Fortunately, orange and black are two of the more nutritious food groups

Mom's group Halloween party time! Get ready to hold all the orange and black foods I can come up with, table!

Theeeeeeeeemes. Unoriginal theeeeeeeeeeeeemes.

I also threw in some caramel apple sticky buns and lo, they were beautiful.

Not everybody went for these, but those who did are now forever under their spell.

Anna took this opportunity to practice her "I think you should give me a cupcake" face.

(She's dressed as a cat burglar.)


She was just going to burgle one anyway.

Ivy was a little tough to nail down.

Oh there she is--partying it up with BFF Scarlett, of course.

Save some fun for the rest of us, girls!

If you ever attend a party at our house just know that you are safe from evil and excess cupcakes because Anna is watching.

Always watching.

My brother was in town for a couple of days, so we swing by Lucy's Fried Chicken for lunch.

As you do.

Nathaniel, having bold youngest-sibling tendencies, decided that ridiculous fried chicken wasn't enough and ordered a plate of deep-fried deviled eggs.

He'll show you ridiculous.

Ivy, being a youngest child herself, was completely in favor. Actually, she wants to make sure you see what's going on here.



Other options include Ladies Godiva, some type of protestors

It's not unusual for a week bookended by party-hosting gigs to have a meal plan along the lines of "it seems like there's probably enough food in the house," and this week definitely fell into that category.  Here are my extremely helpful strategies in such a situation.

1. Put everything in a bowl. Add liquid. Look, you made soup! Bonus points one of the ingredients you have on hand is a huge jar of roast beef. Extra bonus points if you actually have several of these on hand, and also shoot me an email because I think you are probably my sibling. Minus two points if you feel compelled to throw, like, a quarter cup of quinoa in at the end. Weirdo.

2. Put root vegetables in a bowl. Add an egg. Look, you made hash! Oh. You made beet hash. Well, at least write yourself a note for your bathroom so you avoid unnecessary panic in about twelve hours.

3. Put everything in a tortilla. Look, you made tacos! Add scrambled eggs. Look, you made breakfast tacos! Welcome to Austin.

One of my children seems to be attempting to potty-train herself and the other one of my children is four years old, the result of which is zero pictures of either of them that include clothing at the moment. Let's see if extreme close-ups can give us any new insight into the girls?

Ivy: slightly feral, covered in food.

Anna: barely tolerant of me.

Nope! All is in order. Apologies in advance to people attending tomorrow's Halloween party, in case this clothing situation remains unresolved. ("They're dressed as the Invisible Man. Use your imagination.")


The bags under my eyes are part of the costume

It had been a while since I'd made Regan drive out to the suburbs for somewhat uncomfortable/deeply uncool/costume-required/occasionally near-Lynchian entertainments, and since that is essentially the basis of our friendship, I snapped into action: Mardi-Gras-themed murder mystery dinner party. The beauty of this plan was that I got to co opt her hometown and force her to use her toll tag. (The flip side of our relationship is that she hosts elegant brunches and invites me to them. Perfectly symbiotic.)

Anyway, as per my general policy on these matters, I did not photograph other people's lovely costumes, but know that Emily was a super hot French maid, Regan was a highly coordinated yet ambiguously-gendered chef with knuckle tats, and Kay had the most purple fedora I have ever seen. Imagine away! Here are pictures of the food I made:

Stuffed mushrooms. Healthy-ish, so as to dampen the spirit of the party a bit. There was a murder, after all.

Risotto jambalaya from Louisiana's Cooking Secrets. It took about two hours at the stove and I still got one "I thought you were making jambalaya, not risotto," so that was definitely worth it.

Praline fudge. Um. I found that every time I looked directly at the praline fudge it became impossible to complete any task beyond eating the praline fudge. No one complained about this one.

My character was a lawyer, so I just wore my regular lawyer clothes.

I'm pretty sure this is exactly what my parents had in mind when they bought me that briefcase ten years ago.

Ivy was the charismatic globetrotter.

With a mysterious blind sheep companion.

SPOILER ALERT Ivy was the murderer. Kind of obvious in retrospect.

Hey, according to my watch it's about pumpkin-patch-thirty, am I right? Listen, I have to be honest, we struggled with some things this year.



Caring about small furry mammals:

But at least we made it home with some pumpkins. I think. There might be pumpkins in the trunk of the car. You know what, I'm at least 90% certain that we came back with two children and 72% certain that they are our children. YAY ALL DONE WITH PUMPKIN PATCH!


Liquid Lunch Week

I know there are still a couple of months remaining, but I'm guessing today's post will take the Most Misleading Title of 2013 award, whenever they give those things out. February? It used to be March, but everything got moved back for some reason. First off, I didn't use any of the following recipes to actually replace meals. More like they replaced my afternoon handful of chocolate chips. Or even more like they accompanied my afternoon handful of chocolate chips. Second, I can't think of an image further removed from a table full of empty martini glasses in a dark, smoky restaurant than me standing in my kitchen in yoga pants and a sweatshirt measuring out "five raw almonds" into my blender.

So why did I decide to make every smoothie on my Pinterest board this week? Good question. When it was posed by my husband, my response was to shrug and make that "I don't know" noise that only consists of the letter m. My guess is that I was feeling run down and subconsciously wanted an influx of easily-digestible vitamins and/or to stop expending so much energy chewing. What I discovered is that when a smoothie recipe claims anything beyond "this tastes exactly like you would think this combination of ingredients would taste," it is lying.

1. Velvety Butternut Cinnamon Date Smoothie For Two. Dubious recipe claim: this is "downright dreamy." Way I screwed it up: I used canned pumpkin instead of roasting a butternut squash because I really really dislike dealing with butternut squash NO REGRETS. Reality: this is like drinking not-very-sweet pumpkin pie filling. It's not bad, but it is certainly...squash.

This was the gourdiest of the contestants.

2. Harley Pasternak's Breakfast Smoothie. Dubious recipe claim: "It's almost like having apple pie in a glass." Way I screwed it up: brought some negative energy to the proceedings because five raw almonds. Reality: this tasted the most like what I think of when I think of smoothies. Which is nothing like apple pie.

Still good, though. Fruit, dairy. Infuriatingly tiny hint of almond.

3. Carrot Cake Smoothie. Dubious recipe claim: proximity of the word "cake" to this concoction. Way I screwed it up: I own a regular, non-mortgage-payment-costing blender. Reality: using a regular, non-mortgage-payment-costing blender results in a substance that is distressingly chewy.

Seriously, it was like some misguidedly thoughtful roommate pre-chewed a bunch of carrots and then put them back in the fridge. Which is actually a little bit heartwarming? I would probably make it again.

4. A Seriously Delicious "Green" Smoothie. Dubious recipe claim: "You'd never know that there's a salad's worth of spinach in the recipe." Way I screwed it up: actually, I think I followed these directions! It happens. Reality: spinach is 100% the first thing I tasted. But the raspberries and orange were close behind and my sad pedestrian blender got a nice texture out of these ingredients.

This is probably the best overwhelmingly spinach-tasting drink I've had.

5. Pink Power Detox Smoothie. Dubious recipe claim: "surprisingly delicious." Way I screwed it up: used non-virgin coconut oil. Reality: whoa boy this is a drink that has beets, avocado, and celery in it. Yes indeed. I think the bright pink color itself is misleading, but really she sells it pretty straight, throwing the word "detox" right in the title as a warning, so it's not like you don't know what you're getting into.


6. Coffee Banana Smoothie (pictured below, bottom left). Dubious recipe claim: "get your meal and your caffeine all in a single glass." Way I screwed it up: used cold-brewed coffee instead of espresso. Reality: for some reason this didn't taste like I thought it should. Not banana-y enough? Wrong kind of coffee? I imagined this was an ideal world and there was peanut butter in it when in fact there is not? In any case, if this constitutes an entire meal for you, you are a far daintier eater than I am. Here are five raw almonds to tide you over until lunch.

7. Virgin Bloody Mary (pictured above, bottom right, note that the absence of vodka is making the celery slump over sadly). Dubious reason for including it on this list: can be consumed through a straw. Reality: this is neither a smoothie nor a cocktail, despite being my entry for Cookbook #94: The Little Black Book of Cocktails (Virginia Reynolds and Kerren Barbas, 2003). Provenance: Christmas present from friends. Previous recipes on this blog: none. Reason for wasting my cocktail recipe book in this egregious manner: I'm off the sauce for a while. The celery knows. The celery gets me.

Verdict: this was probably my favorite of all the drinks this week because I like my fluid nutrition to be salty. Recommended for: people who want a reference on the basics, people who aren't sure what to do with their Sambuca, people who like for their scotch over ice to have a name because they are fancy (Scotch Mist).

With Ivy's two-year check-up fast approaching, I'm trying to make note of any milestones they may ask about. Today I got to check off "Can clearly express feelings of exasperation regarding sibling's television selection."

It seems like Anna had nailed down exasperation by 18 months, but I don't think it's productive to compare them like that.


History Week Part Four: The Big Guns

Okay, enough fooling around everyone, it's time to get back to work. The winds are blowing, the days are shortening, and everyone is feeling a bit haunted by their own personal stack of unattended cookbooks. Right? That seems pretty universal. That's why characters in horror movies are always having anxiety dreams about recipes they can't finish. It speaks to all of us. I figure Cookbook #93 should prove appropriately hefty and serious for this dreary October day: Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Julia Child with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, 1961). Provenance: Mom. Previous recipes on this blog: none. Reason for putting it off until the very end: oh, I don't know, you guys. Guess it's just so obscure. Such an original and unprecedented project to tackle. Boldly going where no blogger has gone before I'M NOT EVEN GOING TO JOKE-LINK YOU KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT MERYL STREEP IS INVOLVED FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS BUTTERY.

Sigh. Anyway, here we go, into the abyss! I would like to begin by registering a complaint.

Why is the Soups chapter--the first and arguably (by me) most important of all the chapters--the only one that doesn't have each recipe broken out in the Table of Contents? Why do I know exactly what page to turn to for Brown Sauces or Clafoutis or Scrambled Eggs or (of course) Brains but soups are just lumped together in one big uncelebrated pot? What's the big idea? Why is this book so well-respected? Why did I just realize mid-rant that it isn't organized by recipe but rather by general technique and therefore it does kind of make sense? 

Okay, I realize it's possible that I woke up on the mildly troublesome side of the bed this morning. I am applying a traditional balm of caffeine and simple carbohydrates to the irritated area. Fingers crossed, here we go! Soupe aux Choux (Cabbage Soup), from the murky and mysterious depths of the Soups section:

I almost always like recipes that use "peasant" as a descriptor. Or "rustic." I also hate shirts with collars and wearing shoes. Hmm. At any rate, this was a very satisfying bowl of soup. Or, rather, a very satisfying 18 bowls of soup. It was a big pot of soup.

Oh, I know what will make me feel better! Gâteau à l'Orange et aux Amends (Orange and Almond Spongecake)! I feel strongly enough about this recipe that I'm linking to someone else who had the energy to transcribe it!

The absence of embellishment on this cake makes it seem like a reasonable thing to have on a weekday morning night. Also, it is delicious. For real. I forgive you for the Table of Contents thing, book.

I also made this very impressive-looking Poulet Rôti:

I realize there's nothing actually impressive about roasting a chicken, unless you count the trussing. Fortunately, we have the internet to mock show us what to do! Watch out though, I found my chicken to be about thirty times more slippery than the chicken in the video. Only explanation.

Verdict: not sure my two cents are required regarding one of the most famous cookbooks in the western world. It's good! There are recipes in it! Recommended for: "the servantless American cook," it says so right there on the front page.

As previously noted, we took the girls camping last weekend so that they could explore new and exotic types of dirt.

Also not sure I conveyed the genuine plotting involved in Ivy's first grand theft Gator attempt.

Fine, we gave up trying to talk her down. It's actually in our garage right now. Good luck finding anything in there, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department!