Pan de Muertos (Mexican Bread of the Dead)

Pan de Muertos

Halloween isn’t the only holiday this week. Many people will be celebrating Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It is a holiday to remember and honor loved ones who have passed. It traditionally runs from October 31 to November 2.

Pan de Muertos is a traditional bread made for this holiday. This is a version of that bread that is flavored with anise (or fennel) and orange. It is glazed, after baking, with an orange sauce, then sprinkled with a little extra sugar. I like to use rock sugar, which, as the name implies, is a large sugar that looks like small rocks.

I shaped the dough into a round shape, with a knob of dough on the top.  You can also mold the bread into different shapes like angels or animals.

The bread itself is so tasty. It is a rich dough with a lovely fragrance and texture.

Here is the recipe.

Pan de Muertos (Mexican Bread of the Dead)

1/4 c. each butter, milk and water

3 c. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 t. active dry yeast (half a packet)

1/2 t. salt

2 t. anise seed or fennel seed

1/3 c. sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 t. orange zest

Glaze:

1/4 c. each sugar and orange juice

1 T. orange zest

Topping:

2 T. sugar, I used rock sugar

Heat together butter, water and milk until the butter melts. Cool to warm. In a large bowl combine 1cup of the flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and 1/3 c. sugar. Beat in the milk mixture then add the eggs and orange zest and beat until well combined. Stir in 1/2 cup of flour and continue adding more flour until the dough is soft. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1- 2 hours. Punch the dough down and shape it into a large round loaf with a round knob on top. Place dough onto a baking sheet, loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until just about doubled in size. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 35 to 45 minutes. Cool on rack 5 minutes then brush with glaze. To make glaze: In a small saucepan combine the 1/4 cup sugar, orange juice and orange zest. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 2 minutes. Brush over top of bread while still warm. Sprinkle glazed bread with 2 T. sugar.

Ready to bake

Eat plain, or lightly toasted with butter

Flaming Ghost Cake

Flaming Ghost Cake

I have posted this recipe before, but thought it might be a good time to post it again. This one is fun for Halloween. You start with a baked 9×13-inch cake. Frost it with chocolate frosting and then use white frosting to draw a ghost on the cake.

You can make all sorts of images- cats, bats, pumpkins. When ready to serve the cake, the eyes are set on fire. Fun effect. Kids and grown-ups both will get a kick out of it.

Just be sure to have proper adult supervision for the kids. The picture doesn’t do it justice. Very cool blue flames. Don’t forget to turn down the lights!

Flaming Ghost Cake

1 prepared 9×13- inch cake, any flavor

2 c. chocolate frosting, I prefer homemade

1 c. vanilla frosting, I prefer homemade

3 oz. semi sweet chocolate, optional

2 empty eggshell halves, washed well and dried

2 sugar cubes

Lemon extract

Frost cake with chocolate frosting, then spread vanilla frosting in the shape of a ghost. Melt chocolate in a small plastic bag. When chocolate is melted snip off the corner of the bag and use to outline ghost. Place eggshell halves in cake, round side down where the ghost’s eyes would be. Soak sugar cubes in lemon extract and place in eggshells. When ready to serve light sugar cubes and turn off the lights. Serve 12-16.

Variations: You can use the flaming eyes effect on cat shapes, pumpkins or even bats. Practice drawing the shape on paper before frosting the cake. If you bake a larger round cake the whole thing can be the pumpkin. Just frost it with orange tinted frosting.

“Bat” Wings

Bat “Wings”

With Halloween fast approaching, I thought I’d share this recipe for bat wings. OK, not really bat wings, but you already knew that. I add black food coloring to barbecue sauce and use it to color chicken wings.

I made a batch for a Halloween party a few years ago and someone actually asked if there were real bat wings. A word of warning- when you use black food coloring it will transfer to you. No matter how careful you are when you eat the wings, you’ll end up with purple fingers.  Also, for the best effect keep the wings intact- no trimming off of the tips.  They look pretty cool when set out on the table. Creepy- but very tasty.

Bat Wings

2-3 lbs. whole chicken wings

salt and pepper

1 c. barbecue sauce- store bought or home made

black food coloring- handle carefully- it stains

Place chicken wings in a roasting pan, season with salt and pepper and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Meanwhile in medium bowl combine sauce with food coloring. Add just a little black food coloring at a time. Too much will alter the flavor of the food. Remove wings from the oven and dip them in the bowl of sauce. Turn to coat. Place wings on a clean baking sheet and return to the oven. Bake an addition 45 minutes. You can baste them with additional sauce during the baking, if you like.  Place on a serving platter and provide plenty of napkins.

A pile of “bat” wings

Aunt Josie’s Clam Chowder

Aunt Josie’s Clam Chowder

It is clambake season around here and it seemed like a great time to share this recipe. Aunt Josie’s clam chowder is a favorite of mine. I have loved it from the first time I had it. It is pretty easy to make and full of flavor.

You have the option of adding some stock or water at one point. I sometimes have seafood stock in the freezer, but since that wasn’t an option this time, I used vegetable broth. It worked really well. A bottle of clam juice would work great.

So here is the recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Aunt Josie’s Clam Chowder

2 T. butter

1 onion, chopped

1 rib celery, chopped

2-3 small potatoes, cubed

1 c. water or stock

2 (10 oz.) cans clams, undrained*

1 T. butter

2 T. flour

2 c. milk – I used half and half

salt and pepper to taste 

Sauté onions and celery in butter until tender, but not browned. Add potatoes and water or stock and cook, covered until potatoes are tender. Stir in clams and set aside. In another saucepan, combine butter and flour over low heat and stir in milk, stirring to make a white sauce. Cook mixture until it thickens and starts to bubble.  Add it to the clam mixture and adjust seasonings. Bring to a gentle simmer. I added some parsley right before serving. Serves 4.

* I didn’t have 2 cans of clams, but I did have a pound of clam meat in the freezer. I added it to my chowder, with a little extra vegetable stock. Worked out well.

This post is dedicated, with love, to Aunt Josie.

Candy Spiders

Candy Spider

If you are looking for a quick spooky decoration/treat idea, you might want to make some candy spiders. These are about the size of a tarantula. Super simple, and kids can make them, too. You only need a few ingredients.

The body is made from marshmallows, the legs are chow mein noodles and the eyes are small candies. Sixlets work well.

I used melting chocolate, but you can use any kind of chocolate you like. To start, melt some chocolate. Dip the chow mein noodles in the chocolate and tap gently to remove excess. I leave one end un-dipped to make it easier to stick in the marshmallow later. Allow to harden up before going to the next step. I set them on a flexible cutting board, but wax paper is good, too. You have to peel them off later, a flexible surface is best. You’ll need 8 for each spider- so be sure to make enough. Allow for breakage.  Set a marshmallow flat side down and poke 4 holes in each side, 8 total. I used a bamboo skewer. Stick a noodle “leg” in each hole. Spoon chocolate over the marshmallow until coated. Whatever drips off can be re-melted and used again. While the chocolate is still soft, press 2 candy eyes into place. Hold them for a minute to be sure they are secure. Now, you can decorate cakes with them, use them on a dessert tray- or just eat them.

Chow mein noodle legs

Chow mein noodle legs

Insert legs into marshmallow

Insert legs into marshmallow

Spoon chocolate over the marshmallow to cover it.

Spoon chocolate over the marshmallow to cover it.

Ginger Cinnamon Cider

Ginger Cinnamon Cider

It’s been chilly lately, and I love a mug of hot apple cider to warm up. I made some recently, but I wanted to spice it up a little. I ended up adding sliced ginger and a cinnamon stick and the result was really good.

I always keep ginger root in my freezer. It is frustrating to buy a piece of ginger and then find it in the bottom of the crisper drawer weeks later looking like a science experiment gone bad. Freezing it solves that problem. When I want to use it, I just  take it out of the freezer, scrape off the peel and grate or slice off what I need. It keeps pretty much forever that way, and I have “fresh” ginger whenever the mood strikes me. You can also finish the cider off with a splash of brandy just before serving.

Ginger Cinnamon Cider

2 cups apple cider

1-inch piece of ginger, sliced

1 cinnamon stick, broken in half

Place cider in a saucepan with the ginger and cinnamon. Simmer gently for 5 minutes- or a little longer if you want a more intense ginger taste. Strain and serve. Serves 2.

Note: Some of the cider will boil off so add a little more if you simmer it longer or keep the pot covered to reduce evaporation. I actually like the more intense flavor when it cooks down a little.

Maple Bacon Doughnuts

Maple Bacon Doughnuts

If you want homemade doughnuts, you can’t much easier than these Maple Bacon Doughnuts. They are a cake-style doughnut. That means baking powder is used to leaven the doughnuts, not yeast. You can mix up a batch of dough in just a few minutes.

You do need to let the dough chill before frying, so allow time for that.

The sweetness from the maple syrup pairs so well with the smoky bacon. Once the doughnuts are fried, I like to roll them in cinnamon sugar, but you can dust them with powdered sugar, or even make a powdered sugar glaze.

Maple Bacon Doughnuts

3 c. flour

1 T. baking powder

2 t. cinnamon

1 t. salt

1/2 t. grated ginger

2 eggs

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. maple syrup

1/3 c. buttermilk

1/4 c. melted butter

1 c. cooked, crumbled bacon

oil for deep frying

cinnamon sugar

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. In another bowl beat together eggs, sugar and syrup until well mixed. Stir in buttermilk and butter then stir in dry ingredients and bacon. Do not over mix. Chill dough at least a couple of hours before using it. Overnight is better. When ready to use, heat oil to 375 degrees. While oil is heating roll dough out, on a floured surface,  1/2 inch thick, and cut out with a doughnut cutter. Fry several at a time for 1 minute per side. Drain on paper towels. Roll warm doughnuts in cinnamon sugar. Re-roll scraps. You will end up with about 18 doughnuts and 18 doughnut holes.

Halloween Sushi

“Spooky” Sushi

When I make sushi, I often use brown or black sticky (sweet) rice. I actually prefer the texture over the white rice. It occurred to me that the black sticky rice might make fun sushi for Halloween. I find black sweet rice at my local Asian grocery store. That is also where I get nori, rolling mats and wasabi.

To add a pop of color, I finely shredded carrots and added them to the sushi roll, too. The black rice actually cooks to a dark purple color. The color combination is fun for Halloween.

You’ll need a rolling mat, but beyond that, not a lot of special equipment is needed. I served my sushi with wasabi. You could serve with pickled ginger, too. Here is the recipe and directions.

To make the rice:

4 c. black sweet rice, uncooked

4 c. water, or a little more

1 recipe Sushi Su, recipe follows

finely shredded carrots

In strainer, rinse the rice repeatedly with cold water until the water runs clear. Place rice in microwave safe container with the 4 cups of cold water. Cover container with a lid and place in microwave. I use a large Pyrex casserole dish that has a lid.  Cook 20 minutes. Check for doneness and add a little more water, if needed. Cook another 10-15 minutes. Don’t stir the rice. Black rice takes longer to cook than white sushi rice. You want it to be cooked, but not mushy. Cooking times vary by microwave. Remove from the microwave once cooked and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Place rice in a large, cool bowl and pour on the Sushi Su, tossing in. Fan rice while tossing to give it a shiny look.  Makes enough for 8 rolls.

 Sushi Su:

1/2 cup rice vinegar

4 T. sugar

1/2 t. salt

msg, optional

Combine all and set aside until ready to use. You can also buy a dry powder of Sushi Su and you can use that instead. It is a 2.65 oz. packet.

Assembling Sushi

Place a sheet of nori ( dried seaweed sheets) on mat and spread about 1 cup of the rice over the nori, leaving about 1-2 inches empty on the far side. Place fillings in a strip a little off center away from the side with no rice. Start rolling up the mat using it to press the sushi roll and keeping the fillings in the nori. Once rolled, press the mat once more to seal and make the fillings stick together. Wetting the edge of the nori with a little water can also make the sushi stick better. Slice each piece using a sharp knife dipped in water.

Wrapping the sushi takes practice. Don’t be discouraged if the first few are a little less that perfect, Still, with a little practice it gets pretty easy. Just be careful not to overfill the rolls as it makes the job harder.

Old-Fashioned Popcorn Balls

Homemade Popcorn Balls

I have fond memories of eating popcorn balls when I was a kid. One memory was during the summer. An amusement park near my home was famous for their popcorn balls. Every time we went there, we would end the day with popcorn balls.

The other memory was making our own, around Halloween. They seem to be a part of more than a few Halloween parties when I was younger.

I don’t make them often, but popcorn balls are always a special treat for friends and family. This recipe is pretty easy. Kids, supervised, could help make them. You just have to make sure the mix cools down enough before you let them form the popcorn into balls.

I am a bit of a purist and enjoy them plain, but you can add Halloween themed candies to the mix, to dress them  up for a party. Candy corn or black and orange M&M’s would both work.

The recipe calls for corn syrup. If you don’t want to use corn syrup, my recipe for a corn syrup substitute, (sugar syrup) is listed below.

Homemade Popcorn Balls

9 c. popped popcorn
1 c. sugar
1 T. butter
1 T. vanilla
1 c. corn syrup*

Place popcorn in large bowl and set aside. Combine sugar, butter, vanilla and corn syrup in a saucepan. Heat and boil until thick, about 4 minutes. Pour over popcorn. Stir until well coated. Let cool until safe enough to handle. With buttered hands form mixture into balls. Store wrapped tightly in plastic wrap until ready to eat. Best eaten within a few days of making. Makes about 8.

*If you don’t have corn syrup- or don’t want to use it here is a way to make a substitute for it.

Sugar Syrup- corn syrup substitute

3  cups granulated sugar

1 cup Water

1/2  tsp. Cream of Tartar

1/4 t. salt

Combine ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and cover the pot. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 5 minutes. Uncover and cook to soft-ball stage. Stir frequently.

Soft ball stage occurs at 235-245 degrees. This stage can be determined by dropping a spoonful of hot syrup into a bowl of very cold water. In the water, use your fingers to gather the cooled syrup into a ball. If it has reached soft-ball stage, the syrup easily forms a ball while in the cold water, but flattens once removed from the water.

Remove from heat. Cool and store at room temperature. It will keep well for a month or two.

Vampire Chasers- Cheesy Garlic Toast

Vampire Chasers

If you are concerned about keeping away vampires this Halloween, you might want to make this recipe for cheesy garlic toast. Garlic is widely accepted as a repellent for vampires- and a lot less messy than a stake through the heart.

This is one of my favorite appetizers. I make them a few times a year, but they are extra fun to serve at a Halloween party.

A mixture of garlic and onions are cooked in butter, then spread over the bread slices. That would be plenty for most garlic bread- but you take it up a notch with a cheesy/ mayo mix on top. They are baked for just a few minutes to get all toasty. These are always a hit. They can be served as an appetizer, or as a side with dinner.

Vampire Chasers

1 French baguette, cut into 3/4 inch diagonal slices
1 large minced onion
8 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup butter
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
Slice the French baguettes diagonally into 3/4 inch slices. In a medium skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter. Combine the onions and garlic in the skillet. Cook and stir until tender. Set aside to cool. In a mixing bowl, combine the mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and mayonnaise. On a cookie sheet, arrange the French bread slices in a single layer. Spread the onion and garlic mixture on the bread slices. Spread the cheese and mayonnaise mixture over the onion and garlic mixture on the bread slices. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes or broil about 5 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. Serve immediately.

Subscriber to our Mailing List

Follow us on Social Media

Support This Site

Donate Now

New Release: