Tag Archives: halloween

Pumpkin patch kids

I know Halloween has long since gone, but it’s just my absolute favourite, and as I can’t do Thanksgiving here per se, I do try to pretend Halloween lasts a little longer than one night.

One of the main ingredients for a proper Halloween, in my opinion anyway, aside from ghosts, spiders, etc, are pumpkins!

I sort of went all out with them this year – we had these three, and two more:

 

 

 

The stickers are courtesy of the Monkey-moo – Hello Kitty goes well with ghosts, right?!

We also did this:

Twice.  Once with just salt and a bit of oil, the second with a bit of oil, cinnamon, ginger and agave nectar (which I recently found and wanted to try).  I’ve never roasted my own pumpkin seeds, but will definitely be doing it again and again (will be trying butternut squash seeds next).  So easy, apart from the cleaning part, and they do take a while to dry, so I sort of oven-dried them first (low oven) before tossing the seeds, oil and seasoning in a zip lock bag and tossing it around.  Then I plonked them onto a lined baking tray.  I will definitely use greaseproof paper instead of the foil next time (I did one and one).  The sweet ones came off much better with the greaseproof paper than the foil!

For the insides of the pumpkins (the smaller ones – the bigger ones just got gutted and binned) – we have this:

Or rather, this is what’s left over.  I didn’t really grow up with pumpkin (my folks are not American – and this is not a food from either of their childhoods!), so didn’t really know what to do with it, but I just treated it like a general winter squash, and the love is certainly growing.  Roasting 6 pumpkin halves at once in the oven was also a good idea – bish bash bosh, as my husband would say (and lots of other people!).

I’ve seen plenty of recipes floating around for what to do with the rest of it, and I’ll let you know if I get around to trying one!  (Time’s been a bit tight of late)

I’ve also managed to snag this:

A present from my brother and SIL.  Very kind of them to fly it over for me!  I’m almost afraid to open the tin as I don’t know how long it will be before I can get another tin, and I expect it would cost me about GBP 7 to get one here (I love how you have to pay for the tin’s flight over when you’ve buying some foreign products…).  I’ve seen far too many good things to do with it as well.  Again, once I am brave enough, I will let you know.

I think I need to teach my daughter about Thanksgiving this year…  Let the pumpkins live on!

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Post – Halloween Madness!

Not the band (although that’s good too).  The week.  The past two really, but this one especially.  Sheer and utter madness…

Aside from husband being snowed in “across the pond,” and the manic weekend with my favourite person in the whole world (Monkey-moo!!!), I just seemed to have run out of time for everything, or just had it go spectacularly pear-shaped.

No planned leftovers this week, managed to cancel my on-line shop and had to go to the grocery store, cat’s been rushed to the vet (it’s only a hairball – phew), little one had her first trick-or-treat (so cute), got in trouble at nursery (no telly time!), developed a strange rash, only two lots of trick-or-treators at the door, and I didn’t manage to post my second Halloween treat, so it’s now a post Halloween post:

They’re supposed to be creepy finger cookies, but they didn’t quite come out like I wanted – so instead of a failed recipe, I just called them

Smashed ogre-finger biscuits (based on Martha Stewart’s version)

  • 1.25 c sugar
  • 1c butter
  • 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla or almond flavour
  • 1.5 c flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 0.25 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 170C/350F
  2. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper (I don’t think this is the same as wax paper…)
  3. In largish bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt
  4. In smaller bowl, melt butter in microwave, then add sugar, eggs and vanilla
  5. Mix wet bowl into dry bowl to form a fairly stiff dough, then let it rest for about 20 minutes to firm up a bit more – keep it covered!
  6. Using your own finger as a guide, break off bits of the dough and mould into a finger shape.  Place on a lined baking tray
  7. Using the back of end of a teaspoon, press into the finger tip to create a nail bed
  8. Using a sharp knife, make slashes along the dough to create knuckle lines
  9. Bake for 10-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fingers
  10. Let cool on a wire rack
  11. decorate – I use sliced almonds for the nails, secured on with a bit of red writing icing

Things I’d do differently next time:

– the last time I did these, they came out a bit too finger like, and freaked some people out a bit – I used icing/ powdered sugar instead of regular sugar – I think this helped it hold its shape whilst cooking – so go this way for a more realistic biscuit

– if I’m going to go for splodge again, I think I should definitely add a bit of cocoa powder – then I’ll have chocolate almond flavoured poo (and for me, that is just about perfect Halloween eating)

I wish I could say it was time to turn my attention to Thanksgiving now, but alas, for some strange reason, that’s just not a big thing over in the UK.  Funny that.

 

Halloween treats – no tricks allowed

Happy Sunday morning!?

Hopefully your day is going slightly less downhill than mine!

Husband has been in America on a “work” trip (they call them conferences – I’ve seen the pictures – there’s not a lot of working going on…), and gotten snowed in in the freak October Nor’easter.    I would like to say this is the first time such an occasion has presented itself, but he got snowed in in Switzerland just before Christmas last year (we had over a foot of snow over here – and I got to shovel the drive with a 2 year old – three times – and we have a long drive…), and delayed somewhere else also last year.  This is the man who drove to France in his 2-CV (her name is Florence ) during the volcanic ash cloud – for work.  Bless.

This has not stopped the Halloween baking, but has certainly meant that by the end of the day, I’m simply knackered, and dinner has been mostly simple, heat and eat.

We did, however, go all out for pancakes this morning:

It looks like a mix between a cat and a pig – covered in Stawberry spread and raisins (forgot to get grapes this weekend!)

I have to say it was nice having the recipe on hand in the blog from earlier!  No more googling with a desperate toddler who wants to do cooking!

The Halloween treats have been made in stages – given the limited attention span of a 3 year old, and the limited spare time of a mummy with no daddy to take the heat off (or anyone else for that matter).  So it started on Friday whilst the lady was at Kindergarten / nursery.  With the baking.  She doesn’t like to help with some of the baking because mummy is a control freak who doesn’t let her stir all over the counter.

We went for cupcakes (so she could help decorate), and some ogre finger cookies (for another post) – made in tandem, because it’s always best to multi-task, and I do have extra arms (comes with child birth, I think)…

Spooky (ish) Halloween cupcakes (makes 12)

For the cupcakes:

Based on The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook recipe:

  • 120 g plain flour (about 4 ounces)
  • 140 g caster sugar (about 5 ounces)
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 40 g unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 120ml (about 4 ounces again) milk

1.  Melt butter completely in the microwave, leave to cool
2.  mix dry ingredients
3.  add egg to cooled butter and whisk
4.  make a well in the dry ingredients, then add the butter and egg until it looks like a dough

5.  Gradually mix in milk until a batter forms (this keeps the mix from getting lumpy – and I don’t think anyone likes lumpy cupcakes!)

6.  Pour into cupcake tin lined with cupcake cases (like these!!!)

7.  Bake at 170C / 340 F until the cupcakes are lightly browned and firm to the touch (about 20 -25 minutes – mine usually take the former)

8.  Decorate as desired

We did these:

I now need to go and entertain a very kind little girl who has very patiently waited for me to finish…

Severed smushed fingers later.  Promise.

Fingers crossed that our neighbour can take the little one to nursery tomorrow morning (else I will have all the Halloween treats at home, and no one to eat them – the pink cupcakes are for us), and that the airport is fully functioning in whatever part of the US the husband is currently located (we clearly do communication on a totally different level).

Have a great weekend!

g

Halloween and girl’s weekend

Just about every year for the past 7 or 8 years (maybe longer?), the husband takes a trip (business trip – ish) around Halloween time.  This year is no exception.

It means no Halloween party for us (I just can’t stomach that on my own!).  At least, not this year (we’ve only had one since the Monkey-moo joined us).  It also means the Halloween treats are more muted (more below).

This has not stopped me from decorating the house appropriately:

From the fireplace (to keep us warm and cozy),

To the windows to make sure everyone knows that Halloween happens here!

I particularly like making my spiders attack my cockroaches – but that’s a personal thing.  No one else at home quite gets it.  I wonder if the postman does?

There are also spider webs (which means I don’t have to do so much dusting – because it’s supposed to be that way), and some eyeball lights, and a few other bits and bobs dotted around the house.

Aside from the decorating, I have been full on with working, and looking after my Monkey-girl.  We are exceptionally excited to have a full-girl’s weekend coming up.  We will be doing baking, shopping, playing, dressing up, painting – the works.  I will be very tired on Monday!

So no cooking posts today – but the Halloween themed food will come, because I love Halloween.  And just because we only get about 6 kids a year to the house, that’s 6 kids more than we got when we lived in a different town, and I will enjoy that.  And I will make certain that my colleagues know just how much I love Halloween by bringing in appropriate edibles. Nothing terribly original, and there will have to be some pink sparkly things for the Monkey-princess, but there will be treats.  And I am looking forward to it.

Happy Friday!

 

A different kind of pumpkin pie

The Americans came, they saw and they had cake!  All was superb.

Whilst I know it was only by brother and sister-in-law visiting, they still came an awful long way to see me, (even if it was a stop over on the way to Switzerland –  I won’t hold that against them – yet), and that kind of effort deserves at least a similar cake effort.

As I noted earlier, my brother was mightily impressed when I did Beantown Baker’s Red Velvet Cheesecake cake (http://www.beantownbaker.com/2010/12/red-velvet-cheesecake-cake.html), so I wanted to recreate, but add a bit of a spin.  So out went the red velvet to make room for something more autumnal and Halloween-y!  (I love Halloween – more so since I’ve been over in the UK, as they just do it so poorly here – and it could just be sooooo good!).  In came Buttermilk spice cheesecake cake, with a Halloween twist – so here goes:

Buttermilk spice cheesecake cake – adapted from the Beantown Baker (http://www.beantownbaker.com/2010/12/red-velvet-cheesecake-cake.html)

Ingredients:

Cake:
2.5 c all purpose flour
1.5c sugar
1 tsp. baking soda / bicarb.
2Tbsp (or to taste) cinnamon
.5 Tbsp ground ginger
.25 Tbsp mace
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1.5 c vegetable oil
1 c buttermilk
Optional mix of yellow and red food colouring to turn the cake orange (or keep it the warm brown shade if preferred)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp white vinegar

Cheesecake:
575g cream cheese (I always use light, but not ultra light – adds more nutrition and I think the taste is nicer)
0.75 c sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
2 eggs
0.5 c sour cream (again, I go for reduced fat here – it’s an indulgent cake, but why can’t it be indulgent and a bit more nutrient dense?)

Frosting:
– 500 g cream cheese (don’t go with light here, unless you want to up the butter content to compensate – you need the fat to make the frosting stiffer)
– 150g butter
– 900 g icing sugar (I’ll need to buy more before I can make my Christmas chocs this year :-()
– food colouring to tint – as desired

Madness:

Cake (make the cake first!):

– oven to 350 F / 170 C
– line two baking tins – I  use spring-form pans
– mix together dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another (excluding food colouring)
– make a well in the dry ingredients and combine in wet stirring until smooth
– add food colouring to desired colour saturation
– divide batter evenly between the greased and lined cake tins (mine are non-stick – you may want to flour yours)
– bake 30 minutes, rotating half way through, until top feels firm and toothpick test is confirmed
– set to cool
– once cool, remove from tins and wash up tins
– once absolutely cool, wrap in clingfilm / plastic wrap and pop in freezer (this is not a one day bake!)

Cheesecake:
– oven to 160C/ 325F
– get a large roasting tin out which will fit the same pan in which the cake was made inside it
– line the cake tin, then wrap the outside in foil (you’re going to put it in a water bath, so wrap appropriately!)
– Beat cream cheese until it loosens, add sugar, lemon zest and juice, salt, eggs, and lastly, sour cream – beat until well combined)
– pour into prepared cake tin already sitting in roasting pan (or similar)
– pour boiling water in to roasting pan so that it comes to about halfway up cheesecake tin
– Bake 45-50 minutes, until the cheesecake looks set in the centre (it will still be wobbly, but not runny)
– Remove from water, and let cool for 20 minutes before running a knife around the sides of the tin, and releasing sides of springform pan
– let cool completely, then pop it in the fridge for a night’s sleep
– in the morning, or whenever you get a chance the next day, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer, base still attached

Assemble and decorate

– no earlier than the day before you’re ready to serve, get your cakes out of the freezer, remove wrap, and set on a wire rack to defrost
– although I didn’t do it this time, I would certainly go ahead and make your frosting at this point (start by mixing the butter and cream cheese together, then add sugar until the desired consistency is reached, then add colouring if using, adding sugar if it becomes too loose)
– when fully defrosted (important that they defrost all the way or your layers will get mushy when put together), take your cheesecake out of the freezer, unwrap, and start to defrost briefly (about 20-30 minutes)
– lay your bottom layer of cake on a plate, and apply a layer of frosting (didn’t do this, but should have done – would have been really visually fantastic!)
– prepare to detach cheesecake from base of tin – it should still be sufficiently firm to manage some manhandling at this point.
– if the cheesecake has defrosted just enough, you should be able to release it by simply turning it over, running a knife along the edge of the cake and tin base, placing it on top of the bottom layer cake, and pulling slightly – if this doesn’t work, wait a bit longer, or consider getting a hair dryer out to warm the base a bit
– once tin is removed and cheesecake is in place, peel of parchment/ greaseproof paper from base of cheesecake (which has now become the top), and top with another layer of frosting, then second cake
– frost and decorate!

<– there’s a view of the inside (pumpkin brains!) – I’m not genius at cake slicing…

Things I would have done differently:
– the frosting both under and on top of cheesecake – I only put it on top of the cheesecake
– my frosting was too runny – I should have gone full fat / more butter, although I got a smoother finish as I could use it as more of a glaze than a frosting
– put crushed nuts or chocolate sprinkles up the sides – would have looked great, but I am dealing with fussy eaters, and I don’t want to be the only one eating this cake (been there, done that)