Roasted Chickpeas with Sea Salt

This recipe was actually inspired by my friend Melissa, who makes a version of these as a snack. Matt has his chicken wings for the Ravens/Patriots game today, and I wanted something meaty and filling as well. After making these, I know for a FACT that I’ve found my game day finger food!

(Also, Go Pats. Not because I’m a fan — my Dolphins were out long ago — but because Ravens fans are annoying.)

Ingredients

* 1 can (about 19 oz.) chickpeas
* 1/2 tsp. salt*
* dash pepper
* two dashes roasted cumin
* 1 clove garlic, grated
* up to 1 tbsp. olive oil
* 1/2 tsp. sea salt*

* If you have one type of salt, go ahead and use that. If you’re going to use anything, though, use the sea salt.

Method

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

2. Drain can of chickpeas and place in a bowl. Add salt, pepper, cumin, and garlic, then toss until chickpeas are well coated.

3. Spread chickpeas in a single layer on a non-stick, dark baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.

4. Remove chickpeas from the oven and add them back to the bowl. Add up to 1 tbsp. of olive oil (less if you prefer) and sea salt, then toss again until chickpeas are well coated. Spread back onto the baking sheet and bake for another 10 minutes.

5. Test one chickpea and keep baking until dried to your liking, no more than 40 minutes’ total. We let ours go for 25 minutes before they were ready. Serve immediately.

Matt raised an excellent point… these would be great in a pita stuffed with some chopped tomato, lettuce, and tzatziki (vegan or regular)!

An in-house sushi restaurant!

Matt stayed home yesterday, and I fully expected him to veg out and maybe watch a few movies. And who knows, maybe he did. But when I called him on my way home, he told me he had a surprise for dinner… and boy, did he!

Yum, sushi. Always nice to come home to!

But I didn’t come home to prepared sushi. Oh, no. That’d be too easy. Instead, I came home to nori sheets, sushi rice, and some sliced veggies, all set for stuffin’ and rollin’ our own sushi rolls!

… the hell happened?!

But it didn’t turn out as badly as I thought! We ended up rolling some pretty awesome sushi rolls, and as we sat at the dinner table and enjoyed the work of our own hands, we couldn’t help but high-five to each other’s sushi-making skills. Mad sushi-making skills.

The only real “cooking” involved was the rice!

Ingredients

* 1 1/2 cups sushi rice (yes, there’s a difference!)
* 1 1/2 cups water
* 1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
* 2 tsp sugar
* 1 tsp salt
* a small bowl, a non-stick bowl (plastic works well), and a wooden spoon

Method

1. Combine rice and water in a pot over high heat, bringing to a gentle boil and stirring the whole time. When boiling, turn the heat to low and cover for 15 minutes.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and allow the sugar and salt to dissolve in the rice vinegar.

3. After 15 minutes, remove rice (still covered )from the heat and allow to sit another ten minutes.

4. When rice is done, uncover and allow some moisture to steam out, stirring gently to “unclump” the rice. Add rice to nonstick bowl.

5. Slowly add the rice vinegar mixture to the rice, simultaneously fluffing the rice with a wooden spoon. The rice should have an even coat of rice vinegar mixture and should start to stick to itself, not the bowl.

Now you get to make the sushi!

Keep a cup of water next to you while you do this, and a Santoku (or other sharp, non-serrated knife) in the water. Lay out a sheet of nori on a wet paper towel. Spread a thin layer of rice on 2/3 of the nori, then arrange your veggies in the middle of all that rice. We had cucumber, avocado, asparagus, and carrots. With wet fingertips (remember that cup of water!) and the 1/3 of the nori facing away from you, gently use the paper towel to help the nori start to roll. Make it kinda tight, but not so tight that the veggies bust through! The remaining 1/3 of the nori will seal the roll together.

All done! Using the wet Santoku in a long sweeping motion, cut the sushi into bite-sized pieces. (Shorter cuts may mean that you don’t get through the nori. Go slowly, let the knife do the work.) Arrange all pretty-like, preferably on a fishy plate (which just adds irony if your sushi is, like ours, entirely vegetarian). Then try your hardest to get to the dinner table with your plate of homemade sushi before devouring the whole thing.

Yum! Best sushi I’ve ever had, and that’s no exaggeration! ;)

Matt’s coworkers argue that we made maki, not sushi. I think they’re parsing words there.

Aren't these food picks adorable! I bought them years ago, and they always feel appropriate with sushi.

NOM NOM NOM :D

Recipe: Fondue for Two (or more!)

I’m on my third week at my fancy new job, and I admit to loving every minute of it. There’s so much to learn and absorb, and I feel like every day I come into work is new and exciting. While I miss my former coworkers, I’m meeting new people here, and they’re all incredibly friendly and great to work for and with.

I figured that, since I have a fancy new job, Matt and I would celebrate with a fancy new dinner! My mom gifted me with a fondue pot after my bachelorette party last year (which was AWESOME and so much fun!!), and Matt and I busted it out last Thursday to give it a whirl. We grabbed a fondue cookbook, the necessary ingredients, and some stuff to dip in the cheesy goodness.

In preparing the dipping stuff, the dinner went from fancy to frightening. Apparently, I cannot cut a French loaf to save my life; the huge serrated bread knife slipped off the bread and sliced through my finger, bringing forth so much blood that I panicked. Stuck my finger in my mouth (yup, I’m one of those types), ran upstairs with Matt hot on my heels, and wrapped an old, soft t-shirt around my finger to stop the flow of blood.

Almost a week later, and it still looks awful. :(

There was a point during all this when I thought, “This probably needs stitches.” Did I actually say that out loud, though? Are you crazy! And risk actually having to go to the hospital and get someone to poke a needle in me! I ended up not saying anything until two days later, lol.

Anyway, after about 10 minutes, I felt confident to remove the t-shirt and bandage up the cut, then went downstairs to help Matt prepare the rest. (Spirit bless him, he finished slicing the bread for me.) He told me how impressed he was that the knife blade actually had blood on it, then we sat down and, somehow, after all that, managed to have a really yummy fondue-for-two dinner.

Even now, almost a week later, the cut smarts when it hits against something and is numb around the area. Yeah, I probably hit a nerve, which is one less for people to get on, I suppose! Enjoy the fruits and vegetables of our labor – our blood, sweat, and tears (but mainly the blood) – with a smoky cheese recipe that even got me forgetting about flashes of steel.

(Recipe adapted from Great Party Fondues.)

Ingredients

Fondue
* 1/2 lb sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
* 1/2 lb Gruyere cheese, shredded
* 1 tbsp cornstarch
* I tbsp. butter
* 1 cup beer
* 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
* dash of hot sauce

Dippers
(these are merely suggestions!)
* a crusty bread, cubed
* mushrooms, broccoli, and other vegetables
* corn”dogs”, hot “dogs”

One trick that I learned is to NOT prepare the fondue in the pot itself. You’ll need to dirty up a saucepan for this fondue recipe (and most others). Sorry; I thought that could be a shortcut, too!

Method

1. Prepare your fondue pot as recommended. Ours was the kind where you filled the broiler with boiling water, then placed a ceramic pot over the hot water. Your fondue pot may differ!

2. Put the shredded cheeses into a bowl and add cornstarch, tossing to coat. Set aside.

3. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and add the beer soon afterward. Wait until the beer is bubbling, then turn down the heat to medium-low.

4. Add the cheese mixture bit by bit; you want the first bit to be melted before you add each subsequent bit. Do NOT let the cheese bubble.

5. When all cheese is incorporated, slowly add the Worcestershire sauce and dash of hot sauce. Stir to combine.

6. Gently transfer the cheese mixture to your fondue pot, and serve while still hot. Cheese will be VERY hot.

7. Dip, swirl, and dine your way to decadence!

Tips and tricks on having a smashing-good fondue party!

* Dipping: After spearing bread or a vegetable, dip it into the fondue to coat with cheese, then remove and hold it over the pot a few seconds to allow the cheese to fall back into the pot. This also cools the cheese on the item so you may eat it without burning yourself!

* Don’t touch the fondue fork to your mouth, even if it’s your fork! The fork will go back into the pot at some point, so don’t let it touch your lips, tongue, or teeth.

* No double-dipping. (That is, unless you’re with your partner. ;) )

* Try a bit of everything! You’ll be surprised what tastes good with a healthy layer of melted cheese.

We also had a TON of cheese left over, which we used to make adult mac ‘n’ cheese. Recipe for that coming later!

Meatless Monday: Recipe: Vegan Tzatziki

In a galaxy not too far away, I posted a recipe for homemade tzatziki. While it was amazing, it’s certainly not vegan. The base is made of Greek yogurt… and I was craving some tzatziki today, hardcore. So Matt went looking for a recipe for me (all the way from Colorado, no less! Gotta love that man), and I adapted it to create my own homemade vegan tzatziki!

This recipe is also awesome in that you get to grate something other than cheese. I personally am limited in my grating experience, but cucumbers like this are going to give me plenty of practice! Just watch your fingers — fingers are good on hands, not in dipping sauces. ;)

Ingredients

* 12-14 ounces firm tofu (if you have silken, that works best), well drained but not pressed
* 3 tbsp. lemon juice, fresh
* 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar (or, in a pinch, distilled white vinegar)
* 1/2 tsp. salt, plus additional to taste
* 1 tbsp. minced garlic
* 2 tbsp. olive oil
* pepper to taste
* 1 cucumber, seeded and grated
* 1 tbsp. fresh dill (or 1/2 tbsp. dried dill)

Method

1. In a food processor, blend the tofu, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt. When it’s creamy, add the chopped garlic and oil, then blend it all again.

2. Taste what you’ve got, and add pepper and more salt to taste. When it tastes delicious, set aside.

3. Take your grated cucumber and squish them between your hands to get out as much liquid as possible. Throw into a dish with the herbs, then add the tofu dip and stir to blend.

4. Cover and refrigerate for at least two to three hours.

I fully admit that I did NOT follow that last step when I made it tonight, as I was starving… but it was still incredible! Especially in a wrap over some falafel with shredded lettuce and tomato. Mmmm.

Meatless Monday: Recipe: Homemade Hummus

It can be a dip, a spread, a filling, and anything else you can imagine. I’m talking, of course, about hummus! If you’ve never had it before, I highly recommend it; it’s fantastic on pita wedges, wraps, raw veggies, sandwiches, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Versatile, healthy, and delicious, hummus is a great snack or appetizer!

Best of all, it’s incredibly easy to make. With a few staple ingredients, you can have fresh hummus any day, anytime.

Ingredients

* 1 16 oz can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans
* 1/4 cup liquid from can of chickpeas
* 4 tbsp lemon juice (add more to taste, if desired)
* 1 1/2 tbsp tahini
* 2 cloves garlic, crushed (I love to add more, but I’m also a garlic fiend, so…)
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 2 tbsp olive oil

Method

1. Drain chickpeas and set aside liquid from can. Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor. Add 1/4 cup of liquid from chickpeas. Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth.

2. Place in serving bowl, and create a shallow well in the center of the hummus.

3. Add a small amount (1-2 tablespoons) of olive oil in the well.

4. Serve immediately with pita bread, veggies, or anything else, or cover and refrigerate. Hummus will stay good in the fridge for around three days and in the freezer for up to a month. If it becomes dry, add some olive oil and mix.


You can also personalize your hummus! Looking for something more summery? More international? More creative? Try some of these variations, or use these ideas to create your own:

Artichoke Hummus: add 1/2 to 1 cup of steamed artichoke hearts

Bean Hummus: instead of chick peas, try using another kind of beans, like black beans or fava beans

Curried Hummus: add 1 tbsp curry powder (in increments — to taste!)

Garlic Hummus: double or even triple the amount of garlic (my favorite, obviously)

Green Onion Hummus: add 3-4 green onions

Mexican Hummus: add 3/4 cup fresh cilantro; or 2 jalapeños, seeded; and/or replace lemon juice with lime juice

Olive Hummus: add 1/2 cup black or green olives (especially cool if you make a well in the middle of the hummus and add chopped olives)

Pesto Hummus: add 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves (in increments)

Red Pepper Hummus: add two peeled roasted red peppers

Roasted Garlic Hummus: sauté the minced garlic in a bit of oil before adding to hummus (another one of my favorites)

Spinach Hummus: add 1 cup fresh spinach

Spinach & Feta Hummus: add 1/2 cup fresh spinach, then 2-3 ounces feta cheese

Squash Hummus: steam or roast 2 cups squash, then purée and use in place of chickpeas (great for an autumn hummus)

Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus: add 2-3 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

Meatless Monday: Recipe: Baked Artichokes with Gorgonzola and Herbs

I absolutely love artichokes, and as I pine for summer, I pine for its tough exterior, hiding a surprisingly tender heart that acts as a culinary prize for being able to reach it. They’re not really in season over the winter (though you can find them if you search hard enough), but I’m hoping that this recipe, courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis, prepares you for the delicious tastes of summer.

To read more about the artichoke — its nutrition information, how to prepare it, and its journey to your plate before becoming a prickly purple flower — check out this site.

Ingredients

* salt
* 4 artichokes
* 3 lemons, plus 1 lemon
* 10 ounces mild Gorgonzola cheese, room temperature
* 2 tbsp cream
* 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
* 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus 1 tbsp
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
* 3 tbsp bread crumbs
* 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Trim the artichokes by cutting off the top 1-inch or so. Cut the stem close to the base of the artichoke so the artichoke can sit up straight, and remove some of the bottom leaves. Using kitchen shears, trim the sharp points off of any remaining outer leaves.

2. Add the artichokes to the boiling water. Halve the lemons and squeeze the juice into the boiling water. Toss in the lemons. Cook the artichokes until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain the artichokes and let cool.

3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a small bowl, stir together the Gorgonzola, cream, thyme, 2 teaspoons parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. In another small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs and remaining 1 tablespoon of parsley.

4. Remove the center choke of the artichokes using a small spoon (you’ll recognize it as the furry part before the heart). Stuff the cheese mixture into the center of the artichokes. Place the artichokes into a baking dish. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the artichokes. Drizzle the tops of the artichokes with olive oil.

5. Bake until the artichokes are heated through, the cheese is melted, and the bread crumbs are crisp and golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer the artichokes to a serving dish and serve.

Recipes: Samhain/Halloween

Happy Halloween and Blessed Samhain! Below are some scary good treats, ghoulish drinks, and terrifying decor ideas for your next Halloween shindig! Even better, celebrate with a few Pagans to see what Samhain, the darkest night of the year when the veil between the worlds is thinnest, has been celebrated for decades.

Eat!
BBQ Bat Wings
Braaaaaains!
Finger Cookies… Literally!
Fresh-From-The-Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Pumpkin “Goop” (used to replace canned pumpkin)
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Sugar Skulls for Day of the Dead

Drink!
Black Punch
Pumpkin Pie Martini
Witches’ Brew
Witches’ Sorbet Punch

Be Merry!
PartyCity.com
MarthaStewart.com

Eat!

BBQ Bat Wings

Dress up this recipe for chicken wings by making them — yipes! — bat wings! Black on the outside, white on the inside, delicious all the way around.

Note: This should go without saying that these are definitely not vegetarian.

Ingredients

* 4 pounds chicken wings
* 2 cups ketchup
* 1 1/2 cups molasses
* 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
* 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* hot sauce to taste
* salt to taste
* black pepper to taste
* black paste food coloring
* blue paste food coloring
* green paste food coloring

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil the chicken wings for twenty minutes in a large pot.

2. While the wings are cooking, prepare the sauce. Whisk together the ketchup, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, hot sauce, salt, and pepper until smooth in a large roasting pan. Add enough black, blue, and green food colorings to the sauce to make a dark black sauce. Place the pan of sauce in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, stirring once.

3. Drain the wings well and poke the wings liberally with a fork. Add them to the sauce and toss to coat evenly.

4. Bake for 20 minutes, then increase the temperature to 450 degrees. Toss the wings in the sauce again to coat evenly. Bake until the sauce is thickened and slightly blackened, flipping the wings over occasionally, about another 15 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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Braaaaains!

Nothing’s better than freaking out your guests, and what better way than to dig into a quivering pile of brains! Go on, let the zombie in you out. (Though please, don’t try to become an actual zombie. I don’t think it’d be very successful…)

Note: This recipe is NOT vegetarian, as it contains gelatin.

 Ingredients

* 1 cup milk
* 5 tsp unflavored gelatin
* 4 cups heavy cream
* 1 cup + 1 tbsp sugar, divided
* pinch salt
* 2 tbsp vanilla
* 8 oz pomegranate juice
* 1/4 cup cornstarch

Method

1. Place milk in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the top. Stir and let sit for about five minutes so the gelatin can rehydrate a bit.

2. Combine cream and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Add the gelatin mixture and stir again until combined. Pour into (brain) mold, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or until mixture is completely set.

3. To unmold, gently tilt mold so sides of the panna cotta pull away a bit, then place on platter or plate. You can also dip the bottom of the mold into warm water to help in unmolding.

4. For the pomegranate sauce, I just got a small bottle of Pom Wonderful, added three heaping spoonfuls of sugar so it wasn’t so tart, mixed in about 1/4 cup cornstarch, whisked like crazy, then brought it all to a boil in a small saucepan while stirring. The consistency is rather disgusting, but that’s the whole point!

This looks especially creepy set out on a really nice platter. Also quite effective on a carving board with a large chef’s knife plunged into the center!

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Finger Cookies… Literally!

Please, don’t provide your own fingers for your Halloween party. Instead, provide these!

Ingredients

* 1 cup butter, softened
* 1 cup powdered sugar
* 1 egg
* 1 tsp almond extract (can sub with vanilla)*
* 1 tsp vanilla
* 2 2/3 cups flour
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 3/4 cup whole blanched almonds (optional)*
* raspberry jelly

Method

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg, almond extract and vanilla. Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl, then add to wet ingredients and stir thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

2. Working with one quarter of the dough at a time and keeping remainder refrigerated, roll a scant tablespoon full of dough into a thin log shape, about 4″ long for each cookie. Squeeze closest to center and close to one end to create knuckle shapes.

3. Press almond firmly into the end of the cookie for nail. (If not using almonds, simply make an indent with your [real] finger.) Using a paring knife, make slashes in several places to form knuckles. You want them a bit thin and gangly looking, since they’ll puff a little when you bake them.

4. Place on lightly greased baking sheets and bake in 325F oven for 20-25 minutes or until pale golden. Let cool for a few minutes.

5. Meanwhile, melt jelly over low heat in a small saucepan.

6. Carefully lift almond off of each finger, spoon a tiny amount of jelly onto nail bed, and press almond back in place so the jelly oozes out from underneath. You can also make slashes in the finger and fill them with “blood.” (Again, if not using almonds, fill the nail beds with jelly. Even creepier, as they’re missing fingernails!)

* I have tree nut allergies, so I tend to stay away from things like almonds. If you’re good with them, use the recipe as stated! If not, well, you both feel my pain and use my adaptation. ;)

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Fresh-From-The-Pumpkin Bread

 Ingredients

* 2 cups of fresh cooked pumpkin
* 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (not self-rising flour)
* 2 tsp. baking soda
* 2 cups sugar
* 1 cup brown sugar
* 4 eggs, beaten
* 1 cup vegetable oil
* 1 1/2 tsp. salt
* 2 tsp. cinnamon
* 2 tsp. nutmeg

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar (both).

3. Add the eggs, water, oil and pumpkin goop.

4. Stir with a whisk until blended. (This will take a while… gotta make it really smooth.)

5. Pour into two lightly greased and floured loaf pans (mine were about 3×5″, and rather deep).

6. Bake for 1 hour at 350 F (175 C). Test at the 45-minute mark. Do the knife test: stick a clean knife in. It’s done if it removes cleanly.

7. Remove from the oven and cool slightly (10 minutes).

8. Take out of pans to let cool on a rack.

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Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

These delicious cupcakes are reminiscent of autumn days, crisp brown leaves, and a cool snap in the air. Top off with a piece of candy corn and transport yourself back to childhood, too!

Ingredients

For cupcakes:

* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon coarse salt
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
* 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
* 1 cup granulated sugar
* 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
* 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
* 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin goop

For cream cheese frosting:

* 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
* 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
* 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree.

3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

4. While baking, place cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl. Using a rubber spatula, soften cream cheese. Gradually add butter, and continue beating until smooth and well blended. Sift in confectioners’ sugar, and continue beating until smooth. Add vanilla, and stir to combine.

5. Top with this cream cheese frosting, and finish off with a piece of candy corn.

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Pumpkin “Goop”

Once you give this recipe for straight-from-the-pumpkin goop, you’ll never go back to the canned stuff ever again! And trust us, it’s a lot easier than you think. ;)

Ingredients

* one pie pumpkin (they’re also known as sugar pumpkins)
* water
* a large, shallow bowl

Method

Cut the pie pumpkin in half and gut the insides. Set aside the seeds for later! Cut the pumpkin into quarters, and put the pieces into a bowl filled with a couple inches of water. Microwave for about 7 minutes, then set aside to cool. The pumpkin should be easily poked with a fork. Scrape the pumpkin from the shell, and if you have a food processor, blend until smooth. Now you have pumpkin goop! Use for any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin.

Each sugar pie pumpkin yields about 15 oz.

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Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients

* 1 1/2 cups raw whole pumpkin seeds
* 2 teaspoons butter, melted (or sub olive oil)
* 1 pinch salt

Method

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).

2. Toss seeds in a bowl with the melted butter and salt. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown; stir occasionally.

You may also add your favorite herbs and spices! Matt and I are partial to garlic salt and oregano. Sweet seeds can be made with sugar (instead of salt) and cinnamon. Come up with your own combination and let us know what you come up with!

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Sugar Skulls for Day of the Dead

For these, you’ll need the silicone skull-shaped ice trays from the Dollar Tree. They’re available only during Halloween, so snatch yours up while you still can! And the best part? They’re reusable as, well, ice cube trays. ;)

 Ingredients

* 1 cup granulated white sugar
* 2 teaspoons water
* silicone ice cube mold
* cookie sheet on hand

Method

1. Put 1 cup of granulated white sugar in a mixing bowl. Make an indentation in the middle of the sugar and add 2 teaspoons (yes, teaspoons!) of water into it. Squish the mixture with your fingers for about one minute until completely incorporated. Make sure there are no lumps of dry sugar. When it’s mixed, it should feel like wet sand.

2. Fill the molds with sugar and pack tightly. Level top off with a flat spatula or scraper.

3. Put a cookie sheet or piece of cardboard on top of the mold, then turn over and quickly unmold the skulls.

4. Let the skulls dry 5 hours or overnight, or put them in a 200° F oven for 5-10 minutes to help them dry more quickly. When they’re dry, you can decorate them! Use royal icing, mini tubes of frosting from the grocery store, or colored candy melts to decorate the skulls to resemble the colorful Day of the Dead skulls.

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Drink!

Black Punch

Ingredients

* 1 750 ml bottle Vodka
* 2 packets Grape Kool Aid
* 3 quarts Water
* 2 cups Sugar
* 1 liter Ginger Ale
* block of ice (regular or dry)

Method

1. In a large punch bowl, prepare Kool Aid according to instructions using the water, sugar and Kool Aid.

2. After sugar is dissolved, add a block of ice or dry ice.

3. Mix in the vodka. When ready to serve, add the ginger ale.

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Pumpkin Pie Martini

Ingredients

* 1 oz vanilla vodka
* 1/2 oz Liquor 43
* 1 oz pumpkin liqueur
* 1/2 oz Bailey’s Irish Cream
* splash of butterscotch Schnapps
* ice
* sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice

Method

In a martini shaker, combine all ingredients except pumpkin pie spice and shake until cold. Take a martini glass and pour the mix into the glass, then top with a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

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Witches’ Brew

Ingredients

* 1 oz Malibu rum
* 3/4 oz blue curacao
* 3/4 oz chambord raspberry liqueur
* 1/2 oz grenadine
* fill with cranberry juice and ice

Method

In a shaker, combine all ingredients and shake until cold. Pour into a chilled glass and garnish with a gummy worm.

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Witches’ Sorbet Punch

Ingredients

* 2 bottles of champagne
* 1 gallon orange juice
* 1/2 gallon orange sherbert
* 1 bunch peeled black grapes
* sugar to taste
* 1 bottle (2l) lemon-lime soda
* 1 bottle vodka (or, if you want it weaker, only 1/2 bottle)
* small pieces of dry ice
* bunches of grapes for garnish

Method

1. In a large punch bowl, mix champagne and orange juice, then scoop sherbet into bowl until it has produced a nice film over the top. Add sugar to taste.

2. Float peeled grapes in mixture, and garnish the bowl with the rest of the grapes.

3. Drop in pieces of dry ice for effect (do not eat dry ice!!).

If you want to raise or lower the alcohol content in the punch, add vodka or clear soda.

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Be Merry!

Okay, so you’re all wondering how to decorate your place, right? While everyone’s taste is certainly different, you can find what you’re looking for by checking out places like Party City and websites like MarthaStewart.com. These places have great accessories, props, dishware, and best of all, ideas to turn your home into a haunted mansion! Toss in some music, a fog machine, and some of your closest friends, and you have a frightfully awesome party that’s sure to spook!

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Recipes: Barbeque

Here is a collection of our favorite recipes for barbeque season. Got your own recipe? Please share in the comments; I’ll add as we go along, and will credit accordingly. Fire up those grills, and get cooking!

Recipes:
Portobello Mushroom Burgers
Grilled Angus Burgers
Tofu and Vegetable Kabobs
Sweet a Savory Barbeque Sauce

Portobello Mushroom Burgers

Ingredients

* 1 Portobello mushroom cap, large (about the size of a traditional burger bun)
* marinade: 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp balsamic vinaigrette, 1 tsp minced garlic, dash of each oregano, thyme, rosemary, and salt*
* plastic baggie or other container for marinating

* Not feeling this? Feel free to substitute for your favorite marinade.

Method

1. Combine all marinade ingredients and place inside plastic baggie or other container.

2. Wash the Portobello cap. Place mushroom in plastic baggie or other container, brushing marinade over until all surfaces have been covered. Soak the mushroom for about an hour before grilling, turning once. Remove from plastic baggie or container before grilling!

3. Start on the cooler part of the grill. This will get the mushroom warm and juicy throughout without burning the outside.

4. Poke with a skewer until soft all the way through. Move the mushroom to a hotter part of the grill, and sear for about a minute per side until the mushroom reaches the desired doneness.

5. Serve as you would a regular burger: Add your favorite condiments, cheese, and if you’re feeling adventurous, some other veggies! (I recommend eggplant or zucchini.)

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Grilled Angus Burgers

Ingredients

* ½ lb “certified Angus beef” (fun fact: Only about 8% of all Angus beef can be labeled “certified”!), preferably a leaner cut like loin or round in the name
* marinade: 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp balsamic vinaigrette, 1 tsp minced garlic, dash of each oregano, thyme, rosemary, and salt*
* alternately, use a rub in place of a marinade
* meat thermometer

* Not feeling this? Feel free to substitute for your favorite marinade.

Method

1. Using the marinade or rub, cover the surface of the burger until well-seasoned. If using a marinade, poke the burger in a few places to infuse it with flavor.

2. Heat the grill to medium. Pat the burger dry before putting it on the grill.

3. Place the burger on the grill for a few minutes on each side, until grill marks are well-defined. Turn the burger a quarter or half turn and cook for another few minutes on each side.

4. Turn the burger and insert the meat thermometer into the center. Remove the burger from the grill when it reaches its desired temperature:

  • medium rare: 145 degrees
  • medium: 160 degrees
  • well done: 170 degrees

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Tofu and Vegetable Kabobs

Ingredients

* your favorite vegetables (some suggestions: onion, green pepper, red pepper, zucchini, eggplant, potatoes… go nuts!), cut into 1-inch chunks or squares for easy skewering
* 1 lb firm tofu
* marinade: Sweet and Savory Barbeque Sauce or Teriyaki Marinade are popular for these; feel free to substitute for your own
* skewers (we recommend wooden, though metal works, too; just be sure to not touch the metal ones with bare hands!)

Method

1. Cut tofu into ¾- to 1-inch slices. Press between paper towels or a clean tea towel to remove some of the moisture. It sometimes helps to freeze the tofu overnight and let them defrost to room temperature before this, but room temperature from the start is okay, too.

2. After pressing, cube the tofu into ¾- to 1-inch dice. Marinate the tofu for 30 minutes.

3. Alternate veggies with tofu on the skewers. Add as many of each as you like. Brush the finished skewers with the leftover marinade.

4. Prepare the grill. Grill each kabob, turning carefully (again, no bare hands with metal skewers!) until slightly charred, about 10 minutes total.

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Sweet and Savory Barbeque Sauce

Ingredients

* 1½ cups thick tomato sauce (feeling adventurous? Make your own!)
* 3 tbsp honey
* 1 tbsp molasses
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* 2-3 tsp soy sauce, to taste
* 1 tsp each paprika, chili powder, dry mustard, garlic powder, dried oregano
* ½ tbsp minced garlic

Method

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Allow sauce to sit for an hour or two at room temperature, covered, to combine the flavors. Taste to your heart’s content!

Makes about 2 cups.

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Recipe: Vegetarian Steamed Dumplings

I have a friend who is both obsessed with dumplings and who has recently moved towards a vegetarian diet. In her honor, here are some vegetarian steamed dumplings. Hopefully these will feed her cravings!

Ingredients

* 1/2 pound firm tofu
* 1/2 cup coarsely grated carrots
* 1/2 cup shredded Napa cabbage
* 2 tbsp finely chopped red pepper
* 2 tbsp finely chopped scallions
* 2 tsp finely minced fresh ginger
* 1 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
* 1 tbsps oy sauce
* 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
* 2 tsp sesame oil
* 1 egg, lightly beaten
* 1 tsp kosher salt
* 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
* bowl of water, plus additional water for steamer
* 35 to 40 small wonton wrappers
* non-stick vegetable spray, for the steamer

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.

2. Cut the tofu in half horizontally and lay between layers of paper towels. Place on a plate, top with another plate, and place a weight on top (a 14-ounce can of vegetables works well). Let stand 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, cut the tofu into 1/4-inch cubes and place in a large mixing bowl.

3. Add the carrots, cabbage, red pepper, scallions, ginger, cilantro, soy sauce, hoisin, sesame oil, egg, salt, and pepper. Lightly stir to combine.

4. To form the dumplings, remove 1 wonton wrapper from the package, covering the others with a damp cloth. Brush the edges of the wrapper lightly with water.

5. Place 1/2 rounded teaspoon of the tofu mixture in the center of the wrapper. Shape as desired. Set on a sheet pan and cover with a damp cloth. Repeat procedure until all of the filling is gone.

6. Using a steaming apparatus of your choice, bring 1/4 to 1/2-inch of water to a simmer over medium heat. Spray the steamer’s surface lightly with the non-stick vegetable spray to prevent sticking. Place as many dumplings as will fit into a steamer, without touching each other. Cover and steam for 10 to 12 minutes over medium heat.

7. Remove the dumplings from the steamer to a heatproof platter and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat until all dumplings are cooked.

Recipe: Uncle A’s Stuffed Mushroom Caps

Definitely one of my favorite mushroom recipes to date! Some mushrooms stuffed with mushrooms, with some bread crumbs, herbs, and a touch of olive oil, and you have a dish that’s sure to please everyone in need of some umami. This dish is different every time, as measurements are not exact. All variations, however, are delicious!

Ingredients

* small Portobello mushroom caps (about 10)
* mushrooms of your choice, chopped
* bread crumbs
* oregano, garlic salt, a pinch of black pepper, and other preferred spices
* olive oil

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, or lay down a sheet of aluminum foil.

2. Clean all mushrooms of dirt before preparing with a damp paper towel. If still present, carefully remove the stem from the mushroom caps and chop them for the stuffing, leaving out any hard parts. Lightly brush each side of the cap with olive oil.

3. In a small mixing bowl, combine chopped mushrooms, bread crumbs, spices, and a touch of olive oil until the desired consistency is reached. You may also add some Parmesan cheese if you’d like!

4. With a spoon, carefully stuff each cap with a generous amount of the chopped mushroom and bread crumbs mixture. Arrange the stuffed caps on the baking sheet, about an inch apart.

5. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the mushrooms are piping hot and liquid starts to form under the caps. Cool a bit before eating.