birthday hoopla

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The first year in a child’s life is an incredible journey, not just for the baby, but for the whole family. As a mamma, I have felt this quite profoundly, but never more so than when I realized it was time to plan Greta’s first birthday. I resisted at first. The turning over of the first year of a baby’s life has so many implications. The baby is becoming a toddler, independent in so many ways. The new mamma is on her way to becoming a seasoned one. The baby weight should be gone. The sleepless nights, over. Life back to normal. Except none of it is. It is better and more chaotic and more simple, all at once.

 Somewhere around the time I fully embraced this forthcoming milestone and started planning for the big day, I realized that Greta growing up means good things for all of us. She gets more and more fun, and hilarious every day. And us too! We sleep less, but laugh more. I’m more balanced, more accepting of others, myself, and f life just as it is. More able to let go of what I can’t accomplish, and embrace what I can, like a magical, memorable day for celebrating this major milestone. 

Hers was a day of soothing squash and farro soup and roasted baby acorn squash with pomegranates. Of Pumpkin Cupcakes with Creamy Cheese Frosting. Of balloons and garlands drifting from our old apple tree. Of hot Whole Grain Bavarian Pretzels, local beer, hot cider. Of endless little girl giggles, and apples. Of soaking up every available second of joy that this baby showers on her tiny world.
Greta’s beyond wild about apples, likely for the independence they represent {she can eat them without any help!}, and her mamma’s wild about apple orchards, so we brought the orchards of the Hudson Valley to our house with a half dozen varieties of fresh apples, hot cider, cider donuts and touches of roma red and blushing pink lady pink everywhere. This party is as easy to reproduce as are the recipes below, perfect for any fall occasion, or the simple milestone of learning to live, fully present, in every moment of your little one’s life.

{Sources: invitations, Sponge Cake Press. Vases and drinking cups, Ball jars. On Etsy: Party hat,  Tradewind Tiaras; felt garlands, Benzie; vintage baby dress, Stop the Clock; cupcake liners, straws and straw-toppers, Hey YoYo

Pure Pumpkin Cupcakes with Creamy Cheese Frosting

These cupcakes are the perfect first sweet for little ones. Arguably wholesome and undeniably delicious, made with pure pumpkin and rich Neufchatel cheese frosting, these beat sugary sweet cupcakes in any season, but especially for fall.

2 cups all-purpose flour or whole wheat white flour
1 cup light-brown sugar
1 cup raw organic sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground roasted ginger
2 sticks unsalted organic butter, melted
4 large organic eggs, beaten
1 15-ounce can organic pumpkin puree

1 pound Neufchatel cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted organic butter, softened
1/3 to 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, or to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
splash of pure vanilla extract

makes 1 1/2 dozen cupcakes, or about 3 1/2 dozen minis

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line three cupcake pans or four mini cupcake pans with cupcake liners and keep handy. Set out the Neufchatel cheese and butter for the frosting to come to room temperature. 

  1. Whisk together the flour, sugars, baking soda, powder, salt and spices in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter and eggs. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients with a rubber spatula, stirring until some dry bits remain. Add the pumpkin puree and stir to completely combine.

  1. Use a cookie or ice cream scoop to fill each muffin liner about 2/3 of the way full. Bake in the center rack, rotating tins back to front and top to bottom {if using more than one rack} once until muffins spring back lightly when touched and are just baked through, about 25 minutes for large cupcakes and 18 for minis. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

  1. Meanwhile, make the frosting. Beat the Neufchatel cheese and butter together with an electric mixer or the whip attachment on an immersion blender until smooth and fluffy with no lumps. Add sugar and honey or agave to taste {start with a little ~ the rich cheese, butter and pumpkin are decadent and tasty with just subtle amounts of sugar!}, plus a splash of vanilla. Beat until fluffy. Frost the cooled cupcakes, using the back of a small spoon or off-set spatula to swirl the frosting into careless swoops.  Top with your favorite cake topper or candles and celebrate!

Whole Wheat Bavarian-Style Soft Pretzels

These are really quite simple {no proofing required}, and just the thing for a first birthday. Babes of almost any age will love to hold these in their hands, nibble, suck or teethe on the soft whole wheat hiding beneath the shining, golden crust. Add coarse sea salt for grown-ups, and sides of mustard for dipping.

1 1/2 cups warm water {about 100 degrees F}
2 1/4 teaspoons {one packet} active dry yeast
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/2 stick {4 tablespoons} melted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 egg, separated

2 tablespoons baking soda
coarse sea salt, for sprinkling

makes 6 giant pretzels or 12 small ones

  1. Preheat the oven to 415 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment or silpats.  

  1. Test the water temperature with a thermometer or your fingertips. It should feel like a warm Jacuzzi, between 100 and 110 degrees F. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and set aside to soften. The yeast should spread and begin to expand across the surface of the water. Add the sugar and stir together.

  1.  Whisk together the bread or all purpose flour, and 1 1/4 cups of the whole wheat flour and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, olive oil and egg yolk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients with a rubber spatula or the dough hook of a stand mixer, stirring until just a few dry bits remain.

  1. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface {or continue with the dough hook} and knead the dough together, adding up to 1/4 cup more of the whole wheat flour as needed. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic, and in one uniform ball. Set aside to rest.

  1. Mix together 2 cups warm water and the baking soda in a shallow pan. Divide the dough into 6 or 12 equal size portions. Keep the dough covered and working with one portion at a time, roll the dough between the heels of your hand and the floured bowl to make a long, skinny rope, about 1/4 inch in diameter. Holding both ends, cross the ends over each other, make one twist and then press the ends into the curved edge to create a pretzel shape. Dip each pretzel into the baking soda water then lay out evenly on the baking sheet.

  1. Beat the egg white until frothy. Brush the tops of each pretzel with egg white and sprinkle with coarse salt or leave plain, for babes. Bake in the center racks of the oven, rotating the trays once, until the pretzels are evenly golden brown and slightly shiny, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before stacking and serving.


daniegil said...

Sarah, this is so charming! What a beautiful celebration for a beautiful baby. Plus those cupcakes are making my stomach growl! Congratulations on an amazing first year of motherhood!

daniegil said...

What a beautiful celebration for a beautiful baby! (Those cupcakes are making my stomach growl.) Congratulations on an amazing first year of motherhood!

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New York City, United States
Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.