Showing posts with label Halloween. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Halloween. Show all posts

Friday, November 4, 2016

Spinach Soup in Carnival Squash


Even though our daughter is long gone from the house, my husband and I still carve pumpkins to invite in all the children from the neighborhood (and beyond) on Halloween, and we hand out plenty of candy. But we’re usually slow to select and carve our pumpkins—and this year we didn’t get to it until last weekend. Off we went to our local farm stand--and then I went crazy.

I couldn't help myself!

Choosing which pumpkins to carve was easy: we prefer the traditional shape but we’ve gone over to warty ones because they’re interesting. But then at the pumpkin stand I spied a batch of crazy gourds. I picked one up and said, “It’s a swan!” And I had this immediate image of a nest of wacky multi-colored swans sitting together, so I had to buy a basket for the nest and scavenge some straw for it.

But I didn’t stop there. I stumbled upon a selection of squashes. Confession: my mother used to make acorn squash, by cutting them in half and, after removing the seeds, filling the cavity with butter and brown sugar. But despite that I hated the things—I think it was the pasty stringy texture.

But! There were some lovely striped squashes called Carnival. I looked at them and didn’t see dinner—I saw a soup bowl with dark green soup in it. Maybe with some white accents—cheese? Sour cream? So I brought home two squashes.

Then I went looking for a green soup recipe. Spinach is the obvious choice (sorrel a close second, but I couldn’t find any), and fresh spinach is easy to come by, but after that I couldn’t find just the right combination of ingredients in any available recipe. So I improvised, borrowing from at least four different recipes, old and current.

Spinach Soup in a Carnival Squash


3 Tblsp butter
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 leek, sliced (white part only)
4 cups stock (vegetable or chicken) or, if you want a creamier soup, a combination of stock and milk or cream
1 lb fresh spinach (I know it looks like a lot, but it will cook down)
1/2 cup crème fraiche or sour cream (you can mix it in or add it at the end as garnish)
Salt and pepper to taste


In a large deep pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the green onions and the leek. Stir the vegetables in the butter, then cover and let them “sweat” for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. (Do not let the vegetables brown.)

Pour in the liquid and simmer for a few minutes.

Buy baby spinach leaves if you can. Rinse them and dry them (a salad spinner is a good choice!). If they are large, remove the tough stems. Chop roughly.

Add the spinach to the liquid and cook over low heat until the leaves are wilted. Use a food processor or an immersion blender to puree the soup.

Stir in the crème fraiche or sour cream (or save it for garnish). Taste for seasoning. Heat through and serve (in those wonderful squashes, with the top sliced off and the seeds removed) with a tangy bread such as cheese biscuits.

Various sources suggested possible additions: a dash of cayenne, minced garlic, onion rather than green onion. If you want to make it heartier, cook a peeled potato along with the other vegetables until it is soft, and add chopped ham at the end. It’s a quick, simple basic recipe, so you can experiment!

Halloween may have come and gone, but the spirits are still with us! Here's the fifth book in the Relatively Dead series, Search for the Dead, which came out last week.

Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Whoooo. Who?

I wish I were this clever. I spotted these little guys on Pinterest (by Jenn Erickson) and tried to recreate them. We had a family brunch and they were (dare I say it?) a hoot! In fact, one person declared that the owls were mighty tasty!

I love several things about these.

1. You probably have everything at home.
2. They're healthier than chocolate.
3. They're very forgiving to make and quite cute.

Owl Ingredients:

yellow mustard
black olives
a slice of red pepper (optional, see instructions)
baby spinach leaves

Hard boil the eggs. Place eggs in enough water to cover them plus an inch, cover, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat but leave the cover on and the pot on the burner. Set the timer for 18 minutes. When done, pour out the water, flush with cold water, and shock by adding ice cubes.

(Note: older eggs peel better than fresh ones. If you have farm fresh eggs, plan ahead and leave them in the fridge a couple of weeks to age first.)

Peel the eggs and slice in half. Place the yolks in a food processor with mayonnaise and mustard. Pulse until blended and taste. Add salt and adjust the mayo and mustard to your liking. Pulse again.

I used a disposable pastry bag and a large tip to fill the eggs. I would recommend using a medium tip. I tried to make the "feathers" by dragging fork tines through the filling. Don't do that! Bad idea. Fill the egg, then draw the tip down the middle and along each side. Add yellow dots for the eyes.

Slice olives. Place rounds at the top on each yellow dot for eyes. Cut slices into small bits for pupils.

Cut the red peppers in very small triangles. Place under the eyes as beaks. Note that I made one with an olive beak in case you don't happen to have a red pepper. He looks just as cute.

Cut baby spinach leaves in half and place them on the sides as wings.

Red beak or black beak?

Add spinach leaf wings.


Coming February 7th!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Veggie Skeleton and Brain Dip #halloween food fun

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: I’ll confess, Halloween is not a major moo-ha-ha here in our little house in the big woods. (We've just got the one decoration, picked up years ago at a craft fair, but it's a good one!) No kidlets clamoring for costumes and candy. No Trick-or-Treaters—our community is far-flung and semi-rural, so roaming the roads is unsafe, especially as darkness falls.

But in true community fashion, the Village has a solution: for two hours on Halloween afternoon, the downtown merchants dress up, open their doors, and provide treats for big and little ones. (Needless to say, no business gets done in those hours!) Mr. Right and I occasionally make the trek into town to watch the fun—no heart can be less than glad at the sight of a three-year-old in a pink tutu and fairy wings, especially if she’s also wearing pink plaid Wellies.

My favorite Halloween treat is probably Jewel Bay Critter Crunch, my version of Harry & David’s Moose Munch, which I created for my third Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, BUTTER OFF DEAD. I've shared it here before---link above. I think I'll pop up a batch this afternoon.

But when I saw this Veggie Skeleton and Brain Dip recipe in a magazine, I knew I had to make it. A great centerpiece—and too much fun. Which is, after all, what Halloween is really about, right?

You certainly can substitute other vegetables: grape tomatoes might make nice feet, and broccoli flowerets decent toes. Try cauliflowerets for hands. I used parsley for hair, but you could also use ruffled kale or the curly ends of leaf lettuce. The dip can be made with a standard blender or food processor---we use our immersion blender, fondly known as the whizzy-uppie thing.

Be sure to set out a bowl or plate of crackers and other veggies (spare ribs, anyone?), so you and your guests can nibble without destroying the table decor!

Veggie Skeleton and Brain Dip

For the skeleton:
one cucumber
one or two stalks celery
one carrot or several baby carrots
3 small to medium mushrooms
one red bell pepper
several stalks of parsley
two black olives

For the dip:
You can use any homemade or commercial dip, even plain yogurt. We used our Creamy Parmesan Salad Dressing (a variation was published in ASSAULT & PEPPER), which is thick enough for a dip. And the shredded cheese and herb bits make it deliciously gruesome!

Creamy Parmesan Salad Dressing

1 medium shallot, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced or roughly chopped
1 cup nonfat or lowfat plain yogurt
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan or Asiago
2 tablespoons olive oil, scant
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped (or ½ teaspoon dried leaves)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

Makes about 1-1/4 cups

Mix all ingredients in a small food processor or blender until thoroughly combined. Chill at least one hour, to let flavors meld. Adjust seasonings to your taste.

To assemble: 

Slice the cucumber and lay 6-8 rounds down the middle of your cutting board. Make sure to leave enough room for the pelvis and legs. Cut two 3-4" lengths of celery for the shoulders. Cut celery or a celery-carrot combination for the legs. Slice carrots, or use baby carrots, for the arms and feet. Add parsley for the hands and toes. Slice the mushrooms, with the stem intact, and lay them out for the pelvis. Core the pepper and slice thinly lengthwise; you may have to cut one end off your “ribs” to fit them in to the available space. Pour the dip into a small clear glass bowl and place at the head; garnish with olives for eyes and parsley hair.


From the cover of KILLING THYME (October 2016, in paperback, e-book, and audio---large print coming soon!): 

At Seattle Spice in the Pike Place Market, owner Pepper Reece is savoring her business success, but soon finds her plans disrupted by a killer…

Pepper Reece’s to-do list is longer than the shopping list for a five-course dinner, as she conjures up spice blends bursting with seasonal flavor, soothes nervous brides fretting over the gift registry, and crosses her fingers for a rave review from a sharp-tongued food critic. Add to the mix a welcome visit from her mother, Lena, and she’s got the perfect recipe for a busy summer garnished with a dash of fun. 

While browsing in the artists’ stalls, Pepper and Lena drool over stunning pottery made by a Market newcomer. But when Lena recognizes the potter, Bonnie Clay, as an old friend who disappeared years ago, the afternoon turns sour. To Pepper’s surprise, Bonnie seems intimately connected to her family’s past. after Bonnie is murdered only days later, Pepper is determined to uncover the truth. 

But as Pepper roots out long-buried secrets, will she be digging her own grave?

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The 2015-16 president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website  and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebookwhere I often share news of new books and giveaways from my cozy writer friends.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

#Halloween Decorated Pretzel Rods #Recipe @PegCochran

There isn't exactly a recipe for this--it's more of a craft than cooking, but it's lots of fun and kids can easily participate.  And while I used Halloween themed sprinkles, you can vary them according to the holiday--red and green for Christmas, red, white and blue for Fourth of July, green for St. Patrick's day.  You're limited by only your imagination!

Gather your supplies.  I used:

chocolate candy melts
white chocolate candy melts
pretzel rods

Melt chocolate according to directions.  I used a microwave safe mug so the chocolate would be "deep" enough.

Once melted, dip your pretzel rods in the chocolate and then press into the sprinkles coating all sides.

I found some cool sprinkles that included tiny pumpkins.

Place pretzel rods on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper.

Drizzle with white chocolate.  I found this cool spoon made just for drizzling although it wasn't really necessary.  I found the white chocolate candy melts to be rather thick--next time I might try a white chocolate candy bar.

Gather the finished pretzels into a pretty glass and you have an instant centerpiece for your Halloween table!

Aren't they fun?  My grocery store even sells bags specifically for these so you can package each of them separately.  Great teacher gift at Christmas, don't you think?

 Rated a TOP PICK by RT Magazine!  Available now!

Paperback on sale at Amazon for $6.11

On her blog, The Farmer’s Daughter, Shelby McDonald is growing her audience as she posts recipes, gardening tips, and her experiences raising two kids and running Love Blossom Farm in the small western Michigan town of Lovett.

Working the farm is demanding but peaceful—until that peace is shattered when the minister’s wife is murdered on Shelby’s property during a fund-raiser for a local church. But the manure really hits the fan when Shelby’s good friend veterinarian Kelly Thacker emerges as the prime suspect. Shelby decides to dig in and find the murderer by herself. As more suspects crop up, she’ll have to move fast—before someone else buys the farm. . . .

Friday, October 28, 2016

Buried in a Bog Cheesecake for #Halloween

Ah, that lovely season when the dead rise again! You probably know of my fondness for graveyards, not to mention my obsession with my dear departed ancestors (“You have how many names in your family tree?” Actually, as of this week it’s 13,165, not including the Irish side.)

But sometimes it’s hard to find appropriate recipes for Halloween. In the past I’ve offered you black pasta (hand-imported from Italy!) and black garlic, and even spider cookies crawling out of a pumpkin one year. This year I realized I had overlooked one very obvious choice: the bog dead!

A few years ago my daughter gave me a set of skull baking molds (she knows me well). But I seldom feel the urge to make skull muffins or cupcakes. What else could I do . . .  And then I had this idea for skulls emerging from a pool of peat (aka a bog). Don’t worry: the skulls are shortbread, and the peat is dark chocolate cheesecake.

(If you’re faint of heart, you could make pumpkin cookies instead and scatter them over the nice field of cheesecake earth.)

The Skulls:

I used the basic shortbread recipe from my post last week and pressed the dough into the molds, filling them only part way (you could also use sugar-cookie dough). Then I baked them. It’s all right if they brown a little—a skull marinating in peat for a few centuries should be a bit discolored.

The Crust:

This will not show, but you will need it if you plan to eat this concoction (silly question) This recipe fits a 9-inch pan, but I doubled it for a 9x13” pan (I wanted to fit more skulls in).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray your pan with cooking spray.

9 oz. chocolate wafer cookies (crunchy ones, not chewy ones)
2 Tblsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter, melted

In a food processor, grind the cookies to fine crumbs, then blend in the sugar and salt. Add the melted butter and blend. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake until set (about 10 minutes), then cool.

The Cheesecake:

I searched through recipes and picked the deepest, darkest one I could find.

12 oz. (2 bags) bittersweet chocolate (if bars, chop)
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
4 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
4 eggs

Melt the chocolate (microwave works well, or in a double boiler—slowly!), stirring steadily until the chocolate is melted. Let cool to lukewarm.

In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar and cocoa powder together (no lumps!). In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes), then add the sugar/cocoa powder mixture. Beat well, scraping down the bowl. Blend in the eggs, one at a time. Finally mix in the lukewarm chocolate and stir.

Let me tell you, this stuff is delicious! I was tempted to eat it straight from the bowl.

Building your Bog:

Take your pan with the cookie layer and arrange the skulls on that—you can use as many as you want, and distribute them in whatever pattern pleases you—all lined up or randomly.

Pour in the filling carefully around the skulls. Actually, I had to use a pastry bag—the batter was a bit too thick to pour. But this is supposed to be peat, so it doesn’t have to be tidy. The layer doesn’t have to be too deep—you want the skulls to look like they’re emerging from the murk, ever so slowly. If you’re feeling creative, you can sprinkle some left-over crumbs around the skull to make the bog look more authentic.

This is a very large peat bog in Shannonbridge,
Ireland. It provides fuel for a nearby electric
generating station.  I had to stop and check it out.

Bake until the center is just set (that is, still a little wiggly), rotating the pan in the oven once during cooking. The exact timing will depend on how large your pan is and how deep the cheesecake layer is. Start checking after 30-40 minutes. It’s  not the end of the world if it’s baked a bit too long—the cheesecake will be more brownie-like in texture rather than creamy, but it will still taste good.

If you’re really into it, go wild with more decorations—maybe black sprinkles or some hints of green (bogs are growing things, you know). I did draw the line at adding a few (clean) chicken wing bones for effect, though. Maybe it would look good if you served it in the light of flickering candles.

Refrigerate your bog cheesecake overnight before you try to cut it (if you can wait that long!).
Savor it after the manic sugar-fueled trick-or-treaters have retreated for the night.

Oh, and a giveaway bonus: a pumpkin that will last more than a couple of weeks (It's cloth.)

And if you've never read Buried in a Bog (the first book of my County Cork Mystery Series), I'll throw that in too.

Here's a picture of the bog it's based on:

My great-great-grandfather's bog down the hill
from Knockskagh in West Cork. The peat is
under the brown grass.
Just leave a spooky comment and I'll draw one name for the pumpkin (hmm, I could draw a name out of a pumpkin . . .)