Birthdays by the Lake

Let’s wrap up this vacation before I leave on my next trip, shall we?

Thursday was Ben’s Birthday!! And it was a big one, though he’s not happy about that. Happy birthday, honey–I love you times 30. (Not that Ben reads this blog. I can write anything I want about him and he’ll never know. His coworkers might, though.)

Our friend Kiki and her kids (they have a house one lake over) joined us for dinner. We grilled sausages and I made sauteed peppers and onions, greek pasta salad, braised baby fennel (…meh) and Ben’s favorite lemon-chocolate tart.

Pasta salad ingredients:

(we were blessed with a decent grocery store a few minutes away–next time we needn’t bring NEARLY as much stuff with us!)

(No finished shot, oops!)

Gorgeous spring onions from the farm:


Fennel–I was improvising and I didn’t get it quite right. Cut up the the bulbs:

Browned them in the pan I’d cooked the peppers/onions in, with a bit of broth to deglaze:

Then roasted in the oven (covered, mostly) for a while. I dunno, they were boring and not quite right. Not like the time I did the ones from the Molly Stevens Braising book.

I spent a while Thursday morning hiding in the kitchen and secretly making Ben’s favorite dessert, the Lemon Chocolate Tart from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. He asks for it all the time, so I thought it would be a good birthday surprise (and I’m really sick of making it now, so that’s it for a while!). It turned out to be the best one yet–I was using a thinner pan than normal to make the curd, which cooked faster than I’m used to, but I think I’d been undercooking it a little because the flavor and texture were better this time.

I got fancy birthday candles before we left, but when it came time to put them into the tart I ran into trouble: They were so tall and the tart is so shallow that while Greta and I (laughing hysterically) got them to stand up while we lit them, the minute I started to move the thing they all started tipping over and dripping wax on my hands, etc.

We blew them out in a hurry and I fished out the little old-school candle holders I’d bought at the grocery store that day. Those were able to stick through into the crust and stayed up a bit better. And the burn on my hand is all healed now.

The next day was MY birthday (and no, I was not turning a special age). Greta made Sausage Balls for breakfast. MMMmmm:

I had awkwardly insisted on cooking dinner that night, because I was holding a secret: Our friends Ann and Chris (the ones we and Chris/Greta went to the lake with last Memorial Day) were going to drive over from Ann’s parents’ place on Friday afternoon to join us for the day. We’d been planning it for ages, and I wanted it to be a surprise for everybody. And despite being tempted to admit the plan, I kept the secret and Chris and Ann wandered down the path from the house while we were all out in the lake after a slow start to the day. It was a wonderful moment, and everyone was so happy. Yay!

They stayed for dinner and I made what I SHOULD have made for Ben’s birthday dinner–the famous Triple Pork burgers, also from Sunday Suppers. Another thing he asks for all the time and that I don’t make often!

But that’s boring, since I’ve shown photos of making them several times already. Here are Ann, Jack and Greta, chilling out:

And the boys, acting ridiculous (yes, they tipped over within a minute of this photo being taken):

Oh, food? Well, it’s certainly easier making the pork burgers with fresh mexican chorizo (as the recipe calls for) instead of the hard spanish stuff I’d had to use previously.

Greta and I had a fairly hilarious time making fresh mayo (eventually aioli to spread on the burger rolls). She’d only made larger quantities, in a cuisinart, and I’d never made it. We did eventually figure it out, though it was tricky with the equipment on hand. Worth it, though, and I’ll be trying again soon.

Poor Ben had some struggles cooking the burgers over a charcoal fire, since he’s used to propane, but once we peeled off the scorched bit (they had the cheese on too early, per the directions, so he couldn’t flip them to keep the cooking even) they were extremely tasty:

We also had another take on the german potato salad I served with the tuna the week before (I added sugar to the dressing this time for some reason: not necessary) and local corn on the cob:

And then after dinner greta slipped away and when she came back it was with freshly baked cornmeal shortcakes covered in strawberries and whipped cream (blended with leftover lemon curd from the tart–SO good)! I was delighted:

And that was that. We packed up and left the next morning–another lake trip over. I can’t wait for next year.

I can’t be too sad, though: In a stroke of Best Husband Ever, Ben got me a ticket to go visit Bridget in London as my birthday gift. And I leave THURSDAY NIGHT!!!! OMG.

4 thoughts on “Birthdays by the Lake”

  1. Hooray for Leos! My birthday is August 3rd… this makes me want to spend a week at the lake for my birthday– I wish it weren’t so far away. And kudos to Ben for an amazingly thoughtful birthday gift! Have fun in London– can’t wait to hear about your food adventures there!

  2. Yay! Same as Greta!! I hope you had a good one…

    There are some awfully nice lakes in Oregon, girl–we used to go to Crescent Lake when I was a kid.

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