Friday, October 31, 2014

And Your Little Dog, Too! Wicked Witch of the West Hat Cookies

Just in case there's not enough sugar around today, here's an easy, sweet treat for your Munchkins when they're ready to click their heels and come home!

chocolate kiss cookies cake mix
Black hat required—ruby slippers optional.

Wicked Witch of the West Hat Cookies

One bag (12 oz.) dark chocolate kisses
One box chocolate cake mix
1/3 cup neutral-tasting oil (such as grapeseed oil)
2 large eggs

Unwrap kisses and set aside in a bowl (try not to eat too many, you'll need them later). Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, stir together cake mix, oil and eggs until fully combined. Roll 1/2 Tablespoons of dough into balls and place about 2 inches apart on lined baking sheets (you will have about 60 cookies total). Bake until set, about 10-12 minutes. As soon as cookies come out of the oven, place a kiss firmly on top of each. Let cookies cool completely before storing (kisses will stay soft for quite a while...they're melting, after all!). For the full Wicked Witch effect, place a "hat" on top of a scoop of your favorite green-colored ice cream, using small candies or mini chocolate chips for eyes, nose and mouth.

Notes: Roll balls of dough in colored sugar, sprinkles or jimmies before baking. Any flavor cake mix and kiss combination can be used—mix and match your favorites. Got leftover bite-sized chocolate candies? Try using in place of kisses.

Happy Halloween!


Friday, October 24, 2014

THM Picks: Spooky Film Classics

We all have our favorite scary (or not so scary) movies this time of year, and there's certainly no shortage from which to choose. This includes classic films—even ones without Boris Karloff or Vincent Price. So if you're looking for something different, or haven't seen these classics in a while, they're sure to hit the spot this Halloween season:
  • The Uninvited (1944)—A ghost story with great 40's style.
  • Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)—Murder most silly in this screwball comedy.
  • Rebecca (1940)—Because Mrs. Danvers is just that creepy.
  • I Married a Witch (1942)—A long-term Salem resident has her eye on Fredric March.
  • Gaslight (1944)—There's nothing like being terrorized by a man with a French accent.
  • The Lodger (1944)—Long before they had background checks.
halloween jack-o-lantern movies

Don't forget to turn off the lights :-)

Happy viewing!


Monday, October 20, 2014

All Thai'd Up: Thai Pumpkin Soup

Years ago, Thai food was not nearly as well-known or readily available as it is today. So when a friend wanted to describe a night out one time, she felt the need to say, ''I had dinner at a Thai restaurant last night—y'know, T-H-A-I???''

This is by no means an authentic recipe, but it's definitely inspired by the balance of flavors found in Southeast Asian cooking. It's spicy and tangy, yet infinitely comforting on a crisp day. And like I said, it's all about pumpkin this time of year!

thai pumpkin soup coconut milk

Thai Pumpkin Soup

4 Tablespoons coconut oil, olive oil, or butter (or a combination)
2 large red onions, or 4 large shallots, thinly sliced into half-moons
2 Tablespoons ground ginger
2 bay leaves
1 cup chicken stock
2 cans (15 oz. each) pumpkin puree (about 4 cups)
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk (or one 7 oz. package coconut cream diluted with enough hot water to make about two cups total)
Juice of two whole limes
A few dashes of ground cayenne pepper/pepper flakes or finely chopped fresh hot peppers (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional garnishes/ideas: For the finished soup, sprinkle over chopped fresh coriander leaves, thinly sliced scallion, chopped roasted peanuts or cashews, shredded cabbage, celery or carrots; stir in leftover diced chicken, chopped hard-boiled egg, baby spinach, crumbled bacon, diced ham, etc., and/or serve over cooked rice.

In a large pan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat, sauté onions in oil/butter with some salt and pepper until completely softened (keep the pan covered and stir frequently to help them along). Once the onions are ready, add the dried ginger and bay leaves, stirring around for a few minutes to release their flavors. Add the chicken stock, and let bubble down for a few minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients, breaking up the pumpkin puree until smooth, and adjusting with salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer on low for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, so all the flavors have a chance to combine.

Notes: This is a THICK soup, so if that doesn't appeal to you, add another cup or so of stock. As with most soups, it also freezes extremely well. Instead of canned pumpkin, substitute any fresh winter squash puree if you have it!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When Life Gives You Cranberries: Homemade Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Another Fall favorite is now available fresh at local markets and grocery stores. The most common use for cranberries is cranberry sauce for the Thanksgiving table, which of course can be served at any time since cranberries freeze well for up to a year. I can't take full credit for this recipe, as I've adapted it from various other cranberry sauce recipes I've seen over the years. However, it's easy, delicious, and makes any meal feel like a holiday :-)

The basic recipe below makes for a great sauce, but I also think it lends itself well to the addition of herbs/spices, or substitutions using different preserves or fruit. So be adventurous, experiment away, and note your favorite creations in the comments!

cranberry orange sauce thanksgiving

Cranberry-Orange Sauce

One bag (12 oz., about 3 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed well and picked over
One jar (12 oz., about 1 1/2 cups) sweet orange marmalade
1/4 cup liquid (water, fresh orange juice, orange liqueur, bourbon)

Stir ingredients together in a large saucepan, cover and bring to a bubble over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer (gently!) until all the cranberries have burst, about 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally and being very careful when removing the lid. Let cool slightly and serve warm with poultry, pork, game, or even ice cream! Store remaining sauce tightly covered in the fridge for up to two weeks, or freeze for up to three months.

Notes: Don't worry if your jar of preserves is an ounce or two over/under what's listed, it will work out just fine. When using a fruit-juice sweetened brand of preserves (which are less sweet), you may want to adjust by adding a few tablespoons of sugar, honey, or maple syrup to taste. Don't like cranberry sauce? Pack into jars and give away as gifts!


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

How To Be A Tourist

While spending a few days in Mystic last month, I took note of my fellow tourists and how they behaved. I realized they followed a few simple guidelines, and that their approach could just as easily be applied to time spent in your own home town as well as places far and wide:
  1. Be enthusiastically interested in everything there is to see and do - there's nothing like it anywhere else in the world.
  2. Take lots of pictures - even if it means getting up in the middle of your entrée to do so.
  3. Eat lots of ice cream - the official fuel of tourists everywhere.
  4. Enjoy your companions - not just the people already with you, but also anyone else in your general vicinity. They're out to have a nice time, too!

On the Mystic River.