Tuesday, October 31, 2006


HAPPY HALLOWEEN, everyone! I apologize for the lapse in blogging over the past week, but we were up to our ears in preparations for our infamous Halloween party this past Saturday evening. There was much cleaning and decorating to do (mostly thanks to my roomie, Cyd), and much shopping and cooking to do (mostly thanks to me), not to mention costumes to coordinate, and so on and so on. But the fete was fabulous. Many of our friends came, and we ate and drank and made much merriment. Cyd likes to invent a signature cocktail for such occasions, and this year's was the pumpkin pie shot made with Pumpkin Smash liqueur topped off with a little Godiva white chocolate liqueur to simulate the whipped cream on top of pumpkin pie! Fun! There were fun games and prizes as well, including a Halloween trivia contest, a Halloween version of Celebrities, and of course, a costume contest that Cyd, dressed as Elphaba the "Wicked" Witch of the West, won! I came as Galinda, the "Good" Witch of the North, and I was pleased to receive one vote (we also played the soundtrack to Wicked all night--it was a theme). But personally, my vote was for my friend, June, who at age 51 (is that wrong to reveal?), came as Buffy the Vampire Slayer! She looked AMAZING in her little denim mini-skirt (from the Juniors department--the b#tch!), celtic cross t-shirt, and knee-high leather boots, complete with wooden stake and her husband, Tom, in tow as her watcher. So cute! It was also June's birthday that night, and I managed to procure for her a Buffy lunchbox off of Ebay. Apparently, it was only sold in Australia? In any case, it seemed the perfect gift for the rabid Buffy fan that she is! But the highlight of the party for me was when my friend, Vicky, sang a macabre little ditty called "Rickety Tickety Tin" while she was dressed as Pippi Longstocking. Tee hee.

So now we're experiencing the post-party doldrums. It always seems like you work on something for weeks, and then it's over in 15 minutes! So I thought I'd share some of the memories with you, and show you some of the food from the party. Now, I must forewarn you, the pictures are not that good because I was preparing things right up until the guests arrived, and I didn't have the time to take the well-lit beauty shots. Then I served the food, and by the time I found my camera and made it back to the buffet table, the dishes had already been hacked into, so you'll have to just imagine what they looked like before. And I confess, friends, that it really was a Sandra Lee, semi-homemade Halloween. But when you're doing a big buffet with lots of different dishes, I think it's permissible to take a few shortcuts as needed. Nevertheless, I think I made some pretty amusing and tasty things,

such as the bloodshot eyeballs (be-devilled eggs),

the spider's nest Mexican dip (layered dip in a trifle bowl with a sour cream spider's web and nest on top),

the goblin head cheeseball,

the snake bite sandwiches,

and the Vampire's Kiss bloody punchbowl.

But I have to give mad props to my multi-talented friend, Janice, and her equally creative daughter, Dominica, who made the wonderfully grotesque Cat's Meow (kitty litter) Cake made in a (new!) litter pan with layers of crumbled cake and pudding and topped with crushed ladyfingers and some disgustingly-molded Tootsie Rolls and served with a (new!) pooper scooper,

and also the frighteningly realistic (but yummy!) finger cookies. These were truly the most fabulously hideous dishes!

I have listed the complete menu and most of the recipes below. I hope everyone had a festive and frightening Halloween!

The Menu:

Crud(-ités) with Herb Curry Dip
Bloodshot Eyeballs (Be-devilled Eggs)
Spider’s Nest Layered Dip with Blue Corn Chips
Cheese Ball Goblin with Multigrain Crackers
Magical (Crab-Stuffed) Mushrooms
Tomato Tarts (made from the last of the tomato harvest--celebrate my victory over nature!)
Bloody Fleshballs (Maple-Cranberry Meatballs)
Snake Bites

Cat’s Meow Cake
Dismembered Finger Cookies
Espresso Brownies
Caramel Apple Bars

Vampire’s Kiss Punch
Wine (mostly red, of course!)
Beer (Magic Hat’s Hocus Pocus)
Pumpkin Pie Shots

The Recipes:

Curried Herb Dip (one of my old stand-bys)
(Source: Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon fines herbs, crushed (I used Herbes de Provence)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 teaspoons curry powder (to taste)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon onion, grated
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons capers, drained (I chopped up some pepperocini instead)

Mix ingredients. Chill. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Bloodshot Eyeballs (Be-devilled Eggs)
I like my devilled eggs with mayo, a little squeeze of yellow mustard, salt and pepper, and some finely minced nacho (jalapeno) slices or pepperocini. I tinted them an unnatural shade of blue with some paste food coloring, added a black olive slice for the pupil, and then I mixed paprika and dark chili powder into a little mayo and put it in a plastic squeeze bottle to make the bloodshot lines around the "eyeball."

Spider's Nest Layered Dip
(Source: adapted from Semi-Homemade Cooking)

Layer your dip in this order:
one can of refried black beans
shredded Mexican blend cheese (mixed with a little chili powder)
your favorite salsa, drained (I used a peach/pineapple/chipotle blend)
black olives, sliced or chopped
8 oz. cream cheese (softened) mixed with a cup of sour cream and a half a packet of taco seasoning
guacamole (I used three avocados mashed with some lemon juice, granulated garlic and salt to taste)
Then on top, make a small blob of sour cream for the "nest" and place a plastic spider on top of that, surrounded by concentric rings of sour cream that you draw out into a web pattern with a skewer. Serve with blue corn chips because they look dark and spooky!

Cheese Ball Goblin
(Source: adapted from Paula's Home Cooking)

2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon milk
4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, finely minched
2-3 tablespoons dried chives (feel free to use fresh if you have them--I didn't)
dash of cayenne (to taste)
salt and pepper (to taste)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 8-oz. container of whipped cream cheese

Mix the two packages of cream cheese with the softened butter and the milk. Then mix in the blue cheese, worcestershire, garlic, cayenne, and salt and pepper until well blended. Finally, add the walnuts. On top of a piece of waxed paper, form a large ball and chill for several hours (at least 4) until firm. "Frost" the chilled ball with the whipped cream cheese. Then fashion a face for him with some tortilla chip ears, curly parsley or shredded purple cabbage hair, stuffed green olive eyes, bell pepper eyebrows, a pepperocino nose, and carrot fangs. You can also make toes for him with more olives underneath the ball and pieces of pepper sticking out of the holes, but that's gilding the lily (also, I ran out of time to do this)!

Gary's Stuffed Mushrooms
(Source: adapted from www.allrecipes.com)

12 large fresh mushrooms, stems removed (I made 18 and there was still some stuffing left!)
1 (6 ounce) package chicken-flavored dry stuffing mix
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cans crabmeat, drained
one stick of butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
salt and pepper to taste
crushed red pepper to taste

1. Arrange mushroom caps on a medium baking sheet, bottoms up. Chop and reserve mushroom stems.
2. Prepare chicken-flavored dry stuffing mix according to package directions.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
4. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Mix in mushroom stems and garlic and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Strain the mushrooms and garlic, but reserve the melted butter.
5. In a medium bowl, mix together mushroom and garlic mixture, prepared dry stuffing mix, cream cheese, crabmeat and seasonings. Liberally stuff mushrooms with the mixture. Drizzle your sheet pan with the melted butter, then place the stuffed mushrooms on it, and drizzle them with more butter on top.
6. Bake uncovered in the preheated oven 10 to 12 minutes, or until stuffing is lightly browned. (It took mine more than 20 minutes!)

Maple-Cranberry Meatballs

I "cheated" and bought a bag of frozen Italian-style meatballs at Sam's Club. I defrosted them in the fridge overnight, and then filled the crockpot the next day. I made a sauce of one large onion sauteed with one clove of minced garlic, one cup maple syrup, 1/2 cup brown sugar, one can jellied cranberry sauce, one cup ketchup, about one tablesoon Worcestershire sauce, and about one tablesoon of whole-grained mustard. I poured this over the meatballs in the crockpot and left them to simmer all day until party time.

Snake Bites
(Source: adapted from Paula's Home Cooking)

1 can crescent rolls
Flour, for dusting
4 tablespoons spicy mustard
6 thin slices of ham
10 thin slices of Genoa salami
10 thin slices of sandwich-size pepperoni
1/2 cup grated cheese, your favorite kind (I used an Italian four-cheese blend)
green food coloring
1 whole egg, beaten
2 whole cloves
2 small pimiento-stuffed olives
piece of red pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Line a cookie sheet with foil or a Silpat. Grease the foil and set aside (no need to grease the Silpat).

Dust a flat surface lightly with flour. Spread out the crescent dough - do not separate. Pinch together the seams so that you have 1 piece of dough (wetting your fingertips helps here). Roll out to make a large rectangle. Make sure the dough is not stuck to the surface at all.

Brush the dough with the mustard, leaving a 1-inch border. Layer the meats down the center of the rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border on either end. You can feel free to use your favorite cold cuts.

Top the meats with the cheese. Fold 1 side of the dough over the filling, lengthwise. Then, fold the other 1/2 over and press the seal the filling inside. Take the egg, and beat lightly with a fork. Brush the egg wash over the top of the dough. The egg will act as the glue to hold. Fold the dough in 1/2 again lengthwise. Pinch the seam with your fingers to seal. Press the outside of the dough to make sure everything is sealed tight and to make an even thickness for the body of your snake. Taper 1 end of the dough to form a tail shape. Form the other end into a head shape.

Transfer the snake to the sheet tray and form into an "s" shape so it looks like the snake is slithering. Add some green food coloring to the rest of the beaten egg. Using a pastry brush, "paint" the snake with the egg yolk/food coloring mixture. Insert 2 cloves into the head to look like nostrils and 2 stuffed olives for eyes. Create a mouth and forked tongue with red pepper. Bake the snake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Slice and serve.

Espresso Brownies
(Source: Everyday Italian, Giada De Laurentiis)

nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons espresso powder (I used only 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon)
1 (19.8-ounce) box brownie mix (recommended: Duncan Hines--I used dark chocolate fudge)
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

handful of mini-chocolate chips (1/4 cup?)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Whisk 1/3 cup of water, oil, eggs, and 1-2 tablespoons espresso powder in a large bowl to blend. Add the brownie mix. Stir until well blended. Stir in the chocolate chips. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 35 minutes. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, dissolve the remaining 1-2 teaspoons of espresso powder in the remaining 2 tablespoons of water in a medium bowl. Whisk in the vanilla. Add the powdered sugar and butter and whisk until smooth. Pour the glaze over the brownies. Sprinkle with mini-chocoalte chips. Refrigerate until the glaze is set. Cut into small pieces. Arrange the brownies on a platter and serve.

Caramel Apple Bars
Culinary in the Desert/Country, adapted from The King Arthur Cookie Companion)

For the crust:

1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup ground pecans (I used half pecans and half walnuts)
2 cups rolled oats

For the filling:
3 1/2 cups sliced apples (about 24 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup homemade caramel*

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9x13 pan with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, beat the brown sugar and the next 4 ingredients (through baking soda) until thoroughly combined. Mix in the flour, ground pecans and oats until crumbly. Scoop out 1 cup and set aside. Place the remaining crumbs into your prepared pan and press down firmly to coat the bottom.

Toss the apples in a large bowl with the salt and cinnamon. Arrange them over the crust. Drizzle the warm homemade caramel over the top and then sprinkle with the remaining crumbs you set aside.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until bubbly and the apples are just tender. Remove and let cool until they are just warm to the touch. Cut into squares. Try and let the bars rest until the caramel has set before serving.

*Homemade Caramel

1 cup heavy cream
2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix all of the above ingredients into a 2 quart saucepan. Heat over medium, stirring constantly, until it reaches soft-ball stage (230-234 degrees). Remove and gently pour your 1 cup over the apple mixture.

This recipe makes more than you will use so pour the rest into a 8x8 pan lined with foil and let cool. Cut into squares and you have your own homemade caramel squares!

Vampire’s Kiss Punch
I mixed a pomegranate-sour cherry juice that I found at Wal-Mart (Sam's Choice brand) with a 2-liter of cranberry-flavored Sierra Mist. Then I floated some plastic fangs in the punch, and squeezed some fake blood on the sides of the bowl, letting it drip down in a gruesome fashion.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

yay, i'm glad you're able to cook again. I've made the espresso brownies before. Some of Giada's stuff is easy and delicous. Her white bean dip is supposed to be fantastic.