Category Archives: Halloween

One Spooky Night and Deviled ‘Shroom Bites

It is a Halloween night and we’re going to have some hello-w/in time taking a break from home cooking and going out. Part of the plan is to drive by some areas where people have turned their front yards into some creepy insane asylums and have our share of spine chilling and laughs. I’ve already got a few good Halloween recipes listed in this blog including the yummy Dead Fly Pies, or Fly Cemeteries, or Fly Graveyards, which in fact are also more humanly called Eccles Cakes; and Pumpkin No Brainers . If I would be selecting a recipe that sounds crazy-scary-engaging for most of North American ears tonight, I would probably go for a traditional British fare with ominous name Spotted Dick But that would be some other time. For now I have something else and a great story to tell: about one of our recent nightmarish evening and a later flop-cooking experience.

Couple week-ends ago we were driving back home with the double brown bag of dozen live blue crabs in it. We were excited to make a fresh crab risotto later that night. We took a rural side road going through the forest to go back home to avoid traffic. We’ve never taken that road before and first were surprised about how empty and quiet it was.

The night was rainy and foggy although the full moon still casted the eerie glow through the clouds and trees. The crabs managed to wet the bags through and were going out of whack, so we had to make an emergency pit stop to catch them and collect them into the plastic bag. While we were stepping out of the car a peaceful booty-song on the radio has awkwardly switched to vintage Billy Idol’s Eyes Without A Face. It was then that I started feeling uncomfortable. I became fear-stricken by darkness, emptiness, silence and sinister shadows appearing through the forest trees here and there. ‘Eyes without the face have got no human grace…’ the radio went on when suddenly the end of the road was lit by a light which, obviously, seemed like another car was approaching. Except the light stood there without moving for a minute or so and then disappeared…

The Good Shepherd by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1903 Zimmerli Art Museum

No big deal, right? But for some reason for me it was a heart pounding moment. I couldn’t wait to get out of that road. Imagine when I told this story to one of our neighbours the other day, he revealed to me that the empty road used to be the place where Hell’s Angels gangs were making their executions and/or police would sometimes find a burning car with the body in it (how’s that for hair raising?). And that came as real creepy news to me. Was it a sixth’s sense? You tell me. But if you are a mystic or clairvoyance, perhaps you can see some ghosts in these images.

Otherwise you can just apply your imagination and try to read these moon shadows – it’s actually quite interesting…

Once back home we were greeted by the local two-headed Boo dog. Making a crab boil was already not so easy task (crabs appeared to be much livelier than lobsters).

After we hankered down in our kitchen with cracking tools and bunch of newspapers to process them. Already upon the first five minutes (and to our greatest regret) of tackling the impossible and having the crab scraps flying all over the kitchen, we realized that the fresh crab risotto would be ready by next morning or would have to be put on hold. Hubby quit first, declaring he was an equal opportunist believing in fair trade and no exploitation. OCD driven, I went on crab-cracking to prove that home crab flesh extracting (like pierogi-making that D. believes should only be made by prisoners) is a doable chore. The problem was, I was hungry, so most of the result secretly went straight into my belly. After the crab juice went into my eyes though I abandoned. Well, may be somewhere in Japan people from Okinawa island consider crab-cracking a meditative and fun activity which they practice often while whistling Japanese version of La Marseillaise. But there are many other things I’d like to do around my week-end. Not to mention that exactly during times like that you realize more than ever that time IS the most precious commodity… Change of plan (which is not unusual for the flop cooking): I went to the pantry, got a can of the crab meat, and deviled a box of button mushrooms with savoured crab meat into these little guys within 20 minutes.

Sounds like a cell phone from 90ies? Hell yeah, but still as exquisite as ever. By the way, they didn’t use much of smoked paprika in those days Slice some black or green olives for the top to give that Halloweenish twist and, voila, you got your ‘Eyes Without A Face’ party snack. We managed to eat them before The Midnight Hour.

Happy Halloween and enjoy your cooking!

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Mini-Tarts

DEVILED CRAB ‘N SHROOM BITES 

Ingredients:

1 box button mushrooms (around 18-20)
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup chives or scallions, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp white wine or brandy
¼ crumbs (gluten free if necessary)
1 (7 oz) can crab meat, drained
½ cup Parmesan, freshly shredded
1 tbsp mayonnaise or sour cream
½ tsp Dijon mustard
Pinch of smoked paprika
Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

Remove the stems from mushrooms with grapefruit knife. Chop the stems finely. Set aside. Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped mushroom stems and cook for 1 minute. Add chives (or scallions) and garlic. Cook for another minute. Add a splash of brandy or wine. Evaporate for a minute. Add crumbs, mix well. Add crab meat and mix well. Remove from the heat. Stir in Parmesan, mayonnaise (or sour cream), mustard and smoked paprika. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the mixture cool down. Stuff the mushroom caps with the mixture. Preheat the oven to 375F. Place mushrooms on baking sheet. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan, Top with sliced olives if desired. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Pumpkin Mini Tarts with Walnut: Real (No) Brainers

”America is all about the speed” and so is the American Halloween.  You have to be really fast to catch up with the pace of this holiday, which is not only about weird costumes and all kind of omens celebrating death, but primarily about sweet treats and candies.  Halloween is kids’ favorite and who can blame them: when else can you munch on chocolates all night, let your imagination go wild with costumes and tricks and share a scary story?  
Mini tarts (that can be both, an appetizer and a dessert) idea has been haunting me for a while now. These little pumpkin treats make delicious and super-speedy compromise between anything too sweet (you can control the amount of sugar, or just replace it with a mix of maple syrup and marzipan (almond paste)) and so-good-for-you pumpkin fiber. And to add some Halloween mystery to the cracked, like a desert, filling I decided to top each mini-tart with half walnut which has a shape of a brain, hence the title: (no) brainers.
And here is my quick improv(ization) story for the Beggars Night ”trick” – feel free to skip this paragraph if you wish – it’s just a little abracadabra inspired by the shape and look of the pumpkin mini-tart ”treats”. 
 ”Aliens vs Cannibals”
Draft sketch:
Planet Earth in the unknown future…. Two aliens, Pen and Pan, are crossing the desert and run into a dead owl. The eyes of the owl are covered with two pumpkin mini-tartlets. ‘’Wow, brain tarts, what a catch! I was told they taste really good and might even contain some dried gene of a human genius…’’ says Pen. ‘’Don’t be silly, if you eat this s..t you will become blind or insane.  It’s useless, just like those old human coins we find in the ruins. ..We better move on, I smell the cannibals coming. It’s a bait, check for the traps around.’’ Pan kicks the owl’s head and runs. Eventually, he falls into the cannibals’ trap and awaits his sad destiny. Cannibals arrive and start chewing Pan without delay. They find him unpalatable and spit him out. One of his connection horns is missing and he is trying to find it…
In the meantime, Pen eats both treats and returns to the spaceship in a weird mood. The crew immediately registers the change in his behaviour and locks Pen behind the bars with a piano waiting for him to play Mozart. Instead, he starts singing ”I’m a Lonely Little Petunia” and asks to be put behind the candelabra.  He then switches to Spanish and demands ¿me da mi calaverita?  The Alien Chief begins to suspect that cannibals tricked them with the bait and replaced the genius brain gene with the surrogate(to be continued)
So far so good for my entertaining story, please feel free to continue the way it pleases you as I have to go and decide if I will be a Cat in the Hat or a Lady in Red tonight.
And don’t forget to take these little treats with you. They are truly the crowd-pleasers.  I used commercially bought mini tart shells, which cost almost nothing and save you a lot of time.  I started cooking them according to the instructions on the package (15-20 minutes at 350 F), but then extended the time to 45 minutes to make them golden crisp. Another way to improve the tart crunch is to bake the shells for about 10 minutes first, then fill them out with filling and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Garnish the tarts with nuts around 10 minutes before the end of baking, so they don’t burn.
 Enjoy your Halloween and have a great trick or treat!
***
PUMPKIN MINI TARTS WITH WALNUT AND ALMOND PASTE      
Yields: 24 mini tarts
Ingredients:
2 of 12 mini tarts, store bought (see note for a homemade dough below)
2 cups of freshly cooked pumpkin puree
1/4 cup brown sugar (or maple syrup)
1/4 cup almond paste (homemade or store bough)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 5-oz small can evaporated milk
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp grated ginger
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
24 walnut halves for topping
Instructions:
Cut a small pumpkin in pieces and bake covered in the oven at 350F for about 30 minutes. Let cool and scoop the pumpkin flesh out.  In the blender, combine pumpkin puree, egg, sugar, almond paste, evaporated milk and spices.
Pre-heat the oven to 350F and bake the mini-tart shells for 10 minutes. Fill out each mini-tart with the pumpkin mix and return to the oven for another 15 minutes. You will see the filling growing and cracking, which is OK. Top each mini-tart with half walnut and bake for another 10 minutes or until the walnuts are golden brown. Enjoy warm or cold.

Note:  this is a fool-proof tart dough recipe from Barefoot Contessa in case you decide to make your own dough.

All the Pretty Horses: Equestrian Halloween Contest & Pulled Pork Sandwiches.

Horse back riding is an awesome hobby associated with a fabulous sense of adventure. Halloween, on the other hand, is an exciting opportunity to be someone else once a year. Combine these two things and you will have a “movable feast” for wherever you go for the rest of your life this experience will stay with you.    
Last year we were lucky enough to attend a Halloween Costume equestrian contest for kids and adults at the lovely Laurel Saddle Friends club nestled in a picturesque pine forest in Laurel, Delaware. As it appeared, we were not exactly dressed for this event: the cowboy hat, boots or big ol’ belt buckle were missing (shame on us!) Luckily, we did wear plaid shirts and had our cameras with us, and today, on the edge of Halloween 2012, we can share with you some of the amazing images we took during this event.

The beginning of this Halloween rodeo started with a young cowboy rider carrying the flag to the sounds of the National Anthem:


Then the costume contest began:

Once the best costumes of both, horse and the rider, were selected, the contest moved on to the RIP Barrel racing and Halloween kids/teens rodeo, followed by the adults competition:


We spent the whole day at Laurel Saddle bathing in the sun, pine trees forest/horses aroma watching this super-empowering show. The pulled pork sandwiches (see the recipe below) we brought with us were the life-savers and enhanced our cowboy spirit for the day…

This most unusual Halloween celebration was such a thrill, we promised ourselves to come back one day to see all those pretty horses and have the same fun again.

PULLED PORK SANDWICHES:

This simple and comforting cowboy food is a saver, particularly when you cook for a gathering, picnic, or outdoors celebration. Ideally, the porc is supposed to be BBQ-ed, but my oven version works very well too.

  • 1 pork shoulder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (or Cajun seasoning)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • few root vegetables (carrots, rutabaga) coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Season pork shoulder with salt, pepper and paprika, rub well.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a heavy pan. Add pork and brown it on all sides and move it into Dutch oven (you can as well brown it directly in the Dutch oven). Deglace the pan by splashing apple cider vinegar and scrape any pieces of meat that are stuck to the pan and stir.

Add coarsely chopped onion and veggies. Add water, stock, beer or ginger ale (like I did) to the half-way point of the pork and one bay leaf.

Cover Dutch oven with foil and place the pork on the middle of a rack in an oven that has been pre-heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Equally, you can put it in a crock pot for 4-6 hours.Cook until completely tender from 4 hour to 6 hours, depending on the size/age of meat and/or your oven.

Remove the pan from the oven and strain the meat out of the liquid and vegetables. Shred the meat with two forks. Return to the oven/slow cooker and heat through. (Optional: remove the excess fat floating in the liquid, and then reduce the sauce to desired thickness by cooking it down over low heat until it thickens and mix it with the pulled pork or spoon 1/2 cup onto each bun later).

Now, this is the Southern way to eat pulled pork. You can go for kaiser roll, or fancy healthy bread, but classic Southern way is to have it with the cheap white hot dog bread or hamburger buns. Heat up the pulled pork and put it on top of the butterflied hot dog bun.

Add some of your favorite sauce (which contains vinegar).


Top with coleslaw (see coleslaw). In many cases the hot dog sausage is added to this combo, but we did fine without it.

And a good old kosher pickle slice and/or pickled jalapenos on top of the pulled pork is always a welcome addition. Yummy!

Guaranteed pleasure!!! Just make sure you have napkins or use fork on your pulled pork sandwich cause it can be messy…