Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Snacks for Dinner

We had an unconventional dinner tonight including snacks.  We often do on game nights because it gives us the feeling of being at the game and eating junk food, without actually eating junk food.  So, since it is Halloween, we had spooky snacks.  We also invited Mom and Dad over to watch the game and have fun passing out candy to the trick-or-treaters.  On the menu for tonight: 
Shrimp Cocktail with Green Goblin Dressing
Deviled Ham and Cheddar Toasts
These recipes can be found in the October issue of All You (one of my favorites, by the way)

The Green Goblin Dressing was delicious.  It is a combo of basil (I omitted the parsley - because I hate it with vigor), avocado, and garlic.  Very nice flavor profile and tasted great with the shrimp.  I was concerned that we would miss the usual cocktail sauce, but I was surprised and pleased this was not the case.  The recipe makes way too much for the four of us, so I am hoping to figure out another way to use it tomorrow (hopefully, it won't go brown before then).

The Deviled Ham and Cheddar Toasts were also very enjoyable.  Loved the idea and would try this again with other toppings.  Drew and Dad enjoyed topping these with a Habanero Mustard Drew just bought the other day.  They seemed to like it. 
We pilfered the candy pumpkins for dessert and sat down to watch the game.   Not too many trick-or-treaters this year.  Mavs 93 - Clips 84.

Southwestern Pizza and a Win

Last night we had a wonderful dinner!  Then we watched the Mavs beat the Lakers.  All told, this was a great evening in the Hudson house.
Let's start with dinner.  I made a Southwestern Queso Pizza from PC's 29 Minutes to Dinner 2.  This may make it to the table again (and sometime soon, too!).  I enjoyed making this one because it comes together in just the right order to make it fast and easy.  I used the Cheese Dip from Pace (one of our favorites) and swaped out shredded chicken for a package of prepared grilled chicken (cut up into smaller pieces).  The resulting flavor was wonderful.  One thing of note: the recipe calls for more cheese dip than you need.  I would cut the quantity in half.  The bell peppers add just enough health to this otherwise indulgent pizza.  We paired this with a salad to fill out the veggie requirements of the night.  The battery for the camera ran out while I was trying to take a picture, so you will just have to make this to see it.  This was a great meal to prepare us to win something!
The game was great - the first win of the season for the Mavs.  And against the reigning champs...not bad!  we are looking good this season and it is just getting started!  Mavs 94- Lakers 80.

Catching up on Spooky fun!

I did not have time to write about Thursdays with Morgan on Thursday or Friday, so this late post will have to do the trick (ha - I am enjoying this season way too much!).
Morgan and I made a couple of treats for her to share with her friends at school for Halloween.  We started wtih Witches Hats and finished up the night with carmel apples.  I got both of these recipes from the October issue of All You magazine (one of my favorites, by the way).  
The witches hats are pretty easy to make.  You need a chocolate wafer cookie and a Hershey's Kiss and some green or orange icing.  You just put a dollop of icing in the center of the cookie and then attach the Kiss to the cookie.  We finished the cookies by using cake decorating tips to decorate the hat band.  These were really cute and easy to make.  I had quite the difficulties with my icing, but we ended up making 13 sets of cookies for her friends.  I forgot to take a picture of the hats by themselves, but here is a picture of the bags.

After the hats were done, we started on making Carmel Apples.  These are a little more time consuming, but totally worth the time taken.  The recipe called for making carmel from scratch.  If you have never made carmel from scratch, it is delightful!  It is so much better than any store bought carmels.  The hard thing about this recipe is the carmel sets up extremely fast!  You really have to be on top of the process or the apples can be difficult to turn in the carmel.  I tried one of these on Friday and I can report they are really tasty!  Give these a try for sure!

You may notice the lack of popsicle sticks.  This was an improvisation on my part after getting started and realizing I forgot to buy them.  It works.  

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween menu making

My usual Thursdays with Morgan post will have to wait until tomorrow morning so I can get pictures of what we made.  So I will discuss our dinner for the evening. 
We are not so much on the Halloween thing, but I do have to say I grew up celebrating Halloween with trick or treating and pumpkin carving.  I figure as long and you stick with the safe stuff, it can be pretty fun.  By fun, I mean, you can make stuff in the kitchen and get into theme dinners.  Thus, tonight's dinner was one (yes, I said one) of our Halloween theme dinners for the week. On the menu tonight:  Pepperoni Pizza Pasta, Spooky Salad, and Witches Brew (for dessert).  I also served "blood" as the drink for dinner.

The Pepperoni Pizza Pasta was a recipe I found on a package of Harry and David Halloween shapes pasta.  I found this about a month ago and this menu was born.  The prep for this goes pretty quickly and I was able to make the salad while the pasta cooked.  The recipe has mozzarella chese thrown in at the end to make it look like "spider webs."  Pretty cool effect, overall and not to bad taste wise.  It is nice because you can use your favorite pasta sauce for this recipe.  I was already thinking you could to the same thing with a white sauce and salami.

The spooky salad was just a regular salad with really strangely torn lettuce and a green "finger sticking out of the center.  Nothing great or different, just something to go with the pasta. 

And to many eye rolls and strange looks, I served "blood" to drink with dinner. 

I made this a couple of weeks ago and I thought it looked like blood, so it went on the menu.  What is it?  Crystal Light fruit punch stirred into a glass of water with lots of ice.  The ice creates the coagulated look.  What do you think?  I mean besides that I am insane...what do you think?

We had a great dinner and enjoyed conversation with Morgan.  Our conversation took us many places, but one of our favorites was into the mind of a wookie.  Who knew?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Simple Supper

Today I was a little under the weather; so after napping on the couch for the afternoon I went upstairs to cut coupons and came across a recipe to try for dinner.  We had on hand everything to make the recipe, so I thought it would be perfect.  Perfect except for one thing.  It was for Pumpkin soup.  My husband does not like pumpkin and will tell anyone that will listen.  I solved this problem by comprimise.  I decided to make something I know he loves and something I know he is not too keen on.  Pretty good idea, eh?
Let me set the stage.  I have never had pumpkin soup.  I do enjoy almost all things sweet and pumpkiny, but I was not so certain myself on things pumpkin savory.  So the solution to my problem didn't just serve Drew. 
So I, still trying to work from what I have on hand, decided upon Macaroni and Cheese.  Yes, readers the Macaroni and Cheese that has been mentioned at least a handful of times on this very blog - Granny's Macaroni and Cheese.  This was a no fail plan.  If the soup was horrible, we would just fill ourselves up on what we know we enjoy. 
Time to prepare dinner came and I started on the Mac and Cheese first. Here's the method (it is more a method than a recipe). 
1.  Cook noodles according to package directions.  Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Butter a casserole dish.
3.  When noodles are ready and drained, layer noodles and cheese (shredded sharp cheddar is best, tonight I used a combo of sharp cheddar and mozzarella - I thought I would try something new) to the top, ending with cheese.
4. Place pats of butter on top.  Sprinkle pepper on top to taste.
5.  Pour milk in the side of the casserole dish to halfway up the dish.  (see why it is a method?)
6.  Place in preheated 350F oven for as long as it takes for the milk to bubble up (this can be tested by slightly turning the dish to the side to see if milk is still milk, if it is still milk, it is not done)
7.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Once the Mac and Cheese was in the oven, I read a couple chapters of my book and then got started on the soup.  It was a pretty easy process and, as I said, included items from the pantry.  The recipe is from a Ralph's book of coupons, so if you have that laying around the house, give this soup a try.

Drew started asking questions about the soup very early on in the process.  The first one:  "What all is in this soup?"  Answer: "These are just onions I am cutting right now."  Second (as I hand it to him to take to the table): "Is this a cheese soup?"  Answer: "No."  Third (as he takes the soup and is about to eat the first bite): "Is this squash?"  Answer: "No."  Fourth (after eating two bites):  "What is this?"  This last one was in that tone of voice that implied, "you better tell me what this is."  So, I relented because he had already tasted it.  I told him it was pumpkin.  He gave me a look and then....he ate more!  We had a discussion that it did not tasted like pumpkin, but it smelled like it.  I wanted to scream, "SUCCESS!"   I did not and we continued to eat.  I really enjoyed the fall comfort food meal from the pantry. 


What a week it has been.  Such a week that I have not found the time to get on the internet and let my readers know about it.  I will recap the week by saying there was much done in the kitchen.  I had a baking day on Thursday and we hosted Octoberfest at our house on Friday.  Thus I will be discussing Octoberfest and including pictures of bottles of beer.  This is simply because there were no pictures taken of food.  However, I do want to inform you, this was not a night of drinking games and lederhosen.  No, we did eat in addition to those things. We had 4 other couples over (one member of one couple was under the weather), so we had 9 total.
On the menu for the evening:
Grape Chutney with Brie and Crackers
Carmelized Onion Flatbread
Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Vegetables
Hot Links
Carmelized Apples
Simple Salad
Pumpkin Crisp

Oh, and 7 different beers.  The rules of the evening were simple: bring a six pack of beer that you can stand behind and be willing to try each of them and rate the best one.  Yes the math is a bit fuzzy here because each couple was supposed to bring one beer, but then again there are always those rule-breakers (what can you do?)  There were a couple of abstainers (including myself), but I think everyone else really enjoyed trying the beers.  There was a prize for the one voted best of Octoberfest and it went to Shiner Black Lager

The meal was also pretty good.  Most of the items on the menu came from the latest issue of Southern Living.  There was an article with a harvest menu and I thought it would work for this setting.  The Hot Links are a family favorite recipe of some dear friends who were in attendance, Bryan and Ada Elsner.  I must get the recipe.  It was really good, nice and spicy. It was even good leftover the next day. 
I had some negative and postive feedback on the grape chutney, though I have to admit, I didn't have time to try it.  The suggestion was made to cut the grapes even smaller so that it didn't feel like eating grapes (duly noted).
The pork tenderloins and roasted veggies were great.  I would definitely prepare the carrots this way again (they had a really great texture and flavor).  I did have some timing issues with the main dish because I did not realize until actually prepping dinner that the recipe called for a pork loin, not a tenderloin.  I would like to say that I understood this when I went to the store, but I think that would not explain the fact that I bought the wrong cut of meat.  All was not lost.  Pork and vegetables were consumed by all.
The apples were also enjoyable, but I always have had a problem with eating sweeter things with savory, so I would do this more for dessert, if I were eating alone.
The salad was just about as basic as salad can get (e.g. lettuce), but I made the dressing and would not make it again.  Not my favorite.  I didn't get any feedback on it, so I don't know if I was alone in disliking it.
After dinner, while coffee brewed, everyone took the last tastes of beer and decided on the favorite.  It was almost unanimous.
Tara enjoying one of the brews

Pumpkin Crisp is always an absolute favorite of mine and it felt like fall to be having it for dessert.  I did not put the pecans on it this time, because I was running late and chopping one more thing was just not appealing.  It is so much better with pecans (again, duly noted).
All told we had a great time and enjoyed having a table full of guests.  I know Drew had a good time because he said, "I really don't like beer."  Then he said, "When we do this again next year..."  That's the sign of a new tradition in our house.
A very Drew look