Food is meant to be fun. It should be seriously delicious, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be serious or that those of us who occasionally cook something delicious should cop an attitude. Sometimes, in fact, I make grilled cheese sandwiches and cookies for the grandkids. Sometimes I make them for the adults. All in a day’s joyous work in the kitchen, because food is a way to express love.
“Pulled Pork and an Ice Cream Pie!”
That was Nick’s answer to my question as to what he would like for his 10th birthday dinner. Nick and his 12-year-old brother, Ethan, have dinner at our house on Tuesday nights, so they know what they like from my repertoire. I have been giving the pulled pork a rest recently, focusing on other dishes I know they’ll enjoy, like lasagna, homemade pizza or sushi. After the layoff, Nick was excited to imagine tasting that barbecue sauce again.
A couple of days later I was driving him home from school when he asked how the birthday meal was coming along — I told him that it was a cinch. “What’s a cinch?” asked Nick, who doesn’t let any chance to learn go by, unless it is to learn the flavor of something new. Even on foods that he loves, he’ll inspect for dangerous ingredients, frequently pointing and concerned about “what’s that green stuff, right there?” A cinch, I told Nick, is when you can put together a meal quickly at very little cost and have everyone thinking it was the best ever.
Not that long ago, I didn’t make special meals for the boys. When they were younger, they would generally eat whatever I was making for the adults. But now that they’re transitioning into some different developmental stage, I end up cooking their meals for all of us. There are some currents that run too strong to resist.
Nick is very interested in money. When he was 6, there was a construction job going on at the corner of our street. It was a hot summer day and I was taking care of him and we were planning our afternoon. “You can make cookies and homemade lemonade and I can sell them at the corner,” he decided. It didn’t take a genius to figure that the seven guys doing the work would be tempted to buy lemonade and a cookie, particularly if Nick’s table was nearly blocking their access. After we squeezed a dozen lemons and baked the chocolate chip cookies, we set up our “pop-up” store and put up Nick’s sign, which read: “LEMINATE AND COOKEYS 50 SENTS each.” Even though Nick was still in the phonetic stage of spelling, the sale was a success — we took in $38, a collection of ones and coins that Nick quickly scooped up for himself. I tried to explain about my food cost needing to be repaid, but he would have none of it.
Nick was so thrilled with his ability to quickly make money, we planned another entrepreneurial endeavor. We could package LEGOs in small baggies and sell them for “75 Sents” each, a bargain for the thousands of bits of plastic that we had spent a fortune buying for the boys not so long before. It was another hot day as we set up in front of my friends’ store in our downtown — so hot, in fact, that I left Nick alone for a few minutes while I raced home to grab an umbrella for some shade. When I returned a few minutes later, Nick announced that we were all sold out — a customer had come by and offered to buy all 30 packages. He gave Nick $25, which included a small tip. Again, he was very happy with the money he’d made, and impressed with capitalism as a concept. I suspect he will be for life.
We still have enough LEGOs to package maybe a hundred baggies, but Nick is on to other things. Music is his number one interest. Last year he took up guitar, even joining the school band for a short time. Now he wants a set of drums. He also writes some great poetry, so maybe there may be a new business opportunity there. See what you think!
When you get older, you’ll get hit by a boulder
When you get older, you’ll grow some molder
When you get older, you’ll get very much colder
When you get older, you might lose a shoulder
If you get hit by a boulder, you can’t grow older
Nick’s birthday party was a success — not because it was a cinch, but because it tasted so good.
Still, it was easy to make because on certain items, such as pulled pork or ice cream cake, I’ve found the boys are just as happy with store-bought ingredients such as barbeque sauce and brownies.
The pork loin gets browned in a little olive oil all over in a heavy pan. I chop an onion, a few carrots and a pepper and then I add Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Barbecue Sauce and a little water, putting it in the oven partially covered for about three hours or until it falls apart easily when poked with a fork. This is a great recipe because you can do it ahead of time and heat it up when serving.
Using two forks, you can pull the pork apart for sandwiches or serve it over rice or noodles. We like potato rolls because they absorb the sauce. It’s great with chips and a salad for adults and a side of broccoli.
Dessert was an ice cream pie that I made the day before with Nick’s favorite chocolate ice cream layered with brownies and topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce, both homemade. It made me happy because it made the boys happy. I do believe, actually, that everyone loved it!
Ice cream cake
- A day or two before: Purchase ice cream. Nick loves chocolate, and 1 quart is perfect for this 9-inch cake. Freeze until ready to assemble.
- Prepare 2 9-inch springform pans by spraying them with coconut spray. Two 9-inch pie plates can also be used. Spray them as well.
- Buy Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix and follow directions. Or make your own. I buy the large Ghirardelli box that has three pouches. It has three kinds of rich chocolate chips. Follow the directions for 16 brownies and one pouch is perfect.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Divide the batter between the two pans.
- Bake in oven and check after 30 minutes. Insert a knife in the middle — it should come out clean, if not, bake for a few more minutes. Although the recipe calls for a longer baking time, dividing the batter between two pans will make the brownies thinner and therefore less baking time is required. Cool and wrap until ready to assemble.
- Make a chocolate sauce: In a small saucepan over low heat, melt 1 cup of chocolate chips with 3/4 cup of heavy cream, stirring constantly until the chocolate melts. Off the heat, stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Stir to blend and pour into a small jar.
- Assemble the cake: Allow the ice cream to soften a little. Place one of the cakes In a clean springform pan. Using an ice cream scoop, place several scoops on the cake and press down to smooth. Place the other cake over the ice cream. You should probably use most of the quart of ice cream.
- Cover the cake with foil and place in freezer until ready to enjoy. Let sit for 20 minutes at room temperature for easy cutting.
- Serve with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.