Showing posts with label Halloween. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Halloween. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Easy Halloween Treat - Chocolate-Dipped Marshmallow Pops

 It's no secret that I love Halloween!  As a holiday, it has so many wonderful elements:  crisp autumn weather, pumpkins, mystery, silliness, candy and fun!  And it's a great excuse to throw a party!

These adorable little snacks are perfect for a get-together.  They are a super-easy crowd-pleaser!   Kids love them, and something about a marshmallow-on-a-stick makes adults feel like kids again.

The best part?  You only need 4 ingredients that you probably already have at home.

Chocolate-Dipped Marshmallow Pops

1 bag regular-size marshmallows (or if you are super ambitious, make your own with this recipe)
1/2 bag (6 oz) chocolate chips (regular or mini) OR 6 oz of your favorite chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp vegetable or coconut oil
Your favorite holiday sprinkles

mini cupcake liners
paper straws or cake pop sticks


1.  Prep your assembly area:  Put the sprinkles in a small bowl, and place cupcake liners on a serving plate.

2.  Gently press straws/sticks into center of marshmallows, being careful not to flatten the marshmallow.

3.  Melt your chocolate:  Place the chocolate and oil in a microwave-safe dish.  Microwave on 50% power for 1 minute.  Stir well.  Place back in the microwave for 30-second intervals on 50% power, stirring after every interval, until chocolate is melted.  DO NOT OVERHEAT - this will cause the chocolate to become unworkable.  Check out this link for more great tips on working with chocolate.

4.  Get to dipping!  Dip each marshmallow 2/3 in chocolate, let excess drip, then gently press into sprinkles, one side at a time.  Place in the cupcake liner and allow to cool.

You're done!  Enjoy these sweet cuties!

Dairy-Free (depending on the chocolate used)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Great Pumpkin Pie-tini

by Jaelyn Penner
If you love pumpkin pie, you will adore this drink!  It has an intense pumpkin flavor, with pie-like sweetness and spice.   It would be fantastic served with heavy hors d’oeuvres, or even with just some tasty (pumpkin seed?) crackers to unwind after a long autumn workday!

I love this time of year!  The holiday trifecta:  Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas all in such close proximity makes the last three months of the year a veritable storm of activity, decorating, un-decorating, decorating again, un-decorating again, decorating some more and shopping-shopping-shopping!  But of course, the best parts of all of this madness are the celebrations!!!
What are celebrations but great people, great food, great mood and yummy drinks?  Luckily, two holidays in the Trifecta are autumnal… meaning pumpkin works wonderfully for Halloween as well as Thanksgiving.  And in that spirit (pun intended), I have the perfect beverage for you!

The Great Pumpkin Pie-tini

1/2oz Pumpkin Pie Vodka (unbelievable but true – this flavor was available at my local liquor store.  If you can’t find it, substitute with vanilla vodka)
1 tsp. Pumpkin Butter
1 oz. cold Ginger Beer(available at Cost Plus World Market, or often at health food stores)
3 oz. cold Pumpkin Beer
Dash of Fresh-Ground Nutmeg
Cinnamon Stick for garnish

In shaker, add Vodka and Pumpkin Butter.  Shake well, add ice, shake for another 5 seconds.  Pour liquid only (not ice) into martini glass.  Add Ginger Beer, fill with Pumpkin Beer.  Gently stir.  Using a small grinder and whole nutmeg, grind a dash on top of drink.  Add cinnamon stick for garnish, and enjoy!

Note:  Beverage brands vary widely in taste.  I used a fairly sweet ginger beer by The Ginger People.  If yours isn't as sweet as you would like, you can increase the amount of pumpkin butter in your drink.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Manly Man’s Smoked Salmon


by Kristen Barchers

To many, smoked salmon brings to mind the UK’s traditional layers of thinly sliced lox atop a bagel and shmear. I like to think of this very different style of salmon as the ‘manly man’s’ smoked salmon. The recipe for the brine was perfected by my dad, the master of ‘manly food.’ Many a professed salmon hater has been converted after a taste. For those who already love salmon, you’re in for a treat. The smoky, slightly sweet flavor and hearty texture will make this dish ideal for any occasion. While I often use this brine on salmon, it works well for foods like beef jerky and tempeh as well.

A note on choosing salmon:

With all of the warnings about mercury, PCBs (carcinogenic chemicals found in some predatory fish) and irresponsible farming, knowing which fish to eat can seem like a daunting task. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has developed Seafood Watch, an informative guide to purchasing all types of seafood. Good quality salmon, such as wild Alaskan, is typically more expensive than farmed Atlantic salmon, however the benefit to your health and the environment are well worth it. One money saving alternative is purchasing frozen or previously frozen salmon instead of fresh. Due to the nature of this recipe and the great amount of flavor the brine adds, it is not necessary to purchase fresh salmon.

Manly Man's Smoked Salmon

1 large or two small salmon filets (approximately 2 lbs)

Brine Ingredients:

1/3 c. sugar
¼ c. non-iodized salt
2 c. soy sauce
1 c. dry white wine
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ teaspoon pepper
½ tsp Tabasco sauce
1 tsp orange zest
2 tsp grated ginger


  1. Mix all brine ingredients in a large bowl and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Place salmon filet in a large, sealable plastic baggie and pour in brine. If needed, add water until salmon is fully submerged in liquid. Place the bag in a large bowl or container that will catch any spills in case your bag breaks.
  3. Refrigerate salmon for 24 to 48 hours. The longer the salmon is in the brine, the saltier and more strongly flavored it will be.
  4. For the prettiest filet, remove salmon from brine, pat dry and let air dry under a fan for 1-2 hours. This will create a smooth sheen on the surface of the salmon once it is smoked and dried. If you chose to skip this step, simply pat salmon dry and proceed to step 5.
  5. Place the salmon in your smoker and smoke/dry according to your smoker’s instructions. This typically takes 10-12 hours for large filets. When the salmon is done is partially determined by preference. I prefer my salmon very dried out and flaky, however it is completely safe and delicious to eat while still slightly moist inside. Once the salmon is brined or cured, bacterial growth is inhibited. The drying process helps to preserve the salmon, but it is the curing that makes the salmon safe to eat.

Note: I use a Smokehouse Little Chief smoker for all of my fish smoking needs. This type of smoker is designed for a cooler smoke/drying (<140°) as opposed to other smokers on the market that are designed to simultaneously smoke and cook meats at much higher temperatures. For best results, make sure your smoker is designed to smoke and dry fish.

To serve:

This salmon is amazing alone, but pairs wonderfully with a simple dill sour cream. Simply stir a couple of tablespoons of finely chopped dill into a cup of sour cream. Top the cracker of your choice with a dollop of dip and a slice of salmon.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Table Decor

How to Make the Most of your Display

by Jaelyn Penner

You're hosting the big Halloween Bash this year, and want to make it an event to remember.  You have the menu, the party tunes, the costume... now you just need to set the scene for your guests!

I like to start with the table.  Note:  These tips are for parties that have finger foods/appetizers, not a seated meal.  You can (and probably will) have food set up in multiple locations, but you need a main hub - a home base - a focal point that wows!

Find Your Signature Piece

Start with one major element that everything else centers (figuratively speaking) around.  A "signature piece."  For this year's party, I knew just what I wanted:  an authentic, ornate, elegant, slightly gaudy, antique-looking candelabra!  I have collected a lot of decor pieces over the years, but this is something I did not have.  And I did not intend to spend a fortune on one.  Hello, Goodwill!  It's truly amazing what you can find in a thrift store.  I absolutely lucked out - the candelabra was part of a "lot" of silver plated antiques, which I was able to win at auction for under $40 - and many of the pieces ended up being perfect for the party!   I know what you're thinking, "stop bragging - I can't go out and get bunch of silver pieces that easily." Well, you never know.  Go to your local thrift store and see what they have!  If I hadn't found the candelabra, I would have settled for something else.  Your signature piece simply needs to grab attention.  Large is great, and  illuminated is awesome.  A large cylinder vase filled with lights and fake bones;  a stand with a fantastic jack o'lantern displayed on top; a spooky candle tree... you get the idea. 

Go Vertical!

Now you have your signature piece.  It's time to build around it.  You'll need to pull out all the serving dishes and vases you have and see what you have to work with.  The key is to make it interesting.  You can stick with one color theme - I did silver and white - but use dishes of different sizes and especially different heights.   If you don't have a tiered tower like the one in the pic, put a sturdy box or block on the table, cover with some creepy cloth or black fabric, and place one of your servers on that.  Do it in varying heights for different dishes.  A great-looking table needs to go vertical!

Find Some Symmetry

 Your table does not have to be perfectly symmetrical, but it will look most pleasing to the eye if there is at least rough symmetry.  In the picture above, there are varying heights, but the very outside edges start off lower, raising to the tallest points on each side, and then lowers a bit in the middle.  Keep it interesting by not being strictly symmetrical - but keep it in harmony by maintaining the illusion of symmetry.

Light It Up!

Lighting is essential for any occasion, but especially as a contrast to the darkness of Halloween!  Varying sizes of candles work great for this type of setting.  Another great option is to fill vases with battery-operated mini light strings.  I found some LED lights in the craft section of my local grocery store - the lights were meant to go on a poster, but they would be great in a vase with some fake spider webbing, or clear floral rocks, or a bunch of fake bugs!  You'll want to keep the lighting fairly symmetrical as well - make sure there aren't any too-dark spots, make sure the food is lit, and if you have something interesting on the table (like the skull above) make sure it's visible!


Other things to keep in mind for your Halloween table...
  • Dark tables or tablecloths make your decor pop.
  • Layer your tablecloths - in the pic above, I have a dark wood table, so I laid down a piece of light-colored 'creepy cloth' (you can find it at any Halloween store), then laid a black lace table runner on top of that.  The effect was some contrast and "framing" for the rest of the pieces.  On another table, I used a large piece of metallic silver fabric that covered the entire table, and layered on top of that a black lace tablecloth that covered it completely. It made the lace pop and looked fantastic! 
  • Disperse interesting props between your serving dishes.  I used fake bones - a skull on a platter, feet on another platter, and random bones scattered throughout.  Just the right spooky touch!
  • Use all of your resources!  Remember that "Candy Bar" you had at your wedding?  Fortunately I remembered mine - I used several of the same containers from that in this display.  Try to use objects you already have at home to make your display interesting and save lots of $$.
  • Use signage.  You will inevitably have to answer the question "what is that?" when serving your food.  Add some interest to the table and make it easy for guests to choose their food by creating signs to place in front of the more mysterious dishes.  Use Google - do a search for your theme and "printables" and you'll be amazed at what you find for free!  You don't have to label everything, just the harder-to-identify foods.

Now you should be ready to have the most talked-about table of the Halloween season!  Happy Haunting!
Please leave comments or questions, or your suggestions - we'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A little teaser from the Real.Beautiful.Good. Halloween Party!  In an upcoming post, we'll show you how to use lighting to make your parties impress!
The Birds... the Birds!!!

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