Cooking

Gingersnaps

Gingersnap Cookies

Gingersnaps are one of those cookies- the people that love them – REALLY love them. I will admit to being one of those people. The mixture of spices  and crunchy texture just work together so well.

I cannot remember where I first got this recipe.  This richly spiced cookie is perfect with a cup of coffee or a cup of tea. They are not too sweet, which I also like.

You can use either dried or fresh grated ginger. I really prefer fresh. I keep a piece of ginger root in my freezer, then just grate what I want, whenever needed. The ginger lasts nearly forever that way. When I got a new refrigerator last year, I emptied out my freezer and found I had more than a pound of frozen ginger root. That’s a lot of ginger. I guess I buy a fresh piece every time I go to the Asian grocery store. I have been making a real effort to use it all up.

The original recipe called for shortening. I use butter, but chill the dough at least an hour before baking. You can use shortening, if you prefer.

So here is the recipe. Enjoy!!

Gingersnap Cookies

2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
¾ t. ginger (fresh grated preferred)
½ t. cloves
¼ t. salt
1 c. sugar, plus extra for rolling
¾ c. butter
¼ c. molasses
1 egg

Mix together dry ingredients and set aside. Beat together sugar with butter, molasses and egg until light.  Stir in dry ingredients and chill dough at least an hour. When ready to bake, roll dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in additional sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Edges should look dry. Cool on sheet for a few minutes and then move to rack. Makes about 36.

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.

My father was a baker, so I baked this bread to remember him. I think he would approve.

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.

Homemade Apple Fritters

Apple Fritters

I love apple season.  Besides eating them fresh, I enjoy cooking with apples. One of my favorite apple dishes is apple fritters.

Fritters are  similar to doughnuts. Rather than being made from a dough that is rolled and cut, like doughnuts, fritters are made from a batter. The fritter batter  is spooned into oil for frying. They are actually very easy to make.

Good fritters are light and airy inside, with a crisp outside. These are very good fritters. These fritters have diced apples and cinnamon in the batter and cook up tender and light. Fritters are good plain, but can be rolled in powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar or drizzled with a powdered sugar glaze.

So enjoy one of my favorite recipes of the season, and make yourself some fritters.

Apple Fritters

2 c. flour

2 T. sugar

2 T. baking powder

1 T. cinnamon

1/2 t. salt

1 c. milk

2 eggs, beaten

2 T. melted butter

1 c. diced apples

oil for frying

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Mix together milk with the eggs and butter. Stir in dry ingredients until just moistened and add the apples. Heat oil to 375. If using gluten free flour heat oil to 350. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls into the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Don’t do more than 4-5 at a time. It will take about  4 minutes in total but you need to turn them to brown evenly so 2 minute per side. Drain on paper towels. While warm roll in powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar or drizzle with a powdered sugar glaze. Makes about 32.

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 just 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 they 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.  You can separate the drums before serving, if you like. Makes eating a little easier. 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

A pile of “bat” wings

Goblin Goo Drink

Goblin Goo Drink

If you want a fun beverage to serve for Halloween, try this Goblin Goo Drink. It’s easy to make and will give guests a start. I will be making this with a group of kids next week.

The secret is Jell-o. Make whatever flavor Jell-o you like. Once it is firm, mash it with a fork into small pieces.

Place some of the mashed up  Jell-o in a glass and add ice and whatever beverage you like. I used cherry Jell-o with sour cherry soda. The Jell-o is invisible that way.

When your guests take a drink, they get little gobs of Jell-o in every sip. You can also play with color combinations for fun. Grape Jell-o with orange soda looks like little black globs in the drink.  Kids love it.

You can also do this with Jell-o shots, for the grown-ups. Or add the mashed up Jell-o to adult beverages. You can also add the Jell-o to a punch bowl or pitcher of drinks.

Mash Jell-o with a fork

Mash Jell-o with a fork

Add some Jell-o to the glass before adding ice and soda

Add some Jell-o to the glass before adding ice and soda

Halloween Quesadillas

Halloween Quesadillas

OK, maybe I’m taking the whole Halloween theme too far. I was making quesadillas the other day, and realized that the ingredients were black, orange and green. Thought the combination would be perfect for a Halloween party.

Quesadillas are a fun party food already, and by using black olives, orange sweet peppers, green chilies, onions and cheddar cheese  they fit in well with the color scheme for Halloween. They taste great, too, which is always the most important thing in the end.

I pan fried these, but you can also bake them in the oven. They can be made ahead, and warmed up before serving. Serve with a nice blood- red salsa. Ok, I’ll stop now.

Halloween Quesadillas

Large flour tortillas

oil

sliced or shredded cheese

sliced black olives

chopped orange sweet peppers

chopped sweet onion

diced green chilies, fresh or canned

Mix olives with veggies and set aside. Place tortilla on work surface and spread one half with some of the veggie mixture. Top with some of the cheese and fold over. Press slightly. Repeat with remaining ingredients.  Heat oil in skillet and cook quesadillas over medium heat until golden on both sides and heated through. Remove to cutting board and cut into wedges before serving. Serve on a platter with sour cream and salsa, if desired.

Note: If you would rather bake the quesadillas assemble as directed above. Place on a baking sheet and brush with a little oil. Bake in a preheated  425 degree oven until golden, about 15 minutes.

Spooky Sushi

Black Rice and Carrot 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

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.

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. Baked for just a few minutes- 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.

Halloween 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.