Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween III: spooky party food and ghoulish treats

Better late than never...Can you believe it's already the week of Halloween? If you haven't had a chance to pick out your Halloween menu, here are some ideas that your friends (and the little ones too) will absolutely enjoy! 

Aside from carving a pumpkin, my favorite Halloween tradition is making spider cookies.  I first tried spider cookies at my piano teacher's Halloween party, probably around age 7.  The next year, I had the nerve to ask for the recipe, and the rest was history!  It's one of the easiest recipes I've ever made, but the end result is some really impressive-looking spiders.  I wish I had pictures of my own to post, but I haven't made my spiders yet this year.  I will post a picture as soon as I have a chance.

Chocolate Spider Cookies
Printable recipe

1 bag of dried chow mein noodles (found in the Asian section of the grocery store)
1 - 12oz bag semi-sweet chocoalte chips  

Place chocolate chips in a microwaveable glass bowl. Microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30-45 seconds until smooth. Gently fold/stir the chow mein noodles into melted chocolate until all noodles are coated in chocolate.

Drop by teaspoons onto waxed paper (I use 2 forks). Stick on extra noodles for spider legs and chill in refrigerator. These can be served alone, or could be used ontop of cupcakes.

I love all of the ideas below.  Some of them might inspire you to come up with creepy creations of your own.  With a bit of creative thinking, pretty much any recipe can be transformed into a ghoulish treat. Hope everyone has a spooktacular Halloween!

Graveyard Brownies - from

One-Bowl Spiderweb Brownies - from

Mummy-face pizzas - from

Brew-ha-ha punch from

Monster Eyes from

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Halloween II: spooky decorations and creepy crafts

In my second installment of Halloween ideas, I will share with you some of the coolest Halloween props that I've come across recently.   These items will make your home particularly spooky to all the goblins that come to visit. Grandin Road has a whole section of their store dedicated to the night of the dead -- it's called Halloween Haven. 

Check out this self-propelled Halloween Broomba.  Super scary, right?

Photo credit: Grandin Road

Lawn silhouettes from Grandin Road

Glittery banner with skulls from Grandin Road

And for the year's blowout prop, a Zoltar machine from Grandin Road

Glittery pumpkins from  Z Gallerie

Here are a few fun kid-friendly craft projects that I thought were pretty clever, and the best part is that you end up with a fun Halloween-themed decoration for your house!

Pumpkin spider votives, made from a littlte pumpkin and black pipecleaners
Photo/idea credit: Good Housekeeping

Ghoul Favor Cups from

Papier mache ghosts from

Halloween hanging decorations from

Last but not least, it wouldn't be Halloween without carving some pumpkins!  Martha has some inspiring templates and step-by-step instructions on pumpkins. You will surely be inspired after looking at all of the pumpkin pics readers have posted here.

Owl pumpkins stand out from the traditional jackolantern
Martha Stewart

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Halloween I: a series of spooktacular party ideas, ghoulish menu items, and award-winning costumes

In honor of the month of October, and the fact that Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, I am going to write a series of posts highlighting the best Halloween party ideas that I've seen this year.  From invitations to decor to dishes, it's all going to be spookalicious. 
Whether you host your an annual Halloween fete or just carve a pumpkin to attract some neighborhood trick-or-treaters, I hope that some of these ideas draw out the witch (or goblin) in each of you.  In case you're thinking to yourself, it's only October 7th...I don't need to think about Halloween for another 2-3 weeks...Think again!  Once you see all of the fun Halloween-inspired goodies out there, it will be hard for you to get your mind off this ghoulish holiday.

Let's start with the invitations.  There is a plethora of spooky and fun invitations to choose from for Halloween.  My favorite right now is Noteworthy Collection's bold, swirly, and somewhat frightening line of Halloween invitations, which can be found on Fine Stationery.comI should also note that all of Fine's holiday invitations and cards are 10% OFF through October 19th.  And yes, that includes wide selection of Christmas cards and invitations!!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fall Dinner Party - all the details from flower arrangements to the recipes

Last week I wrote about a fall dinner party that my parents were throwing at their home.  I helped by putting in my input on the menu options, flower arrangements, and the execution of the party!  You can take a look at the menu here. 

My mom used khaki linen napkins and wooden and pewter serving pieces to add to her rustic autumn decor.  On the tables outside, she placed small dark purple mums in baskets as well as little votive candles.  The decor was very elegant, but in a relaxed, not at all fussy sort of way.  I should have taken pictures of it all, but I was too occupied with getting the food and beverages to the guests. 

The guests raved about the lamb chops, the sour cream potatoes, bread pudding, and the red wine.  I am thrilled to share all 3 recipes with you!  Here are some pictures of the flower arrangements that I made for the party.  My only regret of this whole experience is that I didn't take more pictures! 

Dad's Grilled Lamb Chops
Printable recipe
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp worschestershire
Fresh squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
1/2 orange, squeezed
Liberal amt of rosemary (fresh is best)
1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
Preheat grill. Heat first 6 ingredients in saucepan to a simmer. Pepper the chops. Of course, thicker fresh chops are preferable. Over medium-high heat sear one side then flip and baste. Flip and baste about 2 times. Try for med-rare and definitely don't overcook. After each side is seared, move to slightly less heat.

Prep time : 5 minutes.

Cook time: about 20 minutes relative. to thickness of chop and length of happy hour.

Grandmother Bradley's Sour Cream Potatoes
Printable recipe
This recipe comes from my hubby's grandmother Bradley.  She shared this recipe along with a hundred something other family favorites in a handwritten cookbook that she gave to me during our engagement.  Needless to say, the Bradley Family Favorites cookbook has become one of my favorites!  

6 medium (Idaho russet) potatoes - 2 1/2 lbs
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped green onions
2 cups (8oz) shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

Peel then boil potatoes in medium saucepan, do not overcook (10-15 minutes, or until pierced easily by fork).  Coo potatoesl to touch and then coarsely grate.

Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter, add cheese and stir in sour cream, onions, salt and pepper.

Combine gently with grated potatoes. Pour into greased 9x13 casserole dish  Dot top with additional butter.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until browned on top and bubbly.

*May be prepared the day before baking. 

Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Printable recipe
I combined a bread pudding recipe from Bon Appetit with a Bourbon Caramel Sauce from Food & Wine magazine.  It turned out to be the ultimate combination!  I made the recipe x3 in order to serve smallish servings to 20 something people.  My mom had the brilliant idea of serving the dessert in stemless martini glasses, which just added a zip to the presentation. 

4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
4 cups day-old cinnamon-raisin bread with crusts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup pecans, toasted, chopped
Butter 8-inch square baking dish. Whisk first 6 ingredients in medium bowl. Place bread and pecans in prepared dish. Pour milk mixture over and let stand 5 minutes. Push down bread into custard. Refrigerate 2 hours, pushing bread into custard occasionally.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place bread pudding in large metal baking pan. Add enough boiling water to baking pan to come 1 inch up sides of dish with bread pudding. Bake until pudding is puffed and golden brown on top, approximately 50 minutes. Remove dish with bread pudding from water and cool slightly. Cut into squares. Serve bread pudding warm with sauce.

Bourbon Caramel Sauce
from Food and Wine magazine

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup bourbon (I closer to 1/3 cup)

In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar, water and corn syrup to a boil over high heat. Cook until the sugar is dissolved, washing down the side of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Continue cooking, without stirring, until an amber caramel forms, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the cream. Let cool for 1 minute, then stir in the bourbon. Bring the mixture to a boil over moderate heat and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Let the caramel sauce cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature.

The caramel sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.