Oct 31, 2012

Halloween Dinner Ideas

Happy Halloween!  I like Halloween now, I LOVED Halloween as a kid.  One problem that parents can have is how to get your kids to eat something healthy before they go gorge on candy.  In thinking of what I'm going to do this morning, I decided to post some of my favorite ideas. 

Dead Man Over Worms

This recipe I saw years ago on some foodnetwork show.  Basically, take your favorite meatloaf recipe (I will give the one they provide, but I figure it would be easy enough to use your own!), and shape the meatloaf into a "man."  Kind of more like a gingerbread at attention look (don't want the arms and legs to overcook) - but you get the idea.  Cook as directed, and serve over spaghetti noodles with the "blood" sauce on the side.

here is the recipe from the show.  It makes a really big dead man:

Dead Man Meatloaf
3 eggs
2/3 cup milk
2 slices French bread torn into bits
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup finally chopped onion (or grate)
1 cup shredded Cheddar
1 TBS chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves (or 1/2 for dried)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bouquet garni (can leave out)
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 LBS lean ground beef
1 LBS mild Italian sausage
1 (16) oz package spaghetti noodles

"Blood" Sauce
1 cup tomato ketchup
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp prepared mustard
1/4 cup maple syrup (NOT pancake syrup)

Preheat Oven 350

In a large bowl, beat the eggs.  Add milk, bread, and oatmeal.  Stir in carrots, onions, cheese, herbs, and seasoning.  Add beef and sausage and mix well.  In a shallow baking dish, shape beef mixture into the shape of a body.  Round fall for head, oval shape for body, mounding up for tummy.  Shape arms and place next to body.  Shape legs and place next to each other, not apart.  Smooth meatloaf so the seams are not apparent.  Bake for 45 minutes or until the meat is cooked through.

While baking combine topping ingredients.  Cook spaghetti noodles.  Set aside.

After 45 minutes spoon half of the sauce over the meatloaf.  return to the oven and continue baking an additional 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes.

Put spaghetti noodles on a tray, carefully place meatloaf on top of spaghetti noodles.

To serve, place a knife in the "heart" of the meatloaf man.  Serve with extra "blood sauce."

Shrunken Heads

I got this one from the same episode as mentioned above.  You could easily take the idea and use your own stuffing recipe.

3 slices bacon
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
6 medium (I'd say the bigger the better personally) Granny Smith apples (or other firm, large apples)
2 TBS freshly grated Parmesan
2 TBS butter at room temperature (it calls for unsalted, but don't fret too much if you only have salted)
2 tsp whole-grain mustard
3 TBS balsamic vinegar

Tip: use pumpkin carving tools, melon baler, and bamboo skewers to create features of the face.

Preheat oven 350

Slice bacon into small cubes.  Saute over medium heat until brown and crispy.  Remove bacon to a paper town lined plate and discard all but 1 TBS of the drippings.  Saute onion in drippings about 3 minutes and add garlic.  Cook until onion is translucent and beginning to brown.  So not allow garlic to brown (I'd say wait to add the garlic until the very end).  Reduce heat if needed.  Add bread crumbs and cooked bacon and toss.  Remove from heat and allow to cool in pan.

With melon baler, remove core from apple starting at the top (stem end).  Only dig about halfway down into the apple to remove the core, but do not go all the way through.  You should now have a well in the apple about 1 inch wide and 2 inches deep.  With a paring knife, carefully carve a face into the side of the apple, not going all the way through. 

To the cooled filling add Parm, butter, mustard, and 1 TBS of balsamic vinegar.  Stuff apples with filling and place in a baking dish so that they do not touch.  For bet results, have carved faces toward the outside of the dish and drizzle the remaining 2 TBS balsamic on the outside of the apples over the cut features. 

Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hour, until the apples is soft.

Jack O'Lantern Stew

One of my best friends likes to make this in a full sized pumpkin, but you could use small individual pumpkins or any gords you want.  This particular recipe is from that same Food Network show, but that is not the first time I have heard of doing this.  Again, take the idea and get creative with the filling!

1 (9-12 inch) pumpkin
1 large onion
1 green pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1 red pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
4 carrots, thinly sliced into rounds
3 celery sticks thinly sliced and diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 LBS lean ground beef
1 LBS ground chicken or turkey
2 cups cooked rice
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 large can tomato soup

Preheat 350

cup the top off the pumpkin and scoop out the insides.  Rinse well.  Carve a spooky face on to the pumpkin without going all the way through.  Rinse well, oil outside of pumpkin.  Bake pumpkin shell for 30 minutes.

While the shell is baking, saute the onions, peppers, carrots, celery, and garlic until the veggies begin to soften, about 8 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Brown ground beef and chicken.  Add the veggies and cooked rice and cook over low heat stirring often for 10-15 minutes to let flavors meld.

Remove pumpkin from the oven and let stand 15 minutes.  Stir the tomatoes and soup into the meat mixture.  Place meat mixture into pumpkin.  Put back in oven for 20 minutes.  Serve on a platter with cheesy biscuits.

Mummy Dogs

This and the next recipes are my go to for Halloween because my kids are still so young and don't eat very much.  So very cute.

hot dogs
crescent rolls
mustard and/or ketchup

Slice hot dogs in half (in the middle, NOT length wise)
Unwrap crescent rolls and slice into strips with pizza cutter.
Wrap hot dogs in the strips leaving a space where the face should be.
Bake 375 for 13-18 minutes.  Take out of the oven and when cooled slightly, make mustard or ketchup eyes where you have left a space where the face should be.

Candy Corn Pizza

I can't remember where I saw this, but it is easy a quick for that picky eater.

1 pizza crust
orange cheddar
white cheese of your choice

Use with either a white or red sauce, but if using red sauce, keep it away from the edge so it doesn't show.  Or you could do no sauce.  In the center of the pizza, make an orange circle of cheese.  Next, make a white circle of cheese around that - dart board fashion.  The lastly, orange again.  Bake according to the directions on the crust.  When you cut slices, it should look like a piece of candy corn - well at least mostly :o)

Oct 26, 2012

Hot Pizza Dip

This dip is great when you are the host of a party because it comes together quickly, uses only a few ingredients, and can easily be reheated in the microwave if your guests come later then expected or you don't eat right away (in my opinion it doesn't taste good if it is not hot-warm). It is also good to bring when you are tight on cash. I love crab dip, but boy it can be expensive! Using pasta sauce will make it runnier than pizza sauce, but I alwayys have pasta sauce on hand and usually don't want to buy pizza sauce. I think it tastes better than pizza sauce. But if consistency is an issue for you, go with pizza sauce. So enjoy this twist on a Pampered Chef classic

Hot Pizza Dip - a twist on a Pampered Chef classic

1 1/2 package (12oz) cream cheese, softened
1 tsp Italian Seasoning Mix
3oz Monterey Jack Cheese, grated
1 cup (4oz) shredded mozzarella
about 1 cup of good pasta sauce (I like Prego) or 1 8oz can pizza sauce

optional: diced green peppers, sliced green onions, or chopped pitted olives

Toasted baguette slices

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix cream cheese, and seasoning mix.  Spread into the bottom of a 1 qt baking dish (I actually bought the Pampered Chef Mini-Baker for dips because it is such a great size).  Layer shredded Monterey Jack, sauce, and lastly mozzerella.  Bake for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly.  Top with topping if desired.  Serve with toasted baguette slices.

Aug 4, 2012

Quinoa-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms from Pampered Chef

I have been wanting more healthy dinner ideas but amidst the room re-model we've eaten ALOT of pizza.  Here was a yummy looking recipe that I'm pretty sure my kids won't eat...  And I KNOW my husband won't eat (mushrooms) - but who's up for lunch??

Quinoa-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

4 large portobello mushrooms with stems divided
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup vegetable broth
3 TBS balsamic vinegar, divided
1 small zuchini
3/4 cup canned quaretered artichoke hears, drained
4 green onions with tops
2 plum tomatoes
2oz Asiago cheese
2 TBS chopped fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/4 tsp coarsly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Line
Large Sheet Pan with foil. Remove stems from

mushrooms; set caps aside. Chop mushroom stems to measure 1/2 cup (125 mL) using

Food Chopper
. Place quinoa in (7-in./18-cm) Strainer and rinse under cold water 30

seconds. Bring broth to a boil in
(2-qt./1.9-L) Saucepan over medium-high heat; add

quinoa and mushroom stems. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, covered, 15 minutes or

until liquid is absorbed. Place quinoa mixture in
Classic Batter Bowl.

2. Meanwhile, remove and discard brown gills from the undersides of mushroom caps (see

Cook's Tip). Place mushrooms, rounded side down, onto pan. Place 5 tsp (25 mL) of the

vinegar in
(1-cup/250-mL) Prep Bowl; brush generously over both sides of mushrooms

Chef's Silicone Basting Brush.

3. For filling, chop zucchini using
Santoku Knife. Thinly slice artichokes and green onions.

Seed and dice tomatoes. Grate cheese using
Rotary Grater. Add zucchini, artichokes,

onions, tomatoes, cheese, basil, pressed garlic, black pepper and 1 tsp (5 mL) of the

vinegar to quinoa mixture; toss thoroughly to combine.

4. Spoon filling evenly into mushrooms. Bake 20-25 minutes or until mushrooms are tender.

Place mixed greens and remaining 1 tbsp (15 mL) vinegar in
Stainless (2-qt./2-L)

Mixing Bowl
; toss to coat. Serve mushrooms with mixed greens.

Yield: 4

Cook's Country Poke Cake

Cook's Country and Cook's Illustrated are great places to find really yummy recipes.  This one is no exception.  But in their typical style, don't expect it to be fast or too simple.  Worth it?  Oh yea.  If you are interested in another Cook's Illustrated recipe, see my recipe for Enchiladas Verde.  YUM.  Ahem, back to cake.  You c-o-u-l-d just do it the Kraft way.  Buy a cake mix.  Mix up some strawberry jell-o.  Poke the cake, pour jello over, and there you go...  But I warn you - from experience, you get a wet cake that tastes like fake strawberries.  I also tried the strawberry gelatin recipe from this recipe poured over a boxed cake mix. That didn't work either.  In fact, it was far worse.  My sugar loving nieces and nephew wouldn't even eat it.  This cake is dense and holds up well to the strawberry gelatin.  Plus I think it goes perfectly at a summer BBQ especially if all you have to bring is dessert!

Strawberry Poke Cake


    • 3 cups frozen strawberries
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 2 tablespoons orange juice
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
    • 4 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 cup milk
    • 6 egg whites
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 3/4 cups white sugar
    • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
    • 2 tablespoons strawberry gelatin (strawberry Jell-o)
    • 1 cup frozen strawberries
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • whipped cream 

  1. Combine 3 cups strawberries, 1/4 c sugar, orange juice and water in a saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat until strawberries break down and become soft. (Strawberries do not need to be thawed before beginning.).
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F Butter and flour a 13x9x2" baking pan.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder.
  4. Whisk together milk, egg whites and vanilla, just until egg whites are broken up.
  5. In the work bowl of a stand mixer (or using an electric hand beater), cream together 1 3/4 cups sugar and butter, about 3 minutes, until fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add half the wet ingredients, then half the dry ingredients, then the remaining wet followed by the remaining dry. (This step IS important to get a nice flat cake!).
  1. Pour batter into prepared pan. Spread evenly. Bake on middle rack of preheated oven for 35 minute.
  2. Separate strawberry solids from liquid; set the solids aside (you will use these later). Add gelatin powder to liquid. Stir well and let stand until cake is baked.
  3. When done, set cake on a baking rack and let cool at least one hour. Using a large skewer, poke cake about 50 times. Do not poke all the way to the bottom, or the gelatin will run underneath. Pour gelatin all over the top of the cake. Refrigerate 3 hours, or up to 1 day in advance.
  4. Combine reserved cooked strawberry solids with 1 c frozen strawberries and 2 tbsp sugar in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until it has the consistency of strawberry jam. Spread evenly over top of cake. Spread cake with whipped cream.

Potato, Squash, and Cheese Gratin

This recipe was originally from www.thekitchn.com/recipe-potato-squash-and-goat-90647 entitled: Potato, Squash, and Goat Cheese Gratin.  It looked good but I was missing some things and frankly, I don't like goat cheese (yes I try it over and over and still come to the same conclusion).  So I changed it and it came out great!  But if you like goat cheese (bleck) maybe you should try the original and see how it goes.  As mentioned in her post,  you're going to want a mandolin.  There is one on Amazon for only $20 that gets great reviews.  After giving myself carpal tunnel making this the first time, I decided to buy one myself.  As for my version, here is:

Potato, Squash, and Cheese Gratin
9x12 serves 6-8

4-6 small/medium yellow squash (large squash are bitter)
6-8 red potatoes
1 small/medium red or Vidallia onion (optional)
1/3 cup olive oil
8oz sharp cheddar, graded (again, Cabbot Seriously Sharp is my favorite)
4oz (or more if you like) cream cheese
1/2 cup milk (don't use skim - if that is all you have, half/half or cream can be used)

Preheat oven to 400.

Use a mandolin or chef's knife to cut the squash, potatoes, and onion very thin - 1/8inch or less - and as evenly as possible.  Place in a large bowl.  Pour olive oil over the sliced veggies and stir or toss to coat.

Layer in 9x12 pan that has been sprayed with non-stick oil - sliced veggies, dots of cream cheese over the whole pan (2oz) (take two spoons, get some on one spoon and push off dots with the other spoon), layer of 1/3 of the cheese.  Sliced veggies, dots of cream cheese (2oz), layer of cheese (1/3 of the cheese).  Layer of veggies, last of the cheese. 

Pour milk over the whole dish.  Bake for 45 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and brown.  Serve warm.  Left overs don't fair that well just so you know.  So eat up!

Jul 6, 2012

Chia-Seed Pudding

This is compliments of Food and Wine magazine.  While sitting in a waiting room I came across this recipe and was very excited about it.  It didn't let me down - the first batch I made was yummy!  WARNING - if you don't like the texture of tapioca pudding, do not make.  This is very tapioca-like.

Chia-Seed Pudding

2 1/2 cups Almond milk (if you want it thicker, reduce)
3 TBS Agave nectar
1/2 cup chia seeds (super food high in omega fatty acids but they have to be soaked before they can be used by our bodies)
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (I omited)
1 tsp vanilla extract (I added - optional)
about 1/4 cup chopped dates (I added- optional)

Combine milk and Agave in a medium container.  Stir to combine.  Add chia-seeds, zest (if using), extract (if using), and dried fruit (if using).  Stir.  Cover and refigerate until thick - at least 4 hours or overnight.  Stir occasionally.

***Rae Note: I heard that making it with chocolate almond milk and grated orange was very good.

Jan 6, 2012

Cranberry Mandarin Chicken from Caroline

Caroline brought this for us the other day and it was so good!! It could be easily cooked in the Crockpot.

Cranberry Mandarin Orange Chicken

4 chicken breast
1 bottle French dressing (Not creamy french. She used Country French, Ken's brand)
1 can cranberry sauce (with or without berries)
1 envelope lipton onion soup
1 can mandarin oranges (undrained)

cooked rice

Directions:Place chicken in the bottom of a greased 9x13 or Crockpot. Combine dressing, cranberry sauce and soup mix together in a bowl. Fold in can of mandarin oranges (do not drain the oranges). Pour entire mixture over the chicken. Bake covered at 350 for 60 minutes. Take chicken out and shred. Mix chicken back into sauce. Serve over rice. For the Crockpot: cook on high 4 hours, low 6-8 (this is a guess). I personally think it would be easiest to do in a Crockpot. Yum yum.
Serve with rolls and a salad.