Posts tagged Halloween
Forget vampires, zombies are all the rage now. So are brains. For eating, of course.
Ready to construct a brain cake? It’s actually easy and fun to make. Promise. We even did our own fondant to create the twists and turns on the brain.
Prep time: 45 minutes + baking
1 red velvet cake mix
1 1/2 cups red jam (like raspberry, seedless)
1 10.5-ounce bag mini marshmallows
2 tbsp. butter
1 2-lb. bag powdered sugar
- Put together the fondant first so it can refrigerate while you’re baking the cake. To make the fondant, heat the marshmallows and butter in a large glass bowl in the microwave for 45 seconds. Stir and heat again in 30-second intervals until fully melted. Cool slightly.
- Using a hand-held mixer add powdered sugar to the marshmallows 1 cup at a time. Beat after each addition until the mixture becomes stiff (you probably won’t need the whole bag).
- Coat a cutting board with powdered sugar and knead the mixture until it forms a smooth ball. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
- Make red velvet cake mix according to package directions. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper to make the cake easier to move later (cut a circle out of the parchment to position on the bottom of the pan–coat with cooking spray). Bake the batter in a 8″ or 9″ circular cake pan. Cool.
- Use a sharp knife to cut two sides of the red velvet cake to create an oval shape. Eat the extras.
- Heat half of the jam to make it easier to spread. Use a pastry brush to cover the cake with the jam.
- Time to make brain matter! Roll out 6″ snakes out of the fondant dough (great kid job). It helps to cover your hands in powder sugar. Apply the snakes in zigzag designs on the cake. The way we put the cake together is we had one person rolling out dough snakes while the other applied them. For the person applying the fondant, put a little canola oil on your hands to make the dough more pliable. We pulled up a comic book picture of a brain to guide us in applying the fondant.
- Once all of the brain matter is on the cake (and you may not need all of your fondant) brush it again with the rest of the heated jam.
- Place the brain on a plate (remember you still have parchment paper on the bottom to make it simpler to handle). Refrigerate until ready to serve. Offer to startled zombie fans.
Note: We trimmed a little too much red velvet cake off of our “brain.” No worries. We used a bit of regular white icing to glue the cake back into an oval shape.
Going for a gross-out dinner this Halloween! Break out the meatball mix, then.
This recipe didn’t start out as a Halloween meal. See, I had this great idea a few years ago that we’d study a different animal for two weeks at a time. To finish off our studies we’d have a meal where we focused on whatever animal the kids chose and we’d talk about what we learned. Well, the first animal my kids chose was a snake. I can’t remember what the kids learned about snakes–nope, what I remember is that my husband had this great idea to fashion meatball mix into rodents for our big meal. Now, we make these meatball rats to top spaghetti for Halloween each year.
You can too.
Here’s how it works:
- Use your favorite meatball recipe (I like The Pioneer Woman‘s)
- Shape the meatball mix into rodent shapes–rounded back side and a more pointed front
- BAKE the meatballs with pieces of olives for eyes and pieces of ham as the tails
- Serve the rodents over spaghetti topped with pasta sauce
Our house was full of princesses, fairies, and a vampire this weekend. My youngest planned out her own Halloween party, from sending out the invitations to planning games and setting up a spook alley. My assignment was to take care of food (yes!). I had planned a dramatic spread of various creepy crawies. But after failing in my original cupcake idea I took my daughter’s lead and kept things simple.
The key: labeling your food with gross names and letting the kids take it from there. They were adding mustard to their mummy dogs, saying, “What should we call this?” “Ghost boogers,” said one (probably my daughter). “Or Goblin drool?”
Here are a few ideas if you’re planning your own monster bash:
Spider cupcakes. I tried making the awesome alien cupcakes from Betty Crocker, but I just couldn’t manage to get the Kix cereal-marshmallow mix right. My “aliens” ended up instead as “alien brains” on our Halloween buffet. (See directions below for the cupcakes.)
Eyeballs. Whole black olives.
Mummy brains. Cheddar cheese rice cakes.
Mummy dogs. Hotdogs wrapped in crescent roll dough, then baked. The recipe calls for you to make mustard “eyes” but I ran out of time–I noticed the kids didn’t even notice.
To make your spider cupcakes:
- Bake one cake mix using the directions for cupcakes. (I ended up with 24.)
- Top each cupcake with frosting of your choice.
- Melt 3/4 cups chocolate chips in the microwave.
- Use a spoon to place the melted chocolate in the corner of a thick, Ziploc bag. Make a small cut in the corner of the bag.
- Create chocolate spiders: on the frosted cupcakes make a dot on the center. Then draw with the chocolate four legs on each side of the dot.
- Place a mini, orange Nilla Wafer on the top of each dot (this is a great job for kiddos), then add two, small chocolate dots for eyes on each.
One more idea: You can also create spider webs to add to your cupcake display. I had extra melted chocolate left over so I made the webs on waxed paper (looking at images on my iPhone of spider webs as a guide), let them harden and then carefully peeled them away from the paper.
Sweet & Silly
Ghost cookies. These “cookies” are really just melted white chocolate that your kids can make into ghost shapes. This recipe is fast & fun and a Halloween tradition around our house.
Sweet & Spooky
Ghost brownies. Help your kids create a ghostly graveyard using a brownie, white chocolate ghosts and chocolate-dipped cracker tombstones.
Creepy creature cake. I love any excuse to make a bundt cake–but here you create a freaky scene using the cake as the base. Love it.
Pumpkin seed toffee. Okay, so this isn’t spooky. But for a more grown-up candy, try this mix of roasted pumpkin seeds, ginger, cayenne, all wrapped up in toffee that’s topped with chocolate.
Savory & scary
Meatball mice. These little critters almost look like mice have invaded your spaghetti plate. These are easy to make–and the ham tails add a nice touch.
Chicken leg pot pie. You can thank Roald Dahl of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame for this revolting recipe and more!
Lickable wallpaper, wormy spaghetti, fresh mudburgers, stink bugs’ eggs, there are so many clever, ‘eww’-inducing finds in Roald Dahl’s cookbook, Revolting Recipes. While I didn’t have much luck with the recipes themselves, looking through the cookbook gave me plenty of ideas about what kinds of things you can pull together in the kitchen to create your own revolting recipes. Note: this is the first cookbook my youngest asked to borrow and stayed up late in bed just looking through it–there are illustrations for each recipe.
But here are a few ideas I had after flipping through Revolting Recipes:
Poppy seeds and sesame seeds make for great bug stand-ins. Dahl uses them as ‘mosquito toes’ in his recipe for Mosquitoes’ Toes and Wampfish Roes Most Delicately Fried from James and the Giant Peach and to create Snozzcumbers from The BFG.
- Brush egg white on rolls before baking and put poppy seeds in clumps and tell your kids you’re having ‘bug toe buns’ with dinner.
- Sprinkle poppy seeds on buttered noodles and explain to your wide-eyed kids that something might have sneaked into the pasta.
- Make a trail using a clean paintbrush and either mayo or ranch dressing to create a line on a plate then sprinkle little “bugs” (poppy seeds) leading to cucumbers on your kids’ veggie dish. Make sure to shake the excess poppy seeds off the plate so it really looks like the bugs are making their way to the food.
Bird legs can be tasty. In Dahl’s version of Bird Pie from The Twits, he baked a chicken potpie and then fashioned pipe cleaners to look like legs. I wanted a more edible version so I used chard, with its nearly neon pink and yellow stalks. Slice with a knife or cut ‘toes’ into one of the stalk’s ends. You can read more about how I created my own Bird Pie. But bird legs can turn up in other places too.
- Use chard ‘bird legs’ in a salad (adhere them to a dollop of chicken salad, if you want).
- Make bird leg tostadas or tacos and let the chard ‘bird legs’ stick out.
Lickable wallpaper is easy. Another idea from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dahl suggests fruit strips made from apples, brown sugar and gelatin.
Make a easier, healthier version of lickable wallpaper by making a thick version of fruit leathers. Then stick dried fruit to the fruit leather to create a design in your ‘wallpaper.’
Your turn–what’s your favorite food idea inspired from a children’s book?
Let the Halloween cooking…begin! I’ve just been waiting to start posting fun spooky recipes. I’ll have more all week (taffy tongues are up next). But I wanted to start with this recipe that’s easy to pull together fast. AND kids can help you with every step.
Here’s how to create this 3-D Halloween scene:
What you’ll need
1 pan family-sized brownies (boxed varieties are fine)
1 cup white melting chocolate
Handful of mini-chocolate chips or raisins (yup, ghost eyes)
1/8 cup melted semi-sweet chocolate chips
Oval crackers (Flipz work well)
Putting the brownies together
- Line a 9×13” baking pan with waxed or parchment paper and then lightly coat it with cooking spray.
- Bake the brownie mix according to package directions.
- Allow the brownies to cool and then cut them into six to eight rectangular pieces.
- Refrigerate the sliced brownies for at least 1 hour (or put them in the freezer for 20 minutes).
- Meanwhile, melt the white chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave for 2 minutes on high power. Stir, and then keep heating in 30-second intervals until it becomes smooth.
- Let the chocolate cool slightly and create ghost shapes using the back of a spoon on waxed paper (so FUN). Add eyes before the chocolate sets.
- Allow the chocolate ghosts to cool completely and then carefully remove.
- Dip one end of the crackers into the white chocolate, then cool. Using the tip of a toothpick and melted semi-sweet chocolate write ‘RIP’ on the mini-tombstones.
- Working with one brownie at a time, flip it over and then use a fork to create crumbs on top (the soil of your ghostly graveyard).
- Carefully press the ghosts into the brownie along with the cracker to create your spooky scene.
Happy Halloween baking everyone!
This Friday is Mexican Independence Day. Don’t confuse Independence Day with Cinco de Mayo (literally the 5th of May, which is more of an American holiday). To celebrate, I wanted to pass along some of my favorite Mexican dishes this week. That brings me to tostadas. It seems like tostadas are often thought of as an appetizer. But trust me, it doesn’t take much to turn ‘em into a meal.
First things first. There’s going to be some frying involved. Please don’t buy those stacks of pre-made tostadas you sometimes see at the store. They’re tasteless. Instead, use corn tortillas you may already have at home or buy a pack at the store. This is one of the times that fresh tortillas are actually harder to use (more moisture means splattering when you fry). I fry the tortillas in a wok that has about 1 1/2 to 2 inches of canola oil in the bottom. Bring it to a medium-high heat, checking the temp by dropping a sprinkle of flour into the oil–if the flour immediately begins to sizzle, you’re ready to go. Fry ‘em in batches of two or three about 2 minutes on each side. Remove them when they just begin to have golden spots (you don’t want them too crisp). Keep in mind the tortillas may form an air bubble as they fry, just push ‘em down gently into the oil and the bubble should go away. Drain the tortillas on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. As far as servings go, I make two tostadas for kids, three for adults. And one last note, these are meant to be eaten with your hands, trying to cut these with a fork and knife…well…I wouldn’t recommend it.
Now for the fixins’. I raid the fridge. Granted, I usually have quite a bit of Mexican ingredients on hand. But here’s the idea–it’s like
building a taco salad using the fried corn tortilla as the base. You can use store-bought rotisserie chicken to keep it easy, or I usually have some kind of meat leftover that I toss in a pan that’s been heated to medium-high with a little bit of oil and then I crisp the meat and add ground cumin, garlic powder and chili powder or cayenne for a bit of a kick. (We also make these meatless and use sauteed zucchini instead of pork or chicken). Then I make sure I have refried beans, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, shredded sharp cheddar cheese (authentic tostadas would usually have a fresh white cheese like queso fresco on them) and a dollop of sour cream. I also had some leftover diced green chiles and corn so I put those on too.
Now as long as I had the oil out and heated, I had to add some fun to my tostadas. I recently bought a Halloween linzer cookie cutter (hey, I had a 40% coupon at Jo-Ann Fabrics, which surprisingly has cooking stuff too). I used the small cutters to make shapes in the corn tortillas and then I fried those. Caution: they fry fast. I had at least one burnt bat.
For and easy to scan recipe, here you go–
Prep time: 45 minutes
8-12 corn tortillas
2 cups chopped, heated chicken, pork, beef or zucchini
1 can refried beans, heated
3 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup chopped tomato
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup corn (optional)
1/2 cup green chiles (optional)
1 lime (optional)
- Bring 1 1/2 to 2 inches of oil to medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan or a wok.
- Fry the corn tortillas 2-3 at a time until just crisped, drain excess oil on a paper towel.
- For each fried corn tortilla, slather refried beans on the top (this is important because the beans act as the glue between the corn tortilla and the rest of your ingredients).
- After the beans, layer the rest of the ingredients on top in this order–meat, lettuce, tomatoes, corn, green chiles, whole beans, squeeze a little lime on top, then add the cheese and sour cream. (If you fried up some ghosts, you can use those too. Any small cookie cutter will do for cool shapes)
- Serve warm with salsa.
I had a vague idea of creating meatballs that looked like mice as a Halloween gag for my kids. I mentioned the idea to my husband, stuck him with the ingredients and then headed out to pick up my oldest daughter at a trick-or-treat party. When I returned, my younger two children were just giggling and my husband had a mischievous smirk on his face.
“They look so gross,” he said.
Now, you should know that when left alone my husband can come up with some pretty inventive creations. A few years ago he disappeared into the garage after asking where I’d stashed some black fabric we had leftover from one of my daughter’s witch costumes. Jump to a couple hours later and he’d crafted a giant black widow spider using old wiring, a deflated basketball, the fabric and some red paint. Seriously, the spider was about 6 feet across! He positioned the spider just above our front door and of course added webs all around. The 5 year-old living two doors down refused to walk on our side of the street in the week leading up to Halloween and she didn’t even stop by our house for candy.
Back to the mice roasting in my oven—here’s what my husband did, enlisting my daughters as helpers. He molded the meatball mixture into mice bodies (think teardrop-shaped) then he cut tails using slivers of deli ham. Olive pieces make up the eyes and once the meatballs were done baking he coated each one with spaghetti sauce.
Ready for a yucky dinner? Hey, only in appearance, they tasted delicious.
Directions for Mice Meatballs
Prep time: 25 minutes + 25 minutes baking
Servings: Around 5-6
Meatball or meatloaf fixings
Deli ham slices
Using your favorite meatball or meatloaf recipe, mix together the meat and spice combination. [In this recipe cut out the vinegar, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce and add a teaspoon of dried oregano or basil to the meat mixture.]
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly coat a baking pan with cooking spray.
Working with about 2 ½ to 3 tablespoons of meat, form the mixture into a teardrop shape.
Line up the meatballs in rows on the baking sheet.
Thinly slice the deli ham into “tails.” Press a “tail” into the back end of each meatball.
Add fingernail-sized piece of cut black olives next to the “nose” part of the meatball. Press into place. Repeat with all of the meatballs.
Make the spaghetti noodles according to the package directions.
Brush warmed spaghetti sauce over each “mouse.”
Serve 2 or 3 mice meatballs over the spaghetti noodles and top with additional sauce.