Category Archives: cooking with kids

Simple Steps for a Spooky Halloween Feast

Simple, Spooky, Halloween Feast It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Pumpkins for roasting, blood cocktails for toasting and headstones aglow in the yard. You can keep your jingle bells and turkey dinners, give me banshees and the undead any day. Halloween is my thing. The Samhain celebration in our house always starts with a ghoulish feast – no goulash involved. Hosting a ghostly get-together can be scary simple. Here are a few of my go-to tips for creating a Spooky Halloween Feast .   

Tip #1: Hit the Dollar Stores

I love to peruse those pop-up Halloween shops and warehouses, but I rarely buy there. For the most part they’re just totally over priced. Many of the things you’ll find there can be reproduced with thrifty finds from the Dollar Store or even a thrift shop. Save your money for the big scares.

Tip #2: Raid the Good China

That silver service Gran left ya – the one that’s been gathering tarnish (or patina, if you’re fancy) will lend a great vintage-creepy vibe to your tablescape. Using mismatch serving dishes, old candle holders and turning a glass bowl upside down to replace a cloche are free and up the freaky factor. Mix and match some of the cool paper goods you can find at Target with your fancy chargers or good china. These are all easy and CHEAP tricks for creating that scary-chic setting.

Tip #3: A Dish by Any Other Name

 Castelvetrano Olives are a salty Sicilian treat found on many a fancy charcuterie plate. Put them in a brass bowl perched atop a pair of claw hands and their nearly-neon hue makes them instant, “Eye of Newt.” Mashed potatoes and meatloaf, peeled grapes, jelly donuts with dripping raspberry jam, sun-dried tomatoes and cheese baked in puff pastry, pomegranate punch with a splash of lime grenadine, all sound simply delish. Yes? Call them Roasted Brains, Stuffed Intestines, Nosferatu Choux  and Blood Bath Bubbly, and you have devilishly deviant deliciousness.  

Tip #4: Raid the Craft and Supply Stores

Pass by the Halloween displays at the craft store, or only shop them if you have that 40% off coupon, but still go. There are some great finds in the floral, fabric, and jewelery-supply sections. Feathers and Spanish Moss, tulle in All Hallows Eve hues, and baubles like vintage-style keys, cameo charms and crystals of all colors lend a chill to the air of your tablescape. Cheap skulls of all shapes, sizes, and colors carry the theme throughout too.

spooky tablescape on the cheapOn-line science and industrial supply stores are a veritable wonderland of macabre just waiting to happen. Beakers, flasks, and test tubes… OH MY! A Boston Round bottle with a handwritten, “poison label” does great double duty as a prop in Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory. I picked up a 12 pack of test tubes for less than five bucks.  Fill them with dipping sauces. and give them grotesque labels and you’ve got a party. 

Here are a couple of simple recipes to take your spine-chillingly Spooky Halloween Feast over the top.

meatloaf brains a tasty halloween meat treat

Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp Trader Joe’s Season-All
2 tbsp onion (minced)
Your Favorite Mashed Potatoes
1/2 cup tomato puree
2 pastry bags

Prep Time:

Cook Time:
Serves: 6

Directions:
Mix meats with garlic, season-all, onion, egg and bread crumbs. Form into 12 balls about the size of your palm. Roll on a parchment covered surface to get an oblong shape. Press two together firmly, six sets in total. Place on a lined baking sheet in a 450 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. In the mean time prepare mashed potatoes. Be sure they are not too loose.

Allow potatoes to cool until cool enough to handle. Fill a pastry bag with potatoes. Pipe onto meatloaf “brains” in a zigzag pattern. Fill second pastry bag with tomato puree. Pipe onto potato layer inside of the grooves, nooks and crannies. 

Note: Barbecue sauce and steak sauce make tasty substitutions for tomato puree. 

Puff Pastry Cheese and Sundried Tomato - Tasty Intestines

Ingredients:
1 package frozen puff pastry sheets (thawed, but kept chilled)
2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
1 package cream cheese (room temperature)
1 tbsp dried Italian herbs
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
3-4 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (oil drained and patted off)
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of water)
 

Prep Time: 15

Cook Time: 15
Serves: 6-8

Directions:
In a medium mixing bowl combine cheeses, herbs and seasonings. Dice tomatoes and add to cheese mixture. Set aside.

Roll out sheet of puff pastry on a loured surface till it is a rough circle approximately 10 inches in diameter. It does not need to be a perfect circle, in fact the less perfect the better.
Spread cheese and tomato mixture 1/2 inch in from one side of the pastry dough. Fold over the edge of the dough until it covers most of the cheese mixture. Working from right to left, roll the dough over itself forming a cigar shaped roll. Coil onto a lined baking sheet in roughly the shape of an intestine (yeah, I know it sounds nasty but it tastes good.) Brush the top with egg wash. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve with a sharp knife for hacking into… YUCKY YUMMY!

Super Bowl Food and a Super Hero Cookoff

I’m not quite fully recovered from my Chargers loss to the Broncos, but I won’t let that keep me from watching the Super Bowl with my family this weekend and reveling in the fact that Tom Brady will be sitting on a sofa somewhere doing the same thing.

Nearly as important to us as the game is the Pool Grid my husband draws up every year (oh wait, is that legal? Doh!) Even more important to them is… THE. FOOD. super bowl party blueprints

I’m not joking here people, this household takes their football food seriously. I have years worth of clipped, handed-down and family favorite recipes. We each get to pick one thing we want to make the roster on game day. Heck, even the six-year-old has been stalking Party Blueprints and their Pinboards for inspiration. I gain 5 pounds just looking at their photos—–>

There is something, or rather someone, missing this year though.

Our Marine.

He won’t be slamming down sliders, taking on the fire-wing challenge or digging into Mom’s Famous Bean Dip. He won’t likely even get to watch the game. For him it will be MRE’s and Infantry.

Ah, but we’ve found a way to be Semper Fidelis with our Marine and all those thousands of service women and men who’ve had to eat an MRE (like me.)

The National Museum of the Marine Corps MRE Cook-Off!

2013-12-06 11.37.22What is an MRE, you ask? It is a military field ration, or “Meal Ready To Eat”. Frankly, they make that mystery meat you ate in Jr. High seem worthy of a culinary award. They serve the function of getting calories into those serving in the field, and don’t really spare much for taste.

Gifted is the cook that can take one of these pouches, the potions and powders within, the Sterno burner it comes with, a little water and not much else and turn it into something tasty. That is the gauntlet taken up by the brave few at the annual Marine Corps MRE Cook-Off. Last year’s winner was Craig Allen of Headquarters Marine Corps, this year the winner will be crowned on February 1, 2014… just in time for the Super Bowl! MRE

We’ll be packing up the “Platoon” and heading down to check out these Super Heroes cook-off and we might just come back with a new game day recipe in solidarity for our Marine and in thanks to all those who have had to suffer through eating an MRE!

Want to check out the competition? Here is more info on the event and visiting museum;

Marine Corps MRE Cook-Off

Location: National Marine Corps Museum 18900 Jefferson Davis Highway in Triangle, VA

Event Date/Time: Saturday February 1, at 12:00-2:00 pm in the Museum’s Leatherneck Gallery (note: if you missed it this year, no worries this is an annual event. Check the museum website for more information)

Admission: FREE (we like free!)

The National Marine Corp Museum is open to the public 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily, both parking and admission are free. For more information visit their website at www.usmcmuseum.org

A Thing of Beauty!

Frank Lloyd Wright once said that “Space is the breath of art”. Of course he was talking about the American Arts and Crafts movement and works of breath taking beauty. Then again don’t they say that; “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” ? Well get ready to BEHOLD beauty that every parent can appreciate.  I give you a work of art courtesy of the Traverse. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My “Canvas” and Raw Materials: One teen, one exhibition in angst that is a tween age girl, two 6 and under rugrats, my muses – Scout by Bungalow shopping bags (you can fit the 4 year old in the big one it’s that big!), one fully stocked cooler (hello hummus!), one folding chair, two very well “loved” stuffies and because life is art and art is music one Raven amplifier and one electric guitar (jam session anyone?)

And now the beauty of amazing cargo space…..

 

 

 

 

 

THIS my Nuggetiers is a THING OF BEAUTY!

The Chevy Girls on the Go campaign is being sponsored by the Baltimore Area Chevy dealers. They are letting me test drive the Traverse for one month and providing me with gift cards for Girls on the Go missions as well as a camera to video tape my adventures. All opinions expressed are my own.

“Skinny” Dipping

Okay put that first thought you had on hold, this post is about food.. come’ on people! Of course if Johnny Depp had returned my calls about MANuary we could have gone in a whole new direction with this one. Alas, it was not to be. So we will rebound with SNACKS! And because we have ALL stuck with our resolutions this year we’ll make those snacks a bit more “skinny” with the help of Frito-Lay and my mad kitchen ninja skills. Thus the “Skinny” Dipping (punny aren’t I?)

Oh and yeah since I have this thing about “sharing” the nice folks of Frito-Lay have indulged me with a giveaway FOR YOU!

(stay tuned to the end of the post for details)

First we’ll head south of the border for my childhood comfort food with a twist.

Tasty Tamale Dip

1 8oz package low-fat cream cheese (room temp)

1 cup low-fat Mexican cheese blend (shredded) -reserve 1/4 cup for topping

1 can diced green chilies

2 tablespoons reduced sodium taco seasoning

1/2 cup green olives (sliced)

Hot sauce to taste (after all some like it hot)

Low fat sour cream and shredded lettuce for garnish (optional)

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor or medium sized bowl, combine all ingredients (accept reserved 1/4 cup of cheese) until well mixed. Place in a baking dish (I used a fun Mexican pottery dish). Top with reserved cheese and bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly. Garnish as desired

Now here is the MOST IMPORTANT part. A tamale is a wonderful stuffed corn meal concoction that warms your belly and takes you to Mexico.. so you must have corn! How do we do that? By dipping Fritos Scoops into the warm cheesy goodness. Trust me it’s really good and a heck of a lot less work than an actual tamale!

Next we take a trip to Italy.. alright maybe it’s just a new take on an old dip but doesn’t a trip to Italy sound great?

Mexico meet Italy in this tasty dip!

Sicilian Salsa

2-3 Roma tomatoes (diced)

1-2 gloves of garlic (minced) the amount of garlic increases the “heat”

6-8 leaves basil (FRESH, chopped)

1/2 cup onion (chopped)

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 cup olives (chopped) I use Greek but you can choose your favorite

1/4 cup Pine Nuts (toasted)

1/4 teaspoon Anchovy paste (optional)

cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste

EASY PEASY PREP! Combine all ingredients accept oil, lemon zest and anchovy paste (if using) in a medium sized bowl. Add lemon and paste to the oil and stir until combined, pour over salsa mix and combine. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes prior to serving. We noshed on these with Tostitos Scoops.. it was like an Italian taco salad!

THE GIVEAWAY

Now that you’re all hungry and stuff how about we set you up with some Frito-Lay snacks and say $100 DOLLARS (in the form of an Amex gift card) to host a killer Super Bowl party or an out of this world snack fest? One lucky Nuggetier (aka reader) will win this fabu prize! And how you say? I’ll tell ya.

Required for entry:

Visit the Snack Chat blog (which is a treat in itself). Follow Frito-Lay on Twitter (@FritoLay) and come join me as a Frito-Lay fan on Facebook…it’s fun, trust me!  Come back here and leave me a comment telling me you did this and what your all time FAVORITE game day snack is (If you don’t dig football, don’t tell me. I’d have to not like you and neither of us want that, ha ha).

Want ONE more entry? Follow me on Twitter and tweet this:

“I’m going “skinny” dipping w/@DipaolaMomma to #win $100 & snacks from @FritoLay http://bit.ly/e1veIW

MAX of two entries per person. Contest ends January 31, 2011 at 10 pm (est). Winner will be chosen by random number generation and notified via email on or about  February 2, 2011

This is post was not sponsored by Frito-Lay however I was provided with monetary compensation in exchange for creating the ORIGINAL recipes featured in this piece. Prizes are being provided by a third party.