Happy Halloween tablescape

For the last half dozen years, and now that our children are long gone, 8 of us have been getting together on Halloween night to share a dinner. I decided when my turn came around, since we may or may not get trick-or-treaters on Halloween night, but just in case we did, to have the party the night before. I have very few Halloween decorations to set out so mostly I rely on pumpkins and black napkins to set my Halloween theme. Add a gigantic web and a few spiders and I was spooky enough for any goblin. Dinner was gluten free, which it almost always is at my house. One of the other guests was gluten free as well so she was very happy to be able to enjoy the entire menu. This is a very rare thing for those who are gf and she was delighted. We gathered at the fireplace where I served cheese toasts and wine (I use Udi's frozen French Baguettes and no one ever guesses they are gluten free. See the recipe for cheese toasts below.) We then sat at the table for tomato soup with pesto sprinkled with pine nuts. The entree was individual chicken pot pie that I topped with this most amazing pie crust, The Easiest Pie Crust, Ever from the Apt. 2B cooking blog. The writer uses regular all purpose flour but had tried it also with gf flour and it turned out great, so that was enough recommendation for me. It was entirely easy and was perfectly flakey, tender, and delicious and is now my new go-to pastry. I do have one tip when working with gf flours as I find there is little, if any, elasticity in a gf dough: I added 1 Tbsp. of water during processing and worked the dough well with my hands to get the crumbles worked into balls. I did not refrigerate, but instead rolled the dough out immediately. The reason for letting the dough rest in the fridge is to strengthen the gluten, a step gf flour doesn't need. Also a cold dough is easier to roll, which is true for a wheat flours, however with gf flours I have often have difficulty with cold doughs. Anyone out there bake with gf flours and have any tips? Also, what brand gf flour do you like? I find some taste too beany and some are too gritty. I've landed on King Arthur's Measure for Measure All-Purpose Blend as my favorite, and I've tried many. I've also tried a few of King Arthur's gluten free mixes and think they have done a great job with gf. In a future post I'll share some of my favorite gf mixes--you'll be surprised how much gluten free products have improved.

Cheese Toasts

Slice a baguette into 1/3" slices. Make topping: Mix 1/4 C grated parmesan, 1 C gruyere, and 1/2 C sharp cheddar.  Add 1/2 tsp black pepper and 1/4 tsp dry mustard and a dash or two of paprika. Mix with enough mayonnaise to moisten and make a spreadable mixture. Spread one heaping tablespoon mixture on each bread slice, sprinkle with more pepper and paprika. Bake in a hot oven (400 F) until bubbly and slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Serve hot. You can substitute almost any cheese you have on hand, but I always try to use some parmesan.

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baby tricorn hat

One can't help but giggle at this funny little jester hat. The pattern is Del's Triple Corner Hat available in three baby sizes and is offered as a free download from Jessie McNaughton. I'm so happy that the kids love Carter in knitted hats just as much as I do. He looks so dang cute we just giggle our way though the photo shoots. He'll only spare us a few minutes so we have to be quick! I knit this using less than one skein of my favorite Rowan Softyak DK in color Terrain. The hat is knit from the bottom up starting with the earflaps, then it's knitted straight up until it's time to bind off for the corners. I loved the ingenious way the designer made the corners--so easy and so effective!

the links:

Del's Triple Corner Hat, free pattern from Jessie McNaughton
Rowan Softyak DK, soft and machine washable
My Ravelry project page with all the details

Readers have asked what is under those hats--any hair? Not really, there is just a cute little bald head! This morning his papa read a Golden Book to him and then he showed off by standing.

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I was able to get some nice pictures of the Octoberfest we attended last night. Doesn't it look beautiful? It was! Our hostess is one of the all time greats. Not only does she have a charming and artistic style, she makes everything look completely easy and makes every guest think that they are the one person she wanted to see most. With that kind of pleasant, party point of view, you know the get-together will be a hit! It was!

The party setting can only be described as beautiful. The drinks table was set up under a pergola near the bocce court where the men will usually get a few casual games going. Appetizers were passed and we spent a lovely hour or so chatting and snacking before being invited to the back garden where a long table was set with pumpkins and lights and gold chargers. Everything looked so very pretty. The menu was a variety of grilled German sausages, red cabbage, sauerkraut, potato salad, and green salad. The evening sky was clear and star-filled and in the end a bit chilly--but no matter, we had all brought sweaters and shawls. After dinner we snuggled up next to the roaring fire pit for our homemade apple strudel dessert! 

I offered to bring an appetizer, and after I offered, I struggled with what to bring. What could be made ahead, would travel easily, and be easily assembled upon arrival? Bruschettas with Sauteed Chard by Ina Garten fit the bill perfectly and is delicious. I shortened her recipe (with no compromise on flavor) by omitting the boiling step: after I removed the center rib I sliced the chard into thin ribbons and sauteed them quickly with olive oil and garlic. This is one of my husband's favorite appetizers and was a hit at the party. They disappeared. Highly recommended for a completely do-ahead appetizer and requires only a quick last minute assembly.

Assemble the bruschettas just before serving. I sprinkled them with toasted pine nuts and grated parmesan cheese.
Make sure you also pour over the juices from the cooked chard. Don't waste a bit of the flavor!

I made a few for my husband's lunch the day of the party, so he could, "test them for me."

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mr. fox

Good morning to you! I've finished the first of my Christmas gifts, the free and animal friendly fox scarf pattern from Gina Michelle. My 17 year old granddaughter thought it was cute and wanted one. Happy to oblige. I'm also making her a Big Wool hooded coat that is coming along very well. I've just finished a little baby dress and matching coat for a dear friend's first granddaughter. I used a lovely new-to-me yarn and I can't wait to share. The designer has very kindly offered to give my readers a discount on her gorgeous portfolio of patterns so stay tuned for that upcoming post. There's a sneaky peek of it above. I picked pink roses this morning--California is like that in October! 

Fox Scarf, free pattern from Gina Michelle
Mr. Fox Ravelry project page with all the details

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Hats you could just eat up!

This little charmer is 3 months old today!

These three patterns, the apple hat, the red pullover, and the pumpkin hat are all free and easy. They were made for and are modeled by my dear grandson who is 3 months old today. As you can see I'm having a fun time knitting for this cute little guy. He is a sweet and smiley little boy and not terribly fussy unless he's hungry or tired. He likes to spend time with his grammy and papa and we just adore having him here. As you can imagine, we LAVISH attention on him, which is the grandparent's right! Agree? Thank you all for your sweet comments here and on my Facebook Page. The whole family reads them and we treasure your kind words.

The sweater pattern is from Tin Can knits and is generously sized from newborn up to 4XL making it a great sweater pattern to have on hand for the entire family. The pattern calls for worsted weight yarn and I used my favorite cotton, Rowan Handknit Cotton. For both the hat and the sweater I used exactly 3 skeins and had maybe 1 yd. left. You will also need a yard or two of green and brown for the stem and leaf.

The pumpkin hat was knit with less than one skein of worsted weight Rowan Softknit Cotton and a smidge of pale green Rowan Handknit Cotton. There are loads of cute examples on Ravelry with knitters making berry, pumpkin, and apple hats, etc. with this versatile pattern. I have a reader who knits these fruit and veggie hats and passes them out to strangers in her small town, then has fun spotting them around town all fall and winter! Don't you love that?

The Links:

Lil' Apple Hat, free pattern from Iryna Boehland
Flax sweater pattern, free from Tin Can Knits
Baby Berry Hat, free pattern from Michele Sabatier
Rowan Handknit Cotton, 100% machine washable cotton

Here are a few more hats you might like:

The Pumpkin Hat, free pattern from Jill Albert Allen
Kurbus Baby Hat, free pattern from Natalja
Sweet Pumpkin, free pattern from Drops
Pumpkin Hat, free pattern from Sarah Hood
Punkin Head, free pattern from Tara Thomsen
Sweet Strawberry, free pattern from Drops

My Ravelry project pages have more knitting info: the apple hat, the sweater, the pumpkin hat.

An early morning walk around the neighborhood with the dog means that Carter needs to wear one of his hats to keep him warm. He's got a collection  of four hats to choose from now (so think I am done knitting hats for a while). The kids say that people smile and make comments on his hats! Seriously, not a cuter sight than a baby in a hat!

We are staying in today and having a tandem cooking day. My husband is going to make chili and I'm going to make beef stroganoff and we'll make extra for the freezer. I've also got a Christmas craft in mind if I have time, and then there's always knitting of course! I've also finished some sweaters for me that I hope to blog about soon--all with simply gorgeous yarn.

Hope your are having a good week and thank you for popping by. To make a comment, please click here. xo Kristen

Better be careful baby! You look so cute, daddy may have to take a bite out of you!