Oct 25, 2010

Trick or Treat

With Halloween about to rear it's ghoulish head, we decided to dedicate the next few recipes to the festivities. We've made some fun and easy treats for you to share - for a fun Halloween party with your kids, or a cocktail party with your friends. Keep scrolling down the page and at the end you will find two great beverage options: Swamp Juice for the kids and a Ghoulish Cider Cocktail for the adults. Enjoy!

Slimy Pea Soup

What better way to shock your Halloween guests than to serve green soup with two eyeballs peering up at them, or a spiderweb stretching it’s way across the bowl - it’s like a scene from Beetlejuice minus the creepy shrimp hand grabbing at your face. The soup itself is flavorful enough – a simple pea soup with garlic and scallions. Although the ideal time of year to serve pea soup is in the spring when there are an abundance of fresh peas around, frozen peas suffice for this green Halloween soup.

Caitlin:  For the eyes, I used tiny potatoes and parboiled them, then I added pimento stuffed green olives in the top. You can also use pearl onions and stuff them with olives as well. I didn’t eat the eyeballs with the soup, but I suppose you can – I really didn’t think it complimented the soup, it was more about the shock value. 

Monica: I chose to add an extra ingredient to enhance the flavor of my soup. Instead of using 1 scallion, I decided to add a head of roasted garlic.  I’ve had roasted garlic and pea soup in the past, and I enjoy the flavor combination of the sweet, caramelized roasted garlic and sweet peas. After making the soup, to make it even more festive, I topped it with a spiderweb design. The spiderweb design was made from a mixture of sour cream and a bit of milk.  This just added a great final touch, and brings a fun element your guests are sure to appreciate.
Ingredient List 
4 cups frozen peas
1 head of roasted garlic (if using)
1 scallion (if not using the roasted garlic)
3 cups boiling water, from the kettle
Vegetable or Chicken stock cube
1 ball mozzarella, diced (approx 10 oz)
**if making potato eyeballs:
8 – 10 little, round potatoes
Pimiento stuffed olives
**if making spiderweb topping:
3 tbs sour cream
1 tbs milk
Plastic condiment bottle

*Roasted Garlic: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using the roasted garlic, make ahead because it takes 45 minutes – 1  hour to roast. Cut off the top of the head of garlic, place on a small square of aluminum foil, drizzle the garlic with olive oil, and wrap tightly (like a small parcel) in the foil and put in oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the garlic is soft.
To make the soup:

Cook the frozen peas and scallion (if using) in the boiling water with the stock cube until tender and cooked through.  Put the peas in the blender.

Add the diced mozzarella to the peas in the blender.  Liquidize the soup until smooth.
Top with spiderweb or garnish with potato eyeballs.

To make the potato eyeballs:
Parboil little potatoes. Scoop out some of the middle, but do not hollow out, as you are going to place the olives in the middle of the eyeball. Place olive in the middle of the potato. Place 2 eyeballs in each bowl.

To make the spiderweb topping:
Prepare a mixture of 3 tablespoons of sour cream and 1 tabelspoon of milk. Fill a plastic condiment bottle with the mixture.
Carefully squeeze several circles (like a spiral form) on the surface of warm soup.
Use a toothpick to drag lines from the center out toward the edges to create a web design.

You can use a head of roasted garlic, instead of the scallion to flavor the soup.
You can opt to drain the peas after boiling, before pureeing.

Caitlin: In honor of all things Halloween, we listened to a mix of our favorites - Purple People Eaters, Werewolves of London, Nightmare Before Christmas music, and of course John Williams’ song for Darth Vader.
Monica: I chose to continue the Halloween theme and mixed up some spooky classics you can enjoy any day of the year:
1)    Ghost Town – The Specials
2)    Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora) – Harry Belafonte
3)    Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell
4)    People are Strange – The Doors
5)    Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones

Drink of Choice
Caitlin: We had just made the swamp juice, so we drank it with the slime soup and then topped off our creepy lunch with the Franken pudding pops.
Monica: If you are going to enjoy the Ghoulish Cider for dessert, I would recommend a vodka martini for dinner – preferably a Kettle One Martini with two olives. If you are making the potato eyeballs, you could possibly use the same olives for your drink.

A Recipe to Remember?
It most definitely is, and can become part of a Halloween dinner tradition for years to come.
Caitlin's Version

Monica's Version

Spooky Sole : Pan-Fried Lemon Sole Fillets with Salsa Verde

Don’t let the ingredients for the salsa verde scare you – it’s a refreshing and versatile sauce that really compliments the fried fish with lemon. If you’re not a fan of anchovies, don’t worry. They don’t overpower the salsa, but if you’re really freaked out and would avoid the dish altogether, leave them out – the herbs would suffice. The salsa verde is easy enough to put together in a small blender; it can even be made a day earlier and put in the fridge until you’re ready to make the fish. Sole is thin and fries quickly with a little flour coating so have your side dishes nearly ready before you begin the fish to avoid a cold fillet.  

The recipe (which can be found here) serves the fish with boiled potatoes and steamed broccoli - we served ours with different sides. Monica made small potatoes and sautéed spinach; Caitlin made a single layer potato cake and sautéed Kale. You can make the sides from the original recipe, try ours or use whatever veggies are in season at your local market. If you’re trying something different, leave a comment and let us know what you used and how it tasted!

We also tried using different pickles for the salsa, to see which kind complimented the other flavors. Caitlin used sweet mini pickles, and Monica used small dills, or cornichons. Both tasted great and complimented the other herbs and lemon fish. Your choice will depend on what suits your taste: slightly sweeter or slightly tart.

If you’re not accustomed to buying anchovies, make sure they’re boneless – picking out the bones in a tiny fish is a tedious job that can be easily avoided.

Overall, this recipe is extremely easy and delicious – a creative twist to salsa verde that we’ll absolutely make again.

Caitlin: I thought this was a creative and tasty version of salsa verde; one that I hadn’t had before. I have to admit, I was a little nervous when I looked at the ingredient list – anchovies and sweet pickles are not a flavor combination I’m used to, but I decided to give it a go and I’m glad I did. Blending the sweet pickles with the salty anchovies complimented all of the fresh herbs nicely – it was a refreshing and tasty topping to the lemon pan-fried sole. I decided to serve mine with a flattened potato cake similar to the one we made last week, but without horseradish and only one layer of potatoes. It provided a nice crunchy layer underneath the fish that went well with the salsa verde. 
I also sautéed some Kale in lemon juice for my veg on the side - it all went really well together. 

Monica: Sometimes it helps to read the recipe twice. I seemed to have skipped over the part of the recipe where it calls for flour – needless to say my sole fillets were a bit difficult to flip and were very close to flaking apart.  Thankfully, everything seemed to work out in the end and I was able to pan-fry a tasty batch of lemon sole fillets.
This recipe is easy and light (especially since I omitted the flour).  I didn’t stray from the overall recipe too much, however, I substituted basil for arugula when making the salsa verde.  I like the peppery taste of arugula and it seemed like a good substitution.  The salsa verde had all the right amounts of herbs, salt and acidity; it definitely complimented the fish. I chose to serve my dish with “teeny tiny potatoes” (that’s what they were called; they taste very similar to baby dutch potatoes) and sautéed spinach.  I would definitely recommend making it when you don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen, yet you are looking for something satisfying.  I think a nice variation to the dish would be to grill the sole and top with the salsa verde.  Also, an extra squeeze of lemon before serving is always a good thing.

Ingredient List                                          
For the Salsa Verde
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp of capers
3 or 4 small whole pickles, chopped
5 boneless anchovy fillets
Handful of flat leaf parsely
Handful of basil
Handful of mint
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 ½  tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

4 sole fillets
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 lemon

Make the salsa verde. Combine all of the ingredients, except the olive oil and s&p, and blend in a small blender. Once combined, stir in the olive oil to loosen. Add salt and pepper to taste.
If you don’t want to use a blender, you can finely chop all of the ingredients and hand mix. When done, cover and set aside. If making in advance, place in the fridge until ready to use.

Put about ½ cup of flour in a bowl. Take your sole fillets, sprinkle with salt and pepper then put them in the bowl, one at a time and turn over until lightly coated.

Heat oil in a pan then add the fillets. Cook for about 2 minutes then add the butter, turn them over and cook for another 2 minutes. When the fillets are golden on both sides, turn the heat off. Wait about 30 seconds then add the lemon juice and shake the pan to coat. Be careful though, if the pan is too hot the lemon juice will burn black and ruin the fish.

Divide the fish fillets between plates, top with the salsa verde, add your side dishes and serve!

If anchovies are not in your favorite foods repertoire, you can leave them out. Just be sure to add a little more salt.

Basil can be substituted by arugula.

The fish can be grilled instead of pan-fried, but make sure you get a thicker cut of fish (sole might be a little too thin).

This would make a nice po-boy style sandwich – the fried fish, salsa verde, a little lettuce and a long crusty bun, yum!

Drink of Choice

Caitlin: Because I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to like salsa verde, I decided to drink something neutral just in case I needed a palate refresher - a nice cold Fresca hit the spot.
Monica: I was craving something refreshing to go with the fresh herbs in the salsa verde, so I opted for an unsweetened Passion Fruit Iced Tea.

Caitlin: I was in a Motown kind of mood when I made this. I sang along to Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding. 
Monica: The dish was quick to prepare, and inspired me to listen to songs that were for the most part, upbeat:
1)   Hand in Glove – The Smiths
2)   Love Street – The Doors
3)   Can I Get A Witness – Marvin Gaye
4)   Ode to L.A. – The Raveonettes

5)   Radio Clash – The Clash

A Recipe to Remember?
Yes, the dish was easy and tasty – will definitely make again.
Caitlin's Version
Monica's Version

Creepy Crawly Spider Cupcakes

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to make one of Martha Stewart’s cute, holiday cupcakes?  Well, I always have…and to be quite honest, it was not as difficult as it seemed.  I saw the spider cupcakes on her website and I knew I had to try to make them.  I tweaked the recipe a bit and the result was perfectly moist, edible creations.

The cupcake itself isn’t difficult to make, however, it is time consuming; especially when it comes to decorating each cake.  My recommendation would be to get a few helpers who are willing to ice and decorate the cupcakes once they are cooled.  This cupcake is perfect for kids; however, I also think adults would appreciate how festive they are and their great taste.  Chocolate and vanilla, is a classic combination!

The cupcake recipe I used was quite simple.  The ingredients are ones you probably have on hand - the only ingredient you might have to purchase is buttermilk.  For the vanilla buttercream frosting, I adapted a version of the one found in Demolition Desserts.  After researching various vanilla buttercream recipes, this one seemed to have the most positive reviews and the least amount of butter.  I used ¾ of a stick, when most of the other recipes I found used a stick or two.  The result was a perfect buttercream base, identical to the kind of frosting you would get at popular cupcake shops.

The decoration of the cupcakes really makes them extra special.  The details do count!  From the black sanding sugar to the red hot or sugar eyes, down to the licorice legs - they really are a fun addition to your Halloween festivities. Kids and adults alike will be quite impressed with the end results and they would be great edible decorations to a Halloween table.

Ingredient List

Chocolate Cupcakes

1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
2 large eggs
¾ cup warm water
¾ cup buttermilk
3 tbs  canola oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Black cupcake liners

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

¾ stick of unsalted, softened butter
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tbs whole milk
1 tbs vanilla
½ tsp lemon juice

Cupcake Topping

Black sanding sugar
Cinnamon candy (like red hots) or sugar eyes 
1 bag marshmallows
1 bag black licorice (preferably the skinny licorice)

To make the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside.

Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.  Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20- 25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

To make vanilla buttercream icing:
In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer – cream butter and salt for 30 seconds.  Add ½ of the sugar & milk to batter and beat to combined. Add the rest of powdered sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice and beat until combined, about 5-6 minutes or until frosting is fluffy. Stir to get all the bubbles out.

To decorate the cupcakes:
Once cooled, ice mini cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and coat icing with black sanding sugar. Use cinnamon candy for eyes or sugar eyes (if preferred).  For legs, attach 8 pieces of black licorice. For fangs, cut out tiny cone shapes from a marshmallow and attach.
Substituted canola oil for safflower oil in the cupcake recipe.

Used a 3/4 stick of butter, instead of 1 stick of butter in the vanilla frosting.

Drink of Choice
Caitlin's "Swamp Juice" - what's better than punch and cupcakes, takes me back to my school days.

These cupcakes inspired a mix of Halloween classics for all ages:
1)      Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Picket
2)      The Munsters Theme – David Caine
3)      Ghostbusters – Ray Parker, Jr.
4)      Thriller – Michael Jackson
5)      This is Halloween – Danny Elfman

A Recipe to Remember?
For sure, these cupcakes are delicious and quite cute!

Franken Pudding Pops

These are really cute treats for kids, not to mention pretty tasty. I made my own vanilla pudding, but I’ve also used boxed pudding in the past when I made a large batch for a party. Both tasted and looked great. The following pudding recipe yields about 3 small cups, so adjust accordingly, or used boxed if you’re making a large quantity. A suggestion about decorating the cups: when you’re putting the chocolate face on the side of the cup, put it lower on the side so that you don’t have to fill the entire cup with pudding. I made these for a kids’ Halloween party last year – kids are notorious for taking a few bites then leaving the rest, so if the cups aren’t filled all the way, you’re not wasting as much pudding. Trust me – I learned the hard way…

Ingredient List
1 cup sugar
¼ flour
½ tsp salt
2 cups milk (preferably whole)
1 tsp vanilla extract, or 1 ½ vanilla beans halved
4 egg yolks

Green food coloring - I prefer to use Gel
Small clear plastic cups
Chocolate chips
Chocolate cookies – I like Trader Joe’s O’s; Oreos will also work

Start with decorating the cups. Put your chocolate chips in a small pan and melt. Take the melted chocolate and make a face on the side of the cup using the opposite end of a spoon or a skewer stick– two slanted lines for eyes, and a squiggly line for the mouth. You can get creative here and make something spooky and unique. When done, put the cup directly into the freezer so the chocolate hardens. Leave them in the freezer until your done with the pudding.

Start the vanilla pudding.
Whisk together the sugar, flour, salt in a bowl and set aside in medium mixing bowl. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and add the vanilla extract, or beans if using. Add the food coloring until you get a nice bright green. Cook over medium heat until bubbles form around the edge of the pan - about 5 minutes.

Gradually add the milk to the flour mixture whisking constantly. Transfer back to the saucepan and cook over a low heat, whisking for about 5 minutes. Add 3 egg yolks and continue to whisk. Cook over medium heat until, stirring, until it comes to a boil and thickens – about 7 minutes.

Remove from heat, and if using vanilla beans, remove pods. Put into a bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap to prevent a layer forming on top. Let stand at room temp until cool.

Take the chocolate cookies and smash into a bowl. When the pudding has cooled, remove the cups from the freezer and pour the green pudding into the cup, top with a layer of crushed cookies and they’re ready to be served!

You can use different colors of pudding and chocolate to make Halloween creatures: chocolate pudding with white chocolate for the face; vanilla pudding with a dark chocolate ghost face in a tall cup. Let your kids use their imagination!

You can also get creative with the face and the toppings – cut two Oreos in half and use them as ears, or find other cookies/candy to put on the top. 

Swamp Juice

This is best served in a large punch bowl so kids can ladle out their own servings into cups and take whatever gummy bugs they want. 

Ingredient List
½ Lemonade
½ Sprite or Fresca
Green Food Coloring
Gummy Worms
Swedish Fish

Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and stir. Hang a few worms over the side of the punchbowl and decorate the outer side with spiderwebs and plastic spiders.