Category Archives: birthdays

40th Birthday Extravaganza

I have to admit I was a little depressed today to return to my normal life after a week of birthday festivities. It was a rough transition back to the world. But now that I’m FORTY, I’m old enough to know I’ll live through it.

Here’s what I did, with pictures!

  • On my birthday eve, I had an amazing dinner at Fenouil with The Man that included some truly outstanding foie gras and a panna cotta with a sorrel gelee and a radish/peach/scallion/salt garnish (I’m a huge fan of sorrel, and inventive desserts). They even wrote “Happy Birthday, Melanie” in chocolate sauce on my plate, which made me feel the joy-happiness-wild-abandon of a five-year-old. Sadly, I don’t have the proper technology to get the picture from my phone onto my blog. Argh.
  • Saw “The Square,” a modern film noir, Australian-style. For those of you who enjoyed “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” I highly recommend it. HELP.
  • Spent my birthday-day meeting with friends for coffee and chocolates, and an incredible lunch brought to my house by DL of his amazing homemade pates (duck/hazelnut/cherry and pork in all forms) and a PLATTER of Steve’s cheeses. HOOOOO.

    Two gigantic loaves of pate and several rounds of cheese

    Yes, we ate ALL of this.

  • Had another rich and festive dinner at Park Kitchen with a few pals who provided great conversation. YEA!
  • Joined a bigger group of pals for Darcelle XV’s exceptionally entertaining drag show. I can confidently say that I will never in my life forget her rendition of Glenn Campbell’s, “Rhinestone Cowboy.” VIVA DARCELLE! You made it…memorable!

    DL and MJ with LM

    LIZA!!! An INSPIRED performance!!!

  • Soaked up a lot of booze red wine at Potato Champion, as one does after such a night.

    MJ stuffing face with fried spuds

    The REAL Potato Champion.

  • Ran off the next morning with The Man to the wilds of eastern Oregon like a pair of hillbilly newlyweds, camping for three nights and racking up 81 bird species, a personal best.

    The Man and Pickle on the Blitzen River, Oregon

    Pickle and The Man enjoy a nature hike on the Blitzen River, Oregon.

  • Basked in the glow of the best friends and best birthday ever. I hope the rest of the year is half as good.


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Two Score and…

No, just two score. Years, that is. Forty years ago this week my forefather and mother brought me forth on this planet. And what a long, strange trip it’s been. Really, I’m verklempt. So, nope, no recipes this week, just…reflection. And festivities! Dinners! Films! Drinks! And drag revues! Followed by another birding trip to southeastern Oregon. See you on the other side of 39, sweets! Hopefully I’ll do more blogging there.


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Gluten-free Red Velvet Cake

Happy birthday to KT! Sneakily, her man-friend told me one of her favorite cakes is red velvet, so I set out on a mission to make it for her surprise party this past Saturday. The requirement for party attendance was to bring KT a homemade card. So I chose to make cake as my card.

I’ve always wanted to make a red velvet cake, but somehow never got around to it. Now they are all the rage so I feel very in. Here’s my gluten-free version.

I’ve been trying to make everything with Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free flour because most people, myself included, don’t want to hassle with all the spendy flour combinations. Also, this cake is meant to be a bit on the dense side, so Bob’s works well for it.

Like most recipes, I think of this as a master recipe that can be modified for whatever you want to make. So think of this as a template for Dense, Moist Cake. Instead of making red velvet, you could eliminate just the cocoa and red food coloring, and instead mix in a cup of flaked coconut and make a coconut frosting, or mix in a couple tablespoons of lemon zest and use a lemon frosting, etc. You get the idea. For my own birthday, I think I might have to make a Blue Velvet Cake (“What are you doing in my closet, Jeffrey Beaumont?” Ah, such a screenplay.)

Gluten-free Red Velvet Cake

1 c vegetable oil (I used sunflower with good results, canola would also work fine, I’m sure)

1 1/2 c sugar

3 eggs, room temp, lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla

1 3/4 c Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose GF flour

3/4 c tapioca flour/starch

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp xanthan gum

1/4 t salt

1 c buttermilk

1 little bottle of red food coloring, yes, the whole thing

1/4 c cocoa powder


1 cream cheese pack (8 oz)

1 stick of butter, room temp

1 tsp vanilla

3 c sifted powdered sugar (sift to minimize lumping, measured after sifting)

Mix all of those together to make the frosting.

And now, for your basic cake-making instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9×13 sheet pan or two round cake pans. I made one sheet cake, but you might want a traditional layer cake.
  2. Mix your wets in a bowl (oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla).
  3. Mix your dries in a different bowl (flours, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt).
  4. Mix 1/4 c of buttermilk with the cocoa powder and the food coloring so that the cocoa powder is well mixed in, not lumpy. Set this aside.
  5. Now mix into your wets bowl the dries and the remaining 3/4 c of buttermilk, alternating each in three to four rounds of additions and starting with the dries. Does that make sense? Hope so! The point here is to mix things in a bit at a time, not just glomp it all in there and hope for the best.
  6. Now add the blood red buttermilk/cocoa goo-mix. Voila, mon ami. You have red velvet cake batter.
  7. Pour into your prepared pans and bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

I do wish this were MORE RED, but those boxes of food coloring are like six bucks a pop and I used a whole little bottle of red. Ah, well. A beautiful thing is never perfect, as they say.

The Big K


Filed under birthdays, cakes, holiday recipes, Recipes