Archive for October, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Bryan and I made these creepy cupcakes for Ava’s preschool class. Ava approved of all but the black licorice legs—she said, “Mom, these taste like trash.” Olivia, on the other hand, said, “More.”


Cupcakes 2

We’ve had a busy few days which culminated with a Halloween party at Bryan’s company yesterday afternoon and a party for 25 of my coworkers at our house last night. We were up into the wee hours of the morning Thursday night and last night, but the kids let us sleep in until 8:30 this morning—a Halloween miracle.

Today, we’re heading downtown for trick-or-treating, then hosting friends back at our house for dinner. More photo—including Tinkerbell and a bumble bee—coming soon!

A tale of three recipes

Last week, I planned to make this slow cooker recipe for Coq Au Vin. My friend Chuck made it just as it was intended, with an actual, live rooster. Well, strike the “live” part, but he used a rooster from his own farm—Roger, to be exact—not the pre-disassembled chicken I picked up at the Hy-Vee meat counter.

The bad news is that I forget to start it both Thursday morning AND Friday morning. The good news is that I was left with the ingredients for Coq Au Vin and an entire day to make it the traditional way come Saturday.

I set out intending to use Martha Stewart’s recipe, mostly because it’s gorgeous.


But, I compared it to Julia Child’s recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and in that recipe, I get to start booze on fire. Needless to say I ditched Martha and dug out the Aim ‘n Flame.

First, though, I had to saute the onions, garlic and mushrooms in the pan drippings from a few strips of bacon.


Then, remove the vegetables and add a bit more butter…Hellllooooo, Julia.


And toss in the chicken and bacon.


In goes the cognac, up go the flames.


Once the fire’s out, add a bottle of red wine and simmer for a long, long time.


The result is pink—and incredibly tender—chicken.


The recipe asks that you mix butter and flour into a paste, and add it to the wine mixture.


I think you are just supposed to trust that it will incorporate, but it certainly doesn’t look promising at the outset.


If you put down the camera and focus on whisking, it all works out in the end.


At this point, everything can go back into the sauce. Julia invites you to “film” the top by dropping small pieces of butter, should you decide not to dive right in. The recipe holds “indefinitely” in this state.


It wasn’t necessary at our house…we made short work of the finished dish, which we served with quinoa—at Martha’s suggestion.


A sunny spot

I found Dagny lounging in the only sunny spot in the house Sunday afternoon.


She didn’t appreciate being disturbed.



Olivia, too



Ava Fix




Chicken Pot Pie

I made Martha Stewart’s Chicken Pot Pie recipe for friends last week. It’s one of my absolute favorite fall dishes, mostly because it’s rich, time-intensive and includes crust, all good things this time of year.

The night before I served it, I made the filling. The process starts by boiling chicken with onions, peppercorns and bay leaves. The recipe calls for thyme in both the base and the crust, but our grocery store didn’t have any in stock. I used rosemary instead.


In another pot, I sauteed potatoes and pearl onions in butter before adding mushrooms, leeks and carrots. The first time I made this recipe, I spent about 2 hour peeling little pearl onions. I later found them pre-peeled in freezer section—completely worth the $3 price tag.


Toss in chopped parsley and lemon zest…


And stir in flour, stock and milk to make it thick and creamy.


I refrigerated this overnight, then mixed up the amazing (and relatively easy) crust the day I served it. I forgot to snap a photo of the finished product, so here’s Martha’s gorgeous shot. Just trust that mine looked almost like this.


Cat on the hat


The truth about cats and dogs

Bryan and I attended an early Halloween party last night…in costume.


Delicious details

I thought I’d share a few more photos and recipes from the party preparations for Karyl’s 60th. We served a huge assortment of appetizers, thanks mostly to Bryan’s brother Jason. He made Italian chicken, meatballs and lahvosh, and Debbie contributed two fabulous dips as well.

For the main course, we slow roasted pork in apple cider and served it with pears in brandy cream sauce, which we adapted from this recipe. Laura whipped up the Smith family favorite, cream cheese potatoes, and also made this gorgeous salad with apples, goat cheese and walnuts. She was responsible for an amazing butternut squash pasta dish, too.



Debbie made a huge assortment of deserts, including toffee bars, almond tulles, candied pecans and white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.


She also made an amazing plum tart that had an almost cookie-like crust. We served pumpkin cheesecake with pecan praline as well.


Laura brought set up a candy bar that proved very popular with kids (of all ages…).


I know I mentioned this before, but I had such a wonderful time working with Laura, Jessica and Debbie–I can’t wait for another opportunity to do it again!

Then how will they hear me?

An article in the New York Times claims “for some parents, shouting is the new spanking.”

I distinctly remember being in Target shortly after Ava was born. She was sound asleep in her carseat in the shopping basket, perfectly still and angelic, and I was completely, helplessly, impossibly in love.

As I shopped, I saw another mom snarl and scream at her adorable toddler.  I was shocked.

Four and a half years later, it’s not so shocking. Toddlers are…frustrating.

For that parents that don’t yell, how do you do it?

I bet I know. Vodka is your new water.