Friday, October 30, 2009

Last Minute Pumpkin Carving Tips

If you are like me and waited until the last minute this year to carve your pumpkin, then I have some last minute tips on things to remember:
1. Take your time with this process.... knife safety is very important. Cut slow and watch where you place your hands.
2. Using a sharp serrated knife, carve a hole in your pumpkin, preferably at the top, making a wide circle around the stem.
3. Next, scoop out the guts of the pumpkin. I find that a grapefruit spoon works best to get the inside nice and smooth.
4. Place the pulp and seeds in a bowl for later (see below).
5. It's design time! Trace your design, or draw one from scratch on the face of the pumpkin with a pencil.
6. Carefully, use the serrated knife to cut along the lines of your design, being sure to cut all the way through your pumpkin, unless the design requires you to do something different.
7. Get a small votive candle in a glass jar, and place it inside your pumpkin. Remember to not leave candles unattended.
8. Place your Jack-o-lantern in a place for all to see and celebrate Halloween!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Take the pulp and seeds left over, and with your hands, pull the seeds off the pulp, and put them into a colander in your sink. With warm water, use your hands to rinse the seeds and remove all the pulp. Next, take wet seeds and lay them out on several paper towels or kitchen towels and pat until dry. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray. Once the seeds are dry, spread them out evenly on the cookie sheet. I like to spray the top of the seeds with a little cooking spray as well, and season with salt and a little pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, and then using a spatula or tongs, flip as many seeds as you can. You just want them all to cook evenly. Continue roasting for another 15 minutes until golden brown.
I sometimes like to spice them up. Instead of salt and pepper, I use Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. You can also make them sweet and savoy by substituting sugar and dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Party Treats

As you make your final preparations for a small gathering of friends or a large Halloween Party, consider these super easy and hauntingly delicious recipes!

Blood & Bones
1 Bag of Popcorn (popped)
4 Tbsp Melted Butter
3-5 Drops Red Food Coloring
Large Stainless Steel Bowl

Pop the popcorn and put it into a stainless steel bowl for serving. In a microwave safe glass or bowl, melt the butter. Remove from microwave and add food coloring, stirring with a spoon. Gently pour over the popcorn and serve.
Alternative: If you want to make it extra wicked, sprinkle with some paprika for a little spice!

Mummy Pizzas
Bagels (small or large, cut in half)
Tomato or Pizza Sauce
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Green Olives with Pimentos (cut in half)

On a cookie sheet, lay out all the bagel halves and spread a thin layer of Tomato or Pizza sauce on each one. Place two green olive halves next to each other for eyes, and then top with the shredded cheese above and below the eyes. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and golden.

Monster Toes
1 Package Cocktail Sausages
2 Containers Crescent Rolls
Ketchup or BBQ Sauce

Slice the crescent roll dough in short thin strips. Taking a strip, wrap it around each sausage, but only covering one half of the sausage. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake to the specifications on the crescent roll package, usually 11-13 minutes. After allowing them to cool, take a small knife and carve a sliver off the exposed sausage end. Then in the crevasse, put a squirt of ketchup or BBQ sauce to make a toenail.
Alternative: you can also use thin strips of Tortillas for the wrappings instead of the crescent rolls. Maybe try the green pesto tortillas for a monster effect!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Last Minute Costumes

Halloween is quickly approaching, and if you don't have a costume yet, here are some quick, cheap, and somewhat corny options that may not scare, but will certainly entertain at any Halloween party! Check them out:

-Carry a quarter and a hammer. What are you? A Quarter-pounder.

-Dress all in black, tie a shot glass around your neck. What are you? A shot in the dark!

-Wrap yourself in wrapping paper with a tag: "From: God, To: Women". What are you? God's gift to women.

-Attach sugar-cubes (or candy) all over yourself. What are you? Sugar-Daddy or Sugar-Momma.

-Draw the letter P around the child's eyes. What are you? "Black-Eyed-Peas". Be careful to use safe ink!!!!

-Quarter (or preferably enlarged photocopy of one) taped to your back. What are you? A quarter-back.

-Wrap yourself in some (or all) aluminum foil. What are you? A baked potato!

-Wear all white. Attach (or paint) yellow circle to your stomach. You are an egg. Add horns and a pitchfork and you are a deviled egg.

-Paint a shoebox black and attach it to your back. What are you? A refrigerator magnet.

-Bridal gown and sneakers? What are you? Runaway bride.

-Paint one finger gold. What are you? Gold finger.

-Get some cat and dog stuffed animals. Use double sided tape or string to attach to an umbrella. Its raining cats and dogs.

-Wear normal clothes. Attach a dollar to each ear. What are you? A Buccaneer. (Buck-an-ear).

-Dress in a nice suit. Attach legal documents to yourself. What are you? A law suit.

-Wear normal clothes, make a sign that says "Nudist on Strike!"

-Wear all white. Attach old cups, milk cartons etc to you. What are you? White trash.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Great Pumpkin - Part 2

Since 1966, It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown half hour animation special has aired on national television annually, just before Halloween. As part of the PEANUTS video and comic strip library, the brilliant creator Charles M. Schultz has the gang celebrate Halloween. Charlie Brown goes to a costume party, Snoopy battles The Red Barron from atop his doghouse, all while Linus and Sally wait for the arrival of The Great Pumpkin in the pumpkin patch.

No matter how old or young you are, this is a Halloween staple. Get into the Halloween spirit by gathering friends and family to watch this special tonight, Tuesday October 27th, and tomorrow night, Wednesday October 28th, on ABC at 9pm. You can even celebrate The Great Pumpkin with this delicious recipe!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Great Pumpkin - Part 1

This Saturday is Halloween, one of my favorite holidays! And this year, there are some incredible ideas for alternative uses for pumpkins!

The first one, courtesy of Martha Stewart, is to make a Pumpkin ice bucket!

Simply buy a large pumpkin that can hold a glass or stainless steel bowl. The bowl is important because otherwise the pumpkin will get water-logged and soggy. Cut the top off and carve it out. It helps if you shave the inside with a serrated spoon to get it as thin as possible. Then fill the bowl with ice and your favorite drinks!

Want another great party idea? Use a pumpkin for a serving dish for some amazing Chili or Soup:
Hollow out a large pumpkin, saving the top, and be sure to use a serrated spoon to get the inside nice and clean. Next, spray the inside and outside, as well as the top, with cooking spray, and place both on a greased cookie sheet. Set the oven to 350 degrees and bake for one hour, until the outside has turned a deep orange color. Take out of the oven, fill with your favorite soup, and serve. The warm pumpkin will keep the soup warm too! Thanks to Emmy Lu for this great idea!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Kielbasa Bean Soup

It has been kind of a rough week, and it doesn't help that the weather outside is far from cool fall air. However, last weekend was beautiful, and I knew just the recipe to enjoy with those crisp fall nights. This Kielbasa Bean Soup recipe has been in my family for a few generations, and it never disappoints (I ate it so quickly that I forgot to take a picture, hence the empty bowl)!

2 Packages Polish Kielbasa, cut in slices
2 Cans Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
2 Cans Butter Beans, drained and rinsed
2 Cans Garbanzo Beans, drained and rinsed
2 Cups Vegetable Broth
2 Bottles Light Beer
1 Tbsp Minced Garlic
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbsp Dried Mustard
5 Black Peppercorns

Throw all of it in a crock pot and let simmer on low for 6-8 hours. You can also turn it to high for 2-4 hours. Stir occasionally. I sometimes substitute Great Northern for the Garbanzo beans... its just whatever you prefer! I have also made it with Turkey Kielbasa, but found that the flavor is just not the same, so I prefer to find the Beef Kielbasa with 1/3 less fat. Refrigerate the rest (up to a week) or freeze to enjoy later.

This is a perfect soup to warm the heart, and help you truly enjoy the fall!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Since October is not just for Halloween, this recipe is great as a football season staple, as your weekends are filled with lots of TV time. This recipe comes from my friend Sara, even though I have received similar recipes from other friends who are equally obsessed!

4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
2 (8oz) Packages of Cream Cheese
1 (14oz) Bottle Blue Cheese Salad Dressing
1 Package of Blue Cheese Crumbles
1 Small Bottle of Louisiana Brand Hot Sauce
1 Cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Fritos Scoops
Celery sticks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice chicken breasts and boil in a small saucepan until fully cooked (10-20 minutes). In a medium sized saucepan, melt the cream cheese and blue cheese salad dressing, stirring occasionally. Make sure you don't get the pot too hot, or the cheese will burn. While the cheese is melting, shred the chicken and combine in a bowl with the bottle of hot sauce, coating all the chicken. In a 9"x13" baking pan, pour in the chicken/hot sauce mixture and spread along the bottom. Next, pour in the cheese mixture, and gently mix into the chicken. Then top with the shredded cheddar cheese and blue cheese crumbles, cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. In the last 3 minutes or so, turn the broiler on low to make the top of the cheese nice and melted.

Alternatives: If you don't have as much time, you can buy a cooked rotisserie chicken and shred it. I also like to save a few calories by using low fat cream cheese, blue cheese dressing, and 2% shredded cheddar cheese. The cheeses, due to their lower fat content, do take a little longer to melt, so just factor in a few more minutes under the broiler for a nice crust! And some people don't like things quite as spicy, so you can reduce the amount of hot sauce if you prefer a more mild buffalo chicken. I would recommend 1/2 to 3/4 of the bottle.

Serve it hot with celery sticks and Fritos Scoops for the ultimate tailgating or entertaining dip. I promise, you won't have any leftovers!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Halloween Spirits

Are you ready to host a bunch of ghouls and goblins this Halloween? In order to get them into the Halloween spirit, serve them up one of these "spirits":
Mystic Mimosas
Orange juice
Black vodka
Black olives
Cream Cheese
Fill a champagne flute 2/3 of the way up with Orange Juice (It may be even creepier if you use Blood Orange Juice because it is a darker red). Slowly tip the glass and pour in a shot of vodka down the side of the glass, so that the two don't mix too much. Next, stuff black olives with a little cream cheese to make the eyes, and use pieces of other olives for the pupils. Put two on a toothpick and serve this mystic drink to your guests. (Thanks to Stem Parties for this great recipe!)

Eyeball Highball
Vodka or Gin
Ice Cube Tray

Before your party, slice olives into slivers, and add to the ends of each ice cube in the tray. Fill with water and freeze. When your guests arrive, offer them a drink on the rocks. Instead, they will have a drink that they can't keep their "eyes" off!

Bloody Marys
Bloody Mary Mix or V8
Horseradish sauce

Fill up 3/4 of a glass with Bloody Mary mix or V8 juice over ice. Add one shot of vodka, and 1/2 tsp of horseradish sauce (more if you like a good kick). Stir well. Take a lime wedge and squeeze a bit of the juice into the drink, and serve this Vampire juice with a celery stick.

Pina Ghoulada
1 Can Frozen Pina Colada Mix
1/3-1/2 Can of rum (using frozen drink mix can for measure)
3 Tbsp Corn Syrup
1/4 tsp Red Food Coloring

In a shallow bowl, combine the corn syrup and food coloring, and mix gently with a toothpick. Carefully set a glass rim into the mixture, and turn as you remove the glass and set upright. The corn syrup will drip in a few places and will set in a few minutes. While these rest, prepare the pina coladas per the instructions on the can in a blender. Then pour them into the glasses and serve this ghoulish delight! (Thanks to Martha Stewart for these recipes)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Finger Soup (Tortilla Soup)

Tortilla soup is a wonderfully simple fall dish. It is so easy and quick to make, and may be the perfect dish for your guests come October 31st. I titled it Finger Soup, since you can cut the chicken breasts into strips that resemble floating fingers in a bowl of "blood" for a delicious Halloween meal! Here's the recipe:

2 Large Tomatoes
1 Large Onion
1-2 Chili Peppers (seeds removed)
1 Tbsp Cilantro
3-4 Chicken Breasts (cooked, sliced or shredded)
2 Whole Wheat Tortillas
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Using a blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes, onion, and chili peppers until smooth. While pureeing the vegetables, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a deep sauce pan over medium-high heat. Pour the puree mixture into the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, or until bubbling. This is called "frying the soup". It heats up the vegetables and really brings out their rich flavors. Stir frequently, as the mixture turns a deeper red color. Add the cooked chicken pieces and cilantro, stir, and turn the heat down to low, just to keep the soup warm.

In another skillet, heat about 1 Tbsp of olive oil on medium high heat. Take the tortillas and cut them into long strips, and fry them for a few minutes in the oil, until golden brown. Remove from the oil, pat dry with paper towels, and sprinkle salt and pepper on them before they cool. Using half the strips, stir them into the soup. This will make the soup nice and thick.

Using the remaining tortilla strips, garnish the top of the soup with these, as well as your favorite toppings such as shredded cheese, sour cream, cilantro, chives, etc. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Halloween Invitations

In honor of the first day of October, it is finally time to think about Halloween! Even though it is 31 days away, there is much to do, and time seems to fly by! If you are thinking about having a fabulous Halloween party, or even a small get-together at your home to pass out candy to little ghouls and goblins, you need to get friends and family in the mood for a good haunt. Just a few simple tips to make Halloween a fun and frightful night!

If you are hosting a costume party, you want to be specific about what guests should wear if there is a more specific theme. I have had friends host costume parties where guests are asked to dress as Famous Couples, TV/Movie Characters, Superheros, or their favorite decade. This should be noted on the invitation. You also want to encourage guests to dress up, regardless, so a simple phrase like . We have had friends show up with no costumes, and they were the only ones the entire evening who never felt the spirit of Halloween.

Since Halloween is a night time event, you also want to be clear on whether you will be serving food (besides candy) and drinks. For many events, the host has provided a large spread of food but for drinks, it was BYOB. Other parties have only provided heavy appetizers with drinks. Depending on the size of your party, you may want to consider this costly detail, and let party-goers know on the invite what to expect.

A timeline for your guests is important too. Be sure to clearly state party times... if you want your guests to be there to help pass out candy to little kids, you should start the festivities around 6pm, as that is when it typically gets dark and the little ones come out. Older kids will start Trick-or-Treating around 7.

There are many options for Halloween invitations too. The ones pictured here are from Martha Stewart and Tiny Prints (click on the invites for the links) and you can send them via snail mail. If you are short on time, or are having a large list of guests, Evite or Pingg are your best bets for online invitations.

Any way you do it, just ensure your guests that it's a party they don't want to miss! Happy Haunting!