Archive for October, 2013

Halloween Food Fun…

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

My family loves Halloween.  Carving pumpkins, creepy decorations, random costumes, festive food…what’s not to like?!  In looking back at some older Halloween posts I got very nostalgic when seeing my little shirtless pumpkin carvers and matching costumes (those days are long gone).  Here’s a few of the recipes we’ve been testing out as well as some of my old favorites if you’re looking for inspiration for the big night.

Seems my kids’ school is always looking for fruit treats on Halloween.  I did these yummy and adorable Halloween Fruit Treats a few years ago.  (hollowed out oranges with fruit salad)  The school seems to think the health factor will balance out all that candy they’re going to haul in later in the night.  And the teachers know the kids are already on a high from the parades and costumes and don’t to deal with candy overloads as well.  I was in a middle school this week where I actually heard a school administrator announce over the loud speaker “Due to the recent violent activity there will be no more candy allowed in class”.  I knew candy was scary, but what kind of violence?  Stealing other’s candy?  And why do they allow candy in middle school anyways?  I was told there is a big difference between elementary and middle school rules regarding food.  Uh oh…

Another fun idea is the witches fingers.  You know…breadsticks with an almond for the nail.  These are great with soup or alone on a veggie and dip platter.  Again works at school celebrations as well as Halloween night potluck.  Last year it was all about the mummy potatoes.  We had so many potatoes left over from our pumpkin patch dig that I really needed to get creative.  And this was an easy and filling appetizer before heading out into the trick or treat darkness.

This year I’ve been experimenting with spaghetti nests.  You know…baking cooked spaghetti in muffin cups for a nest like presentation.  Yes, it could be easily dressed as a nest in springtime but for Fall it’s all about the mummy factor.  I’m adding a few olive and caper eyes and a pool of sauce (pesto or marinara) and this will be offered as a pre-candy course.

The ultimate test for me this year was the gelatin brain.  This was funny and tricky on many levels.  My father in law has a running joke that he was born the year of the brain (like the chinese zodiac).  This irritates my 7 year old daughter to no end.  He signs cards and gifts to her “love, the brain” and she yells back “You are not the brain!”  So when I saw this gelatin mold a few weeks before my in-laws visit I had to try it.  I am not a gelatin fan for many reasons.  Because my daughter is vegetarian I attempted the gelatin brain with a gelatin substitute.  I made it the night before “the brain’s” arrival, but it didn’t set.  My daughter and I snuck out to the store to get the old Jello gelatin with the understanding that, a) I tried, b) the joke was more important than her being able to eat it and c) Jello is gross.  This time it worked and everyone had a good laugh.  I found a photo and recipe of a gelatin brain that is super disgusting, so for Halloween with friends I’ll be making this one.  Let’s cross our fingers it works.

If you don’t feel like waiting for an 8 hour gelatin mold, or hollowing out 20 oranges, a few simple spiders or plastic skeleton (swimming in hummus, above) go a long way to dress up just about any food.  Cookie cutters are a great way to get festive too.  My sister sent us a few new ones this year.  With over 120 cutters can you believe I didn’t have tombstones, a scary cat or vampire fangs?  Now I do!  We made a batch of sugar cookies to test them out today  And let’s not forget to roast the pumpkin seeds after all the carving efforts.  Trick or treat!

 

 

 

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The 250 Best Brownies, Bars and Squares – Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Recipes are everywhere – magazines, cookbooks, online, etc.  However I just can’t turn them away.  And there’s always some reason for another book – even if it’s just to discover one great recipe.  I received a review copy of The 250 Best Brownies, Bars and Squares by Esther Brody and I’ve already found my one favorite new recipe – Chocolate Chip Granola Bars.  If I only try 1 of the 250 in this book I am satisfied.

This book certainly has a variety of brownies, bars and squares.  Everything from quick dress ups for store bought mixes to layered and frosted homemade treats.  There are just enough full color photos in a center spread to make your mouth water.  And tips about baking, storing, cooling and cutting are always appreciated.  This is a good one to have for a holiday gift for someone that likes to bake or to use as inspiration to get yourself baking and gifting.  Yesterday I gave some of these yummy  bars to my daughter’s teacher on her birthday (yes, she’s 40 and fabulous), and she’s already asking for the recipe.

Warning that while these granola bars have healthy stuff like nuts, seeds and oatmeal they also have sweetened condensed milk (aka milk  with 40% sugar) and butter.  However there are some healthy and low-fat recipes in here too.

What I like about this recipe is that it can be easily changed and customized to your family’s tastes.  Cranberries or dried cherries could be substituted for raisins.   And various nuts could be substituted for peanuts.  I think next time I’ll make these nut-free by substituting some dry cereal for the peanuts so my kids can take them in their lunchbox or to a playdate.

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars,

page 131, Specialty Bars & Squares

Makes 36 bars

Preheat oven to 325° F (160° C)
13- by 9-inch (3.5 L) cake pan, lined with greased foil

 

3 cups          old-fashioned  rolled oats 750 ml

1 cup           raisins 250 mL

1 cup           sunflower seeds 250 mL

1 cup           chopped peanuts 250 mL

1 cup           semi-sweet  chocolate chips  250 mL

1                 can (14 oz [398 mL])  sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup     butter or margarine, melted   125 mL
1.  In a bowl mix together oats, raisins, sunflower seeds, peanuts and chocolate chips. Add condensed milk and mix thoroughly. Stir in melted butter until blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan.

2.  Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Place pan on a rack to cool slightly, then transfer cake, with foil, to a cutting board and cut into bars.

Excerpted from The 250 Best Brownies, Bars & Squares by Esther Brody © 2013 Robert Rose Inc. www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

 

 

 

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Celebrate World Food Day – Support and Stand with Farmers

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

On October 16, 1945 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations was founded, built upon “its belief that the goal of freedom from want of food, suitable and adequate for the health and strength of all people can be achieved”. Celebrated around the world, World Food Day honors that day and our commitment to defeating hunger.

Oxfam is encouraging everyone to do something today.  Whether it’s to make a donation, make dinner, share a recipe or talk to your family about where their food comes from.  Here I’m sharing one of their tasty recipes.  Go to Oxfamamerica for more information.

Chickpeas & Rice Pilaf

Recipe contributed by Oxfam America by Aarti Sequeira

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rice (basmati recommended), rinsed until water clear
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1⁄2 medium white onion, finely diced
  • 2 green cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
Instructions:

• 4 cloves
• 1⁄2–1 whole Fresno chili, minced

(to taste)
• 1 141⁄2-ounce can chickpeas,

drained and rinsed
• Scant 2 cups hot water
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced

Fill a large bowl with fresh water and soak rice for about 30 minutes. Drain, reserving 2 cups of water. Combine oil and butter in small pot over medium heat. Once butter has melted and foam has subsided, add cumin seeds. After cumin seeds have darkened, add onions, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Sprinkle with a touch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Add Fresno chili and sauté 30 seconds.

Add rice and cook, stirring frequently but gently, until the grains turn translucent and don’t clump together, 2–3 minutes. Add chickpeas, reserved water, and salt. Bring to full boil then simmer, partially covered, until rice is cooked and fluffy, about 15 minutes. Turn off heat, cover, and allow to steam 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro.

Options:

After cumin seeds have darkened and before adding onions, add 1⁄4 teaspoon asafetida powder (hing).

YIELD: 4 TO 6 SERVINGS

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