Tag Archives: food

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!

Visiting Annapolis, Maryland with Kids

Annapolis Maryland

From the hallowed halls of the United States Naval Academy, to the quaint City Dock, and dozens of points in between, Maryland’s charming and historic capital makes for a perfect day-trip (or longer) with the family. 

U.S. Naval Academy Museum

 Moon Rock housed at U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland

 This hidden gem of a museum welcomes over 100,000 visitors from around the globe every year. Located in Preble Hall on the gorgeous grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy, the museum offers two floors of exhibits about the history of seapower, the development of the U.S. Navy, and the the history of U.S. Naval Academy. Exhibits include artifacts from historical figures, battles and events. Touch a piece of the actual U.S.S. Monitor, read letters penned by Admirals and presidents, see sand from the island of Iwo Jima as you take a walk through the history of our Navy – and country. There is even an actual moon rock donated to the museum by Apollo 14 astronauts. 

The best part? Admission to the museum is FREE!

Address:  118 Maryland Avenue, Annapolis, MD 21402. Phone: (410) 293-2108. Website: www.USNA.edu/museum  Hours: Monday – Friday from 7:00am to 3:30pm

Annapolis City Dock

Visting "Ego Alley" at City Dock in Annapolis Maryland

Rest here for a spell and have Alex Haley “read” your kids a story. The author of “Roots,” is immortalized in a sculpture that invites you to listen at his feet. I took along some books to read to my kids and soon found I’d started an impromptu story time for a few others.  Directly behind Mr. Haley is the City Dock Market House. Inside you’ll find food stalls serving up seaside favorites, and day-trip delicacies like famed Maryland Crab cakes and decadent gelato, perfect on a warm, sunny day. Walk off some of those calories with a stroll down “Ego Alley” where beautiful pleasure boats are docked. 

Don’t forget to bring along a little something to feed the ducks!

Parking: There is metered parking near City Dock, you’ve got great luck if you can snag one of those. If not, the Noah Hillman parking garage is just off Main Street in the Historic District at 150 Gorman Street.

Chick & Ruth’s Delly

Famous "Ben Cardin" Double Ruben at Chick & Ruth's Delly Anapolis Maryland

Speaking of eating! I say -with some authority as both a traveler and a foodie – that everyone MUST make the pilgrimage to the Delly at least one time (if not dozens.) Don’t let the cramped quarters, layer of grease or the fact that they call it a “Delly,” deter you. Chick & Ruth’s is a Maryland institution for good reason.

  • Crab Cakes as big as your head (okay, maybe a little smaller)
  • Matzo Ball Soup any Bubbe would envy
  • House-made dill pickles, a complementary treat you’ll pucker up to
  • A huge of menu items to choose from – many named after the local politicians who come down the street from the Capital Building daily
  • And the famed Colossal Challenges like the SIX POUND SHAKE (no really, it’s six pounds of milkshake) infamously conquered by Adam Richman of “Man vs Food” fame

Address: 165 Main St, Annapolis, MD 21401. Phone: (410) 269-6737. Website: www.chickandruths.com 

Pirate Adventures of the Chesapeake

Ahoy all ye adventurous scallywags! Really, what trip to an historical port city like Annapolis would be complete without a pirate adventure? Mysterious messages in bottles, hidden treasure, and an epic adventure await those who embark upon a voyage aboard  The Sea Gypsy. This fun, family-friendly ship sails from Annapolis Harbor seven days a week during the summer months and on weekends through October 26th. Your ticket to ride will cost you $20 for those over three and $12 for those under. 

Be sure to arrive early to get gussied up in pirate finery!

Address: 311 Third St, Annapolis, MD 21403. Phone: (410) 263-0002. Website: www.chesapeakpirates.com 

Annapolis Maritime Museum

If you’re making Annapolis a stopover during a trip to DC you might think you’ve been museum-ed out, but trust me you’ll want to make room for one more – THIS ONE! Why? Because of the hands-on history lesson your family will get. This small museum is set on the picturesque mouth of Back Creek, with a unique view overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. The museum takes advantage of the fact that it is housed in the last oyster-packing plant in Annapolis, engaging visitors in a fully interactive experience that takes them on a journey through the role that the water and they oyster industry played in the shaping of the area. You’ll also learn about the ecology of the area through a 850 gallon aquarium and exhibits that highlight the importance of conservation efforts.

An afternoon at the Annapolis Maritime Museum is FREE family fun!

Address: 723 2nd St, Annapolis, MD 21403. Phone: (410) 295-0104. Website: www.amaritime.org

Galleries, Eateries and Shopping… Oh, My!

Down Town Annapolis Maryland

My kids happen to be gifted browsers. They love to shop. It may be genetic. Annapolis is wonderland for those who love to stroll in and out of shops and galleries, searching for treasures and inspiration. Though there are some chain stores to be found on main street, they are out numbered by smaller, more unique and locally owned boutique stores. Annapolis boasts a thriving art community and you’ll find a number of places that feature locally produced items. One of our favorite shops is Annapolis Pottery. Though not all of their items are produced locally, 95% of their products are produced in the U.S. and many of them are sourced directly from the artists who produce them. 

Hungry? Annapolis is the place to be! I polled the kids for recommendations. Here is what THEY recommend;

  • Potato Valley Cafe – A tasty elevation of the humble spud 
  • Castlebay Irish Pub – This one gets on the list for the rose shaped salmon and the fish and chips. Our picky eater loves salmon – go figure!
  • Miss Shirley’s Cafe – A Baltimore staple now found in Annapolis, my kids would hurt you to get at a stack of their lemon-blueberry pancakes
  • Chick & Ruth’s Delly – They’re begging for that 6 pound shake, but happily settle for pizza bagels make on fresh, full-sized bagel halves and burgers from the kid’s menu that are big enough for a grown up. You’ll never leave this place hungry! Plus their kid’s menu prices hover around $5!

Don’t miss the chickens. Really, we know how I am about chickens. Annapolis is flocking full of the foul in the form of 5 foot tall fun, funky and thought provoking sculptures found through out the city.  If you go, snap a photo and I’ll be happy to add it to this post with photo credit.

Parking: There is both metered parking and several public parking garages, as well as valet service at City Dock. You can find a map of the garages here.

Up next… where to STAY in Annapolis if you aren’t lucky enough to live 20 minutes away… or even if you are… hello staycation!

 

 

(photo credit – Annapolis Waterfront m01229)

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food & Wine Festival: Family, Fun, & Food!

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Wouldn’t it be fabulous if you could zip around the globe in one day, making stops at your favorite spots and giving jet lag the slip? Until the descendants of Gene Roddenberry come through with that molecular transporter we were promised, you may just need to take a trip to Busch Gardens® Williamsburg.

Yes, Busch Gardens® Williamsburg is an amusement park that can take you around the globe in a single day (or a couple if you’d like.) 

As an Ambassador for the park, my family and I recently visited the park to put this concept to the test. Was it a coincidence that we just so happened to be there for opening weekend of their annual Food & Wine Festival?   

Yeah, no.

Don’t get me wrong I love a log flume as much as the next girl, but really you’ve seen one you’ve seen ’em all. Now if you’ve got goat cheese crepes and a Côtes du Rhône, that’s my kind of thrill ride!

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Deemed, “The Most Beautiful Theme Park in the World”, Busch Gardens® Williamsburg takes you on a global adventure featuring rides, shows, and YES food from delightful destinations like: Italy, France, Ireland, Scotland, Greece, Canada and Germany. Grab their mobile app on iTunes or in the Google Play Store to help you navigate better than Columbus! Trust me, it’s much better than using a standard park map.

Talk about globe trotting!

The park also boasts an array of wildlife, making this more than just a spot for wild rides like Verbolten. The teen daughter suckered me into riding this one. Um, it drops you… on purpose! I literally did not stop screaming for the entire ride – maybe a few minutes after as well. We all fell in love with the majestic, and a bit mischievous Clydesdale horse and big fluffy sheep in Scotland. The cheeky nine year old had to ask why the Bald Eagle didn’t have any pistachios. 

Damn you Colbert!

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My anglophile offspring were in dazed by the swinging scene in England where Busch Gardens® Williamsburg has welcomed another British invasion with their London Rocks show. These kids watch far too much Dr. Who.

Sculptures and sculptured gardens mark your entrance into Italy. Grab a gelato and stroll through a piazza dotted with shops that feature Florentine glass and fun Italian-esque baubles. I loved that many of the rides here played off a Da Vinci theme. It opened up some great conversations about the time we’ve spent in Italy and the places that my husband’s family still lives. Other than that “center” in Florida, I can’t think of another theme park that sparked such amazing conversations. 

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One thing Busch Gardens® Williamsburg does really well, is mixing rides for all age groups into each area you visit. The big kids can test their nerve on Loch Ness while the smaller thrill seekers can ride the mini Clydesdales just feet away. As the day winds down, and feet get tired, hop on the REAL steam locomotive train that circles the park and revisit the palaces you loved most. 

Another great way to find a respite during your day is a private cabana. We rented one for the day, and it was BRILLIANT!

Nestled in the Wild Reserve next to Lorikeet Glen, our cabana included seating for four, a lockable storage area, FOUR Quick Queue® passes, a spacious mini-refrigerator, EIGHT bottled drinks (we grabbed VitaminWater, bottled water and sodas), PLUS complimentary photo. Note the photo is one of those where you look ridiculous screaming on a roller coaster, not the photos with the Clydesdales – learned that one the hard way. The Queue® passes alone are $20 a pop, and we all know how NOT cheap drinks are in a theme park, combine that savings with having a place to rest and store the loot you found in France and the cost of a cabana makes total sense. They start at $70 in the low-season and go up to $120 during peak times.

kaytie and the dale

The culinary portion of our global tour took us from crepes and wine in France, to beer and cheese in Belgium, gaspatcho (one of my favs!) and sangria in Spain to bangers and colcannon in Ireland. Each country featured dishes authentic to the culture they represent, and paired with iconic adult libations of each nation. The festival also featured the Art of Food, with exhibits highlighting culinary artistry from melon carving to cake artists that had been featured on Food Network. Nibbles range from $4 up to about $14 for wine tastings.

The Busch Gardens® Williamsburg Food & Wine Festival runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from May 23 – June 29th for 2014.

Busch Gardens Collage

The whole family had a blast, we can’t wait to head back for Halloween!

 

This post was made possible in part by my participation in the Busch Gardens® Williamsburg Ambassador program. My family and I were provided park passes in order to experience the park and share with my readers.  All other items, including the Cabana, food and wine (oh the wine), I paid for. My opinions and those of my family are 100% our own – because YOU deserve nothing less!

“Taste Washington” a Food & Wine Pairing Journey

Julia Child Wine

Traveling through the taste buds is the ultimate experiential journey. Few things serve to acquaint you better with a culture or destination than getting to know the culinary landscape. The beauty of this is that you don’t necessarily need to be in the geographical area to experience what it has to offer.

Visiting cultural enclaves like “China Town” or “Little Italy,” in any city can transport you without a passport. Letting your taste buds to the traveling can also be the start of your journey. Fall for a felafel and you may find yourself booking an exotic adventure to the Middle East.

Food is a universal translator, we all speak fluent “Foodie,” no matter what we like to eat.

I suspect the language of food was the the idea behind “Flavors of the World,” a culinary series and adventure launched by Omni Hotels. Last year at the Omni Berkshire in New York I fell in love with Peddlers Noodles – Char Kway Teow, one of the award-winning foods included in the “Simply Street Food,” portion of the series.

Char Kway Teow or ‘Stir-Fried Flat Rice Noodle,’ is a popular dish throughout Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, that was made famous by local street food vendors. Chef Andy Oh of the Pan Pacific Orchard put a modern twist on the dish and it was a featured offering at Omni Hotels. The best part? Chef Oh’s recipe was made available online (check it out here) allowing me to recreate it at home and test it out with several wines.

My favorite? Cashmere by Cline Cellars. A silky, smooth blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Syrah, it paired perfectly with the sweet crab meat and spicy chili paste in the dish.

Watch out Singapore… here I come!

This spring Omni’s latest offering is, “Taste Washington.”  Let your taste buds travel to the Evergreen State with some of Washington’s best wines, hand-selected by the culinary adventurers at Omni, and paired with iconic culinary creations from the region.

“With dishes inspired by local flavors and the indigenous cuisine of Washington State, guests can enjoy: Handmade Washington Cheeses served with fig jam, honey and olives, Dungeness Crab Fritters, Dungeness Crab and Snap Pea Soup, Apple and Fennel Salad, Roasted Salmon served with Wild Mushrooms and Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream.” ~Omni PR

They had me at cheese with fig jam. Honestly it’s a reconnaissance mission, we have so many figs come summer I want to learn how to make jam out of them.

washington figs and cheese

Want to taste a bit of Washington, but your travels are taking you to Dallas, Boston or beyond? March 7, 2014 – May 31, 2014, Omni Hotels nationwide will be serving up the wines and bites mentioned above in their bars and restaurants, as well as offering a “Taste Washington” package. The package includes a Washington cheese plate, Washington bottle of wine and Washington apple delivered in-room upon check-in.

I may be stuck here in Washington, D.C. at the moment, but I’m looking forward to letting my taste buds travel to Washington State. Next stop… Pike Place Market and a Girls Weekend with cookies for breakfast!

 

(The only sponsors for this post were my taste buds. I was not compensated in any way. Though if you stay at Omni for this event I’m willing to take wine and/or figs as a thank you!)

Pairing Wine & Chocolate: A Recipe for Dark Chocolate Pot de Crème

Like most tales worth telling, this one begins with wine. For a twist in the plot, we’ll open this parable on the back of the bottle.pot du creme recp on bottle

Our journey takes us into a world where ancient fruit meets the dark soul of the cacao bean. A torrid affair of vine and pod. Okay, so maybe it was just a recipe for Pot de Crème on the back of a bottle of Cline Cellars “Ancient Vines” Contra Costa County Mourvèdre, still it had me rather excited.

Who knew there were wine producers out there offering up not just pairing suggestions on their labels, but actual recipes? Not me. And here I try to claim I’m a wine-loving,  Foodie… bah!

As it turns out, I may have been alone in my ignorance. A fellow, ” Amante del Vino” pal on Instagram chimed in telling me he liked a fig offering found on another bottle. I’ll have to ferret that one out seeing-as-how our four fig trees leave us  flush with fruit come Fall.

With a few tweaks, and a little personal flair, here is my take on Pot de Crème a la Cline Cellars;

Dark Chocolate Pot de Crème

pot du creme ingredients

Ingredients

3.5 oz 60% Cacao content Dark Chocolate
3.5 0z 85% (or greater) Cacao Dark Chocolate
1 cup Whole Milk (do not substitute with skim or lower fat milk, your end results won’t be as luscious)
3/4 cup Heavy Cream
1/3 cup Sugar
1 tsp Pure Extract Vanilla
6 Large Egg Yolks

Optional: Seeds of one vanilla pod. I added these to the heavy cream.

Supplies/Gear/Utensils:

Small Sauce Pan, Chef’s Knife, Ladle, Whisk or Electric Mixer, Roasting Pan, 4-6 Pot-de-Crème cups, small ramekins or teacups.

Preheat oven to 325°

Pot du creme whisk your way

 Whisk or mix mix egg yolks and sugar together until blended. JUST until blended, no need to go crazy here. If you end up with any foam on top, just scoop that off.

pot du creme melt the choco

Roughly chop your chocolate, and pile it onto a cutting board, or any surface that will make it easy to convey it to the stove top.  Combine milk and cream in the small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add in vanilla and vanilla bean (if using). Then add in chocolate and gently stir until melted.

A few words on Tempering: In my early years of learning to cook – while living in Spain –  I attempted a Blood Orange Pot de Crème-esque recipe for a Feria celebration. What I ended up with was sweet, orange and sherry flavored scrambled eggs.  Plus “egg” all over my face. I hadn’t yet learned about tempering.

Boiled down to basics, Tempering is the process of gradually adding a substance (in this case our huevos – eggs) of a lower temperature to a substance of a higher temperature (our milk and chocolate mixture) so that the temperatures regulate without one overpowering the other.  Were we to just dump our eggs into the chocolate without Tempering them, we’d end up with… anybody?…. Bueller?

Yup, Chocolate Scrambled Eggs. Yum. NOT!

So let us Temper.

Pot du creme temperWith a ladle, gradually add the chocolate mixture to the eggs and slowly mix it in until the two are combined. Easy, as scrambled eggs, Si?

Divide your mixture into the serving dishes of your choice. I’d suggest smaller portion sizes as the dessert is very rich. I used four medium sized ramekins and they were just too large.

pot du creme water bath

Place filled dishes into roasting pan. Pour hot water into the pan, enough to fill up to 1/3 of the way up the side of your serving dishes. If you are not using traditional  Pot de Crème pots, cover the pan with foil.

Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon your oven. You’ll know when they are done by checking to see that they are set but still a little “quivery” in the center by shaking the cup a little.

pot du creme done

I like to serve them warm, but you can let them cool for 30 minutes and then pop them in the fridge for two hours before serving. Garnish with some confectioners sugar, maybe a berry?

I’ve always been of a mind that wine goes with pretty much anything. Some wines go better with some foods, but really it is all about enjoying the food, drink and company. This time though there was magic in the making.

We had the Cline Mourvèdre with dinner. The wine that was perfectly pleasant, a little spicy, with a nip of mint as we enjoyed it with Mushroom Risotto at dinner was transformed at dessert. Had I not poured it myself, I would have sworn we’d been drinking something entirely different.  It became mellow, almost as silky as creme that slipped from the spoon, and berries floated on my tongue.

The story ends with the best part, the magic of a perfect pairing; Wine & Chocolate.

 

*I purchased this wine, all the ingredients for this recipe. This is not a sponsored post.