That is what I say anyway! I have been having a great time this month celebrating fall fun with my girlfriends. Our neighborhood something-for-nothing club got together for a boo breakfast at my house where the theme was trick-or-treat. We played all kinds of fun games (Draw a Jack-o-lantern.. blindfolded! Find the missing item in the picture - you can download these from many online sites. Word scramble games.) My pal Bonnie provided the prizes: a bunch of girl goodies she'd scrounged from various sources. That blue bottle was a popular item and Annette and Sheila had a leg wrestling contest to see who got it. I have bigger thighs. Why did she win?!!!
As you can see by the picture, it took all our strength. Good thing we had pumpkin scones and shrimp deviled eggs to recharge our batteries!
Oh, so many parties, so little time. The boo breakfast was last week and this week, I got together with my Game Girls for a Halloween lunch. Costumes were over the top - we had everything from pirates to witch doctors. I'm costume challenged. I donned kitty ears and a collar and came as a cat... in honor of Ambrose, hero of my new release, THE NINE LIVES OF CHRISTMAS. Jill Barnett was our hostess and she made the world's best cupcakes... just like the Hostess chocolate cupcakes of our youth... only a million times better, with a filling made of whipped cream and marscapone cheese. Yum! I brought pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Are our cupcakes gorgeous or what?! You know, as moms we can get so busy making sure our children have fun we forget about ourselves. (Well, some of us. Obviously, I never do!) But here's a bit of Dr. Sheila advice: there's nothing wrong with taking a little time to laugh and enjoy life. Show your kids you can have fun at any age. Make memories with your friends while you can. Our time here is short and it goes fast, so do those girl things now while you're all together! I hope you all get a chance to do just that this month.
If it's fall in the Pacific Northwest it must be time for the annual apple party at the home of our friends Kathy and Tom. This is always so much fun - our hosts always gather a great mix of people, both old and young (four generations present at his party). We spend the afternoon putting what feels like a million apples through a hand-made apple press and making cider, and then we eat. And eat. And eat. Kathy has the Martha Stewart gene (as you can see by the pictures) and makes everything beautiful. We set up a regular assembly line with some people washing apples and others of us line up along on an old picnic table cutting the apples into quarters and putting them into bowls to be passed on to the guys running the apple press. Rain or shine, we gather - but it's much nicer when the weather cooperates as it did yesterday. There's a fire to gather around for those taking a break and a local musician friend serenades us. The Great Gatsby had nothing on Tom and Kathy, let me tell you. Every year we leave with homemade cider for the freezer and a host of lovely memories.
Part of the apple press assembly line
You may be thinking, well, darn, wish I had an apple press and a Tom and Kathy in my life. Everyone should have a Tom and Kathy in their life, but let me tell you, you don't need an apple press to celebrate the joys of the season. Host an apple party in your a back yard (or loft if you live in the city) and have all your friends bring their favorite apple dish. A fire in the fire pit or the fireplace, some good friends, some hot apple cider and you're good to go. Fall is a time of changing colors and bountiful harvests. Let's celebrate!
Yes, I know. Doesn't that sound appetizing? Believe me, it's not!
I'm sure there are many things in life that are more gross than finding bugs in your soup, but right now that's at the top of my list.
When my pal Jill and I went to the ocean for a writing retreat I promised her homemade chicken soup. I make a mean chicken soup and this one was going to be extra fabulous as I was adding organic brown rice. Thinking to be both health and savings conscious I had purchased a big bag at my local warehouse store. It came in this really cool burlap bag, which I figured I could re-use later for ... something. And inside that bag the rice was sealed up in plastic. So, with the utmost trust, I took out a cupful and dumped it into the pot. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Have to get this soup done and cooled before we leave.
Our first night there was a perfect soup night. We had a storm complete with waves crashing on the jetty, putting on a real show. I flipped on the fake fireplace. Then I whipped out my homemade rolls and heated the soup and served it.
And, what a shock. There was a teeny weenie little bug floating in my soup. Eeew. Okay, one bug. Pick it out and eat. Don't be a sissy.
Hmmm. Another spoonful of soup produced another bug. And, what was this? Another? Careful inspection showed that my soup had quite a few bits of bug protein floating in it. EEEW!!!
Needless to say, little Sheila didn't finish her soup. I had to toss the whole batch. And, as we sat playing food detective, there was really only one logical conclusion to come to: it had to be the rice.
Sure enough, I got home and checked my big bag of imported bargain rice and there were the bugs. EEEW! And one of them was still alive. Double EEEW! Needless to say, the rice got returned and I don't think I'm taking another chance on imported organic rice from India ever again. I don't care how cool the bag is. There is a lot to be said for buying American.
So, here is our number one cooking lesson for the day:Check your ingredients carefully before dumping them willie-nillie into a pot (especially when you've just brought them home from the store). I've been cooking long enough to know that. I've definitely re-learned my lesson!
... toss the whole batch. That's what my pal Doreen and I concluded after testing a recipe for white chocolate truffles. Oh, the flavoring was fabulous! (I'm not telling you what it was because right now it is top secret.) But the texture? A disaster. This is the second time I've tried to make these white chocolate truffles. The first attempt failed but I salvaged it and it turned into the white chocolate fudge recipe that you find in my book ANGEL LANE.
Since next summer's book is going to include chocolate recipes I thought maybe I'd try again and see if I could master the art of white chocolate truffles. Maybe I could get in touch with my inner Julia Child this time and actually make a ganache that turned out.
So I drafted Doreen, a seasoned candy cook and we tried again. The darned recipe baffled both of us! And, as you can see by the pictures below, once again, disaster struck. Only this time worse than ever. We followed the recipe to the letter, used the best white chocolate for the ganache and allowed it two hours to set in the fridge (Something the original recipe neglected to mention.) All to no avail. Part of the ganache gave us hope, but as we worked out way down the bowl it became quickly evident that this wasn't going to work. The white chocolate chips I thought would be perfect for our coating never quite worked out either.
Well, waste not want not, we thought, and decided to once again turn the failed ganache into fudge and then top it with a nice, white chocolate layer. Even my husband, who eats everything, wouldn't touch it.
So it's back to the drawing board.Doreen is determined to get to the bottom of this failed recipe mystery. While she's doing her culinary sleuthing, I'll be testing more chocolate candy recipes. Some I've scrounged, others have been sent by some of you. We'll try 'em all. Wish me luck. Obviously, I need it!
Here's my pal Doreen, queen of the kitchen.