Half Birthday’s Aren’t Just for Kids

I know this guy. We get along pretty well, so sometimes we hang out. Usually we don’t get to hang out by ourselves, but that’s OK with us since the rest of the usual group can be fun too, since they’re our kids and all.

Anyway, this guy’s name is Joe, and today is his half birthday. Normally grown-ups don’t celebrate half birthdays but that is just a crying shame. This morning when he flipped the calendar page he realized the date and wanted to know if he could have half a birthday cake.

I think he was a little surprised when I said sure, but who likes to get their hopes up and then have them dashed? Certainly not me.

So I made him one. I cheated a little and used a cake that had been in our freezer, pretty much just waiting for the right moment to come along. One when it would be thoroughly enjoyed.

Slathered with buttercream, who can tell the difference anyway? Ok, so the buttercream was in the freezer too, colored a very garish yellow from Lilli’s first birthday. 

We also had a Thai inspired feast for dinner, to go with our chocolate cake. Most of the foods in the meal weren’t anything special because this week we are trying to kind of clean out our freezers and use up leftovers because Joe’s kind of a frugal guy. I had some leftover teriyaki salmon that I turned into fish cakes with some lime, ginger and some cilantro straight from the garden. And I had some lemongrass and half a container of tofu so I made a quick curry tofu soup with a little bit of coconut milk. Well, maybe a lot of coconut milk.

The soup came straight from my own brain. The fish cakes too, which is maybe why they weren’t very pretty–they ended up more like fish hash than cakes but oh well. I don’t know how to cook Thai food like a pro, but I do love to eat it so I think I at least have that going for me. The recipes probably aren’t that authentic, but they were pretty simple and that’s helpful if you’re also trying to entertain a silly silly little girl while making dinner.

The cake came from Fanny Farmer, a book I use very frequently. There’s something about the old recipes that I really love–they are classic, sure, but mostly it’s how they are written. They’re so matter of fact. I have to tweak them sometimes, but I don’t mind a bit. There are a lot of pages stuck together, and the gold hardcover is starting to break down in places, but that just shows how loved it really is.

Fudge Cake
Adapted from Fanny Farmer, 1965 edition
makes two 7″ or 8″ cakes

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar, divided use
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 oz good semi sweet chocolate
5 Tbsp boiling water
3 eggs
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350ºF

Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Cream together butter, vanilla, and 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy.

Meanwhile, over a double boiler melt the chocolate. Once it’s melted smooth add the boiling water and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar.

Add to the butter mixture. Next add the eggs, one at a time. Beat after each addition, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Add the flour to this mixture alternating with the milk.

Divide in the pans and bake about 20 minutes, rotating half way through. Check with a toothpick and give it 5 more minutes or so if needed. Cool completely before frosting.

Finally, Fall

Fall has arrived in Seattle, and I have been throwing it a welcome party for the past couple of weeks. Party games included freezing tomatoes, clearing out patches of garden to make room for winter crops, making corn salsa and taking a trip to our local state fair. 

The party also has had lots of good food served at it, including the macaroni and cheese I made tonight (with a few revisions because I very seldom follow a recipe by the letter unless it’s for cookbook club), lots of different soups, and our perennial favorite, tacos with the above mentioned corn salsa. But so far the gem has been what I made last night: Pumpkin soup. 


It’s been busy as usual around here. The boys started school, as well as Hebrew lessons with a new amazing tutor. It was Joe and my 2nd anniversary earlier this month, and now we are planning and prepping for Lilli’s 1st birthday next week. 

Sneak peek.



In addition to this, last week Lilli came down with some sort of nasty virus. When I say nasty, I mean it. One minute she was fine, and literally the next minute she was crying inconsolably and I had no idea what to do. We’ve been very lucky in that she’s been pretty much 100% healthy her whole first year. 


After some of her symptoms set off alarms bells in my head, I decided to take her to the Dr. that afternoon, and they performed some tests, all of which were very stressful and all of which came back totally inconclusive. It was terrifying. I was worried she was having an asthma attack, which is something I occasionally suffer from, so I’m glad I took her, but it’s frustrating to be able to do so little.

She’s fine now, but after doing another triathlon this past Sunday I came down with what is presumably the same virus. Now I know how she felt, and it feels awful. 


This is where the soup comes in. 



Thankfully, my appetite is intact, but Joe isn’t much of a cook so I have still been in charge of meals. And, I wanted comfort food, which to me is soup. I can’t find the kosher version of my favorite chicken soup anymore, and I didn’t really want something out of a can. So I came up with this soup. It was super quick and easy, and I even got a little bit of inspiration from another non-cook friend who happened to mention over the phone that she had a delicious pumpkin curry recently. (Yes, people still talk on the phone.)


It won’t take you long to prepare and you could make any number of substitutions. Any squash would work, as well as any sort of milk or cream. Coconut would have been excellent but I was out. You could add any vegetables you want, perhaps some kale or chard. Just be sure and eat it with warm, crusty, buttered bread.



Easy Peasy Pumpkin Soup
makes about 3 servings


1 Tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, very thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
2 tsp turmeric powder
2-3 Cups vegetable stock
Salt and pepper and fresh grated nutmeg to taste
Cream or half and half to finish


Heat a medium sized pot, and add the olive oil. Toss in the carrots and garlic and let soften for a minute or two. Add turmeric and stir to coat all the carrots. Continue stirring until the turmeric is fragrant, then add just enough vegetable stock to cover the carrots. Cover the pot just until the stock comes to a boil, then stir in the pumpkin puree. Add stock until it is a touch thinner than a consistency that you like, then taste for salt and pepper. Add some nutmeg and bring to a boil. Let boil with the lid off for a couple of minutes, to allow the flavors to concentrate and for the soup to thicken up that extra little bit. Turn off the heat and taste again for seasoning. Serve with the cream on the side so that each person can decide how much to add.