Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Graveyard Pudding

"Round about the cauldron go; in the poison'd entrails throw...double, double toil and trouble, fire burn, and cauldron bubble." - Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I

This dessert is a fun and tasty addition to any Halloween festivity. And even if you don't celebrate Halloween, the combination of chocolate pudding, Oreo and Milano cookies is just too delicious to miss.

  •  2 packs of chocolate pudding mix
  • Milk (for pudding)
  • Cool Whip
  • Oreo cookies
  • Milano Cookies
  • Gel Writing Icing
  • Candy Corn
  • Optional; whipped cream and Red Hots candy
In a large mixing bowl, mix the pudding using milk and half of a container of Cool Whip to create a creamier texture. Once the pudding has set, transfer it to a dish you'd like to use for serving.
Crush the entire package of Oreos and mix in half of it with the pudding. Use the remaining half to dust the top of the pudding, completely covering the surface.
Using the writing gel, write "RIP" on one end of as many Milano cookies as you wish, and stick into the pudding using the other end, so that it stands like a gravestone. Arrange the cookies in the pudding accordingly. Make a ring around the edge of the pudding using the Candy Corn.
For an optional Ghost in the Graveyard, shake the whipped cream can well, invert it and spray a little mound in a spot where you'd like the ghost to be. Place two Red Hots in front for eyes.


    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Knitted Fair-Isle Beanie

    "Never run after your own hat - others will be delighted to do it. Why spoil their fun?" - Mark Twain

    I love knitted hats at this time of year. This beanie can be used by men or women, and is a great way for beginners to practice the Fair Isle knitting technique. I made the one below for my brother last year - it is knitted in his college fraternity's colors, and has his initials and his frat letters in a ring above the hat band.

    For a typical beanie knitting pattern, go here and follow the basic knitting directions, ignoring the part that instructs you to knit the colored band.

    You can find a variety of resources on the web from which to learn about Fair Isle knitting. The key to doing it well is to keep the yarn "steeks" very loose along the wrong side of the knitting, so that the hat can stretch easily. Also, try not to get the yarn twisted as you knit.

    To figure out how to knit the pattern you want, use graph paper to sketch the pattern over 9 rows. After knitting the hat band, start the Fair Isle rows. When you have finished the last row, cut and tie off the yarn used to make the design, and continue knitting in the hat's primary color, as per the pattern's instructions.

    Good luck!

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    Caramelized ham spirals

    "When blood is nipped, and ways be foul, then nightly sings the staring owl; tu-who, tu-whit, tu-who, a merry note, while greasy Joan doth keel the pot." - Shakespeare

    Now that cold weather has officially arrived in most areas of the country, the time has come to post my favorite go-to, cold-weather appetizer: caramelized ham spirals. They are hearty and delicious, and go well for any event during cold months.

    •  1 box Puff Pastry sheets
    • 1 jar of your favorite brand of honey mustard
    • 1 1/2 lb. thin-sliced ham
    • 1 lb. sliced swiss cheese
    • 1 egg
    Thaw puff pastry completely. Preheat the oven according to instructions on the box.
    Unfold and roll out one sheet on a lightly floured surface. Spread honey mustard over surface of pastry, cover completely with swiss cheese. Fold the ham slices in half once and cover the swiss cheese with them so that they overlap.
    Beat the egg with water in a small dish, set aside with a brush. Gently roll the puff pastry, jelly-roll style, and seal the other side and the ends with egg wash. Repeat entire process with second puff pastry sheet.
    Using a sharp knife, cut the rolls into slices at least 1 in. thick, and carefully lay them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, about 1/2 to 1 inch apart. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes, spirals will be done when they are golden brown and the honey mustard has caramelized. Cool before serving.


    Thursday, October 21, 2010

    Diaries of a Desperate Novice Bread Baker, pt. 3

    "Take not from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned." - Thomas Jefferson

    So, to get back to the bread peel (and the drawing board), I recently tried a recipe for Rosemary bread, like the one served in the Macaroni Grill restaurants. It's delicious, and goes perfectly with olive oil and black pepper for dipping.

    makes: 2 loaves
    • 1 cup warm water (110-120 degrees F)
    • 1 tbsp. yeast
    • 1 tbsp. sugar
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 2 1/2 cups flour
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 2 tbsp. rosemary
    • 1/2 stick of butter
    Mix water, sugar and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir until it dissolves, let sit 5 minutes or until foamy.

    In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt and half of rosemary. Stir flour mixture with a wire mix.

    After yeast mixture becomes foamy, add the oil. Add 1 cup of flour to yeast mixture and stir until mixed. Keep adding flour about 1/2 cup at a time until it becomes dough. Knead for 10 minutes, adding flour if necessary. Set dough in an oiled bowl, brush dough with oil, cover bowl with a cloth and let dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour. Punch down dough and let sit for 5 minutes. Then, split dough into two pieces, form into ovals and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

    Meanwhile, place baking stone in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Melt half a stick of butter in a dish. After dough rises, brush melted butter on top of each oval. Carefully slide parchment paper with loaves on to baking stone and close oven. Bake for ten minutes, then open the oven and brush tops of loaves with butter and sprinkle with remaining rosemary. Bake for another 5-10 minutes, until loaves are light brown.


    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Strawberry Chocolate Balls

    "All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." - Charles M. Shultz

    No indeed, a little chocolate never hurts. Especially when mixed with strawberry jam and Nilla wafers. These rich, decadent little treats are great for parties, events or just because.

    Makes: about 2 dozen
    • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
    • 6 oz. semisweet choc. chips
    • 1 cup Nilla wafers, crushed
    • 1/4 cup strawberry preserves
    • 1 cup chopped almonds
    Beat cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Melt chocolate pieces in a double boiler, or in a saucepan held over another saucepan of boiling water. Add melted chocolate to cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Stir in Nilla wafer crumbs and strawberry preserves with a spoon,  cover and sit bowl in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

    Form mixture into balls, roll in chopped almonds, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

    Peace, Love and Chocolate!

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Sweet November Shawl from Ravelry

    "When chill November's surly blast makes fields and forest bare." - Robert Burns

    Even though this shawl is knitted entirely in lace style, and almost looks like you could crochet it instead (which you probably can, but I prefer knitting), it will still keep you warm in cold temperatures, provided you use the right yarn. For this one, I used a chunky weight 100% wool yarn made in Ireland (yes, the fact that it's Irish does make a difference), and it's extremely cozy on cold days. The original pattern calls for a 100% cotton yarn, which is lighter and can be used in warmer climates/temperatures.

    You can download the pattern here.

    Good luck!

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Autumnal Apple Butter

    "His beautiful, light imagination is the wing that on the autumn evening just brushes the dusky window." - Henry James

    Homemade Apple Butter is delicious at any time of the year, but something about it just sings of autumn. I recommend starting with homemade applesauce, if possible, as the base. Store-bought can be used as well, but isn't quite as good.

    The original recipe used is here.

    You can either start with ready-made applesauce, or go through the whole process with apples as described in the recipe.


    Friday, October 8, 2010

    "I'm A Little Teapot" Knitted Tea Cozy

    "I'm a little teapot, short and stout;
    Here is my handle, here is my spout.
    When I get all steamed up, then I shout;
    'Tip me over, and pour me out!'" - The Teapot Song

    As mentioned in a previous post, tea cozies are a lovely way to keep a teapot warm. This one is knitted using the Fair Isle technique to make the words of the song show up on the lines, but it can also be knitted without using Fair Isle if one wishes to leave the words off. But knitting in the words is just so much fun...

    You can buy the pattern here. 

    One change I made to the original pattern: The whole thing is supposed to be knitted in the round, and the openings for the spout and handle are supposed to be cut into the knitting, literally, with a pair of scissors, and not be bound off or anything. My mother tried this when she made the cozy, and it ended up being a huge mess and going very badly. My alternative was to knit the tea cozy in two separate panels, then make two I-cords (instructions included with pattern) to tie them together around the pot. The sides do require blocking when you make it this way, but it came out very well, as seen in the picture above.

    Good luck!

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Good, True and Beautiful BBQ Beef Cups

    "In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces which are capable of cultivating the good, the true and the beautiful in humanity itself." - Albert Einstein

    These cups represent the pinnacle of comfort food achievement. If the words Good, True and Beautiful can be used in relation to food (especially comfort food), then these little pockets of goodness have more than qualified.

    • 2 lbs. ground beef
    • 1 16-oz. jar thin BBQ sauce
    • 4 tbsp. minced onion
    • 1 large finely chopped bell pepper
    • 2-3 rolls of Pillsbury refrigerator biscuits (8 slices per roll)
    • Shredded cheddar cheese
    In a saucepan, brown the ground beef and add the bell pepper and minced onion while cooking. When beef is brown, add the BBQ sauce, mix and let simmer for 15 - 20 minutes.
    Unwrap the refrigerator biscuits. Flatten one round of dough between the palms of your hands, just until it will fill one cup of a muffin tin, with the edge of the dough just coming out over the edge of the cup. Repeat will all remaining dough rounds in as many muffin tins as you need. When the beef has finished simmering, spoon just enough of the mixture into the cups to lay flat with the top of the cup, not heaped. Bake according to biscuit package instructions.
    Once baked, leaving the oven on, lay a solid layer of shredded cheese on the top of each cup. Replace muffin tins in the oven for 5 minutes, until cheese has melted thoroughly.


    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Charles Dickens' Hot Toddy recipe

    "...I informed Mr. Micawber that I relied upon him for a bowl of punch, and led him to the lemons. His recent despondency, not to say despair, was gone in a moment. I never saw a man so thoroughly enjoy himself amid the fragrance of lemon-peel and sugar, the odor of burning rum, and the steam of boiling water..." - David Copperfield, Charles Dickens

    When cold weather hits and noses start sniffling, nothing is more comforting or medicinal than a Hot Toddy. Traditionally, a hot poker was taken fresh from the fire, and the glowing red end was dipped into the liquid to heat it. Nowadays, I prefer using the microwave and tea kettle, which are not as messy :-)

    The basic recipe is the same, but lends itself to delicious variations:

    • One jigger of brandy, rum or whiskey
    • 2 tbsp. lemonade powder or lemon juice
    • lemon peel
    • Boiling water
    • Either ginger ale or apple cider
    • Optional: butter, brown sugar, honey
    In a tea kettle or saucepan, bring water to a boil. In a large mug, pour the ginger ale or apple cider and lemonade powder or lemon juice and stir to mix. Place mug in microwave and heat for 2 minutes on high heat, until liquid is piping hot. Add boiling water, lemon peel and alcohol of choice, stir briefly to mix. If desired, add brown sugar or honey, stir to mix, and drop a pat of butter on top to melt.