Partying Mad Men Style While Building An Epilepsy Aware World

mad men cocktail partySo,the next party on the agenda is going to have a mad men theme.  If you aren’t familiar with the show Mad Men, it’s about life in the 1960s.  The style, glamor and tone just beg for a party.  This time, my husband and I are using the party as mainly an excuse to get friends together.

But we are trying something new as well.  We want to raise awareness about the Epilepsy Foundation of Northern California.  Epilepsy affects one percent of the population.  While sometimes epilepsy can be the result of a head trauma, most of the time the cause is unknown.  Sometimes I wonder if difficult pregnancies, like preclampsia, can cause it.  There are different types of epileptic seizures from the stereotypical grand mal seizures to something as simple as extended staring spells.

Children with epilepsy are subject to a variety of treatments from extreme diet regimens to medications.  These medications can have horrendous side effects like uncontrollable rage.  You may be thinking, ya ya, terrible twos.  No.  Much worse.  It completely alters the personality.   Anything or nothing can trigger the tantrum and it can go on for extended periods of time.  I’m talking about tantrums that draw crowds.

Other medications lack the behavioral side effects but risk things like kidney stones. Not something that would be fun for a lil one.

The good news is that there are numerous studies being done to try to figure out more and find a cure.  The Epilepsy Phenome Genome Project is collecting information to learn more about epilepsy’s causes and effective treatments.  The Human Epilepsy Project is doing an observational study to see if there are any predictors of whether medications will work or which ones for a particular person.  And, lastly there is the Epilepsy Foundation.  With a local presence, this foundation does everything from funding research to connecting parents of children with epilepsy.

With such a worthy cause, I’ve been so inspired to throw the ultimate 60s party.  Recently I’ve been having a bit of fun on Pinterest collecting ideas.  Bored or curious?  Take a peek here.  The challenge is transforming my traditional farmhouse into a mid-century modern cocktail lounge.   Let’s just say the ideas are flowing.  I’ve also recruited local friends to help – from a fabulously talented graphic designer to a new friend with an amazing collection of 1960s goodies, people are coming out of the woodwork to help the cause.  Another friend found a recipe for avocado green deviled eggs. Want to help? Shoot me an email.  Want to contribute to the cause? Click here

Thank you for reading.  Thanks you friends for helping.  And thank you community for pitching in.  I’m so inspired.  It’s experiences like this that redefine the sense of community and demonstrate that by working together anything is possible.  For now, transporting a traditional home to the 60s, for later a world that is more epilepsy aware (and hopefully one day epilepsy free).

Rainy Day Cooking: Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

2014-01-29 13.22.45What better way to spend a rainy day than making cookies?  In my opinion, none.  So, that’s how my boys and I spent part of our morning.  Want to try them?  The recipe is below.  Before I jump into the recipe, what do you think about the plate in the photo?  I stumbled across this beautiful find at a local thrift store in Sonoma.  Although exceptionally beautiful, it had two small flaws.  A couple of small chips, hence the price.  So, i tried filling them with epoxy at least so they wouldn’t spread. I still need to figure out how to paint the chips. 

In any event, as a fan of all things vintage, especially old china I had to learn about this pattern.  Would you know it was by the same folks who did flow blue?  Furnivals a company dating back to the 18th century.  Amazing they could make this in the days of horse and buggy transportation.  The crazing on this piece is exceptional as is the painted pattern.  This plate is now the oldest thing in my house.   And, undoubtedly will remain chipped, but I love it anyway.  

Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1 cup butter (my salute to Julia Child).  If you don’t want to use all butter you can use shortening or try to increase the applesauce as a substitute.
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 4.6 ounce package of chocolate instant pudding.  I used a Belgium chocolate pudding from Trader Joes
  • 1 tablespoon Vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 2 1/4 cup flour (oatmeal flour is amazing in this recipe)
  • 12 ounces of dark chocolate.  I use 72% dark chocolate from Trader Joes.  Chop it up.

Preheat oven to 375.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats

Beat butter and sugars in mixing bowl until fluffy.  About 4 minutes

Add eggs one at a time.  Will look curdled, but don’t worry.  Add pudding, vanilla, baking soda, cinnamon, applesauce, nutmeg, salt.  Mix.  Add oats.  Mix.  Then mix in flour. 

Shape cookies.  An ice cream scooper is really helpful here.  Bake until the cookies look dryish and soft.  About 13 to 14 minutes. Let them cool on sheet for a minute or two.  Then on a cooling rack.  Display on your favorite plate.  Enjoy with your favorite folks, and share with new friends.  Happy baking!

 

 

Bringing Back the CheeseBall

There are some things from days of past that I just adore.  Vintage shoes, china, kids clothes and the art of entertaining.  I’ve started selling some of my favorite vintage things on Ebay which is a total digression from this post which is about entertaining.  From parties to food, there are some sweet ideas from days of past that deserve to be brought back.  For example, a Sip & See to introduce a new baby, the teacup bridal shower, and vintage hors doeuvres like the deviled egg.   There is another hors doeuvre warranting attention. Something easy, affordable and flavorful.  The Cheeseball! Even typing it makes me giddy.IMG_4874

The Cheeseball has been a party staple since the 1920s.  According to Better Homes & Gardens “they’re only getting better with age.”  I’d have to agree.

At my last party, a Rio themed birthday party (details here), I wanted to reintroduce this time honored dish to my circle of friends.  With images of the traditional cheeseball from the supermarket, you know the one the nut covered Velveeta cheese concoction, I was dying to flavor it up with quality ingredients.  My Google Search resulted in images that were brown, ugly, and with the word Kraft, which just wasn’t what I was going for.  After a little digging, I found Martha Stewart’s version which was a  nice start.  Her beautifully styled pictures gave me inspiration – a cheeseball didn’t have to be brown.  It could be green or red and served with complimentary colored crackers.  For example, beet chips make the brown cheeseball look more appealing.  Then, a photo of a pumpkin themed cheeseball from the Food Network really blew my mind.  So, I’ll be doing that around Halloween this year.

From Martha Stewart’s post, I learned that the base was cream cheese, salt & lemon.  To that you can add what you like. I wanted to make two, one sweet and another savory.  For savory, I added mushrooms sauteed in butter, Marsala wine, Gruyere cheese and roasted garlic.  When that was too bland, I added a half cup of blue cheese.  For sweet, I went on a berry and orange theme.  So I added a fig & cranberry compote and shredded sharp cheddar.

My basic recipe this is more than enough for a crowd of 60

  • 32 ounces cream cheese
  • juice of one lemon
  • 4 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 5 dashes hot sauce
  • salt & pepper to taste

Split into as many portions as you want balls. I decided on two.  For the mushroom I added 2 cups of chopped mushrooms sauteed in butter, a tablespoon of bacon fat; 2 tbsp Marsala wine; 1 tbsp roasted garlic, 1/2 cup blue cheese, 1 cup Gruyere.  For the cranberry, I added about 1/4 cup of fig & cranberry compote & 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese.  Next time, I think that I’ll add some roasted figs. I might even get really daring and add some prosciutto.  Form the final product into a ball – wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Here’s the trick.  To let the flavors marry let them sit overnight in the fridge.

Then it is all about presentation.  For the mushroom ball, I decided to roll it in scallions and parsley.  The textures of which gave it a really pretty effect, sort of like a moss ball you’d see in an English garden.  To compliment the green color and salty flavor, I served it with salty yet classic Ritz crackers.  I served it on a shiny pewter platter, but next time I’ll use a rustic cutting board.  For the cranberry ball, I took another approach. I rolled it in cranberries.  When I didn’t have enough (oops), I chopped up some dried cherries to finish it off.  The deep dark red of the cherries mixed with the lighter red of the cranberries to provide a beautiful depth.  To add elements of sweet and orange, I served it with Anna’s Orange Swedish Cookies.  I served it on a vintage cake stand made from green glass from the Depression era (which began my love affair with vintage glassware).  The great thing was that the cranberry orange cheeseball also went with the Ritz crackers, so folks could make it more salty of they preferred.

Here’s how the berry one turned out –IMG_4872

My thoughts are that the cheeseball is a fabulously easy dish to offer at your next gathering.  It’s almost too easy!  So, yes – it’s time to bring back the CheeseBall.  And sorry friends, you’ll be seeing this time and time again.  Next time at the MadMen themed cocktail party to raise awareness about the Epilepsy Foundation.