Sunday, June 26, 2011

Foodbuzz 24x24: Pop! Pop! Pop!

185th birthdayToday was a good day. Amaya played hard at her very own birthday party. The kids weren’t one bit bothered by the rain, and still played hide & go seek, jumped on the trampoline, and made bubbles by the boatful. They were soapy, soaked, sugared-out, and happy for 5 straight hours.

That’s the way birthdays should be. I remember crying at a few of my own kid-birthday parties, about stupid things, but mostly it was about expectations. Amaya played it cool, all the way through, and just wanted to have fun.

For this month’s Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 (click to see all the other fun, creative events held on Saturday, June 25th) the glorious editors at Foodbuzz chose to support Amaya’s 5th birthday party. For our theme we went with Pop!sicles, Pop! (soda for you urban folks), and Pop!ping Bubbles.

If you know me, you know throwing a party is not my thing. That’s the kind of talent that’s similar to craftiness. I love to cook but cooking for a party throws me off. I just want to hide out until she’s 18 and she can throw her own parties. If she wants.

So I took a deep breath and dove into party planning. I thought about parties I’ve been to and I put those experiences to good use when I was planning my party. I’d like to share those thoughts with you here.

Invite Electronically

Amaya's birthday partyI used Facebook to invite everyone to the party. I sent invites to the parents and it was easier than easy to monitor who was coming or not because of the quick “attending” button. I called those that didn’t respond to make sure that they saw the invitation. This saved me tons of hassle. Maybe it’s not classy, but hey, is this about invitations or a party?

Focus on Food Made with Love

I went looking around for some of my favorite products, especially ones that would not be run of the mill for most people. One of the reasons to have a party is to entertain the guests, and why not give them something to remember?

For this reason I chose OnoPops and Waialua Soda Works. These are both local companies that I have loved and I knew they would be a hit at our party. Both companies feature local ingredients. One really amazing thing about supporting local companies is that you get a better connection with the people behind the product. It doesn’t feel like a clinical transaction. I went by OnoPops kitchen and got a quick peek at his progress on the first lychee pops of the season and felt confident by my interchanges with both OnoPops and Waialua Soda Works that I was supporting real people doing something that they love. I feel the same way about Farmer’s Markets. It’s hard to feel anything when you’re walking down the aisles of a supermarket.

295th birthday305th birthdayMy favorite part about OnoPops is their outrageously creative flavors. The guys behind the operation, Joe and Josh, have made a very smart product and I hope to try every one of their many, many flavors. They currently sell OnoPops at local farmer’s markets, Whole Foods Kahala, and several other stores that sell organic and local products.

315th birthdayI took the stranger route and started with an Ume Thai Basil.

With the first few licks I wasn’t sure, but pretty soon I couldn’t get enough of it. The salty plum taste was so well-conceptualized as an icy dessert.

Later I had a Gingatanical green and I was breathing fire by the end of the pop, but I loved it anyway. It felt energizing and refreshing. Everyone else thought I was crazy.

325th birthdayThere were sweeter flavors for everyone (even a few no-sugar added ones), and strong favorites were the Mexican Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Chinese Five Spice OnoPops. I could eat about a million of those Chinese Five Spice treats. It was definitely a departure from normal party fare and part of the fun was trying out a new flavor, once the kids saw that “Cherry” and “Grape” were not options today. We all had multiple popsicles and passed around our favorites. Yum.


Just thinking about these popsicles made me want to make a cool popsicle. This week I made a li hing mui mango popsicle. Mangos are a classic li hing mui accompaniment and the pair make a modern island-traditional snack.

  • 1 Cup water
  • 1 Cup mangos
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp li hing mui
  1. Blend all the ingredients together and freeze in popsicle molds. Note, it is very thick. I had to siphon mine into the mold.

Seen here in its natural element.95th birthday

195th birthdayFrom Waialua Soda, Karen and Jason Campbell have created a light tasting soda featuring uniquely Hawaiian flavors. I like that this pop has sharp, fresh bubbles, and isn’t syrupy sweet. Waialua Soda uses glass bottles, which is a naturally attractive choice for a party, so there’s no need for plastic cups! Everyone went in for 2nds and 3rds because we wanted to try all the flavors. You can find Waialua Soda at Cost Plus World Market locations nationwide as well as at many local businesses. 245th birthday255th birthday285th birthday

Simple Appetizers Only (and perfect for hands-on eating)

I didn’t want to have food that wouldn’t taste good (or be safe) after sitting around at room temperature for hours. In Hawaii it’s pretty much a no-no to not serve a meal, but I scheduled the party from 2-4 (although most people stayed until 7, which made me feel like a success!). I didn’t feel comfortable giving out food that wouldn’t taste good after it cooled down, so I picked things that would stay good the whole party. Also, I had time to make the food without running around like a crazy person for three days straight (I only did that for two days). 205th birthday215th birthday

For the rest of our spread I made from scratch hummus, cupcakes, homemade salsa and served with tortilla chips, fruit, and vegetable sticks (all seen here in my husband’s hand-made, wheel-thrown, beautiful bowls. Lucky, aren’t I?).

Oh, and cake pops.

115th birthday

Yes, people, I made cake pops. I’m the girl that lacks craftiness, and cake pops are the ultimate crafty food. I know, mine are not that pretty, but we all ate them. Because these ones actually tasted GOOD. Cake pops are notorious for having just a one-size-fits-all sweet flavor. These ones were guava flavored, and the cake flavor stayed true through every bite. I originally wanted to make a mango flavored cake pop, but the mango flavor just didn’t come through and I kicked that recipe out the door.265th birthday345th birthday

P.S. We are all good parents. Cake pops are for special, only. Plus we did cut the limit of cake pops to 5 or less. Ha ha.

Guava Cake Pop Instructions (makes 40-45 pops)

(click the links to print the recipes and instructions, without pictures)

1. First I baked a guava cake from Kaui Philpotts’ book, Hawaiian Country Tables. With this recipe you’ll make about 40-45 cake pops. It helps SO much for your brain if you don’t have a baby grabbing onto your leg every two seconds. Maybe you will remember to make sure your camera is not on JPEG because you won’t get any good pictures of the cake making and next three steps, otherwise.IMG_5777

2. Then I let it cool completely. COMPLETELY. There are a lot of points during this construction that I have an urge to ignore warnings (which is exactly why I will never be a seamstress), but don’t ignore this.

3. While it is cooling, make a guava syrup from 1 Cup of guava puree and 1/4 Cup sugar. Heat the puree and the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Let it simmer, stirring constantly, until it reduces to about 1/3 of a cup of sauce.

4. When the cake is completely cooled, cut off the edges and the bottom of the cake (if crusty at all) and discard those hard edges. IMG_5773


Crumble the rest of the cake into little itty bitty crumbs in a large bowl. 15th birthday


Ignore all that crap you just got on the floor. Your kitchen is about to get a lot messier.IMG_5781

5. Mix in a cup of cream cheese frosting and the guava syrup into the cake crumbs. 45th birthday55th birthdayStir it all together with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated. Try to make a test ball out of about 2 Tbsp of cake crumbs. If the ball falls apart easily, add more cream cheese frosting (a Tablespoon or two at a time) and try again. Too much or too little frosting can make or break your cake pops. 65th birthday

6. Make cake balls out of the cake crumbs by rolling together a couple of tablespoons of crumbs, making sure they are firm with no cracks. Put the cake balls in the fridge until you are ready to make and (soon) serve your cake pops. 75th birthday

7. Pull out the cake balls from the fridge. Put desired sprinkles in a bowl. IMG_5789

In a bowl that has high sides and isn’t too wide, melt 2 Cups of white chocolate candy pieces in the microwave for 1 minute, 20 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds and removing the bowl when the chocolate is completely melted. (when this runs out, melt about a cup more of white chocolate for the rest of the pops and repeat as necessary).IMG_5788 

Using at least 6” lollipop sticks, dip the end of the stick into the white chocolate (about 1/2”) and then push that end about halfway into a cake ball. IMG_5791IMG_5792

8. Dip this newly formed ball on a stick into the melted white chocolate, putting the pop straight down. IMG_5793IMG_5794Hopefully this action will cover the whole cake pop in one go, up to the bottom of the stick. DO NOT TURN the cake pop. Use a spoon, if necessary to drape the rest of the cake pop in the chocolate by spooning the chocolate over the part of the cake pop that is exposed, without turning and tiling the cake pop. Lift the pop out, straight up, and then hold it over the bowl on its side and tap your arm gently to remove the excess chocolate. Don’t tap the pop on the side of the bowl—just your arm.IMG_5797IMG_5798 9. Sprinkle as desired while the chocolate is still wet. (note, dipping the pop into the sprinkles does not work and only results in a bunch of chocolate being put into your sprinkles). IMG_5799Push the pop straight down into a piece of Styrofoam so it will dry easily. I found that if I sliced a small x into the Styrofoam with a sharp paring knife that it was easiest to push the stick through it. IMG_5790Let it dry completely (takes a minute or two) and serve. Will keep at room temperature for several hours. Can be stored in the freezer but not the fridge. IMG_5807

Even though these were tasty, once I started getting the idea, I had to make the most perfect cupcake ever. (Oh, was I talking about a diet during the last post? Puhleeeze. I am so cheating today.)

135th birthdayOrangette’s chocolate cupcake (A Homemade Life has become one of my very favorite books, and I have adopted her recipes as my new favorite foods.)

Baked's Matt Lewis’ caramel (as a filling) from his caramel apple cake. Jake made this cake for me for Mother’s Day and we’ve been dipping into this amazingly rich and buttery caramel ever since.

and The Pioneer Woman’s best frosting ever.275th birthday

Are you drooling yet? Did I just put the most perfect three recipes together for the first time ever?

I just blew your mind. I know. I cored out the middle of the cupcake and then put a heaping teaspoon of caramel in the middle.

Fun Activities without Directions

165th birthdayKids play fun games at birthday parties, but I already knew that wasn’t my style. I didn’t see much reason to corral everyone into a game that not everyone wanted to play. Instead I put out bubbles (homemade: 4 gallons of distilled water and 8 Cups of dawn dish soap—regular, not antibacterial, mixed the night before for proper development of prime bubble making) with spatulas, cookie cutter shapes, and yarn and straw wands. I made a big bucket and left it out for the kids to play whenever they felt like it. Pretty soon they discovered that their own hands were just as good as any of the wands. 155th birthday(click here for where I got the bubble idea). Y’know what’s great about bubbles? No directions needed. Other good activities like that are sidewalk chalk, sidewalk paint, and a big area to play in. Check, check, check. The kids went back and forth through all of these activities when they felt like it, eating popsicles and salsa in between, and the adults could enjoy hanging out together without worrying about keeping their kids in check.175th birthday

Make it Special for Everyone

It was Amaya’s birthday, but the great thing was that it was a party for everyone. I didn’t want there to be too much emphasis on her alone, as that’s where jealousy or embarrassment can get mixed in. I asked guests to not bring gifts (and the few that were brought, not wrapped, were given on the side) and we never did sing Happy Birthday or have any sort of “look at me” formal agenda. Gifts are really fun, and I know she’ll get a few, but I didn’t want anyone to feel pressure about buying anything and it helped that we didn’t introduce any rivalries with the whole “watch me while I open my new cool presents” thing. I know my daughter, and she sometimes gets focused on the wrong things in big group situations. Do what feels comfortable for you. I know that Amaya did not feel deprived in any way. We’ll see how she feels when she’s turning 6. 235th birthday

Amaya has friends of all ages and sizes. She really lets you know she adores you. I have a hard time believing she’s my kid. She transcends age-differences and wants to have real conversations with everyone about their day, the last movie they saw, what they like to eat, whatever. And she does it with flair. Today was special for her because she got to eat as many cake pops as she wanted and played nonstop with her friends. 355th birthday

She loved every second of it.



Anonymous said...

Looks like a very tasty birthday was had!

Katie Lewis said...

What an awesome birthday party! It sounds like it was super yummy. And super fun.

Kurk said...

Wow. Wish we could have been there! Send lots of pics.

Stephanie said...

Such a brilliant party! We loved being a part of it so thank you for inviting us! I am excited for Tuesday as well where we will both excitedly interrupt each other many many times I hope. Also, I am still dreaming about those, oh my mouth is watering before I can even type it, caramel cupcakes.... enter all manner of Homer Simpson noises in here. More please?

jalna said...

For one who claims she has "no birthday party planning skillz" you did a fantastic job!

Damaris @Kitchen Corners said...

Mariko this is beautiful, every single piece of it is beautiful. I'm so sad that you didn't come visit me this week but I can see why and this party is fantastic.

I'm already converted to the idea of not having presents, now I want to do the no singing thing too I love that it's a party for everyone.

I don't love soda but recently I've been loving Izze's which is less sugary and oh so pretty. I bet I would love the sodas you bought for sure, lilikoi flavored soda = yum.

Next time I come to Hawaii I want to try some of those popsicles.

I loved the picture of Jake, the picture of Mozely in the middle of your recipe, the picture of Stephanie, I loved Amaya with Mikey and her beautiful happy face.

I really wish I could have been there it seems like it was a wonderful gathering. I love Amaya so much, she is such a neat person.

Good job! I want you to throw me a birthday party!

Unknown said...

It was super fun! Thanks for inviting us! Now I'm kinda bummed we left early! The food was awesome! We have to hang out again!

Kirsten said...

I love everything about this party. Very strong theme, nice job!

Mariko said...

Yummy Chunklet: It was! I didn't even eat breakfast or lunch or dinner. I just ate these snacks for an extended period of time, which probably wasn't the best idea, but y'know...

Katie: thank you!

Kurk: I didn't take any pics of Moze. What was I thinking?

Stephanie: I'm glad you came. We'll def have to make those again.

Jalna: I certainly set low expectations. :) It helps.

Da: You are too kind. I was secretly wishing the whole week that I'd given up the party and come to visit instead. Believe me.
Mostly I think the no singing thing works when all the dessert stuff is free reign the whole time. No fanfare about the end, y'know?
this soda reminds me of Izze's. That's why I like it.

imallheart: We can do an extended party another time. :)

Kirsten: I am excited to see how your party goes, myself. Want to blog about it as a guest post? Ha. No, seriously. If I don't get to go I want every nitty gritty detail.

sophia said...

Oh what a fun idea, Mariko!!! Now I want you to adopt throw the best kiddie (yet great for us "grown-ups" too) parties...I wish I lived close by so I can help out. Or just crash it. Hee hee.

justJENN said...

Hey I have Waialua soda in my fridge right now! YUM!

Looks like a great party!

liko said...

how did we miss this?!? for some reason i was thinking it wasn't this past saturday! oh no!!! my kids will never forgive me! it looks like a blast!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMAYA!! super bummed we didn't make it. malik is sick, though, but still they would've LOVED it!!
everything looks so yummy, mariko, go you miss party planner!!

Mariko said...

Sophia: You can crash any time. The food is free, but the plane ticket might cost ya.

Just Jenn: Yay! It's a necessary fridge item, right?

Liko: Dang! Maybe I wasn't very clear. I don't know why the dang facebook invite wasn't working when I was trying to tag you. We'll have to have them over for something fun another day.

A Little Yumminess said...

How fun! We love Ono pops...tried them when we were in Hawaii

Tony said...

looks like a great party and a perfect fit for amaya. everything looks delicious. i love that you were able to make it a party for all of amaya's friends, not just the 5 year old ones.


rt said...

As a new mom, I am especially interested in this post. I'm curious how many OnoPops you ordered per person and if you stuck to more conventional flavors. (I'm thinking of doing this for my daughter's first birthday next year, but not sure if we can afford it... and about the flavors, I also like the Ume Thai Basil, but I figure that may not be a crowd pleaser...)

I also was interested to hear about the no presents rule. I have been thinking about this too and I like hearing your confidence in doing what you feel works for your child.

liko said...

oh, and that frosting you used for those caramel cupcakes is my staple. i love it! gonna have to try the cake pops and the caramel cupcakes, i was drooling reading this entire post, thank you!!

Mariko said...

A Little Yuminess: What was your favorite? I haven't tried them all yet...

Sienna: Thanks. I think a party of five year olds could be good. It would be a small party. :)

Robyn: I got almost every flavor they carry, although I only got one or two of the weird flavors. The ones I have left over are mostly the weird ones. I got multiples of the popular flavors and the most of the chocolate ones, which of course were gone quickly. I invited about 30 so I ordered twice that many, but then only 22 came, so we had way more than enough, which was good. A couple of people weren't eating sugar but the rest of us ate multiple pops. It was nice to feel like there was plenty to go around. It was more than I have ever previously spent on a party, but I think it was worth it. If you order over a certain amount they drop the price per pop as well.

Liko: I know, that frosting is soooo good. And I am not a frosting person.

rt said...

thanks for the tips! i'm sure you know how big first birthdays in hawai'i can be. i need to seriously think about this!

PinayinTexas said...

It looks like a truly fun party for Amaya! Great job! Congrats on 24x24!

Ellie said...

I'm glad the pop birthday party was a success!
I saw the OnoPops before but I never had the courage to try one. I want to try the Ume Thai Basil (since I'm an ume lover).
The cake pops looks and sounds good!

EA-The Spicy RD said...

Hi! What a fun blog you have, and what a fun party! I've never made cake pops before and yours look beautiful :-) Did you make those mango popsicles with a Zoku popsicle maker??? They look delicious too!

Anonymous said...

Wow! What an impressive spread and all so thoughtfully done. I loved the idea of the fruit puree in the cake pops!

Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama} said...

I think your cake pops are pretty. :-)

Anonymous said...

I want to try that soda, any chance they ship internationally? I LOVE The idea behind the umeboshi ice pop too, what cool fusion!

Joyti said...

It sounds like an absolutely perfect party. And guava cake pops - cute AND delicious!

Nippon Nin said...

Happy early Birthday Amaya! Glad to see your happy face. I wish we could be there. Good post!

Ai, Honolulu Eats said...

Hi Mariko,
Sigh... I just have to comment on how beautiful your blog is. The photos, the writing, your family. Do you take all the photos yourself?

Mariko said...

Yikes. I'm behind on my comments. I apologize for my awful blogging communication lately.

EA: Yes! The Zoku is my fav.

Elle: I wouldn't be surprised if they did! They just started selling nation wide, so why not?

Ai: I do. Sometimes my husband steps in a bit. Thank you for your compliments. I get some informal tutorials from more professional types (friends) on picture taking. I definitely need to work on it some more, though!

Nippon Nin: We missed you guys. :(

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