Halloween Fun Food

So Evan wants to live in a haunted house. For real. Every year it’s the same conversation about how the inside of the house needs to be really dark and scary. Thankfully he’s satisfied with some outdoor giant webs and spiders and he’s pretty psyched about the new black cauldron that we’ll fill with dry ice this year.

Having a pumpkin ale and a few laughs…modelling the latest reaper wear from J. Creep.

Pumpkin coffee tables from Crypt and Brimstone

You couldn’t pay me to take a photo like this of a real spider.

Our basement window well has turned into a crypt

Styrofoam balls (cut with serrated knife), painted black and joined with toothpicks, plus some black pipe cleaners.

He’s also psyched about Halloween food, like hot dog mummies, spider dip, witches’ hats and, of course, the puking pumpkin. I took the photos below a couple of years ago, before it had even occurred to me to start writing a blog. I was just one of those weird people who takes pictures of her food. Okay, I’m still am.

Mummy Dogs

Chocolate digestive biscuits (or any round chocolate cookie), Hershey’s Kisses and decorator icing tubes (don’t get the gel kind, it doesn’t dry hard).

Layer refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, grated cheese, black olives and salsa in whatever order you want, ending with salsa on top. Pipe sour cream into a web pattern. You can cut a small hole in the corner of a Ziploc bag and use that to pipe the sour cream.

Lightweight…

All Green Guacamole
There’s no real recipe here, keep tasting as you go.

2-3 ripe avocados, finely chopped green onion, tons of chopped fresh cilantro, juice of 1 lime.

Mummy Dogs
If Pillsbury Crescent Rolls are a guilty pleasure, here’s your excuse to buy them.

Cut hot dogs into 2-3″ pieces
Roll out Crescent Roll dough and use a sharp knife to cut into narrow strips. Wrap the dough around the hotdogs, but not too tight. Don’t forget to leave space for eyes. Bake according to package directions until golden. Dot with mustard for eyes after they’ve cooled down a bit.

Quick Rustic Ratatouille

The veggies in the photo above look so fresh don’t they? It’s all the bright colours I think. I bet you have a ton of zucchini and tomatoes in your garden…maybe even peppers and eggplant. Me? None. Zero. Zilch. It was not my gardening year. It was not Eggton‘s gardening year either. Check out her video. Oh, and read her. She’s funny as hell and always includes pictures of her kids dogs and posts yummy recipes.

For me, there was too much work travel this summer and then lack of motivation to get out there and work in the yard. I can only speak for myself because Bob has a garden too (he takes care of the back yard, I deal with the front) but he grew different stuff. Garlic, onions, peas, beans and some weird looking heirloom tomatoes, oh and corn! A few cobs actually grew this year. That was cool. His stuff looks great. Mine sucks. But I’m not competing or anything. 🙂

Ok so back to the photo of the ratatouille. The tomatoes and herbs are fresh but everything else has been quickly roasted until tender and the flavours are wonderful. You can make ratatouille any time of year, but there’s nothing better than when everything is in season. (And even better when they come from your own garden but I’ll leave that to you guys, ok?).

This is a quick, rustic rat that’s super simple to throw together. It really benefits from fresh herbs so if you don’t grow them yourself, splurge on them because it will be worth it.

Slice the zucchini in rounds, the eggplants in spears and roughly chop the peppers and onions into ~1″ pieces and toss everything into a mixing bowl as you go. Add salt and pepper. I didn’t measure the salt and pepper but you can see the amount I ground in. Add more if you like.

You dump it all onto a rimmed baking sheet and roast it quickly at high heat. While it’s in the oven you prep the tomatoes and herbs and toss it all together with the hot veggies.

We like ratatouille as a side dish or tossed in pasta, rice or quinoa as a main meal. It makes a great cold pita sandwich with a smear of hummus. I just had it again for lunch tossed with fusilli, some feta cheese and a drizzle of balsamic. Serious yum!

Quick Rustic Ratatouille
Thanks to my mom for this recipe…I’m not sure where she got it but she adapted it and then I did…..) Preheat the oven to 475º.

Cut and toss into a large bowl:
1 small eggplant, cut into thick spears
2 med zucchini, cut in rounds
1 med onion, coarsely chopped
3 bell peppers coarsely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped (I’m starting to sound like a broken record. Hmmmm…kids today probably don’t know what that means.)

Toss with: 3 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper and spread out onto a rimmed baking sheet (spray it or spread out a little olive oil on the sheet first)
Roast for 15 min or until the veg are tender.

While the veg are roasting: 
Chop: large handfuls of basil, flat-leaf parsley and cilantro (have about 1-1.5 cups of chopped herbs)
Halve: lots of cherry tomatoes

Take the vegetables out of the oven, stir in the tomatoes and herbs and transfer to a large platter. Enjoy!

Mediterranean Baked Feta

Oh. You guys. You HAVE to make this. It’s simple and fantastic. We came home from camping and I saw Smitten Kitchen‘s post with all these ingredients I love…feta, kalmata olives, cherry tomatoes. This are the kinds of ingredients I use all the time. BUT I’d never had the idea to serve the feta warm. It takes it to a whole new level. After a week of hot dogs, s’mores, cold cereal, etc this was just what we needed. You need this too.

Slice cherry tomatoes in half, chop olives, toss with thiny sliced onion, minced garlic, oregano and a good grind of pepper.

Place tomato mixture around and on top of a block of feta and bake. Serve immediately. Preferably outside on a deck somewhere.

Mediterranean Baked Feta

You can serve this on crackers, flatbread, pita chips, soft pita etc. Or if you’re watching your bread carbs/gluten try it on cucumber rounds (patted dry), in a lettuce wrap, endive leaves, grape leaves….or just eat it with a spoon!

1/3 – 1/2 lb block feta
1/2 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup kalmata olives, diced (measure with whole olives, then dice)
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
1-2 thumb-sized cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried or 1 tbsp fresh, chopped oregano
pepper

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place block of feta in an oven-proof dish and set aside. In a separate bowl, gently toss tomatoes, onions, garlic, oregano together. Then place around and on top of feta. Add a good grind of pepper on top and bake for about 15 min.

Serve immediately. Feta will not melt, but will be spreadable. As it cools it will firm up but can be popped in the oven again. I think it won’t last long enough to really cool down! You could also make a balsamic reduction and drizzle it over when you take the feta out of the oven. (To make a reduction, pour some good balsamic in a sauce pan and heat over med-high until it becomes thick and syrupy).

Peach Blueberry Galette

I guess it’s fitting that Sanjay Gupta weighed in on whether sugar is ‘toxic’ on 60 Minutes last night. So this galette is probably a bad idea. But it’s a mouthwateringly delectable bad idea. Everything in moderation, right? So make it for when you have company and not when you’re at risk of hanging out alone with your pie. Unless you’re one of those freaks of nature people who can eat just a small, reasonable amount of dessert.
Me? I can’t be trusted.

Soak blueberries in 1 part white vinegar and 4 parts water. Rinse and enjoy. The vinegar will kill any mold spores and they’ll last a lot longer if you buy a big batch.

This is super easy. (Yes, Stacie, even you, self-confessed ‘poser in all culinary endeavours’ can make this 🙂 – though I suspect you are a better cook than you profess given how fit you look!) I was lazy and bought frozen pie shells and it rocked. Put the frozen pie shell (remove from tin plate) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Leave it to warm up and soften. Then cut up the fruit, toss in sugar and flour, pile in the middle, fold up the sides and bake. See? How hard was that?

Peach Blueberry Galette
adapted from Dinner with Julie

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place frozen pie shell on the parchment. The sides should relax as it warms up and eventually lie flat. If you make your own pastry, roll it out to about 10″ diameter. Stir together the sugar and flour and then toss in the diced fruit. Pile the fruit in the middle of the pastry spreading out to within one inch of the edge. Fold up the sides of the pastry folding it wherever. You can brush the pastry with cream or milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar if you want to. Bake for about 30 min or until bubbly and brown. Don’t worry if the berry juice leaks out. Just let it cool and it will be fine.

1 single crust pie shell (~10″)
2 peaches, diced
1 cup berries
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp all purpose flour

Boys, Bikes, and Bonfires…oh, and a quinoa salad.

I remember three things from a summer camping trip when I was little.

1) Arbitrarily deciding I no longer liked apple juice, to the frustration of my mother who had just handed me a plastic Tupperware cup full (with those impossibly tight fitting lids – remember them?).

2) Running up to three tall wooden ‘Huey, Dewey and Louie’ ducks , patting each on the head, and naming them Mac, Two, and Quack after the campground. Only last summer, while roadtripping from Boston to Moncton, NB did I realize that long-ago campground was in Mactaquac Provincial Park (don’t laugh too hard, my French-speaking friends!).

3) Sitting on a picnic blanket at dusk, excited to be outside in my PJ’s WAY past my bedtime, to watch Bedknobs and Broomsticks on a giant outdoor movie screen.

I don’t have any other specific memories of that trip, turns out I was only about 3 1/2, but I remember the magical feeling.

So this year we argued about packed up the car made the 3:05, 3:35, 4:20 5:00pm Fauntleroy to Southworth ferry, and went camping. With two other families, we had five boys made up of three school friends (7yo) plus an older (15) and a younger (5) sib. The 15 y.o was a doll and I hope we do as good a job with E as his parents have done with him!

Fishing with a reed grass pole

Boys are genetically programmed to poke sticks in fires

Blurry boys. Not my fault, they just move too damn fast!

My speedy kid

It was a busy campground, not super-private, with showers and flush toilets and paved paths and is probably a cop-out to backpacking-with-your-tiny-tent-and-purify-your-own-water types. It wasn’t quite the Walmart of campgrounds though, I’ll reserve that for the one we were at a couple of years ago where some woman in full make up and heels was patiently waiting in the bathroom for the deluxe coffeemaker she’d lugged in to finish brewing.

Early morning blueberry pancakes and coffee. Life couldn’t get better.

Now, I am an admitted coffee snob but this is camping people! No electrical appliances allowed! But our camping stovetop perc had seen better days and so we went with the next best thing: Starbucks VIA baby! Normally I wouldn’t be caught dead drinking instant but we thought we’d try it and VIA totally raises the bar. Seriously, it rocked. The only thing better would have been some freshly ground Pike Place Roast or my fave: tall skinny vanilla latte.

This ain’t your mother’s instant.

The other smart thing we did was make Julie‘s Curried Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Mango ahead of time. It travels well, is filling and fresh either on its own or keeping a hot dog company. My picky kid with the suspicious palate wouldn’t touch it, but other kids did! And the beans and quinoa give a ton of protein for the vegetarian who was not having hot dogs.

Yes, those white things are onion, but they’re super mild.

Curried Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Mango
adapted from Dinner with Julie

1 cup (uncooked) quinoa
1-2 ripe mangoes, diced
1 cup diced cucumber
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 cup diced mild onion or 2-3 chopped green onions
1 cup chopped/torn spinach
1-2 cups chopped cilantro
1 19oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed

Cook quinoa according to package directions and put in a large but shallow bowl to cool. Chop the vegetables and toss with the cooled quinoa. Drizzle with the dressing below.

Dressing:
1/4 cup canola oil
2-4 tbsp vinegar (rice, champagne, wine)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cumin
Whisk to combine and drizzle over the salad. Watch the amount, you might use more or less depending on how wet you like your salad.

Hello Summer! Whole Grain Summer Berry Crisp

I changed my header photo. Like it? Strawberries from my garden, blueberries from the store. Well…that’s not technically true. The strawberries are really from Bob’s garden. He deserves all the credit. I’ve been so lazy this season and haven’t really done much gardening at all (I’m guessing that armchair/backseat gardening doesn’t count).

So with all of these amazing berries staring at me how could I not make a dessert? I mean, Evan likes the crisp part of apple crisp, so this might be a good way to get him to start eating berries. Right? Bob rolled his eyes. “Yeah, you keep telling yourself that.”

Okay fine, whatever. I made it because I wanted it. But I truly did have hopes that Evan would try some. I did make it small. And whole grain. And not a huge amount of butter or sugar.

And Evan didn’t eat any of it. But it was f*cking awesome. Every last bit of it.

Whole Grain Summer Berry Crisp
This is dead simple. Layer the berries in the bottom of the pan. Add a splash of orange juice. If they’re not as sweet as you like, you can sprinkle with sugar to taste. Cover with the topping, dot with butter and bake at 350ºF until bubbly.

2 cups 5 grain rolled hot cereal (or rolled oats if you prefer)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups mixed berries
splash of orange juice

Dark Chocolate Sour Cream Zucchini Cake

OK so chocolate. Lots of chocolate, and sour cream for richness and moisture (and as an egg replacer*) and a whole whack of zucchini grated so fine it just disappears into the cake. It’s dense enough to be eaten out of your hand, especially if you’re one of three 7-year old friends, sitting around on the grass discussing what would happen if a superhero fell into a hole to the center of the earth. Apparently Superman might survive if he flew out in time and Wolverine would be fine because he can regenerate. But Spiderman? Spiderman would bite it.

Sorry for the short post…summer has taken over my brain and I can’t think of much to write these days.

Dark Chocolate Sour Cream Zucchini Cake

Adapted from Dinner with Julie.

1/2 cup butter, soft
1/4 cup canola oil
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/8 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sour cream
2 cups finely grated zucchini
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a Bundt pan with non-stick spray.
On high speed, beat the butter, oil, sugar and 2 tbsp sour cream for 2-3 minutes until thick and pale yellow. Add in vanilla and mix to combine.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

On low speed, add about 1/2 of the dry mixture to the wet ingredients, then stir in the sour cream and mix to combine. Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl. At this point the batter will be really thick, but adding the zucchini will thin it down a bit.

Stir in the zucchini and chocolate chips until well distributed. Bake for about an hour, until the top is springy and a toothpick comes out clean.

I was in a hurry to make this cake and had to get it out of the pan while it was still hot. To my surprise, not one crumb stuck to the Bundt pan. So whether you let it cool completely or turn it out while it’s still warm, you’ll have to experiment. It probably depends on your pan and how well you sprayed it.

*if you’d like to make this cake with eggs, replace the 2 tbsp of sour cream with two eggs. Add them at the same time as the vanilla. Reduce the baking powder to 1 tsp only.

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Dulce de Leche

It was Cinco de Mayo the other day, and so am I giving you a fab recipe for fajitas or enchiladas or even mojitos? No….though Bob made a kick ass fish taco last night. Or so I’m told. I’m allergic to fish, remember? But our friends said it was great. Next time he makes it I’ll take some photos and let you in on the recipe. Because quite honestly, this dinner party was all him….he planned, invited, grocery shopped, prepped and cooked. What a guy! It was really fun too. I did virtually nothing. Except make this cake. And the dulce de leche that is decadently running down the sides. Oh my god, you guys.

This is the easy way to make dulce de leche, using a can of sweetened condensed milk. I picked it up from Stephanie Eddy’s Icing on the Cake column in the Globe and Mail (Canadian paper, for my friends here in the Excited States). There are methods out there that call for boiling the unopened can in a pot of water but you do risk having the can blow up and wasting all that decadent sweetness doing some serious damage to someone or your kitchen cabinets.

For this method, you pour the sweetened condensed milk into a 8 or 9″ pan, cover tightly with foil and make sure the foil is not hanging down. Tuck it up tight like in the photo above.

Then put your covered pan in a larger one, like a roasting pan and fill with water until about halfway up the sides of the smaller one. Pop in the oven at 450º for about 90 min. You will probably have to add more water at some point. Check the water level at the 45 min mark. Don’t add cold water though, boil the kettle and use that to top up the level.

When it’s done, it will be this lovely caramel colour. I did mine on convection and it was finished in about an hour (good thing I decided to check under the foil!) It was about the consistency of pudding. Give it a good whisk to get it all smooth if there are lumps. The first time I made this, my oven was not on convection and I just left it for 90 min. It was not lumpy at all.

It will thicken a bit more as it cools. While it’s still warm eat it by the spoonful ladle it on the crest of the bundt cake and it will slowly drip down the sides. Or, let it cool and spread it between two cookies, or stir it into plain yogurt…keep leftovers in the fridge.

Bundt cakes are trendy right now for some reason. With a traditional round or 8″ square eggless cake, the middle always falls a little. But I wondered if the shape of the bundt pan might lend itself well to an eggless cake. I was right!! It didn’t fall and it rose very well. However, I needed to alter my original eggless chocolate cake recipe because for some reason, in the bundt pan, it turned out dry the first time I made this. So I added 1/4 cup of stewed prunes (baby food prunes would work really well because it’s so smooth, but applesauce or pureed dates would likely be just as effective). Recipe below. If you want to make this with dulce de leche as a topping, make the cake first and have it cooling while the oven is working its magic on the sweetened condensed milk.

Chocolate Bundt Cake (eggless)
Proportions are for a 9″ bundt cake pan. This makes a large amount of batter. Preheat oven to 375º . If you don’t need to make the cake eggless, skip the balsamic vinegar and the prunes and add 2 eggs.

2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup melted butter
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups milk (1/2 milk, 1/2 buttermilk)
1/4 cup stewed prunes (date puree or applesauce would also work)

In a large measuring cup, melt the butter (microwave), then stir in milk, vinegar, vanilla and prunes. Then sift the dry ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to blend well. On low power, slowly pour in the wet ingredients. Once you’ve got a little moisture in there you can turn up the mixer and not have flour flying around everywhere. Let it mix vigorously for a few minutes.

Spray the bundt pan well with non-stick spray. Pour in cake mix and bake until a toothpick/skewer comes out clean. Let cool completely before attempting to turn it out of the pan. Even with a ton of non-stick spray I still lost thin patches of cake, but that will be covered up by the dulce de leche (or whatever you frost it with). For a good review of bundt pans go here (you’ll need to sign up for a free trial to see the whole article if you’re not a member).

Fast Personal Pizza

Maybe it’s because I’m gearing up for a lot more work travel over the next few months and summer is just around the corner and we haven’t figured out which summer camps Evan will be doing…regardless of the reason, it seems we’re in fast forward! Fast forward often requires fast food….but only in the figurative sense. We don’t eat a lot of Fast Food in our family…(though it seems like road trips and McDonald’s go hand in hand and I have no problem with that!)

But make-your-own pizza…that can be really fast and still great. We often get ready-made pizza dough from Trader Joe’s but that still requires rolling it out etc. The BEST super fast mini-pizza vehicle I’ve found, thanks to my mom who tuned me onto it, is Greek style pita. There is no pocket, it’s designed for wrapping around souvlaki or tearing up and dipping in hummus or tzatziki (hmmm…I sense a future post).

However, it also makes terrific pizza crust. Spread your favourite jarred sauce and favourite toppings on the bumpy side. Put it straight on the oven rack flat side down and it gets nice and crisp. About 8-12 minutes on 375° depending on your oven and when you consider your pizza ‘done’. Then, if you’re me, try to get it on the table without a “Mommy, can you finish taking pictures so I can eat it now?”

Hmmm....seems this lunch was particularly orange!

Appies for Dinner

I’m truly shocked that I actually cooked, got dinner on the table while still hot (in spite of the photos along the way and after), uploaded said photos, and wrote a post all in one evening! Although, this is actually an exercise in positive thinking because I haven’t finished anything yet…this is only my first paragraph. We’ll see how it goes. Come to think of it, you won’t know either way because if I don’t finish it, I can always edit. Mwaa ha ha ha (evil laugh). (Is it lame that I told you that was an evil laugh?)

I suppose I’m on a roll because this dinner required quite a bit of rushing around to get it all done at the same time (the perils of making different versions of the same dinner) so I guess I’m on an energy high at the moment. Which is why I’m ignoring my child enjoying my hobby right now rather than Harry Potter-ing myself into a post-reading stupor after which I can barely mutter good night to him before flopping sideways on the couch and reaching for the remote. It’s good to still be vertical.

So. Back to dinner. Evan’s been asking for ‘hot wings’ lately because of something he saw on Phineas and Ferb. He didn’t really know what ‘hot wings’ were, but he wanted to eat them nonetheless. Who am I to argue with that? It’s a new version of chicken for him (which totally counts as a new food if you’re in our picky-eater world). So we talked about it and I suggested that I make some ‘not-hot wings’, that were sweet, tangy and sticky! He was all for it…as long as they looked like little drumsticks. (I guess cartoon chicken wings only come in one shape).

Well wings are great for the omnivores in the family but our resident pescatarian would need something else for his protein. Tofu! I could certainly fry it until firm and crispy and then glaze with the same sauce as the wings. Brilliant. But what about veggies….well two desperate looking yams became oven-baked fries and a little of the wing/tofu glaze sauce mixed in with some (eggless)* mayo became the most amazing dip. Seriously. This post really should be all about the dip. Oh. My. God.

I probably should have put together a salad to add some green, but it was more than I could handle putting together when also trying to get photos. (Which sort of suck by the way….but I didn’t have time to take a gazillion pics, or stage the food with lovely napkins or rustic props. I’m also back to using my iPhone again because my brother had to go on a trip and needed his camera back. Once you fly business you can’t go back to coach…you just can’t. 😉  Well, it was fun! Guess I’ll have to bite the bullet and shell out for my own one of these days!).

HONEY GINGER GLAZED EVERYTHING:

Honey Ginger Marinade and Glaze

3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
3/4 cup honey
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
~1″ x 1/2″ piece of fresh ginger, grated

In a 2 cup measure, whisk soy sauce, honey and hoisin sauce together. Mince garlic and grate ginger into sauce and combine. I use a rasp to grate ginger and it makes it very fine, almost like a paste so it’s a bit hard to give you an exact measurement of the amount. But a piece of ginger about an inch long and 1/2 inch diameter should do it. Makes about 1 cup of marinade. Scale up as needed.

Honey Ginger Chicken Wings

6-10 chicken wings, separated at joints, wing tips discarded.

Preheat oven to 375°
Prepare the wings and place in a ziploc bag or bowl. Pour about 1/3 of the above marinade over them so they’re well coated. The longer they marinate the better, but even if it’s just 20 minutes, that’s fine. It’s the weekend, so I prepped the chicken in the morning and they marinated all day.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (tip: sprinkle water on the baking sheet before you lay the parchment so it doesn’t slide around)
Arrange chicken wing pieces on the parchment.
Bake for about 20-25 min per side, pausing to brush more marinade on as they bake.

Yam Fries
Slice yams into thin wedges with skin on.
Spread on parchment lined baking sheet.
Brush or spray lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake at 375° for about 40-50 min

Honey Ginger Mayo
2/3 cup mayonaise
2 tbsp honey ginger marinade
Serve as a dip for roasted veggies, oven fries etc.

Honey Ginger Tofu Sticks
1/2 block of tofu, sliced into sticks
1/3 cup honey ginger marinade

On med-high heat, brown tofu in a bit of oil, turning on each side. When fully browned, but still in the pan, pour the marinade over the tofu (it should sizzle) and then turn off the heat. Fully coat tofu and serve.
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So how did it rate…? “Mommy this is the best chicken EVER!”
*Oh and a note about eggless mayonaise. We buy Vegenaise, manufactured by Earth Island. You can find out more here. It’s fabulous.