Easy Ghoulish Treats

Most people think I’m a little bit strange when I tell people that Halloween is my favorite holiday. It’s really simple. I adore the foods of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Easter, not to mention all the glorious casual picnic foods from Memorial Day through Labor Day, but I just love the theatre and whimsy of Halloween.

 

Witches Brew Punch with Dry Ice – epic halloween trick/treat | The Road Home

 

This great holiday, after all, is not about gifts or how perfect the table looks for relatives. It’s about fun, and magic, and theatre. It transcends age. We will have 8-year-olds and 16-year-olds side by side at our house all enjoying the same silly food and wearing goofy costumes. What could be better? I get to take my apron off and think solely about what would make kids of all ages happy. The pressure is off to be perfect. All anyone cares about is that the offerings are funny, maybe a little “scary” and of course colorful.

 

Clementine Pumpkins | The Road Home  – cancels out the candy right?

 

So here’s part of our line-up for All Hallow’s Eve at our house. We’ll offer our friends and fellow trick-or-treaters Mad Scientist Bubbly Brew, followed by cauliflower brain dip, and darling little “pumpkins” made of clementines and celery. There will be other things, but these are my favorites. I hope this sampling of our Halloween inspires you to think like a child even for just one day. Happy Halloween everyone!

 

Witches Brew Punch with Dry Ice – epic halloween trick/treat | The Road Home

Halloween Cauliflower Brain with Guacamole - gruesome but great | The Road Home
Witches Brew Punch with Dry Ice – epic halloween trick/treat | The Road Home

Have you got any special halloween foods you make at your house? We’d love to hear about them! Comment below to let us know!

 

 

Clementine Pumpkins

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • One dozen or more Clementines
  • Several stalks celery

Directions:

  1. Peel Clementines and place on a fun Halloween platter.
  2. Cut a stalk of celery into small pieces for the pumpkin stem. Stick a celery piece into the top of each peeled Clementine and serve!

Creepy Cauliflower Brain Dip with Guacamole

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

    Guacamole

    • 4 ripe avocados peeled and pitted
    • ½ cup chopped onions
    • 1/8 cup fresh lime juice
    • ¼ cup cilantro (optional)
    • 1 4 ounce can finely chopped seeded jalapeno chilies**
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • ¾ teaspoon pepper
    • 1 cup of tomatoes, diced and seeded (or canned diced tomatoes in the winter)

    Brain

    • 1 large cauliflower
    • 1 package of red licorice string

    Directions:

    1. Place all guacamole ingredients but tomatoes in a food processor or in a medium sized bowl. Puree in the food processor or puree in bowl using an immersion blender until very smooth.
    2. Drain tomatoes thoroughly through a sieve and gently blend into the avocado mixture using a spatula.
    3. Remove all of the leaves from the cauliflower and remove the stem so that there is a hollow area, but most of the florets are intact. (Use toothpicks to hold the sides together if it starts to fall apart).
    4. Put the hollowed out cauliflower into a snug fitting bowl. (For a really scary presentation, wrap the bowl in cheesecloth stained with red food coloring.)
    5. Fill in with the guacamole and decorate the florets by weaving the licorice between the florets to make the veins and arteries.  You may also sprinkle a bit of red food coloring on the “arteries” as well but be careful not to overdo it.

    Mad Scientist Bubbly Brew

    From: Heide Lang

    Ingredients:

    • Clear glass container or punch bowl
    • Artificial green or red drink, such as Gatorade or Hawaiian Punch (You may also use a clear liquid like seltzer or Sprite, died with food coloring, if you want)
    • Gummy worms, plastic spiders or any other creepy creatures you wish
    • Dry ice

    Directions:

    1. Fill container or punch bowl with a green or red beverage.
    2. Place gummy worms, spiders, etc, on the edge of the bowl.
    3. Add a few small pieces or pellets of dry ice, just enough to get the brew bubbling and smoky. If it comes in a big brick, you will need to chip pieces off of it. (Do NOT pick up dry ice with your bare hands. Use tongs to handle it or protective rubber gloves if you must pick it up with your hands.)
    4. Serve immediately, adding additional pieces of dry ice every 10 minutes, or as needed.

    This Cocktail Will Make Your Fall

    When most households say they have a secret ingredient, they generally mean something normal like love, mayonnaise or grandma’s special seasoning mix. But in my house, where we are not normal, I learned from a very young age that everything (every single thing) tastes better with whiskey. All of my favorite family standbys – Irish Whiskey Potato Soup, Jack Daniels Fudge Pie or Bourbon Sweet Potatoes – owed their indescribable special to what can only be considered the world’s greatest spirit. Some of these I grew up with, some of them were added over the years, but there’s a rich, nutty, I-don’t-even-know (is amber a flavor?) that has defined almost every food I’ve ever been obsessed with. And now that I’m 21, I’ll happily drink a well margarita, and only believe in cheap vodka, but even in my young age, I take my whiskey very, very seriously.

    Hot Cider with Irish Whiskey | The Road Home

     

    I could wax poetic for hours about cooking with whiskey – fun for all ages, and I have yet to find a food it doesn’t improve. But in my nearly 6 months of being 21 I have never yet written about a cocktail, so I’m going to celebrate my impending half birthday with a simple fall cocktail my friends and I dreamed up. I’ve actually wanted to make this for weeks but I decided to wait until it was seasonally appropriate. All it takes to make it is to heat up a cup of apple cider and add 1/8-1/4 cup of whiskey (afterwards, of course, so it doesn’t evaporate). And it tastes like a fall serenade swirled up your mind and heart and dropped them in… I don’t know, a fiery maple tree or something. Ireland wins my love all day every day so I used Bushmills but I bet this would taste amazing with Scotch too. Extra points if you mull the cider but I’m lazy so I won’t fault you if you are too.

     

    Hot Cider with Irish Whiskey | The Road Home

     

    Do you have a fall drink you make? Whether it’s spiked or child appropriate, we want to hear about it! Let us know in the comments below!

    Ice Cream is the Best Medicine

    Francesca and I have been reading Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events this summer, and we are trying to finish up The Miserable Mill before I go back to school next week. If you are unfamiliar with this series, it is a wonderful set of children’s books in which nothing good happens to anybody ever. But in this installment we have been learning, of all things, about optimism because there is a character named Phil and he is an optimist. It’s a timely lesson because Francesca and are both recovering from surgery and if your house is going to be an infirmary anyway, it’s best to look at it with the most positive attitude possible. So instead of focusing on what we’ve lost (our adenoids and wisdom teeth) Francesca and I are going to focus on what we’ve gained – the right to do nothing for a few days but watch The Flintstones and eat ice cream.

     

    Trifecta Shakes – A perfect combination of coffee, vanilla and dulce de leche | The Road Home

     

    Over the past two years of college I’ve been lucky enough to live with people who care a lot about Haagen Dazs, and would stuff the freezer with quarts of it whenever it went on sale every few weeks. Luckiest of all, these people introduced me to the Haagen Dazs trifecta of perfection – Coffee, Vanilla and Dulce de Leche – that Francesca and I are using to celebrate our recovery period. Usually we make these into sundaes, but since I can’t really open my mouth wide enough for a spoon, we’re going to go with milkshakes. We hope you enjoy our Trifecta Shakes no matter how you’re feeling. And we want to know – when you’re sick, what food cure works best for you? Comment below to let us know!

     

     

    Trifecta Shakes

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 cup Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream
    • 1/2 cup Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream
    • 1/2 cup Haagen-Dazs dulce de leche ice cream
    • 3/4 cup whole milk

    Directions:

    1. Blend everything in a blender on high
    2. Drink

    School Days

    I know it’s been almost a week since Taste of the Nation, but I had to wait until now to post so I could calm down and organize my thoughts just a tad. And yes, it really did take that long. For such a small city, New Haven has a scarily good food scene – in my thoroughly unbiased opinion, it’s way better per capita than New York’s. So a night of running wildly between tables and tables of the city’s best food? You can’t even begin to comprehend what that kind of thing does to my mind.

     

    Our table in setup mode. When we had such noble intentions of keeping things organized ;)

     

    It’s a little sick, I know, but we started planning this year’s table at Taste of the Nation 2011. We decided to play up the fact that we’re a school, so we divided the table up into three sections: Chemistry, complete with beakers, dry ice, and Turkish Mint Lemonade…

     

    I tried to capture a full rack but we just couldn't keep it on the shelves. Though a scary number of people refused it because it wasn't alcoholic. Oy vey.

     

    European History, featuring the many cookbooks of Europe and Penne with Saffron Cream, Peas and Pancetta…

     

    Pasta teaches you about Europe, no question about it

     

    And Environmental Science, for which we made three kinds of Chocolate Bark – Zingiber Cranbaca (Cranberries, Pistachios and Crystalized Ginger), Lavandula Salis (Lavender, Almond, Apricot and Sea Salt) and Potatochipus Dulcis (Potato Chip, Pretzel and Dulce de Leche).

     

    Clockwise from Left: little wooden cones for our bark samples; envi sci bird with eggs made out of gum (yes, since you asked, somebody did ask if they could eat one eat one), and a sampling of chocolate barks

     

    I know, right? We’re just too clever for our own good. Anyway, last year, we were a bit disorganized and unwittingly overambitious and we got to Woolsey Hall, where the event is held, about a minute before it started. This year we were determined not to let that happen again. So instead we were the first people there! As mom went to get the food and Isabella, I set up our table and spied on everyone else setting up theirs. And I got to make friends with all the other chefs. Everyone had way too much fun.

     

    Volunteers putting bags together for us fancy shmancy chefs. Free extra large t-shirt :D You know you're jealous.

     

    From Plan B Burger Bar. Can you even believe how beautiful? Fun fact – Plan B was going to throw all this away, but we saved it and gave it to one of the volunteers who took it to feed her goat ;)

     

    I love love LOVE the guys of Box 63 :D

     

    Flowers from Thali & Oaxaca (by which I mean flowers and a watermelon, but really what's the dif?)

     

    Then everybody arrived, and the highlight of my year began. Duff went on stage to greet everyone (yes sir, that’s a name drop) and told everyone to donate money and also “get wasted” (classy). And then we set about giving out food, as dad brought us a steady supply of the best of the room (before things quieted down and we got to go exploring later). Highlights included Foie Gras with Milk-Honey Cream and Cranberries, and also an incredible Duck Pastrami Ruben from Bella Bella Gourmet, Biscotti from Sono Baking Company, Donuts with Chocolate-Bacon Glaze from Box 63 and Bailey Hazen Blue Cheese with Dried Figs from Caseus. Oh and this Butterscotch Pudding with Dulce de Leche, Homemade Marshmallows and Sea Salt from Heirloom. I don’t even like Butterscotch and this was amazing.

     

    You don't even understand how much I don't like butterscotch. But seriously, so amazing.

     

    Sadly all good things must come to an end. Nine o’clock came and it was time to pack up. Though naturally, Isabella and I pounced on Duff (I did it again!) at the last minute to make sure he tried our test tube lemonade, which said was “really, really good.” Which is not quite up to last year’s “Damn…” but it was the end of the night, so it’ll do 😉 We’re still devouring the leftovers, and while we’d love to share them with you in person, we can’t because you’re not here. So instead we’re going to spend the next week showering you with recipes, starting now with the Mint Lemonade. Also please read below to learn more about Share our Strength, and make a donation if you can!

     

     

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    Share our Strength, an amazing organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America. Through programs like Cooking Matters, the Great American Bake Sale and, of course, Taste of the Nation, Share our Strength raises awareness (and, more importantly, money) to feed children in local communities. We’re lucky enough to cook at High School in the Community, a school in one of New Haven’s more impoverished areas, where Chef Cheryl Barbara told us that many of her kids only eat the lunch they get at school, because there’s not enough food for them at home for breakfast or dinner. (Cheryl herself makes sure the kids get balanced, nutritious meals at school, sends kids home with non-perishables if she knows they don’t have enough to eat at school, and sets up a food distribution center from her van to make sure her kids get enough to eat during the summer. Isn’t that so cool? Don’t you wish you were more like her?)

    Anyway, Taste of the Nation events are held all over the country, and feature the best chefs and mixologists of the area. 100% of money raised from ticket sales and donations stays right in the area it’s raised, so local chefs are helping local kids. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if there’s an event in your area, go to it. And click on the picture below to make a donation!

     

    Click to go to the donation page!

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    Click for Printable Version!

     

    Strawberry Flats Forever

    One of the challenging things about cooking for large crowds is learning to order the right amount of food to feed, say, 300 people, a talent you’d certainly learn quickly in any restaurant kitchen or you’d go out of business.

     

    There used to be a lot more where these came from... but my daughters ate them all.

     

    But since my joy in life comes from teaching others to cook and I don’t own a restaurant (although I think about opening one all the time), I haven’t quite gotten that skill down. Even if I had it down, it’s really unlikely I would manage to order just the right amount. It’s in my genes to make too much food. It’s the Mediterranean in me – watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding and you’ll understand my views on feeding a crowd. The Romanians on my father’s side were just the same: there was never such thing as too much. If anyone left a family gathering growing up without being totally stuffed, that meant the mothers, aunts and grandmothers in the kitchen didn’t do their job. I’m the same way.

     

    Try this at home.

     

    So as per usual when I was planning for a cooking demonstration at New Haven’s Wooster Square Market last week, our hands-down favorite open air farmer’s market in our area, I ordered way too many organic strawberries to accompany the amazing vanilla-almond custard Gabrielle adeptly made before the crowd.

     

    Strawberries in water - our accidental art piece. People tried very hard to steal these.

     

    When the day was over, we had a flat and a half of extra just-picked, perfectly ripe, sweet, bright-red, wonderfully imperfect organic strawberries. Mark brought the girls down to the market to make an emergency extension cord run (long story) and stayed until we were done with our demo. And when I wondered out loud what we should with so many strawberries that wouldn’t last for days the way supermarket strawberries do, my husband just said two wonderful words: Strawberry Margaritas.

     

    Perfect.  Mark never uses many words, but what he says always matters. And that was certainly true on Saturday.

     

    I always tell the girls – and they’ve heard it so many times growing up it’s practically in their DNA – that most things in life worth experiencing – having children, a great career, friendships – require hard work and dedication. But on rare occasion that isn’t really true. Sometimes miniscule effort can bring pure joy in a ridiculously short period of time. Strawberry margaritas are like that. And the amazing thing is that you don’t have to buy Tezon Añejo to get that joy, unless of course you want to be beyond overjoyed in which case, go ahead, buy the top shelf stuff. But for us it was a warm lazy Saturday afternoon and I didn’t feel like buying great tequila, so I used what we had in the house, which was entry-level.

     

    Jose Cuervo... cheap, but seriously sufficient.

     

    I’ll give you the specific recipe, but it is really better to remember the simple ratio for margaritas. You’ll want to be able to do this at the drop of a hat. Think thirds: one third a cup each of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice* in the blender. It’s that simple.

     

     

    This is almost everything that goes into them.

     

    Add a tablespoon or two of sugar if you have a really sweet tooth (otherwise leave it out) and ½ cup of ice if you want them to be slightly less strong… so you don’t get too too lazy afterwards.

     

    Just seconds away...

     

    Blend well and add a cup or so of ice, and voila! the perfect, simple margarita.

     

    So pretty... and it tastes so much better.

     

    So sit back and relax. Enjoy the fruits of your minor labor the way Mark did on Father’s day as he sipped perfection in a glass. Cheers!

     

    Colander of Strawberries

     

    Strawberry Margaritas

    From: Heide Lang

    Ingredients:

    • 1/3 cup triple sec
    • 1/3 cup tequila
    • 1/3 cup lime juice
    • 1 ½ cups fresh, preferably fresh picked organic strawberries
    • ½ cup ice (optional)

    Directions:

    1. Place all ingredients in a blender and mix on high for 30 seconds, or until thoroughly blended. 
    2. Serve straight or on the rocks, depending on whether you added ice to the blender.  Feel free to double or triple the recipe depending on your thirst and size of the crowd!

    Indian Summer

    We’ve had these twelve mangoes lying around the test kitchen for days now, which were off limits because Mom was going to use them to make mango soup. But they were getting ripe and I was getting impatient, and while the weather here isn’t exactly warm (at all) it’s going to be soon (I hope) and I knew that someday soon I would need to be refreshed and it would just stink if I let the opportunity to develop a perfect mango lassi recipe pass me by.

    They look so innocent, but seriously, try not drinking all four.

    So I pulled out my trusty blender and got to work. There are several difficulties to successfully pulling off a mango lassi. The first is the mango. Many recipes call for Alphonso Mango Pulp, a pre-sweetened puree that you can buy on Amazon or at Indian Supermarkets. This is certainly the most authentic way to go about doing  things, and it’s made with super-flavorful Alphonso mangoes, that only grow in India. But I opted out for several reasons. First of all, I had twelve ripe mangoes sitting in my kitchen. Second, canned Alphonso mangoes are kind of hard to get, and really expensive if you do have to buy them online. And since I would never wish expense anyone (remember, I’m a college student), I decided to go with fresh. To mimic the sweetened puree, and maximize mangoey-ness, I mashed the mangoes first, to release the juices, and then mixed them with a little bit of sugar (but not too much) to intensify their flavor but not sweeten them too much. It worked perfectly.

    Then I had to think about the yogurt. A bunch of recipes swear by goat yogurt, which I find a bit suspect. But I tried it anyway, and frankly, even if it were more authentic (which it’s not) it doesn’t taste that different from cow yogurt – just a bit more like goat cheese. It’s delicious, but it’s also much runnier than regular yogurt, so it hurts the lassi’s texture. Regular yogurt, on the other hand, passed both flavor and texture tests.

    Finally I had to consider what other ingredients they might need. Some recipes call for only mango and yogurt, several call for cardamom and many others call for milk. I made one with just mango and yogurt. It tasted delicious – like a fantastic mango smoothie. But it didn’t taste like a lassi. I tried adding the cardamom – also delicious, and decidedly Indian, but definitely not a lassi. I decided to try one last time, eliminating the cardamom and adding a cup of milk. It was perfect. It was tangy, mangoey and creamy – everything a lassi should be.

    Rest assured this recipe has been meticulously tested and adjusted to taste just like it would at your favorite restaurant – we would never stand for sloppy imitations. These are super healthy, and super easy to make. And they’ll be perfect for keeping you cool when, any day now, summer shows up.

     

    Mango Lassi

    From: Gabrielle Siegel

    Ingredients:

    • 2 cups mango in 1-inch cubes
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 1-1.5 cups yogurt (less yogurt will taste more mangoey, which I prefer, but more will taste a bit more authentic)
    • 1 cup milk

    Directions:

    1. Mash mangoes in a large bowl, and stir in sugar. Let stand for 20-30 minutes. There should be around 1.5 cups of puree.
    2. Pour mangoes, yogurt and milk into blender. Blend until completely smooth. I recommend going on your blender’s highest setting, because otherwise the mangoes can end up stringy, which is gross.
    3. Pour into glasses and try not to drink all of them yourself.

    Fig Travels: The Deep South

    I’ve traveled to France, the Mecca of haute cuisine, many times and I didn’t think there could never be another regional food that would ever satisfy me as much as a perfectly cooked steak au poivre and a good glass of Bordeaux wine. Our road food trip to the Deep South was probably one of the last places I thought my stubborn belief system would be rattled, but I’ve been humbled.

    French cuisine is still of course dear to me, but now I know how utterly fantastic, and complicated, real southern food is. Down-to-earth Southern fried chicken is not simple at all: we’re still perfecting the art of duplicating the texture, taste, and even the color. In fact, we could cook a le creuset filled with beef bourguignon faster. The same goes for so many other southern treasures we sampled. The biscuits from The Loveless Café in Nashville, TN are so buttery, rich and yet airy, they rival the best croissants anywhere. We’re not sure they can be replicated, although we’ll let you know if we succeed.

    Clockwise from top left: Fried Okra, Nashville, TN; Sign at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House, Lynchburg, TN; Basket of cornbread, Lynchburg, TN.

    On our southern food odyssey, we also learned that barbeque ribs and pulled pork as we previously knew them, are oversimplified. The variations and interpretation of great barbecue are almost endless. Some places even offer barbecue nachos. Even in the epicenter of barbeque, they are still reinventing it every year at the annual Memphis in May barbeque world championship. The same is true for Cajun cooking; the possibilities and interpretations of local favorites – etoufee, gumbo, bisque and the countless versions of “blonde” and “dark” rouxs – would stun your taste buds.

    Clockwise from top left: Crawfish pie, Breaux Bridge, LA; Bicycle street scene, New Orleans, LA; Beignet Machine at Cafe du Monde, New Orleans, LA; Francesca enjoying a beignet, New Orleans, LA.

    Non-natives usually think of chicken and pork dishes first, but the variety of southern seafood dishes also blew us away. The catfish from the Mississippi Delta is succulently sweet and juicy, but our favorite local seafood specialty turned out to be oysters; we had oysters fried, raw and even, charbroiled. Oysters Rockefeller was invented it the Deep South but you haven’t had an oyster, really, until you’ve had one on the grill.

    It is hard to figure out just what make southern food so mouth-watering and addictive, but one thing I noticed is that Southern cooks are not afraid of abundant flavor and seasoning. We never needed the salt and pepper shakers. There were unexpected ingredients along the way too, like Jack Daniels in fudge pie or copious amounts of turmeric in some of the ribs. But whatever the surprising ingredient was, it was always perfectly balanced.

    Clockwise from top left: Rice at Rendezvous, Memphis, TN; Barbeque sauce at Blues City Cafe, Memphis, TN; Ribs at Blues City Cafe, Memphis, TN.

    For the next few posts, prepare yourself a nice glass of sweet tea – we’re going to chronicle our travels, and along the way, we will give you the recipes to create some of these southern gems for yourself!