2009 Homeschool Halloween Party

Melissa with one of the "Pick Your Nose" cups
photography Amy Albertson

Melissa as a Medieval Tavern Girl
photography Amy Albertson

Katherine as Marilyn Monroe
photography Amy Albertson

I look like I'm dancing but I was really just lighting the fire for the S'mores
photography Julianne Fishel

Recipe Testers,

Before I write about our Halloween party, I want to tell you a little more about the Gourmet magazine's that arrived from Ojai on Wednesday. In my life I have ups and downs like everyone else: I get traffic tickets, my kids get sick, my car needs something fixed. All the little hiccups and things we all have to deal with. I deal with the ups and downs of life on a whole but mostly I'm grateful for the little things: that I live in a house with heat and a washing machine, grateful for flowers as I frequently mention, grateful for kind friends, grateful we enjoy family movie night, etc. In this life of gratitude I've also been very lucky to have some very extraordinary things happen to me. Some are "coincidences" I realize, but I do seem to have a lot of those lucky "coincidences." So here is a small one. It may be no big deal to all of you, but to me if means a lot.

It was already extraordinary that through the recipe testing e-mail list Sally Hoover gave me her late-husband, Lamar Hoover's, collection of Gourmet magazines. Mr. Hoover was the managing editor of Gourmet in the 1960's. Because of Sally's magnanimous gesture, I felt that in turn I should donate the issues that Robert Jones was missing from his nearly complete collection. Robert was only missing 1963, 1964 and 1979. So I felt I should give him the 1963 and 1964 copies. Robert openly shares his library of vintage recipes, magazines and cookbooks with anyone interested that I felt this would be a place with the most access to them. (Robert has a blog of vintage handwritten recipes and vintage cookbooks he has scanned in for those of you interested: http://recipeblitz.blogspot.com/ ) I was a little sad to part with the few issues of this recent gift, but I figured I could read through them before I gave them to Robert and copy or scan any recipes I needed.

The treasure boxes of Gourmet magazines arrived via Kit on Wednesday. I couldn't go through them because of our Halloween party. So on the day after our Halloween party I laid them all out on the bed and started sorting them by year because they were all mixed up. So here is the most AMAZING COINCIDENCE! As I'm sorting through the magazines I notice there are a few duplicate issues. "Oh good, a duplicate from 1964, now both Robert and I will have a copy!" "Oh, another one." "three, this is too good to be true!"

Until finally I laid them all out and there are duplicates of the entire year of 1964 and quite a few from 1963! What are the odds!! REALLY! I know I get excited about things and I know people often say when you give with an open heart that the chain of love and giving goes on and on, but this was so direct and immediate. Clearly, I couldn't be happier. (And this collection is only from the 1960's, so I'm still looking for anyone else who happens across some old Gourmet's, like the one Rosemary Musial's found from her neighbor in Ohio! I'm still very interested in completing Robert's collection and mine. I did get some from 1947 on ebay for only $6)

One last note before I move on to Halloween. The old Gourmet magazines have hard alcohol ads on almost every page. And it was so funny that after reading through them that I felt like I needed a drink! I'll have to scan in some of the old ads and share them with you. Talk about the power of advertising!

Now, on to Halloween. This is our 3rd annual Homeschool Halloween Party. The adults have as much fun as the kids. It is a very relaxed and casual party when you compare it to my catering work. And I am the one who abhors paper plates and always uses the real thing, even for larger parties. But for 70 kids and adults, this is the one time of year I break down and use paper. This is a party without staff and the cleanup is super easy with paper plates. This year we had "Pick Your Nose" glasses and that also added an element of fun to the night. Also, it was the first time in my life that I've ever run out of the main course. I made two giant pots of chile (restaurant size pots folks!) and they were completely empty. There was still other food to munch on, but still I couldn't believe it. I think we may have had more than 70. I think I'll get a count before next year and certainly make more.

Here is my Halloween Menu. Most of the recipes are on the blog and you can click on them in the right column of the blog. (I've also recently added a picture of the Panch Puran, the key ingredient in the vegetarian chile so all of you could see it. You put the spices in whole. Also, I now add red pepper flakes to vegetarian chile to make it a little spicier. And I'm working on my ultimate beef chile recipe. That one always seems to be in development, but I'm getting closer to perfection each year. I'm on this huge kick of making beans in the crock-pot so I made the pinquinto beans for the chili in the crockpot. Separate e-mail with directions on that soon!)

Halloween Party Menu for kids and adults:

Hors d'oeuvres
Platter of Cheese, fruit, dried fruit, nuts and crackers
Orange Cheese Puffs from Trader Joe's (because Melissa loves them and their orange color looks good in the black cauldron container we have)
Edamame Beans in the pod
Olives (Lucques and Greek)
Chips and Homemade Salsa (and sour cream and salsa mixed together)
Carrot and Celery Sticks with Buttermilk Herb Dip

Main Course
Classic Beef Chili
Vegetarian Chili
Steamed Rice (we follow the Hawaiian style of serving chile over rice or you could do it Cinncinatti style and serve it over spaghetti or macaroni)
Garnish for chili: Sour Cream and Cheddar Cheese

Homemade S'mores (which is also a fun activity)
Halloween Pumpkin cookies (kids decorating their own cookies, another activity)
Bopping for Apples
Halloween Candy

Homemade Lemonade from Monica's Citrus Ranch (does anyone need a recipe for real lemonade?)
Hot Apple Cider (recipe coming)
Beer and Wine

The other activity is painting the giant halloween sign on my garage door. We cover the garage door with butcher paper. At the first halloween party I thought the sign had to be done BEFORE the guests arrived and Ashley and famly came to help me. The second year, Hannah, came to help and made a brilliant sign. This year we didn't do it until the guests arrived. And it was a blast for everyone because all the kids got to paint a different part of it. So that became it's own activity.

When I was making this enormous decision to homeschool Melissa, I felt like I was making the best decision for my daughter but there were so many unknowns. I never imagined that not only that she would thrive more than ever, but that the other homeschool Mom's would become some of my best friends. It has been such a double-bonus. And miss Katherine, who is back in public school and loving it, says she's 60/40. 60 percent public schooled and 40 percent homeschooled. So she gets the best of both worlds. In the future I'll try to share some of my favorite parts of homeschooling because many of you, whether you homeschool or not, can still make the best parts a part of your lives too.

I'm going to make a sincere effort to get as many Thanksgiving recipes up as soon as possible. I'm also going to start getting the recipes from the wedding last week into a home kitchen form. You are all going to flip over "Gina's salad" which is warm figs and sauteed grapes over caramelized onion with goat cheese and arugula and marcona almonds. If you've never sauteed grapes before you are in for a huge treat! The whole salad may be one of the best things I've ever made. And even if you can't get figs in your area at Thanksgiving, you will be able to get grapes and all of the other ingredients.

And remember that November is the month for Giving Thanks! I'm giving thanks for my vintage Gourmet magazines and many other things!


Anonymous said…
The chili was delicious and hearty! I made a similar one for our Halloween night, so we would have a hot dinner waiting for us. I cooked it on the stove, but loaded it into the crockpot to keep hot & bubbly. Best chili ever. I added the paunch peran to it and the with that addition, the mint garnish added a truly wonderful and fresh taste to our steaming bowls. My family took notice of the "something different" in my chili. I usually make pretty tasty chili, but to my Indian food-loving family, the spices stood out.

Thank for you for a very fun party! My kids had the best time.

Homeschooling has been a huge blessing to us on many levels...one being the great friends we have acquired...you & your family in particular!

Amy Albertson

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