Friday, October 31, 2014

A Very Happy Halloween to You...


     Our Halloween party was this weekend.  It was a whirlwind of ladybugs, robots, spiders, and werewolves all wrapped up in a tidy 1950's-era package.  It was also pouring down rain, and pitch dark so I don't have a lot of pictures of our scavenger hunt in progress, I'm afraid.  I have lots of shots like this:


Yeah...

So I'll tell you what we did and show you pictures of what it looked like sans kids...  We held a 1950's style Halloween party including some reproduction decorations.




We carried the theme into the menu by trying to replicate a TV dinner in a more desirable way.  We served homemade meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and steamed peas and carrots mixed with mint.  There was also a jell-o salad style dish because 50's and a 7-Up Cake.  Our starter for the kids was Vienna Sausage size organic hot dog chunks.  We also had meatballs, gluten-free cookies, and the vegetarians main was beans and franks.  We washed it all down with punch and martinis!



This was an agar agar Jell-o salad stand in.  It was interesting.  I especially liked the salad dressing.


Minted Peas and Carrots
1 lb bag carrots, peeled and sliced
1 bag frozen peas
2 Tbs mint
salt and pepper to taste

Steam the carrots until almost done.  Add the peas and continue steaming until warmed through.  Toss with salt, pepper, and mint.  Serve immediately.

Punch
1 Bottle Sparkling Apple cider
1/2 Gallon orange juice
1/2 Gallon Earthwise Wild Berry Guava Lemonade
12 scoops Raspberry Sorbet

Add all drinks to a large punch bowl and top with sorbet.  It doesn't look like much, but it tastes great and there is no HFCS or artificial flavors!  It also happens to taste great with vodka, so if you happen to make your martini a little too strong, dollop a little punch in there and you'll be a happy haunter!




One of our lovely hostesses, Danika.

 Our cowboy, David, who handed out the scavenger hunt sheets, sock hopping it up with a robot and a ladybug.  You just don't see that kind of thing every day.  For music, I found several, mostly 50's era songs including: Wooly Bully, Lil' Red Riding Hood, The Twilight Zone theme song, Bo Meets the Monster, Halloween Spooks (featuring Lambert, Hendricks and Ross), I Put a Spell on You, Witch Doctor, Punky Punkin, Morgus the Magnificent, The Purple People Eater, and of course, Monster Mash all downloadable on Amazon from about $.90 to $1.50.  Some of these songs are crazy weird.  Just sayin'.

 Our homage to 1950's cowboy flicks, the kids had to break out of jail by sliding down the slide.  The sheriff gave them a handy map to the rest of the scavenger hunt.  Apparently he was in on the whole thing...

First stop, Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

 Next up, apples on strings.  At every station, the kids got stickers to prove they completed the mission.

 
 Because it was raining and I was busy appleing out in it, I don't have one picture of our witch, Lauren, who many kids said was their very favorite part of the hunt, and was also one of our hosts.  She had a bubbling cauldron full of dry ice and a bowl full of "eyeballs" for the kids to scrounge through to help her find her jewels (skull rings which the kids got to keep).  So here's a picture of her hut, which you may remember as the troll house from our fairy party a few years ago.

 Can't really have a 1950's party without a hula hoop, can you?  No.  No you can't.

 
An iconic game with a 1950's twist.  Tossing mini Frisbees into the pumpkin's mouth turns a bean bag toss into game using an iconic vintage toy.


Note to self: Yellow Frisbees are hard to find in a leaf pile...

Spooky ghosts in the rain...

 Fortunately revealed in the daylight to be balloons with flashing lights inside zip-tied to dowels.

 Our fortune teller (and co-host), Tori, before she braved the weather to read our guest's fortunes.

  It was wet business...

 EEK!  A GHOST!  Matt was the scariest ghost in a sheet the world has ever seen.  Three-year-olds the world over were terrified.  The kids were rewarded with Trader Joe's candies when they returned with their scavenger hunt sheets filled out.


 Twin housewives, Bekah and myself.  At the end of the party.  With fallen hair and rubbed-off make-up.  Drinking.  I also discovered something about my costume.  All it takes is a hair change to turn perky, perfect wife-lady into:

The Lunch Lady.

Hoagies and grinders, baby.

Friday, September 19, 2014

S'more S'mores, Please!

I've got two boys.

I've got two boys who like campfires.

I've got two boys who like campfires in the Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter.

I've got two boys who like campfires in the Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter, because campfires mean S'mores.

All...


Kinds...


Of...


S'mores...



Let's count the ways, shall we?  Number 1, cookies and marshmallow.  You may remember my post from last year featuring these bad boys:


Or, 2, why not try it with Everybody's Mom's Chocolate Chip Cookies?  No need for an extra chocolate slice!

 

3) My eldest came home with the next idea from Scout Camp.  And let me say:  It's genius.  Put your S'mores toppings into an ice cream cone, wrap it in foil, and put it in the fire!  I added walnuts 'cuz yum.


4) A few of you may recall my facebook post encouraging Peep hoarding this Spring.


The number one thing I learned from facebook this year is that people hate Peeps, ya'll. This next picture is for those people:


Trust me on this, our neighbors taught us that Peeps over flame turn into a completely different thing.  It's like crème brûlée.  Then you smash it between graham crackers and chocolate.  This picture is for those of you who love Peeps.  And also for those of you who hate them, 'cuz they're pretty mutilated.

And, yes, they stay fresh this long.  Preservatives ftw.

If you'd like to skip the preservatives, I've got something for you... 

Number 5: Homemade S'mores

This one uses another technique we've learned from friends, chocolate frosting instead of chocolate bars.  No waiting for it to melt.  Just slathering and eating.  Our friends used store-bought frosting.  Not my thing, so homemade frosting it is.  Before you ask, I did try multiple times to make homemade vegan marshmallows.  They did not happen.  They were delicious, but they were gloopy and completely campfire incompatible.  I have not given up, but this post had to go up someday so for the time being, these are store bought 'shmallows.


Homemade Graham Crackers

America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book  p. 177

1 3/4 C Graham flour (or whole wheat flour)
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
8 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
5 Tbs water
2 Tbs light molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 375°.  Process the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a food processor until combined, about 3 seconds.  Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 15 seconds.  Add the water, molasses, and vanilla and process until the dough comes together, about 20 seconds.  Divide the dough into 2 even pieces.  Roll each piece of dough out between 2 pieces of parchment paper to a 16X8-inch rectangle, 1/8 inch thick.  Remove the top pieces of parchment and trim each piece of dough into a tidy 15X7 1/2-inch rectangle with a knife, and then score each into eighteen 2 1/2-inch squares.  Prick each square several times with a fork.  Slide each piece of dough and parchment onto separate baking sheets.  Bake the cookies until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking.  Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheets, then break them apart along the scored lines and serve.

Notes:
I dusted some of mine with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.
These freeze really well.

Frosting
1 C Powdered Sugar
1 stick Butter
2 Tbs Cocoa Powder
1 Tbs cream

Beat the butter a little, then slowly add the sugar and cocoa powder.  If it's a little dry, mix in the cream.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Simple Summer Party...

Mason jars with decorative lids for parties
      So early this Summer I asked one of my favorite vendors at the Lake Forest Park Farmer's Market to do me a favor.  My gal, Tracy, at Social Ice Cream makes the best ice cream in the entire world.  Problem is, a solid portion of my friends can't eat sugar, dairy, soy, gluten, food colorings, flavorings, like basically anything.  But I knew Tracy could handle it. What did I need two gallons of sugar-dairy-soy-gluten-everything-free ice cream for?  You already know, don't you, you smart thing you!

A blue and yellow Summer party
My oldest's Cub Scout manual lists plan a party and make an obstacle course for your friends as two things you can get badges for and we're all about the badges around here.  We need all the stinkin' badges.  Fittingly, he chose blue and yellow as the colors.

blue and yellow Summer party decor
He helped with all the set up, too!

Marigolds lend a little sweetness to the table and they're bug repellant!  
 These little marigolds were just the right color and had a light citronella scent that, I think, helped keep the bugs a way.  So did the little fans you see in the background.

A flag pick from a party store makes an easy drink label.
I found a thing on Pinterest about making little flags to mark drinks.  Good ol' party store came through with these puppies.

Flag pick drink lables for parties.

My oldest also had a say in the menu so we planned hamburgers and hot dogs and left the rest up to the generosity of our guests! 

party food
My neighbor supplied us with this gorgeous caprese salad appetizer. 

a mixture of cherry tomatoes from my garden
My garden has been generously pumping out cherry tomatoes like nobody's business this year.

infused vodka
My honey making friend also dabbles in flavored vodka.  Holy man.

homemade bread and local honey
And she brings homemade bread.  Yeah she does!

Hot Mix Pickles Recipe
These homemade hot mix pickles were my offering this year.

Hot Pickle Mix

4 C sliced trimmed pickling cucumbers (1/4 inch slices)
2 C cauliflower florets
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1 C sliced, peeled carrots
1 C peeled pearl or pickling onions
2/3 C pickling or canning salt
8 1/2 C water, divided
3 C sliced seeded hot yellow banana peppers (1 1/2- inch slices)
1 clove garlic
8 1/2 C white vinegar
3/4 C granulated sugar
2 Tbs horseradish
3-9 jalapeno peppers, halved and seeded

In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, combine cucumbers, cauliflower, green and red peppers, carrots, and onions.  In another large glass or stainless steel bowl, dissolve pickling salt in 7 C of the water.  Pour over vegetables.  Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.  Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars, and lids.  In a colander placed over a sink, drain vegetables.  Rinse with cool running water and drain thoroughly.  Add hot yellow peppers and mix well.  In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine garlic, remaining 1 1/2 C water, vinegar, sugar, and horseradish.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 15 minutes, until liquid is infused with garlic flavor.  Discard garlic clove.  Pack vegetables and 1 to 3 jalapeno pepper halves into hot jars to within a generous 1/2 inch of top of jar.  Ladle hot pickling liquid into jar to cover vegetables, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and and adjust headspace if necessary, by adding hot pickling liquid.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.  Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

buffet line

 We bought our burgers from Martiny Livestock at our farmer's market.  People said they were some of the best burgers they ever had!
Beecher's Cheese on Martiny Farms Burgers
Little bit of local cheese to top it off...

guests
A little bit of socializing and then it was finally, finally time for...

Vegan ice cream from Social Ice cream
Ice cream and sorbet!  We had Coconut Vanilla Bean, Peach Raspberry sorbet, and Raspberry Lemon Verbena. All made without soy, without dairy, without white sugar, but made with coconut milk, honey, and fresh local produce.  Because Tracy is a flippin' wizard.

Fun obstacle course for kids

Then it was obstacle course time!  First down the slide, then a search through bubbles for a statuette, and a quick hula hoop for 5 seconds before a dash across the finish line!  Fastest time wins!  It was a quick, fun game and they loved it!

Even this dude and he doesn't like anything...
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