Category Archives: Holidays

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!

Ten Minute Blueberry & Meyer Lemon Galettes

10 minute blueberry and meyer lemon galettes
When life hands you lemons, toss some blueberries at them and stuff ’em in a pie crust! Make my Ten Minute Blueberry & Meyer Lemon Galettes. Then open a bottle of wine and serve these fancy little bites of tart, sweet, awesome to friends and family. They’ll be all impressed with your gourmet-fancy-french-y-ness and have zero clue that you pretty much phoned this one in.

The ingredients are easy to find, and even easier to work with!

 blueberry and meyer lemon galettes
Just a couple of simple steps (so easy the kiddos can help out with this one) and you’re done.

10 Minute Blueberry and Meyer Lemon Galettes

10 Minute Blueberry & Meyer Lemon Galettes
Serves 6
Easy and elegant, these free-form tarts are great for entertaining or just a week-night treat. With easy to find ingredients and just a little prep, you'll be impressing!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 Quart Fresh Blueberries
  2. 2 Prepared Pie Crusts
  3. 1 Jar Lemon Curd
  4. 1 Tablespoon Flour
  5. Turbinado Sugar
  6. Egg Wash
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Use a large ramekin or salad plate to cut rounds out of the pie crust. Fold over and roll out remnants to get a yield of six rounds total. Toss blueberries in flour - set aside. Place rounds onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread one tablespoon of lemon curd in the center of each round. Top with blueberry mixture. With a pastry brush, brush egg wash on the edges of the rounds. Pull up the edges and pinch to close around the filling, leaving and opening at the top. Brush the dough with egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Set aside. Slice Meyer Lemons thinly. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and top with remaining turbinado sugar. Place in the oven on the top rack. Place galettes on the bottom. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove lemon slices and move galettes up to the top rack. Cook and additional 5-10 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. Remove and allow to cool. Top with lemon slices before serving.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

Cocktail Time: Black Cherry Sloe Gin Fizz

A new twist on a old classic, with no actual gin in it.

A well-crafted cocktail can turn any evening into an event. Sometimes afternoons too. Just putting that out there.  Of late, I’ve been getting creative with mixology. The results of which have been, well… mixed. One of the more successful results (per my official taste-tester – the hubby) came in the form of a Black Cherry Sloe Gin Fizz. Which oddly enough, contains no gin at all.

What?!

As it turns out Sloe Gin is neither “slow” nor Gin. This liqueur is actually flavored with a relative of the plum, the Sloe. It garnered it’s false moniker due to the fact that the Sloe was often soaked in gin, it’s juices infusing into the juniper berry flavors of the gin. These days cheaper spirits are often used, but the name stuck.

Okay, History of Hooch 101 is over. Let’s get to the mixing. For this cocktail I chose to take full advantage of sweet, in-season, scrumptious black cherries found at the local Farmer’s Market. After pitting, they went for a spin in my juicer. 

Hey, juicing… that’s healthy, right?!

A traditional Sloe Gin Fizz uses a simple syrup, I’ve replaced that with the cherry juice. If you’re into very sweet drinks feel free to add it back in (4 jiggers for the yield in this recipe.)

Cheers!

Black Cherry Sloe Gin Fizz
Serves 4
A sweet, summery twist on the classic Sloe Gin Fizz.
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Prep Time
4 min
Total Time
4 min
Prep Time
4 min
Total Time
4 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 Jiggers (1.5 fl oz) Sloe Gin
  2. 4 Jiggers Lemon Flavored Vodka
  3. 4 Jiggers Black Cherry Juice
  4. Soda Water
  5. Ice
  6. Cocktail Shaker with Strainer
Instructions
  1. Fill Cocktail Shaker with ice. Add juice and spirits. Shake well. Strain out into your class of choice. Top with Soda Water. Garnish with a sprig of mint or slice of lemon
Notes
  1. A traditional Sloe Gin Fizz calls for a simple syrup, lemon juice, and gin. This version replaces the syrup with cherry juice, the lemon and gin with lemon-flavored vodka.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

Halloweenies

Strap yourselves in kids, I’m a gonna be gettin’ up on my soap box today. Consider yourself forewarned!

SO, have you got wind of the latest “news worthy” controversy surrounding my favorite holiday, Halloween? This year it’s not the typical, “You’re celebrating evil and setting a poor moral example you pagan hood-wearing degenerates” or even my personal favorite, “Candy rots your teeth, brains and every time you hand it out for free a kitten dies”.

Nope, this year it’s all about eating disorders.

Now wait, before you start to burn me at the stake for making light of eating disorders, let me share. In my teen years I struggled with Bulimia, quietly and with heaps of shame. My weight was so low at one point I looked like walking bones. I’m good now, thanks. (<— a little TOO good actually) I tell you this so that you know that the following rant is, in no way, intended to minimize the pain that those who have eating disorders go through.

The uproar is all over this get-up, titled “Ana Rexia”

Yup, it’s not in the best of taste. Anorexia is a deadly disease that afflicts millions. It doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, a child or a parent. It’s deadly and not funny at all. Maybe people are right to be outraged and demand that vendors -who have been selling this costume with little notice since 2007- pull it from their stores and instead rely on these staples of Halloween garb…

Because who cares if you make fun of fat people, right? Obesity doesn’t destroy lives. It’s funny. Children don’t suffer from it.  It doesn’t kill millions and cause immeasurable pain. Fat people are just lazy, not suffering from a life threatening disease. Rich fat people can go buy liposuction. As for poor fat people; well what’s funnier than beer-bellied-gap-toothed-trailer-trash, eh? Fat people deserve ridicule. After all, all they need to do is put down the damn donuts and go run a marathon. Right?

How about this folks? How about we all stop being  Halloweenies and give ourselves ONE day a year where we can make fun of everyone, be inappropriate, politically incorrect even. Let loose and be all sorts of wrong.  Be equal opportunity offenders. Come on, it’s a costume. It’s supposed to be ironic. It won’t kill you… though that fat ass vampire looks hungry enough to have me a little concerned.

The Glory of Guinness

Don’t let the eye-talian last name fool ya, I’m a Lass o’ Erin through and through. With the annual, “Tell everyone you’re Irish so you can either a) get a kiss or b) get ya some Belgian beer dyed green in honor of your heritage” day, fast approaching I thought I might inject a little Irish into your St. Padraig’s (<–not a typo) festivities. What better way to go Gaelic than with the be-all-end-all of barley based beverages..

Guinness it’s what’s for dinner..lunch & desert too!!!

 

Guinness BBQ Glaze

1 12oz bottle of Guinness stout
1 tsp honey
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp Balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

In a medium sauce pan bring Guinness to a rolling boil. Lower heat (medium to low) and allow to reduce by 3/4. Stir in remaining ingredients and remove from heat. Baste desired protein with this delectable homage to Ireland*. Bain sult as!

Traditional Irish Soda Bread would turn it’s nose up at a raisin and never be seen in public with a caraway seed. My Gran used both. She was a rebel. In her honor I’m staging my own soda bread rebellion. It’s away with the caraway and enter the conquering currants and their cousins. Since nothing in life can not be made better by a propper beer.. you guessed it this recipe calls for GUINNESS!

Gran’s Soda Bread ala Guinness

1 2/3 cups of bread or all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (I prefer kosher)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup raisins
1 large egg (room temp)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup Guinness stout
4 tbsp unsalted butter (melted)

Preheat oven to 357 degrees. Grease (or line) a large baking sheet. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix in currants and raisins. In a medium bowl whisk egg, butter and buttermilk together. Add this wet mixture into the dry until moistened, adding the Guinness in as the final step. Batter should be sticky but also stiff. If it’s too wet, add more flour by teaspoons until batter stiffens. Turn the batter out onto your greased cooking sheet and form it into a 6 inch diameter tall disk, pat down slightly. Using a sharp knife, cut an “X” into the top. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean, when done. Allow to cool on a rack. (though I can’t help stealing a hot slice to slather with white butter). Ith suas!

Generally I make four to six loaves of Soda Bread each St. Pat’s. Why so much? PUDDING!!!

Chocolate Guinness SODA Bread Pudding with Jameson Sauce

2 loaves Gran’s Soda Bread
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 large egg YOLKS
12 ounces dark chocolate (I use a bar and chop it up but chips or even semi-sweet chocolate work just as good)
2 cups milk (whole not low fat.. this is not your average WW dessert.. Le Sigh)
1 tablespoon Bourbon Vanilla

Cut bread into 1/2 inch cubes and place in a large mixing bowl. In a sauce pot bring the heavy cream, sugar and salt to a boil (string constantly). Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until smooth. Whisk in eggs and yolks, adding in milk and vanilla. Pour this mixture over the bread and allow to stand for 1 to 2 hours. Occasionally give it a stir to be sure the bread soaks up the liquids. Preheat oven to 325 degrees, butter a shallow 2 quart baking dish. Prepare a water bath. Pour bread mixture into the baking dish and smooth out the top. Bake for 50-60 minutes until the center feels firm when you press it down with a spatula. Allow to cool for a minimum of 20 minutes.

Jameson IRISH Whiskey Sauce
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup Jameson Irish Whiskey

In a small sauce pan, melt butter over low heat. Using a wooden (NOT METAL) spoon stir in sugar, whiskey, water nutmeg and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is well blended and the sugar dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk until frothy. Add in egg and whisk the heck out of the sucker (aka vigorously). Put back on a medium heat, string continuously until thickened, about a minute or so. Serve atop the just warm Chocolate Guinness Soda Bread Pudding. Oh chomh maith!

Irish or not, embrace the spirit of Saint Padraig’s day. Go chase a snake off some island. Or just find a table, gather round and enjoy good food, hearty drink and the telling of tales with those you care about. HÉireann i bhfad beo or Erin Go Bragh!

*Note: Corned Beef.. not-so-Irish.. more Jewish, still a great “ish” though. Now salmon, there is an Irish “meat”! This glaze is OUTSTANDING on salmon!!