Category Archives: Halloween

October Surprises

This has been a cooking marathon.  Contests, a bake sale for charity, Halloween 1, 2 and 3. I’m exhausted. What’s that? I need to start planning Thanksgiving. After I nap.

First, Soup-A-Palooza. A refined competition between members of the Legal Department where each day, for THREE WEEKS, a person brings in a homemade soup for everyone to eat. And then we select a tribute for each soup and have them fight to the death. Well not exactly, we vote. My soup tied in my week. I will leave you in suspense as to whether I accept the results of the upcoming tie-breaking election.

I made Smitten Kitchen’s Cream of Tomato Soup.  The only thing I did differently is reduced brandy to 1 TBSP and used vegetable stock to make it vegetarian. Honestly, I’ve done it both ways and it was better with the vegetable stock.  Also, to make enough for the whole department, I had to make four batches. I don’t need no stinkin’ batches (name the movie).

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On the side were cheesy croutons and basil. Just toss bread cubes with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder and bake at 375 until crispy (about 10-15 minutes) and then finely grate some white cheddar and gruyere cheese over the warm croutons.

Then we had the first Halloween outing for Al’s 8th birthday.  Here’s the crew

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I made S’mores Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars from How Sweet Eats and Pumpkin Bread in the Williams & Sonoma Fall Cakelet Pan.

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Click the How Sweet Eats link for the s’mores cookies, but here’s my super secret pumpkin bread recipe. Ready?

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Yep. I’ve roasted and pureed and seasoned pumpkin to make bread. To which I get “yuck”. But Trader Joe’s mix – beloved. See, even I give up sometimes.

Next up was the charity bake sale at work for Bright Pink.  Made more pumpkin bread and these Browniest Cookies from Smitten Kitchen.

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We raised $2,700 for breast cancer research. Here’s the spread. This Legal department can bake!bakesale

Next up was Halloween 2 – Pizza Night (you thought I was going to say “the return of Michael Myers”. Nope, just pizza night).

Lt. Dan was a creepy clown before creepy clowns were cool.

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The Mother of Dragons stopped by as well as cats and sports fans.

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And Ron Swanson.

dsc_0274The quote on the cup is “You have accidentally given me the food my food eats”, one of our favorites. No disrespect Salad!   The gang was ready for some drinks and spooky treats from Mbork.

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treats

And Jen from Pastries So Tasty made these awesome cakes.

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I made this smoked salmon terrine.

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Smoked Salmon Terrine
inspired by this recipe from Bon Appetit

WHAT YOU NEED
8 oz nova lox
6 oz cream cheese
4 oz goat cheese
2 tsp lemon zest
1 TBSP horseradish
2 radishes finely minced
1/2 cup finely minced red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

WHAT YOU DO
Line a six inch diameter ramekin (or any other flat sided dish or cake mold) with plastic wrap bringing it up the sides.  Blend the cream cheese, goat cheese, lemon zest and horeseradish with a hand mixer until smooth.  In another bowl mix the onions and radishes.   Flake the lox with a fork and make an even layer on the bottom of the ramekin, covering it completely using about a third of the salmon. Dollop half of the cream cheese mixture and spread it gently but evenly (an offset spatula works well here).  Sprinkle half the onion/radish mixture on top, pressing gently on them so they stick. Repeat the layers but then end with a salmon layer.  Cover with plastic wrap and press down gently on the whole thing.  Chill for at least an hour.  Serve by taking the plastic off the top and inverting on to a scary skeleton platter, then carefully peel the plastic off.  Top with the fresh dill.  Serve with bagel chips and party rye.

And then finally on to actual Halloween.  Where we never got a picture of the boys together because Guitar Boy had stage crew until 5 and then went trick or treating with his friends.  So please enjoy this picture of Drummer Boy as Bigfoot with his friend as…well, you be the judge.

 

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Oh, and one more thing.

CUBS WIN CUBS WIN CUBS WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you haven’t seen it, go watch this Budweiser commercial.  Grab a tissue before you do.

Working on practice Thanksgiving tomorrow. Didn’t everyone spend their Friday night dehydrating Craisins?  Yes, I do know how cool I am.

Have a great weekend everyone.

 

It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Autumn

My sister made fun of me because I bought this cute little mustard mug at Cost Plus World Market last weekend

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Then decorated for fall with Skunk the Cat (#nothelpful).

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and then arranged a whole Oktoberfest dinner around the mustard. Is that so wrong?

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Mostly, I just wanted fall to begin and by using my condiment talisman, I was successful.  So successful, in fact, that it was 44 degrees at Drummer Boy’s soccer game Friday night.  Let me know if anyone needs any spells cast. Because I’m on it. And, speaking of witches, HALLOWEEEEEEEN time!

So what’s new this year?

Lots more skeletons in the yard.dsc_0250

This guy!

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Not new but still fun for cats to bite the tails

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Accidentally went to TJ Maxx/Homegoods and came home with this skull

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and his friend (helpful cat for scale).

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Did I mention Skunk the Cat sleeps in a shark head now. Yep.  But only if it’s on a pillow. He’s got cable in there, but I didn’t get him HBO. That’s where I draw the line. #notspoiled

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Oh and some fun swirling ghost lights, but they are really hard to get a picture of what with all their haunting. So if you are in the neighborhood, swing by and take a look.

But what to make, now that we can turn on the oven again?

I have always wanted to try to make Momofuku’s Compost Cookie because I see it referenced so many places on the internet. However, the recipes posted are vastly different.  The most common one calls for using a 6 ounce scoop to form the dough. That is almost a cup of dough per cookie! Seems a bit much. So I kind of borrowed from this recipe from Amateur Gourmet and this one posted by the original chef.  The point is to use up whatever you have a little bit of, balancing the sweet and the savory.

The Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookie

WHAT YOU NEED
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 TBSP corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt (note: Adjust if your savory ingredients are extra salty)
1 1/2 cups total mini chocolate chips and crushed KitKats
1 1/2 cups total your favorite salty snack. I used potato chips, pretzels (crushed with my hands so there were still large lumps of pretzels) and Rice Krispies.

WHAT YOU DO
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine the butter, sugars, and corn syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla, and beat for 10 minutes.  I’m serious, don’t skip this, let it go 10 minutes.  It will get all puffy.

Reduce the speed to really low and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl. 

Pour in the sweet items and mix on low just until broken up a little and combined.  Then add your salty ingredients and mix by hand until incorporated.  

Now here’s where some experimenting comes in.  Some recipes said to chill as scoops, some said press down lightly.  Some said freeze, some said refrigerate. I did both. The scoops (as pictures below left) didn’t cook in the middle.  And the pan you cook it on also needs to be cold. And the first batch burnt on the bottom (I say burnt, Fake Sister’s dad says they are just crispy – so that batch goes to him!)

Here’s what I did:  Heat oven to 375 degrees. Using an ice cream scoop, portion the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Flatten the scoops into a disc like the one on the right.

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Cover tightly with plastic and put in freezer for 30 minutes.  Remove and put in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to a week.  You have to cook these from cold or they dissolve.

Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4 inches apart on parchment or silicone baking mat-lined sheet pan.  To prevent burning bottoms, I put one sheet pan on top of another. Bake for 15 minutes turning the pan at the middle mark. The cookies will spread a lot.  You want them browned on the edges but looking almost not done (but yet done). You can add a minute or two if not done. Cool completely on the pan.

And voila!  Ginormous sweet/salty cookies.

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I made this Autumn Bliss Salad with Stuffing Croutons from A Beautiful Mess.   The only thing I did differently is that instead of cooking the celery I put it in the salad crispy and cold, but added 1/8 of a teaspoon of celery salt to the crouton mixture.  You could seriously serve these croutons as a snack and no one would judge you.  Certainly not me!

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I also added two squirts of honey to the dressing. I would suggest dressing the lettuce before adding pumpkins seeds and cranberries, otherwise they sink to the bottom when you toss.

I’m thinking maybe next up some apple loaves are in order. And in honor of the fall weather we’re having Soup-a-palooza at work, so this coming weekend I need to make two gallons of creamy tomato soup. You say prizes, I say how many gallons you need??  More on that later.

Over the weekend we made a mandatory pumpkin farm visit.

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But didn’t get any big pumpkins because (a) last year they all rotted almost instantly, with a black moss type thing growing in them, so those strobe lights in there were sacrificed to the Pumpkin King and (2) they were out of wagons to carry them.  Grocery store pumpkins it is!

There will be both a costume October birthday party and a costume pizza night coming up, along with actual Halloween. So don’t think this is the end, because the Halloween storage bins, they are CALLING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!!!!!!

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Have a great rest of the week everyone.

From Halloween Roundup to
Practice Thanksgiving

For those who live in Chicago-land, it was your typical, rainy and cold Halloween. Followed immediately by a week of gorgeous 70 degree days. D’oh!

The rain didn’t stop the intrepid Green Arrow and Coke Can though, joined by their friend the Jawa.
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or spooky porch decorations from being up, complete with fog bubbles

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or dads from The Block, providing images that nightmares are made of.

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Post trick-or-treating we came back here for some chili, Smitten Kitchen’s Easy Baked Mac-and-Cheese (I didn’t take a picture, so just imagine….mac and cheese) and of course, pizza.  We had a kids drink station, complete with haunted lamp and Sprite with brain ice-cubes (oh the things you find when you clean up your utility room after eight years!).

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Mbork made spooky deviled egg eyeballs

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We made Halloween chocolate covered pretzels with bloody eyes (as one does)

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And we also had this Hot Maple Bourbon Cider from Foodie with Family. Delicious. What is wrong with me, why do I suddenly like the hint of bourbon? Oh, no! I’m old!

Ok, that’s done. NEXT!

On to Practice Thanksgiving. Here is what was tried:

The Pioneer Woman’s basic Thanksgiving stuffing.

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Food 52’s Andouille and Cornbread Stuffing and Martha’s Bacon and Herb Turkey Breast.

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Yep, bacon in your turkey. That’s a thing.

Food and Wine’s Maple Ginger Roasted Vegetables. I only did carrots and Brussel sprouts because that’s what I had. And at the last minute, and because there was clear demand for the can-shaped cranberry relish *now with more can ridges!*  I decided to use the leftover cranberries from the stuffing to make a fresh cranberry sauce. I’ve done all sorts cranberry sauces with a bevy of fancy ingredients over the years: orange zest, Grand Marnier, ginger, citrus, etc. Yet this sauce won over even the most die hard non-cranberry eater next door.

Easy Cranberry Sauce

WHAT YOU NEED (for 5 adults)
2 cups cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt

WHAT YOU DO
Combine all ingredients in a pot.  Cook about 10 minutes until cranberries burst, stirring frequently. Crush the cranberries with your spoon, but leave some whole.  It will thicken naturally.  That’s it.  All in, you’re talking about 15 minutes. No tubular plop sound and it lacks the slicing precision of the canned stuff, but delicious nonetheless.

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While some liked the andouille sausage and cornbread stuffing, we didn’t think it was right for the Thanksgiving vibe.  So Pioneer Woman wins that round. The turkey is a keeper, though if I do a deconstructed turkey again, that means putting the bacon butter compound into all the pieces. But, then again, gravy flavored like bacon. Soooo…….yes.

And now, this.

IMG_1798Have a great week everyone.

What’s Black and White
and Orange ALL over?

It’s that time of year.  When we spend two solid days decorating for a holiday that will occur only between the hours of 3-7 on October 31st. Time to task ratio seems a bit off here.

Not to worry – we’re going to carry this season from pumpkin carving today to a Thursday in-costume band concert all the way to a Saturday Halloween Pizza Night (Saturday wha??? – how will the Earth stay on its access)?   So more to come on those fronts.

In the meantime, I may have obtained just a couple other Halloween decorations (hello bin number 13!).  Let’s review some favorites, shall we. We shall.

FIrst up, Darth Vader pumpkin. #Nerdfoiles. And yes, that is Vampire Mr. Burns standing behind him.

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These cute Day of the Dead/slightly Jack Skellington skull earrings that I picked up in Denver.

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And, our friend Kazza was thoughtful enough to think, “Hey, while their wine has a Halloween holder, I don’t think it has a Halloween costume!”.  And now this.

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Then there’s this flaming pumpkin that I got last year at 80% off, but didn’t open the box and just put it in storage. Oops, guess what, light didn’t work and I’m welllll past the return date. No worries, thanks stick on pumpkin strobe light!

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Since that pumpkin was so bummed out that his light didn’t work, I accidentally went to Homegoods and bought him some friends. Say hello to his leeeeettle friends (name that movie).

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And though I’ve had these bat plates from Pottery Barn for a while, they look good with the new dishes I got last year.

final1445532610611Here’s hoping for some good trick or treating weather. I’ll be back with the post-Halloween update. For now, enjoy the spooky lunar eclipse picture from a few weeks ago that I took with my tiny blogging camera. Yay science!

final1445531975228Have a great week everyone.

 

Fall Fall and a Little More Fall

So many Honeycrisp apples.  Decided to do an apple based dinner.  And dessert.  But no, no apple dessert because despite cleaning out the kitchen benches to allow me to see all the pans,

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leading me to believe I, in fact, owned ALL the pans, I did not have the right size pan for the apple cake I wanted to make.  Sure I could have substituted a different pan, but I didn’t. Because, math.

So dinner went on as planned otherwise with Cider Braised Chicken with Spiced Butternut Squash from How Sweet It Is.  I’ll be totally honest, I was not loving how this smelled before it went in the oven. Really strong.  So much so I was texting guests to say “I’m not sure about this so manage your expectations”.  But how dare I doubt Jessica at How Sweet It Is.  This was delicious. I didn’t use the mushrooms because mushrooms and I are not friends. But you go ahead and add them if you like.

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And as a side I did my standard Apple Walnut Salad. This is very versatile salad.  You can add almost any crunchy vegetable you like. If you don’t like blue cheese, leave it off, or substitute with goat cheese or maybe even ricotta salata.  Whatevs.

Everyday Apple Walnut Salad
WHAT YOU NEED
3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
3 TBSP maple syrup
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1 TBSP dijon mustard
Pinch of salt and pepper
Bag of your favorite lettuce (I use Romaine)
1/2 bag of baby spinach
2 Honeycrisp apples, cored and diced
1 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
1/2 cup crumble blue cheese (optional for the haters)
Any other crunchy vegetable you want (celery, shredded carrots, jicama)

WHAT YOU DO
Mix first 5 ingredients in a jar and shake to make dressing.  Combine the remaining salad ingredients in a bowl and toss with the dressing.

So about that dessert. Having softened 12 tablespoons of butter before my discovery of my need to go to TJ Maxx/Homegoods to get a 10 inch non-springform cake pan (I HAVE to, I have no choice!), I searched for other recipes that needed 12 tablespoons of softened butter. And lo’ and behold, Cookies and Cups comes through again with Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Salty Butterscotch Sauce.

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I didn’t have time to make the sauce, so I just melted some Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Sauce and poured in on top. I don’t think anyone stormed out in protest.

And the Halloween Block Party 2015 went off without a hitch.  I made The Pioneer Woman’s totally 80’s Bacon Appetizer. Because who doesn’t want a warm cheese coated bacon wrapped cracker on a cool fall day.  No one, no one doesn’t want that (hmm?).  There was also mummy wrapping,

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pinatas, DSC_1024 fear factor,

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tug of war,

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and bobbing for donuts.

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We had it all.  Just like Bogey and Bacall (the kids love that reference).  But mostly, we had live action Hungry Hungry Hippos.

You wish you lived here. You can admit it.

Next up, Halloween decor faves. Happy Thursday.

 

Halloween Redux

Here are various pictures of the crew:

at Alvin’s costume birthday party:

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carving pumpkins:

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and actual Halloween.

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Check out the detail on Fake Sister’s home made by Dad Up costume.  Amazing.

New decorating idea – cheap snakes from Target dollar section stuck in my flowers.

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 Green pepper ghouls:

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Oranges for the kids – everyone knows that kids DEMAND healthy snacks when they return from trick-or-treating in the Illinois Halloween snow.  Yep, snow.

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And, best drink from Halloween Pizza Night:

Vampire Blood Margaritas (aka Pomegranate Lime Margaritas from Howsweeteats)

As I had to make 2 pitchers of them, after juicing 12 limes I decided that bottled lime juice is no longer as fake tasting as I tend to think it is.  And it tasted fine mixed with the fresh in the drink.

Dipped top of pitcher in corn syrup mixed with red food coloring and let it drip down the outside for spooky effect.  But forgot to take a picture, because, well, 2 pitchers of pomegranate margaritas might explain why.

NEW MONTH

But, now that it’s November and Halloween is behind us (other than the 12 hours of putting away all the Halloween décor), I made a mini Thanksgiving. I was inspired to do so when I saw pumpkin/cornbread croutons at Trader Joe’s. Then I found this recipe for Pumpkin Cornbread Stuffing at The View from Great Island.

Use 2 boxes of TJ’s pumpkin cornbread croutons.  3 out of 5 Wileys surveyed recommend this stuffing.  But quick, it’s a seasonal item so HOARD NOW.   Among other things, I combined it with the Citrus Sage Roast Turkey Breast from Epicurious.

I’ll be back when Christmas season approaches.

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Don’t forget to set your clocks back!

Happy Daylight Savings Time everyone!

 

Welcome to October

Well, it’s official. I have more Halloween storage bins than Christmas storage bins (and I have a loooooot of Christmas storage bins). So it only took 2 days to get all the Halloween stuff up with help from my 10 and 8 year-old Halloween gravestone-placement consultants. I wanted to share some of my favorite décor items.

These are my new platters. I love, love, love them. I would marry them, but I don’t think they could get all the Halloween bins down from the attic with the efficiency that Kevin can. They are from Cost Plus World Market online:

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Hello gorgeous! From TJ Maxx/HomeGoods:

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Candles from Martha Stewart for Grandinroad a few years ago.  Ghostie and pumpkin from TJ Maxx/HomeGoods:

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Nosferatu painting in the bathroom – from Ebay, can’t read the artist’s name very well anymore, looks like it says Renee Backer:

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Pillows for the kitchen table bench from TJ Maxx/HomeGoods (are you sensing a theme here?): image

My favorite Halloween picture of Guitar Boy and Fake Sister (they were 4 & 5).  Frame from TJ Maxx/HomeGoods:

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My favorite Halloween picture of Drummer Boy.  Frame from Kohls:

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 Here’s what the outside of the house looks like during the day:

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And at night:

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Soooo, it’s pretty clear that I have a TJ Maxx/HomeGoods “problem” that needs to be confronted.

Moving on.

What food is being made to celebrate this magical season you may ask?   Well, it depends.  Are we talking about the 9th Avenue Halloween Block Party?  Allison’s Costume-Mandatory 6th Birthday Party?  The High School/College/Old Friends We Never See Halloween Pizza Night Open House?  Or are we talking about actual Halloween (on a Friday – woot!)?  It is a crowded Field Notes party planner, that’s for sure.

Food on deck:

Crack Dip with Tomatoes from Whiteonricecouple.com

(see picture from prior post)

White Pizza Dip from Howsweeteats (my newest blog obsession)

Apple Cider Sangria from Howsweeteats (see above)

Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies from The Pioneer Woman  (who is now designing her own line of cookware – jealous!)

Candied Pumpkin Seeds from Healthygreenkitchen

Cheddar Chive Cheese Pumpkin from Jamhands

Creamy Tomato Soup from Howsweeteats (really, I need to stop bothering this woman).

And in case you were wondering, Guitar Boy will be going to various parties as a crypt keeper/angel of death (need to get multiple uses out of our scythe!) and trick or treating as Star Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy. Drummer Boy will be a faceless specter at the parties and the 10th Doctor Who for Halloween.   Because out here, one costume is simply not enough.

Where could these kids get their sense of Halloween excess from?  I wonder.

Happy Halloween everyone!