bread two ways, depending on what the need is.  For pasta meals, where you want to dip that amazing soft bread into sauce, I make it so the loaf is tall and narrow by twisting it up tight before it does its second rise.  For BLTs, it's all about wide and crusty.  How is that for descriptive?  It's important to me to have a good crust when you have a BLT so the bread can contain the amazing goodies inside. 

You'll be surprised by this next admission:  there is a recipe for the bread!  An honest to goodness, real recipe.  I've adapted the recipe from my bread machine's magic book to suit our needs.

1 1/3 C water
3 C bread flour
1/2 t sugar (I use honey)
1/2 t salt
2 t yeast (I use instant dry yeast, active dry yeast will work as well)

Add all to the bread machine, in that order.  Hit start.  DONE.  If you don't have a bread maker, just add all to a bowl or your stand mixer, making sure that the yeast doesn't touch the water until you start mixing.   Mix for about 5 minutes, then leave alone to rise for about 30 minutes.  If you're using the breadmaker, follow the instructions for your machine.  Mine has two beeps, which indicates it's prepped and ready to bake, so that's when I remove it.  Once you've removed it, roll or pat the dough into a 12 x 16-inch rectangle.  Starting with the long side, roll it up tightly, then pinch edges and ends to seal.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, or about 1 hour.  Now, when I'm making this bread specifically for BLTs, I flatten it out a bit before letting it rise, so it's got a larger surface area.  The sandwiches will be better if you do this, not so heavy on the bread.  Once you've let it rise, preheat your oven to 425, then bake for 25 - 30 minutes.  It'll be hard to resist eating it when you pull it out, it's so crispy and crusty and it smells divine.  If someone made a bread scented perfume, I would probably wear it!  (PS - sorry about the photos, all were taken on my phone.  I'm still getting used to the idea of documenting each step, and usually forget my camera until I've already gotten into the thick of the cooking.)

Now let's get to making the BLT.  I know that's what you're waiting for! 

You don't need a recipe for a BLT, right?  Right.  But this one has some twists that make it just that much better.  First things first, get to cooking up that bacon.  I baked mine for about 20 mintues at 350 to get it extra crispy.  Then, I used the melted bacon fat to cook up my twist: fried green tomatoes.  Oh, yes, you heard me right.  Fried.  Green.  Tomatoes.  So for all of you who had an abundance of tomatoes in your garden that never ripened, you now have something to do with them!

To make fried green tomatoes, you want to slice them thin and soak them in buttermilk for the entire time that the bacon is cooking.  If, like me, you can't use buttermilk, just add some vinegar to coconut milk and you'll get a similar result.

Once your bacon is crispy, pour the fat into a saute pan and get it heating up.  You're gonna fry some amazing tomatoes in it!

For the tomatoes, I put some masa and cornmeal on the plate.  You could use just plain all-purpose flour if you don't have masa, it won't ruin your tomatoes.  One at a time, pull your tomatoes out of the buttermilk soak, coat them in the cornmeal mixture, and drop them in that bacon fat.  Listen to them sizzle.  Fry them until they are nicely browned on each side, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Try not to pull one directly out of the pan and shove it in your face, it will burn you.  I may or may not be speaking from experience.

While your tomatoes and bacon cool just a bit, it's time to make the sauce.  Sure, you could use plain mayonnaise and it would be good.  Or you could take it to the next level and add hot sauce to it.  I added Fletcher's Hot Sauce to mine, because Fletcher's is simply the BEST.  It's local to me, and you just can't get better hot sauce in this town.  You could use Sriracha or Sambal Oelek, if you wanted to throw a different spin on it.  Or go with Tabasco for a tangy kick.  You're only limited by the assortment of hot sauce in your fridge.   (If you're me, that's an entire shelf in your fridge.)

Let's talk about the mayo for a second, ok?  People with egg allergies, or soy allergies, this mayo is for you!  Just Mayo, by Hampton Creek, tastes just like good real mayo (none of that weird flavor in most of the "veganaise" mayo), but they use yellow pea protein instead of eggs.   They sell it at Safeway and Target, it's in with the regular joe mayo, and is very similar in price.  It is non-GMO, cholesterol-free, egg-free, soy-free, dairy-free, lactose-free, kosher and gluten free.  That's a lot packed into one jar!  Give it a try if you like mayo, you won't regret it. 

Now it's time to assemble!  Slice that bread, spread that amazing hot sauce mayo.  Lettuce, bacon, fried green're done!

I didn't take any photos of them finished because they disappeared too fast!  Trust me, they were amazing.  They would be perfect for football Sunday, or regular old Wednesday!   Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

dinosaurs on parade

Well, it happened.  Nikola turned 3.  This is my least favorite age so far, for all children.  I feel bad for them, but I also feel bad for me having to be around them.  To me, 3 is a glimpse into who they will be in their teens (I may be wrong, my oldest is only 4 1/2 so what do I know?) and it's terrifying.  Emotions everywhere, and no verbal skills to really work through it.  Tears, screaming, defiance. When Aaron was 3, it was just so hard.  He was such a sweet little 2 year old, and then he melted down for an entire year.  But now he's the best 4 year old you can imagine, so I suppose it was worth it and we survived it.  In any case, I love my children, so 3 or not...we celebrate the birthdays, even if the birthday feels like a thinly veiled threat.

This is the 3rd dinosaur birthday party we've thrown, and I think they've improved each time.  Aaron's 1st was semi-dinosaur themed.  He didn't particularly care for dinosaurs, but he sure loved Barney, so I stretched it.  What I didn't realize at the time is that my boys would become obsessed with dinosaurs (as most young boys do) and I would just continue throwing these themed parties.  Here are a few pictures of the first party, rainbow cake and all. 

The next dinosaur party was Nikola's 2nd birthday last year, and I went a little crazier with the theme.  There were blow up dinosaurs everywhere, and all of the boys' toys served as decorations. 

Well, this year Nik asked for a dinosaur party again.  We had been talking about Wolverine, Hulk, Batman...but when it came time to make the final decision, dinosaurs won yet again.  What is it about dinosaurs that just captures our imaginations?  Nik isn't a big party, center of attention kind of dude, so he got a smaller party this year.  We decided to do a dinner party for a small number of family members and I think it was our biggest success yet!  As it was, we stretched our seating situation pretty thin, otherwise we would have invited a few more people.  (Poor Kallista had to sit in a lawn chair for dinner!)

Dinner was a rack of pork chops, on the bone.  Stupid me didn't take a photo of it, but you can imagine. It looked just like the rack of dinosaur ribs from the Flintstones intro.   The butcher at Roseaurs who did the special request was almost giddy when he was asked.  It was served with a sliced potato chip covered in a mushroom and chive sauce, roasted fall vegetables and a tomato and red onion relish.  When your husband is a chef, kids parties look downright elegant.   

The cake was dark chocolate, with fudge frosting and blueberries - exactly what the birthday boy asked for.  Well, mostly.  He said "chocolate wif...bwoobewwies!", and I said that sounds insane. But you know what?  It wasn't insane at all!  It was vegan, it was moist, it was decadent.  Everything you need from a chocolate cake, even without the dairy and eggs.  I'll share the recipe soon, as well as how to's for the dinner food.

All in all, the party was a success.  Happy Tuesday, friends!