Friday, July 20, 2018

Roasted Zombie Brain (Roasted Buffalo Cauliflower)

I have a huge crush on purple cauliflower. I mean take a look at this gorgeousness! Cauliflower is an easy vegetable to transform into Halloween food, because it already looks like a brain. We see them every Halloween in recipes and used as specimen jar decorations. Here's one of my old Halloween blogs using cauliflower here. But purple cauliflower kicks it up a notch. The violet hue, definitely makes it look other-worldly, transforming it from a run of the mill brain into zombie brain territory real quick. So what do I make with this violaceous cruciferous vegetable?  A sinister version of Buffalo Cauliflower that I like to call Roasted Zombie Brain! Enjoy!

                                         πŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒ 103 days until HalloweenπŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒ

Roasted Zombie Brain (Roasted Buffalo Cauliflower)

 Serves 2-4

1 head purple cauliflower
3/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
2 t garlic powder
2 t paprika
1 cup Franks® Red Hot Sauce
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 T apple cider vinegar

Buffalo Butter Sauce
1/2 cup Franks® Red Hot Sauce
1/4 cup butter, melted
blue cheese crumbles  (topping)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Trim leaves from cauliflower, reserving a few of the inner purple leaves for garnish. Cut stem so that the cauliflower sits flat in the dutch oven.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, milk, garlic powder, paprika, hot sauce, salt, pepper and apple cider vinegar until smooth. Dip cauliflower in batter, ensuring that it is generously covered, turn over and pour some of the batter into the bottom of the cauliflower. 

Spray large dutch oven with cooking spray. Place cauliflower in dutch oven, cover and roast for about 45 minutes or until a knife slides in easily. My cauliflower was on the small side and only took about 30 minutes to cook through so begin checking at the 30 minute mark and add time as needed. Remove cauliflower from oven and remove the lid. Turn oven to broil and return the cauliflower to the oven to brown the top under the broiler for about 2-4 minutes. Transfer roasted cauliflower to a serving dish, but be careful, it will be very hot.
In a small bowl, melt butter in the microwave and mix with 1/2 cup hot sauce. Drizzle on top of the roasted cauliflower and sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles. Serve immediately, cutting into 2 to 4 wedges depending on the size of the cauliflower. 

More Halloween recipes to try:
Fiendish Fingers
Sixpence Meat Pies
Bloody Eyeball Bruschetta

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Gravedigger Pilaf (Forbidden Rice & Lentil Pilaf)

My 'Summer of Halloween' is in full swing, and this compost-inspired Gravedigger Pilaf is the next installment of festive Halloween dishes on my list this year. A fun follow up to the sinister Roots of All Evil side dish I posted last month. A deliciously dark and mysterious Halloween dish made with roasted purple carrots and a maple tahini sauce and topped with pistachios and pomegranate seeds. Yum!
So, as I planned the meal around these gorgeous tubers, I wanted to play with the idea that carrots grow in dirt. So my goal was to create a side dish that looked like a platter of worm filled dirt with weeds and mushrooms. A delicious creation of earthy goodness of mushrooms sauteed with shallots and garlic. And layers of flavor with lentils cooked in chicken broth, red wine with a touch of fennel; Add the chewy texture and nutty flavor of Forbidden rice cooked in chicken broth and garlic intertwined with worm hued pasta and we have the perfect Halloween side dish loaded with savory flavor and hearty texture. Enjoy!
                            πŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒ105 days until HalloweenπŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒ

Gravedigger Pilaf (Forbidden Rice & Lentil Pilaf)

Serves 8-10

Prep Rice:
1 cup Forbidden Rice (*substitute wild rice but prepare according to package directions)
2 cups chicken broth
1 clove garlic, minced
~Cook forbidden rice in rice cooker with chicken broth and minced garlic. Keep warm.

Prep Lentils:
1 cup lentils (rinsed and picked through)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup red wine
1 tsp fennel powder
~Add lentils, chicken broth, red wine and fennel powder to a medium saucepan and simmer for 30-40 minutes until lentils are tender. 

Prep Pasta:
1/2 cup cut fideo pasta (substitute with broken spaghetti)
salted water with added red food coloring
~Prepare pasta according to package directions in red water. Drain and toss with olive oil.

Prep Mushrooms and Onions
2 T Olive oil
5-6 shallots, sliced (substitute with 1 cup diced onions)
1 large clove garlic, minced 
4-5 cups of mixed mushrooms, sliced(I used baby bellas and oyster) 
3 T sherry
Thyme leaves
salt and pepper

Saute shallots, mushrooms, and garlic in olive oil until mushrooms soften and shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add cooking Sherry and continue to heat until sherry is absorbed. Add thyme leaves and salt and pepper to taste.

In a large bowl combine the lentils, rice, pasta and the mushrooms and toss until combined. Taste and adjust with salt, pepper and thyme leaves. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter and garnish with thyme sprigs. 

More Halloween recipes:

Nightcrawlers con Fungi
Amputated Appetizer
Decomposed Deviled Eggs

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Jack-o-lantern Cupcakes

These Jack-o-lantern cupcakes are inspired by a childhood memory of my Auntie Judy and my cousin Brad one fall day in Northern California when I was about seven years old. My sister, brother and I were staying over the weekend at our cousin's house, like we often did when we lived near by. We were looking for something to do and decided to rake up all the leaves from Brad's front yard. We might have been told to do it by my aunt, but either way we were quick to get to work. Brad had three, maybe four huge trees in his yard that would drop piles and piles of orange, red and brown leaves each autumn. The entire lawn was a sea of beautiful fallen leaves. All of us kids, including the neighborhood kids quickly raked them up into big piles and jumped and played in them. We fell backwards in them, hoping the pile was deep enough to not hurt our butts when we landed. We threw them at each other and stuffed them down the back of our coats;It actually gets cold enough for coats in Northern California. We threw them in the air and let them fall like confetti all around us as we laid on a soft crunchy bed of leaves. It was so much fun. After we cleaned up all the leaves we headed inside where my Aunt Judy was in the kitchen making cupcakes for Brad's classroom Halloween party. I remember those cupcakes like it was yesterday. She made these jack-o-lantern cupcakes with bright orange frosting and she cut up Hershey® bars into triangles that made up the eyes, nose and mouth with a small green frosting stem. I wanted to make some for my classroom too, they were so cute. I'm 48 years old and still think of that day and realize that it formed my love of the fall season and all things Halloween. Despite the fact that I now live in Southern California where it doesn't get cold in October and I don't have big trees that drop leaves on my front lawn, I take the warmth of that memory with me and let it feed my soul every Autumn. πŸ‚ 🍁

 Here's my slightly darker version of my Auntie Judy's Jack-o-lantern Cupcakes.
                           πŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒ 113 days until Halloween πŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒ

Jack-o-lantern Cupcakes

Makes 12

1 box chocolate cake mix
1 prepared chocolate frosting* or homemade buttercream
black gel food coloring

Flooding Icing
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 T milk (or more if needed)
orange gel food coloring

Prepare cake according to package directions. Add about 1/2 tsp black gel food coloring and mix until well combined. 

Prepare a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners. Using a large scoop, fill cupcake liners about 3/4 full with batter. Next, spray a round cake pan with baking spray and fill with remaining batter. Cook both according to package directions. Remove from oven and let cool completely. 
Frosting Prep
To prepared frosting, add a small amount of black gel food coloring and stir until well combined. Transfer frosting into a piping bag and refrigerate for about 30 minutes or longer to firm it up before frosting cupcakes. 

*Note: I had some trouble with the frosting being too soft at room temperature which caused my jack-o-lantern toppers to slide off the cupcakes. It probably had to do with the temperature that day, it's summer🌞 afterall. So to avoid this, refrigerate the frosting as noted above or I recommend using a homemade buttercream frosting for a firmer frosting that'll hold up better.  
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 T cocoa powder
1-2 T whipping cream 
Cream butter, sugar and cocoa with a hand mixer. Add whipping cream and whip until smooth. 

Cake pop Prep
Crumble the cooled cake from the round pan into a medium bowl. Add ~2 or 3 Tbsp of prepared frosting and mix well until it holds together when pinched between your fingers. Set aside.

I got these Wilton® jack-o-lantern molds ages ago, but you can get something similar like these from Wilton®. Press cake-pop mixture into molds, smoothing out the bottom. Refrigerate for 60 minutes until firm. Repeat to make 12 cake pops.

Gently press the back of the mold until the cake pop drops out of the mold. Place on wax paper. At this point you can either light up the jack-o-lanterns with orange icing and serve or refrigerate between wax paper until ready to assemble cupcakes.

Mix flooding frosting and put into a squeeze bottle with a small tip. Very carefully drop small amounts of flooding icing into eyes, nose and mouth of jack-o-lanterns. Careful not to overfill. Use a toothpick to gently spread icing into small corners of eyes, nose and mouth. 

Let icing set about 25 minutes. The icing will never fully harden and after about a day the icing will fade into the cake pop. Kinda like the candle that burns out in real jack-o-lanterns, so make sure to serve these within a day of lighting them up. πŸŽƒ  Now we're ready to assemble...pipe a circle of frosting on cooled cupcakes...and then add a jack-o-lantern cake pop to the top. Happy Halloween!

Other Halloween desserts:
Candy Corn Peppermint Patties
Skull and Crossbones Cookies
Black Magic Spellcakes

Friday, June 29, 2018

Roots of All Evil (Roasted Carrots w/ Maple Tahini Sauce)

It's time for a Halloween recipe...This lusciously disgusting side dish is sure to get looks of confusion as your Halloween party guests ask, "What are those?"  They may not recognize these gruesome looking root vegetables, but these are carrots...purple carrots to be exact! See, not so scary...
Throw a little maple syrup and heat on these tubers and...they become the absolute perfect side dish to kick off my annual Summer of Halloween, a dish I like to call, Roots of all Evil. πŸ’€
Dare your guests to try one of these sweet maple roasted carrots smothered with a maple tahini sauce topped with crunchy pistachios and tart pomegranate seeds. An unusual, elegant and savory palette of flavors that belies the macabre exterior... Enjoy!
                         πŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒ  124 days until Halloween  πŸŽƒπŸŽƒπŸŽƒ

Roots of All Evil (Roasted Carrots with Maple Tahini Sauce)

Halloween-adapted recipe from Closet Cooking
Serves 4

2 lbs. purple carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise
1 T oil
1 T maple syrup
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Arrange carrots in a single layer and baste with oil/maple syrup mixture. Roast carrots in 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, turning once.

Maple Tahini Sauce
2 T tahini
2 T lime juice
1 T soy sauce
1 T maple syrup
1 clove garlic, grated
2 T water (add more if needed to thin sauce)

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and top roasted carrots with sauce and garnish with pomegranate seeds, pistachios and parsley. Enjoy!

pomegranates, garnish
pistachios, garnish
parsley, chopped, garnish

More Halloween recipes:

 Grubs Au Gratin
Roasted Fingers and Toes
Roasted Brains

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Tandoori Chicken Pizza

They say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I agree. 

We have a gem of a pizza place here in Lakewood called, Laventina's Pizza. They make the most amazing Tandoori Chicken Pizza. It's loaded with beautiful Indian spices, not only in their chicken, but in a delicious Tandoori paste that replaces the usual pizza sauce. It's then topped with cheese, Tandoori chicken, fresh tomatoes, red onions, cilantro, and thinly sliced jalapenos that lend just the right amount of heat. 
It is absolutely superb! So when I taste something this delicious, I want to try to recreate it here at home. So , if you aren't local to Lakewood and can't pick up the original, here is my humble attempt to recreate Laventina's Tandoori Chicken Pizza. Enjoy!

Note: Plan to marinate the chicken overnight for best flavor. Also I used naan flatbread instead of making my own pizza dough and used Serrano chilies instead of jalapenos. 

Tandoori Chicken Pizza

Tandoori Masala Spice Mix (recipe from Pepperscale)
3 T paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground fenugreek seeds
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Before use, heat powder in a large skillet for 30 seconds to 1 minute stirring until fragrant. Do not heat longer than a minute you do not want the oils to burn.

Tandoori Chicken
1 1/2 lbs chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
salt and pepper
1 cup Greek yogurt
2-3 T  Tandoori Spice mix

Marinate Chicken Thighs- Salt and pepper boneless, skinless chicken thighs and place in a plastic ziploc bag. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of  Greek yogurt and about half of the prepared tandoori masala spice mix (2-3T) Add yogurt mixture to the chicken in the ziplock bag and squsih around to coat chicken. Refrigerate 2 hours or over night. Grill chicken and then chop into bite-sized pieces.

Tandoori Paste Pizza Sauce
2 T Tandoori Spice mix
2 T olive oil
2-3 T ketchup*
salt (to taste)

Heat spice mix with olive oil in a skillet until fragrant. 20-30 seconds. Add ketchup until mixture resembles a paste. Add salt to taste and set aside. 
*secret ingredient πŸ˜‰

Tandoori Chicken Pizza
6 Naan Bread
Tandoori Paste Pizza Sauce (above)Tandoori Chicken, grilled and diced (above)
3-4 cups Mozzarella cheese, grated
2 small tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 small red onion, sliced
1-2 small serrano pepper, thinly sliced, seeds removed
cilantro leaves
red pepper flakes (to taste)

Assemble pizzas: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush Naan flatbread generously with Tandoori paste. Add mozzarella cheese, chicken, onions, tomatoes and serrano pepper slices. Place in oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Garnish with cilantro leaves and red pepper flakes to taste for more heat.
Other recipes to try:

Thai Chicken Enchiladas
Spicy Pork Wonton Tacos
Vegetable Ceviche