What a fun day today has been! It's been a culinary adventure all around for me. I wish I had thought to set up my camera on the tripod and snap some photos of myself... but then everyone would see how messy my kitchen gets when I cook! As much as I love cooking with my girls, thankfully Mom watched them this morning so I could do some cooking and cleaning for the party tomorrow without their cheerful help.
The morning started off with cooking for the girls birthday party tomorrow. I dealt with my pinto beans first. I soaked them all day yesterday and cooked them in the slow cooker overnight. Soaking beans is a tradition you've probably heard about from great-grandma; but they may have not known why they were even doing it! Turns out our ancestors figured things out the hard way through trial and error, and soaking beans overnight breaks down the phytates that legumes, grains and seeds have. People can't digest phytatic acid that locks in most the nutrients that are in the beans, making the nutrients inaccessible for us. Anyway, when I found out the reason behind the soaking, I now am more willing to take the time to soak them! I froze about half of my beans for use for another day and turned the other half into refried beans that taste terrific!
Next was the rice for my spanish rice dish. I soaked the rice too, but that ended up making it mushy. I'll have to do more research on how to properly soak rice. So I made a third batch later in the day they way that I normally make it. (Did I mention that the first batch I did the night before, forgot about and plain burnt it!) Now the rice is great! I do want to figure out more about soaking it though.
Then I took a deep breath and tackled the cake. Cakes and I have a very long history. I can bake the fluffiest bread, I can cook a complicated quiche, I've mastered pie dough but cakes and cookies elude me. Usually I leave them to John but I hate the way the cakes laugh at me, daring me to even try to make them. I found a very simple chocolate cake recipe and started in. I made sure I had every ingredient so I wouldn't be tempted to substitute. I even read the recipe before starting. My eyebrows rose a bit when the instructions said, "Mix all ingredients, poor in pan and bake at 350 for 30 minutes." Yeah, I knew it was trying to trick me! Even I know you are supposed to cream the eggs with the sugar first and add the flour last, etc. I pulled from my memory and mixed the ingredients the way I thought you were supposed to. My batter tasted great so that is a step up from cakes in the past.
I think if I had done a plain circle cake I would have been fine. But no, I wanted to make a giant cupcake. I poured the batter into a well greased Wilton Cupcake pan and stuck it in the oven. An hour later (checking it every 5 min past the 30 min mark) I knew there was something up. The thin part (the bottom of the cupcake) was very cooked, the fluffy top of the cupcake was not cooking as fast! At some point I put foil over the bottom of the cake and I think that helped things. Anyway, it may not be award winning but it's my first cake that didn't fall apart. Well it didn't fall apart completely... there was a moment when I turned it upside down after about 40 minutes and it started leaking... but we won't talk about that.
Then there was the icing. I decided to try a fancy smancy Italian Buttercream icing. It finally worked out (thanks to some quick tips from my friend Nicole) but it still isn't perfect. The cake looks decent and well, I just hope people don't have their hopes up too high.
About this time it was time to cook dinner for the girls and John for tonights meal. I just laughed at the thought and said, leftovers or eggs, which is it? They voted eggs so that's what they got.
After dinner I took a break from cooking to play with the girls until bedtime. Then I tackled the taco meat. I made an enchilada sauce from scratch that took about an hour to make. I made it mild since in a large group it's better to go mild than spicy. I made both chicken taco meat and beef taco meat. Ideally I wanted to make the corn tortillas from scratch, but folks... that's where I ran out of steam. I know homemade tortillas are awesome, I've made them plenty of times before, but when you have to hand roll out each one it does take some time. Perhaps if all goes well in the morning I'll make up a batch, but again... don't get your hopes up. Especially since on my low-carb diet, I won't even be eating them! I'll be making a taco salad for myself!
Like I said, it was a fun day spent in my kitchen. I chopped a ton of garlic and onions, I lost count over the day. I'll be spending a similar day on Monday, since I'm having a second playdate party for the girls on Tuesday. The menu is a bit more simple though, so it won't take nearly as long. Now I'm off to wrap a few birthday presents!