Friday, October 31, 2008

Eyeball Soup with Bugs... Anyone?

Happy Halloween!

Sweet treats have been abundant to celebrate the fun of Halloween, so I decided to incorporate a bit of the gross-out factor that Halloween usually encompasses into our dinner last night. Martha Stewart's folks came up with this icky-but-yummy soup idea that I re-named Eyeball Soup with Bugs.

Before you get too weirded out by the idea, I should tell you that it's really just a nice, tomato soup with cheese and olives that are manufactured to be the 'eyeballs' and 'bugs.'

Traveling bugs across the surface of your soup full of eyeballs... isn't that what everyone hopes for on Halloween night?

You're guaranteed to be dubbed the *cool* adult in the neighborhood if you serve this up to visiting children. Chilly day outside? Instead of offering kids a hot cup of cocoa, consider doling out mugs of tomato soup with an eyeball and a bug. Nothing but fun there.

Happy Trick or Treating tonight! We'll be following Harry Potter around our neighborhood (if we can manage to keep up with the sprinting from house to house). A glass of wine might just have to accompany our journey.

This recipe can be found HERE.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Baker's Challenge: Pizza 3 ways... Breakfast, Dinner and Happy Hour!

This month's Daring Baker challenge involved experimenting with the Basic Pizza Dough from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. It was a fun challenge, and my family enjoyed the month-long pizza recipe trials.

Since I already have a go-to pizza crust recipe that is very simple, I found the directions for this one to be rather long and overwhelming. That being said, I trudged through and was actually happy with the results. The recipe turns out 6 balls of dough that can be frozen to make whenever the pizza-mood strikes. Since we like our crust a little on the thick side, I separated my dough into 3 portions instead.

The dough is meant to sit in the refrigerator overnight. The following day, you take a ball of dough out of the fridge and flatten it into a 5-inch circle to rest for 2 hours.

The dough then becomes pliable and relaxed enough to stretch out gently on the tops of your hands.

And then you begin tossing it into the air until it's stretched out into the desired size and shape for your pizza. This was the fun part. The whole family cracked up as I frantically tried to catch the dough that I had tossed high into the air. It really did work. The dough stretched out nicely as it was tossed, forming the shape needed for my pizza.

PIZZA EXPERIMENT #1: Pizza for Breakfast

There's a deli near our house that serves up Scrambled Egg Pizza in the mornings. It's fabulous, so I attempted to replicate it with this Sausage and Scrambled Egg Pizza. It wasn't an exact match, but it was fabulous nonetheless. Chunky salsa acts as the sauce on this pizza, and then it's topped with crumbled sausage, lightly scrambled eggs and cheese. Sour cream is scooped on top of each slice. It made for a terrific brunch on a Sunday morning.

PIZZA EXPERIMENT #2: Pizza for Happy Hour

Grilling pizza has been on my list of things to do for a long time now. I always thought the dough would stick to the grill and be a big mess, and that it would be too much trouble. Not the case here- it didn't stick at all. This dough worked great on the grill for Blue Cheese and Pear Pizza. The dough is tossed onto the lightly greased grill for a couple of minutes, brushed with olive oil and then flipped and brushed again. I split the dough in two to create a couple of smaller pizzas. A simple layer of sliced ripe pears and a sprinkle of blue cheese given time for a quick melt, and this was an excellent Happy Hour treat to accompany chilled white wine.

PIZZA EXPERIMENT #3: Pizza for Dinner

Since I had separated my dough into larger portions, I had more dough to play with for this one. I opted to create a pizza pie inspired by one I had seen on Picky Palate: Ricotta and Vegetable Stuffed Pizza Pie. The dough is pressed into the bottom of a springform pan, and topped with ricotta, desired veggies and cheese. It's then topped with another layer of pizza dough and baked into a pie. The result is similar to a calzone.

The slices cut very cleanly.

We topped ours with a bit of marinara sauce while my little guy opted for a spoonful of Ranch dressing. This was one delicious dinner!

My thoughts about this crust recipe? It was really excellent. And I liked having dough in the freezer that I could take out to make for a quick dinner. I'm quite attached to my go-to crust recipe, which is a Whole Wheat Pizza Dough, but I might still opt to make this one once in a while.

Thank you to Rosa's Yummy Yums for hosting this month's challenge.

Click titles below to find recipes for:
Basic Pizza Dough
Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Sausage & Scrambled Egg Pizza
Blue Cheese & Pear Pizza
Ricotta & Vegetable Stuffed Pizza Pie

Monday, October 27, 2008

Candy Corn Cookie Bark

With only 5 days until Halloween, my little one politely requested that I make Cinnamon Werewolves, Strawberry Dracula's and Grape Frankenstein's this week. Here's a bit of our conversation:

me: "Where did those ideas come from?"
kiddo: "They're cookies that this kid made in a book that I read. All of the recipes and directions are in the book."

me: "Oh... those sound like some cool cookies, but mommy has been very busy making other Halloween treats, so maybe I can save those neat ideas for next year. How about something that has oreos and candy corn in it instead?"
kiddo: "Ok, Mom. But I'd still like some of those Strawberry Draculas."

I'm not sure I'll have time to make the Strawberry Dracula's this week, but here's the simple one that I had in mind. Only 5 ingredients are needed for this sweet and colorful Halloween treat...
Candy Corn Cookie Bark .

1. Oreos
2. Pretzels
3. Candy Corn (or if you don't care for the stuff, you can sub Reeses Pieces or M&M's)

4. White chocolate wafers (don't even think of trying to use the little white chocolate chips... they don't melt and you'll have a big chunky unmelted chocolate mess on your hands). You can get these at a baking store, or you can get the Wilton's brand candy melts at craft stores (like Michael's).

5. Orange & brown sprinkles (or Halloween M&M's!)

Chill until hardened, and then you can take it out and pick up the whole thing like one giant piece of cookie bark. Gently break it apart into small pieces for serving.

At the request of my little Sweetie, I'll be checking out what exactly is involved in the making of Strawberry Dracula's. No promises... but it is nice to see that my kiddo is plowing through books (and books with recipes in them is a bonus!)

~Happy Halloween week!~

This recipe can be found HERE.

Friday, October 24, 2008

M&M Studded Fudgy Oreo- Chunk Brownies

You've gotta love seasonally themed- M&M's. They can make anything festive. My favorite Oreo-Chunk Brownies are good enough on their own, but the addition of M&M's gives them a little Halloween Pizzazz.

These brownies are baked on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet (12 x 18-inches). After an overnight chill, the foil aides in lifting the entire giant brownie out of the pan. The foil is then peeled away and the brownies are firm enough to make nice, clean cuts.

One giant baking sheet turns out a TON of brownies, so be prepared to share. I sent a bunch to school today for Teacher Treat Day and put another bunch of them in the freezer for an upcoming boys' camping trip.

You may not ever wish to have a boxed brownie again after you try these. They're really quite easy to make, but you do need to have a secret ingredient (instant espresso powder). It's really a must. The espresso brings out the flavor of the chocolate in a wonderful way. Sometimes espresso powder is tough to find... but you might have luck at your local market- do ask since they tend to tuck it away in places you wouldn't think to look for it. I think mine was actually in the 'international' aisle.

The oreos are a really nice addition to a fudgy brownie... a tiny bit of crunch to break up the monotony of decadent bite after decadent bite. The orange-filled Halloween oreos would be even better. I'm pretty sure they're exclusively found at Target this time of year but apparently I was late to the party... they were already sold out.

You'll want to have a gallon or two of milk nearby. These are some good brownies, but a little goes a long way. And with that added espresso powder you'll be ready to clean the garage, go rock climbing and hit the gym before you come home to make dinner.

And don't forget to eat those leftover M&M's for dessert- they might just give you a little pizzazz too.

This recipe can be found HERE.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Candy Corn Cookies

Are you a fan of those waxy little Halloween candies known as candy corns? My family seems to find them addicting. I've bought several bags of the stuff (must be Brach's brand) for recipes this year and they keep disappearing. Here's a cookie recipe that copies the look of this candy: Candy Corn Cookies.

This is a really SIMPLE recipe that uses Betty Crocker pre-made cookie mix. You can ABSOLUTELY use your own very favorite homemade sugar cookie dough for this. I used this quickie method to try it out...

That's all you need...

The dough gets divided up into three clumps. Color one clump orange and another one with chocolate. Press the three layers into a loaf pan and refrigerate for a bit.

Slice the firmed-up loaf of dough into thin slices and then cut neatly into wedges.

Place your wedges onto a cookie sheet. Leave room to grow.

The finished product. Ok, so mine don't have yellow... they have brown instead. I suppose you could make a yellow layer instead of a chocolate layer if you really want them to match. But I have seen some candy corns with that brown layer too. And with these you get the added bonus of a little chocolate in your candy corn cookie.

If you're looking for a really delicious candy corn cookie, I'd mix up your best sugar cookie recipe and use that to create these cookies. The flavor in these was ok... but it definitely had that 'packaged mix' flavor and wasn't a big culinary flavor discovery or anything.

That being said, this is the perfect "bake-sale" cookie for a fall festival. And for that, the Betty Crocker mix works just fine. Tuck a few candy corns into a baggie with a couple of candy corn cookies, and it might just be a big seller!

And be sure to hide the candy corns from your family or they might begin to disappear!

This recipe can be found HERE.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Scary Spiderweb Eggs

Oh, how I wish I had the creative mind of Martha. I have her energy. I have her ability to juggle many things at once. I share her enthusiasm for entertaining and her obsession with making things perfect. And I even have her 'blondish' hair.

Though I can follow directions very well, and I can manipulate an idea enough to make it mine, I don't quite have that Martha talent for coming up with those amazing ideas for decor and recipes on my own. So I rely on the real deal for inspiration. Here's a cutesie idea that Martha had for a Halloween Party appetizer: Spiderweb Eggs.

Her idea is simple, really. Hard boil some eggs with blueberries (known for their natural staining ability) to prep them for their web creations. The eggs will turn a light shade of gray.

Remove the eggs and whack them gently with the handle of a whisk- to create a nice 'crack.' Place the cracked eggs into a bowl and pour the blueberry cooking liquid over the top. Place the bowl in the fridge to give the tinted liquid a chance to do its magic, and let the eggs cool completely.

Gently peel the cooled eggs to reveal the spidery web that has been created under shell. The web will be a dark gray color, and and egg will NOT taste of blueberries in any way!

The result is a bunch of eggs looking rather spider-webby. Serve them up with a little dish of your favorite chunky salt. Martha recommends gray sea salt for a spookier pairing.

And don't forget to add some scary spiders!

I'm going to be a really cool Mom this week and slip these into my son's lunchbox with a couple of fake spiders tucked in there too. I wonder if Martha has thought of that one?

This recipe can be found HERE.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pumpkin Cake Pops

Inspired by Bakerella's creations, I set about to create a fall-themed cake pop: Pumpkin Cake Pops. What is a cake pop? Well, it's cake (sort of) on a stick.

Festive little treats, aren't they?

Here's the how-to:
Bake up a Pumpkin-Spice Cake (or a more simple boxed cake mix). Then destroy it by processing it into crumbs. Add a tub (or more) of store-bought frosting and mix it all together.

Roll the sticky mixture into little balls and then stick them in the freezer.

Prepare the lollipop sticks (you can find these online or at specialty baking shops). This part is, of course, optional but you can add ribbon to your sticks for added cuteness factor.

Melt some chocolate (I used chocolate wafers like these) as well as chocolate chips. Dab the end of your stick into a little bit of chocolate.

Gently place the stick into the center of a frozen ball.

Swoosh it around carefully but quickly in the chocolate, being careful to cover all sides.

Lift it up and admire the dripping chocolate, but don't admire it for too long because your chocolate will begin to harden.

Add some sprinkles or other decorations (this part is best to do over a paper plate). Be creative! Set your decorated Pumpkin Cake Pops onto a waxed paper lined cookie sheet and put them back into the freezer until serving.

It's definitely best to begin preparing the pops a day or two before serving... less stress, and they're perfectly fine hanging out in the freezer for 24 hours or so. These were gobbled up by the teachers at my son's school. Some said they were too cute to eat :) We thought they were pretty tasty too, with the darker chocolate ones being the preferred pop.

The recipe for these Pumpkin Cake Pops can be found HERE.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Apple- Cranberry Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crust

The 'Sea of Apples' from our family apple-picking venture is almost entirely depleted. It has been an apple-recipe-a-day around here for the past couple of weeks, and it's been fun selecting some new and unique recipes that utilize this fall fruit favorite. My family urged me to make a pie. Can't have a bunch o' apples without makin' a pie, right? I begrudgingly set forth to find a recipe. I'm crust-challenged, you see, so the pie recipes have not been calling to me. Because of this, here's a recipe that finally provided some pie inspiration: Apple- Cranberry Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crust.

Oatmeal cookies in an apple pie? What could be better! Knowing we would enjoy the cookie part especially, I created a substantial crust base for this pie.

The original recipe calls for just apples, but I preferred to add a handful of cranberries... just because they added a splash of color and a little tartness to to counteract all that sweet stuff. I dug up cranberries that I froze last fall, using up the final bag just in time to buy some new ones to store for use during the next year. You could certainly use all apples to make this pie (but it wouldn't be nearly as pretty!)

The apples and cranberries are tossed with lemon juice & rind, as well as spices, a bit of flour, and a small amount of sour cream. More delicious cookie crumbs are sprinkled on top.

The baked product turns out one amazing pie. The crust is very much cookie-like, and its pairing with the apple pie filling is wonderful. Serve it warm, and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you're feelin' a little wild and crazy. I would liken this to a really good apple crisp, rather than a classic apple pie.

There are just enough apples remaining to create a couple more recipes... I'll be scouring my cookbooks and magazines for more apple inspiration, and I'll be avoiding those crusty pies for certain.

This recipe can be found HERE.