We will eat what we will, THANK you.

A few months ago, freshly graduated and unemployed, I spent several days laying around waiting for my friends to get back in town or someone to please please please call me back for an interview to some menial job or another.  Needless to say, I ended up watching a lot of TV, especially since it was pouring down rain the entire time.  Eventually, I ran out of good TV to watch and began flipping through the On Demand menu and fell to a low I never thought I’d reach: multiple episodes of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant.

During this onslaught of mind-numbing programming it suddenly occurred to me that every single one of my good friends had managed to escape this fate – we were all baby-free college graduates.  And suddenly my heart swelled with pride.  As invitations for weddings and baby showers began to clog my mailbox, I started to think.  Shouldn’t we also be celebrating our own, non-marketed brand of good fortune?  I needed a party to cleanse my palate of congratulatory Hallmark cards.

Thus: the Thank GOD I’m Not Pregnant Party.

It's hard to find favor boxes for a party like this. Dutch mints and condoms go well together, though.

Now, I’m not saying that I hate children or that I hate weddings or that a vice-ridden single life is the only way to be happy.  What I wanted to say was that the lives that we want to lead (including international travel, med school, and avoidance of extreme responsibility loads) would be much complicated by a baby, and hey, we don’t have them!  I also wanted to bolster my non-married friends before the summer weddings started, because they assuredly bring the sidelong looks and sly “So when will we be attending YOUR wedding?”

But how to celebrate this?  By doing things you would otherwise not be able to do, if pregnancy were your short term fate.  Surprisingly, I had to lay down some rules when my friends got a little…creative.  No hard drugs, no punching anyone, and no vices that you didn’t have before. And no men.  So that people would leave as infertile as they came. And because I have many more female friends and I was too lazy to try to balance the party.

Really though, it all came down to food, as it always does in my plans. So let’s just get down to that.

A Meal for Non-Pregnant Ladies

The absolute first thing that popped into my mind was sushi.  Well, it was hard liquor, actually, but let’s talk food first.  I absolutely cannot stand nori.  I had a traumatic rotting seaweed experience in high school and now if nori has even popped in to say hello to a dish, it ruins it for me.  This puts a definite cramp on my sushi eating and exasperates Alida, my sister-in-law, who eats it like potato chips.

So I took the easy way out and just ordered a tray of mostly nigiri sushi (nori free!) from Safeway.  Hey!  I made my own inarizushi (that plate of brown things behind the pretty sushi).  I don’t have the recipe, because I always read it off the back of the can, but it is basically a fried, marinated pocket of tofu – the can – that you fill with sushi rice mixed with seasoned rice wine vinegar and sugar. I get them at Uwajimaya.

Gabrielle brought a veggie plate to make us feel a little less vice-ridden.

Here I have a plate of oozy and unfortunately pasteurized cheeses with nitrate-rich salami and non-shelf stable pâté – all big ole no nos.  And delicious.

I also tried my hand at some beet chips that they make at the place I work.  They are beautiful, and even though I don’t like beets, I love these.  Mine weren’t as good as the professional chefs’ at work, but that kind of goes without saying.  You can see them in a bowl in the background of the previous and the subsequent pictures.

Beet Chips

Wash and slice as many beets as you’d like with a mandolin – as thin as you can possibly make them (that was my problem- they were too thick).   Fry the slices of beet for 3-4 minutes, stirring them constantly to keep them from sticking to each other.  Drain really well, then fry again for 3-4 minutes and stirring.  The chips will turn a lighter, beautiful maroon purple, like bubbly slices of garnet.  Drain on paper towels or brown paper bags and salt.  You need to fry them twice in order to get the right consistency and color.  It’s worth it.

Then we have the vegan friendly plate: hummus that I was too busy to make myself with the  best crackers in the world.

My mother’s artichoke dip because it is delicious and not particularly good for you.

Artichoke Dip

8 oz cream cheese

8 oz sour cream

8 oz mayonnaise

14 oz can of artichoke hearts

3/4 c parmesan cheese

1 tsp garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 375.  Blend the cream cheese, the sour cream, and mayo together.  In a food processor, combine the artichokes, cheese, and garlic powder. Pulse five or six times, then mix with a spatula into the cream mixture.  Pour into a casserole dish and top with more cheese if desired.  Bake 20 to 30 minutes – until it is golden brown on the top and warm all the way through.

Eat with anything you can find, usually slices of baguette or sturdy crackers.

Another delicious recipe of my mom’s is her broccoli and cauliflower salad.  I rebelled against this salad for several years until I tried it again this summer and was resultantly bewitched.  This salad does NOT keep well, for the same reason that you aren’t supposed to eat broccoli or cauliflower while nursing: gas.  The gasses released by the vegetables will make it taste awful the next day, and give pregnant you gas, or your baby gas and making life generally miserable.  Of course, there generally isn’t much left over. Just don’t make it ahead of time – you can do the chopping, but don’t mix until the last minute.

Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

Equal parts broccoli and cauliflower, usually 1 head cauliflower to 2 heads of broccoli.

1 bunch of green onions

3/4 c bacon bits (cooked and cooled completely)

Dressing:

1 1/2 c mayo

1 c sugar (scant cup for me because I like it a little less sweet)

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper (we have a pretty mix of black and red right now)

1/3 c oil (canola is what we usually use)

1/3 c vinegar (if you have a good, non-balsamic vinegar, use it now)

Salt to taste

Chop the broccoli and cauliflower very finely, and slice the green onions thinly.  Mix with the bacon bits.  In another bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing and pour over salad base.  Mix thoroughly and serve immediately.

Finally, the cake.  When I heard that pregnant women should eat barely any chocolate and no coffee, I knew I had to make a cake.  A cake that would spit in the eyes of these strictures and laugh maliciously.  Keeping in mind I had multiple vegans coming to celebrate, I planned accordingly.  I made a vegan cake in three cake pans: two large, one small, in order to make a nonvegan layer cake and a mini totally vegan cakelette. The layer cake would be a coffee brown sugar buttercream and the cakelette would have a vegan chocolate ganache for simplicity’s sake.

I actually love this vegan cake recipe. It’s one of my favorite cake recipes period, and I am an unrepentant egg and dairy eater.  Unfortunately for the cake I am also a repentant buttercream failure, as you will see.  At least it still tastes good.

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

2 c unsweetened soy milk

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 c sugar

2/3 c canola oil

3 tsp vanilla extract

2 c flour

2/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease your cake pans reeeeally well.

In a metal bowl, whisk the soy milk and vinegar and set aside for about 5 minutes to curdle.  Yes, on purpose.  Add the sugar, oil, and vanilla and whisk until foamy – about 2 minutes.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two batches, beating well until no large lumps remain.

Pour into the cake pans, 1/2 to 3/4 full.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out cleanly.  Let cool on a rack, then remove from pan and let cool completely.

Ice to your liking.

Brown Sugar Buttercream

2 egg whites

1/2 c light brown sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 stick of butter

In a double boiler over very low heat, combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt.  Stir until the sugar is juuuuust dissolved, then remove from the heat.  Beat in a stand mixer on medium speed until the egg whites are fluffly and FULLY cooled (there’s my mistake.  Repeatedly).  This should take about 15 minutes.  Beat on high until stiff peaks form.  Turn down the speed to medium low and add the butter in gradually, pat by pat.  If you don’t let if cool fully before adding the butter, you’ll get a grainy buttercream that tastes mighty fine…but doesn’t look very nice. See below.  I added in a tablespoon of instant espresso powder for coffee flavor and then for my alternate piping color I just poured in some Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder until I liked the consistency.

I’m better at ganache, though!  For a vegan chocolate ganache, clean out that double boiler and toss in 6 oz of chopped semisweet chocolate (read the label for milk byproducts) over low low heat and add 1 or 2 tablespoons of vanilla soy half and half.  Stir the chocolate with a spatula until the mixture is smooth and all the lumps are melted out.  IMMEDIATELY pour over the top of your cake artistically as you’d like.  Let cool and solidify.  Eat that sucker up.

I made a nonalcoholic punch that was a mix of grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, sprite, and soda water.  I poured it into subverted baby shower cups.

Check with your guests - some birth control can be subverted by grapefruit juice, which is a big no-no for this party. And in general.

Oh, ok.  We can talk booze now.  I made three cocktails: one of my favorites to make, one of my favorites to drink at a restaurant, and a new one to me suggested by a coworker. The first was a lemon drop, but instead of the lavender vodka I wrote up before, I used some blueberry vodka that my uncle made and gave me as a graduation present.

The second cocktail is the French Kiss from El Gaucho restaurant in Tacoma.  I would go there on Mondays every once and awhile with my father for their happy hour, pretending I was in a higher income bracket (and more importantly) higher coolness bracker than I really am.  Their happy hour is good for that.  And really tasty macaroni and cheese.  I ordered a French Kiss there because the bartender told me to, and it was the right choice.  Unfortunately, that experience led me into a cocktail morass, as the French Kiss has inspired a multiplicity of recipes, none of them quiiiite right.  My friends have tasted a few as I paged through its various incarnations.  Finally I just went back and asked, then scribbled it down on the inside of my Orbitz gum packet. So here it is.

1 oz vanilla vodka

1 1/2 oz grapefruit juice

1/2 oz raspberry liqueur

Shake over ice and strain into a martini glass and pretend you’re a star.

Lynchburg Lemonade

This is a recipe that I got off of one of my coworkers when we were brainstorming during a slow stretch.  I don’t drink dark liquors, usually, but this goes down dangerously easy.  A few days later after writing lesson plans for an online course in English teaching, being roasted slowly by some unexpectedly powerful Northwest sun, basking in our misters – lightly spritzed like a ripe kiwi in the produce section…this cocktail laid a refreshing polish over the raw perfection of that moment of relaxation. So thanks to her.

This is like a whiskey sour with add-ins.

Pour equal parts

Jack Daniels or some other sour mash whiskey (you need the sour mash to get the right flavor)

Triple Sec or some other orange liqueur

Sweet and sour mix

Sprite or equivalent.

Add some ice cubes and drag your chair across the patio to follow the sun.

That was my party.  Go have yours.

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Hey, I'm Desa. I've been bouncing between the Pacific Northwest and Sevilla, Spain in the last few years and from tiny apartment to tiny apartment. I cook mainly for one, which means some potentially boring meals, but here I'll be sharing the food that excites me. Feel free to offer suggestions, commiseration, or desires. And thanks for coming by!

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