Father's Day starts early this year with six-year-old Daniel deciding to serve breakfast in bed to his dad. Sounds idyllic and yet looks a bit quirky as Daniel shows up with a tray of cereal he's poured himself, an apple cut in half ("I couldn't really do even slices"), the milk sloshing over the sides of the bowl. Oh, and my child is naked.
"Um, Dan?" I ask and elbow my husband to wake up and see the glory of all that's before him. "How come you're not wearing clothes?"
Daniel shrugs, spilling more milk over the sides of the cereal bowl. "Because it's breakfast and bed... and... um..." his honey-colored eyebrows furrow "...well, I was awake and going to get dressed and then I remember that it's Father's Day and well, I just went to the kitchen."
My husband sits up, thanks our second-born and gently prods him to get dressed. Meanwhile, the cereal is soggy, the older brother is annoyed he didn't think of it first ("I could have at least made eggs instead of gross, mushy cereal"), our daughter Julia starts crying because she feels left out of the "party on mummy and daddy's bed" and my one-year-old wants to nurse and feel the sticky remains of his dad's breakfast squish in his fingers. No wonder lots of dads head for the golf course.
It's easy to feel overwhelmed with four kids and work both outside and inside the home. But I remind myself daily that there's a difference between busy and frantic. For my husband, a little extra sleep goes a long way. When he's awake, rather than the clipped green and sand traps, we spend the day playing in the yard, alternating between rounds of which-sibling-can-annoy-the-other-one-more and "we-love-Dad" which involves simply remembering it's Father's Day and suddenly shouting "Happy Father's Day, Daddy!" or "Raise your hand if you love Dad!" Julia runs at her dad full speed ahead, singing as she goes, Will tries to attach himself to his dad's leg, Jamie gets in on the picture by trying to climb on piggy-back style, and Daniel completes the hug-assault by trying to pick his six-feet tall dad up in the air.
We've tried brunches out with marginal success -- Will, the youngest wants only to propel himself from any high chair at the moment and Daniel's patience wears thin waiting for his food order -- so tonight we're celebrating at home, thanking Dad for all that he does: bedtime reading, baseball coaching, ear infection detecting (Dad is a pediatrician), nightmare chasing, chore dictating, bookshelf-fixing, barrette-wearing during "beauty shop", puzzle mastering, football stat knowing, berry picking even though he hates all berries, piano teaching, cold-day swimming, Beethoven-introducing, big hug-giving, recipe-tasting and, religiously, dishwashing. Tonight, I vow that there won't be many dishes. And the ones that pile up in the sink, I will scrub. It's the least I can do, although, come to think of it, I could always serve breakfast in bed, Daniel-style, tomorrow...
A Father's Day Feast
The day culminates in Grilled Sirloin with Tarragon Sauce, Shredded Romaine Salad, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Sweet Potato Fries, and two desserts.
Grilled Sirloin with Tarragon Butter
2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
4 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 lbs. boneless sirloin steak
olive oil for brushing steak
salt and pepper
Prepare your grill (alternately you may use an indoor grill pan on medium-high heat). In a bowl, mix the tarragon into the butter and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Set aside. Season the meat with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper and brush both sides with olive oil. Grill the steak (also oil the rack) for about 5 minutes per side, depending on your preference for medium-rare or darker. Let steaks rest on a cutting board, covered with foil, for ten minutes. When ready to serve, keep whole or slice on the diagonal into strips for kids. Top meat with dollops of the tarragon butter.
Shredded Romaine Salad with Lemony Dressing
1 head romaine lettuce
1/4 cup olive oil
1 freshly squeezed lemon
½ red onion
Feta cheese (optional, but my daughter can't get enough of it)
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash the lettuce, removing leaves from heart. Stack the leaves and slice them thin, into ribbons. Cut the onion into thin arches. Cut the cucumber into ½ inch pieces and toss with the lettuce and onion in a big bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, douse with lemon juice, taste for salt (you will want to add a good sprinkling) and pepper and crumble a bit of feta cheese before serving.
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Sweet Potato Fries
These simple potatoes are tremendous as is or with rosemary. They up the ante on eggs, are suitable as a side to just about anything, and compliment greens with their subtle sweetness.
For the Sweet Potatoes:
1 lb sweet potatoes
About 1/4 cup olive oil
Dusting of cinnamon
Heat your oven to 425 degrees. Wash but do not peel the potatoes. Cut them into pieces that are about ½ inch wide. Place them on a cookie sheet and drizzle with the oil. Using your hands, coat the pieces and arrange them in a single layer. Sprinkle generously with sea salt. Cook for 35 minutes, turning the sheet once in the middle of cooking time.
For the Fingerlings:
¾ pound fingerling potatoes
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Wash and pat dry potatoes. Cut in half - some on the diagonal, some in half. Any small ones can stay whole. Place cut side up on cookie sheet, coat lightly with oil, sprinkle sea salt and rosemary on top. Bake with sweet potatoes for about 30 minutes or until browned and crunchy.
Chocolate Pudding Cake
This cake practically makes itself and reheats easily. You can make this the day before or throw it together for a crowd (or just for Dad).
2 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 ¼ c. sugar
4 Tab. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup milk
4 Tab. melted butter
1 ¾ c. brown sugar
2 c. boiling water
8 Tab. unsweetened cocoa powder
Mix the first seven ingredients and put in a 9 x 13 pan (it will look scant--do not worry). Mix the brown sugar and coco and sprinkle over the top Pour the boiling water on top of the cake batter and put in a 350º oven for 30 minutes. When cake is baked, top will be like a brownie and underneath will be a creamy chocolate pudding. Serve with ice cream.
Upside Down Double-Berry Crunch Pie
This easy-to-make dessert provides a perfect sweet-tart finish to any meal. The sunflower seeds and cornmeal give a great crunch to eat bite. Feel free to play around with the fruit; you might try raspberries or even fresh apricots, but make sure to keep some of the fruit dried so the texture isn't too wet and the tartness not too tart. This isn't a fancy pie, more a country crumble that holds together and tastes refreshing and while it's enjoyable plain, my kids like it best when served with vanilla yogurt or ice cream on top.
½ cup chopped cranberries
½ cup blueberries
1cup dried cranberries (or other dried berry)
½ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 stick butter, melted
2 tbsp applesauce
¾ cup flour
¼ cup cornmeal
1 tsp vanilla
Heat oven to 350. Line the bottom of a 9.5/10-inch pie plate with berries (mix them with your fingers so they're evenly dispersed). Sprinkle with sugars and sunflower seeds. In a bowl, mix eggs, butter, applesauce and add flour and cornmeal, stirring very well to fully incorporate. Once fairly smooth, add vanilla. Pour evenly over pie plate, trying to cover all of the berries. Bake for 35-45 minutes until crust has formed on top and edges are just starting to brown. Cool before slicing into pie wedges and serving (pieces will be slightly disheveled, adding to their country charm).