Thanks for all the lovely birthday wishes!
My first day as a twentysomething — actually a twentynothing — went well.
The beginning proved less than smooth, as I woke up with stomach pain and was sick for a few hours, but despite my early fears, I did not have to spend my birthday feeling poorly. (Or in the hospital, which was my big fear when my mom momentarily thought my tube had clogged again. Thankfully, it proved a false alarm.) I recuperated in time to take a lovely phone call from my Aunt Edie, whom I talked to for quite a while. I was able to drink ginger tea for lunch, which left me optimistic that I could still manage birthday cake later. The only lingering effect I had of the episode, or whatever it was, was that throughout the day my stomach was severely distended. It’s probably visible in some of the photos, sorry. (On the plus side, it did help keep my skirt up….)
In the early afternoon, I heard the door ring and my dad called out that I had visitors. It was Kerstin and the girls! My dad had actually forgotten to tell me that they were coming, but it worked out better that way because it was a most fabulous surprise. I got to spend a few hours talking and laughing (not to mention playing) with three of my favorite people. And yes, I spent a good chunk of my first afternoon as a twenty year old playing hide and go seek. I couldn’t imagine a better way. Really, I think adults forget all too easily how much fun playing is.
I rested for a little bit after the visit, before joining my parents for a wonderful birthday dinner. I had snacked on some rice cakes (decorated with dried fruit and gummy bears, birthday cake style) Kerstin brought over and my stomach was doing well. I decided to go for it and tackle the planned birthday dinner. We had brown rice spaghetti with grilled chicken sausage, zuchinni, onions, and a little light lemon juice (which blended in perfectly) and roasted butternut squash on the side. It was absolutely delicious. The pasta was incredible — I’m not sure exactly what all was in there in terms of spices (I know I’m leaving out some things), but it was wonderful. We all decided that we liked the brown rice pasta better than wheat pasta, too. It has a better texture than most wheat pastas (more like freshly made pasta, in my experience) and a better flavor. I think it could be a nice alternative to whole wheat pasta if someone doesn’t like that but still wants whole grains, or just a wonderful, easy option for pasta lovers in general. The butternut squash was delectable as well — fall is coming. (That sounds so much less foreboding than “Winter is coming,” doesn’t it?)
After dinner, and a break to allow my stomach to settle and Mom to “frost” the cake, we settled into the dining room for dessert and presents. The cake, which I referred to on Monday, turned out beautifully. I’m referring both to flavor and appearance, of course. Our substitutions for the cake part itself weren’t major, as I’m now eating gluten. (That would have been a more complicated endeavor!) Still, we swapped out almond milk for cow’s milk and Earth Balance for shortening with no ill effects. If there were any remaining almond flavor, it was insidious enough to please my father. The Earth Balance did make the “yellow cake” (made from an old, simple recipe book of my grandmother’s) more white than yellow. I also think it made it a bit fluffier, and therefore less dense, than shortening would have, but I found the texture very nice.
Frosting initially presented a more considerable challenge. Normally, I would go for a chocolate frosting. (Naturally.) However, I’m avoiding chocolate both because it hurts my stomach and because it’s one of the most likely triggers for my neurological problems. I hope to add it back into my diet someday, but I recognize that chocolate is perfectly acceptable sacrifice to make in the name of health. (Why can’t Harry Potter’s laws of the universe work in reality? Chocolate totally should have magical healing properties.) I’ve never been a huge frosting fan, and making a vanilla-type frosting with Earth Balance held no appeal. So, instead, I turned to a recipe my friend Janosz had introduced me to on Smitten Kitchen. We had made this raspberry filling for Kelsi’s birthday crepe cake. (Layers of buckwheat crepes, honey-sweetened raspberry filling, and homemade chocolate ganache. And no, it wasn’t just the ganache that was homemade — it was actually the chocolate. It was a gluten-free, egg-free, soy-free, dairy-free, cane-sugar-free mound of divine goodness. I wish I had pictures to show but I realized that while I took about 5256000 of them during every stage of the process, they’re on Kelsi’s camera. Trust me, all of our friends were skeptical that the allergic Kelsi was able to eat it, it was that good.) My saint of a mother even strained out the raspberry seeds. It made a beautiful “frosting” that complemented the cake beautifully. This is a recipe I plan to keep around regardless of what my dietary restrictions become, as it absolutely trounces most frostings, in my opinion.
So, with a scoop of raspberry sorbet, we had a cake that I was able to eat and enjoy. Eating, and eating things I enjoy, on my birthday has been a major goal for me. I really wanted to be able to indulge in a piece of birthday cake. It’s funny, because if I had been at school I might not have even eaten cake literally on my birthday, but it took on a whole new importance here at home. I’m very happy to report that I succeeded.
Now, for the pictures!