Halloween Treats from the Kitchen

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!! Our final post in celebration of Five Days of Halloween is for tasty homemade treats!

This cookie recipe attracted my attention because it looked like a little pumpkin. When mine came out of the oven, there was nothing pumpkinish about them. In hindsight, I should have been skeptical of a cookie image linking me to a recipe that did not have a picture of its own, but who knew the internet could be misleading?

My initial disappointment over these cookies did not end with my first taste. While very moist and tender, the flavor was lackluster. I was ready to chalk them up as a #fail, but decided to give them one last chance and added the glaze. HELLO!
cookies

The secret to these Tangerine-Glazed Pumpkin Cookies is the glaze and to serve them at room temperature. The mild pumpkin and spice cookie is a vehicle for the citrusy glaze that bursts with flavor. I loaded on the glaze and couldn’t stop myself from licking the bowl when I was done.

The recipe from Health calls for tangerines but my grocery store didn’t have any, so I used oranges instead. I also substituted five-spice powder with pumpkin pie spices.

Here’s how their recipe:

Ingredients

Cookies:
Cooking spray
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder (I used pumpkin pie spice)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon finely grated tangerine zest (I used orange zest)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh tangerine juice (I used orange juice)
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 375°, and spray 2 large baking sheets with cooking spray.

2. For cookies: Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, five-spice powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

3. Beat sugar, butter, and zest with an electric mixer on medium speed in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in pumpkin, egg, and vanilla until blended. Reduce speed to low, and beat in the flour mixture just until blended.

4. Drop cookie dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets. Bake for 12 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned. Cool 10 minutes on cooling racks.

5. For glaze: Whisk together all in-gredients in a large bowl until sugar is dissolved. Drizzle glaze evenly over cookies. Let cool until glaze is set.

A History of Halloween

Day Four of our Five Days of Halloween celebration looks at the history of this ancient holiday.

The origins of Halloween are approximately 2,000 years old, originating with a pre-Christian Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”). Celebrated at the end of the harvest season, Samhain was a time to prepare for winter and honor the dead. This was not a holiday for “devil worship” (ancient Celts did not worship anything resembling the Christian devil) and it was not until many years later that supernatural entities came to be associated with the day.

As Halloween traditions grew over the centuries, people eventually began dressing up in costume and trick-or-treating. Mass rituals for soliciting food were common and it is suspected the practices evolved from “mumming,” “guising” and “souling.” These were different methods used for disguising oneself and going door-to-door when asking for food, sometimes wearing costumes to do short performances.

While trick-or-treating didn’t start in the United States until the 1940s, the act of playing Halloween tricks was common by the late 1800s. The pranks started out relatively harmless with tipping over outhouses and egging houses, but by the 1920s, they were becoming far more serious and dressing up to go trick-or-treating was encouraged as an alternative.

For more information on the History of Halloween, watch this short video from the History Channel:

The History of Halloween by Benjamin Radford was a primary source used for this blog post.

The Great Pumpkin

For Day Three of my Five Days of Halloween celebration, I bring you The Great Pumpkin. No, I’m not talking about the Charlie Brown Special, I’m talking about the big squash that is carefully selected for carving into the terrifying specter of Halloween night:

jack-o-lantern

Mine is the one with the eyebrows.

When it comes to jack-o-lanterns, it is important to put serious thought into the pumpkin selected. For maximum success, it is best to have several to choose from:
pumpkins

Consider the pumpkin’s shape in addition to stem:
pumpkins

You know you’re on the right track if other iconic Halloween creatures are attracted to it:
pumpkins

Don’t be afraid to start carving your pumpkin without a plan, those can have the best outcomes. My dad taught me to add personal touches like eyebrows, mustaches and nose holes, I encourage you to do the same:

jack-o-lantern

And never forget the best part:pumpkin seeds

Halloween Magic: CANDY!

When celebrating Five Days of Halloween, one cannot forget the candy.

I know that some people are opting to hand out healthy snacks nowadays, but The Husband and I are Halloween purists and go straight for the candy. Not only do we go for the sweets, but we buy enough candy to feed an army of trick-or-treaters:candy

Each Halloween season when we prepare to make our purchases, we have visions of costumed children coming to our door in droves. The reality? We’re lucky if we see 30 kids. That doesn’t curb our enthusiasm though because the best part about being an adult on Halloween is that you can eat as much candy as you want AND if you’re smart, you’ve bought all of your favorite kinds! Sure, half the fun of trick-or-treating is digging through your spoils at the end of the evening, but it’s kind of nice having your favorite candy in advance. And no one can tell you when you can or can’t eat it…. Come to think of it, I might have a little candy right now, it’s the responsible thing to do.

Halloween Magic: Flying Ghosts

Get ready for a spooky week here at Squeaky Green Machine as we celebrate Five Days of Halloween! What does it take to have a great Halloween? We have a few ideas that we’re ready to share!

Day One is about home decorating inspiration, allow me to introduce Frank the Flying Crank Ghost. This animated ghost was built by The Husband in 2009 and has been intriguing kids (and adults!) ever since:

Inspired by plans in Make Magazine, The Husband created a hybrid design of his own with supplies from the local hardware store, fabric store and Ax-Man Surplus for less than $80. Each year I love watching kids come slowly up the front walk, staring at Frank as he eerily moves in the front window. In all of the years Frank has been making Halloween magic, there have only been a few kids too scared to come knock on the door, I bring the candy out for them. More often, they are intrigued by him and ask how he works.

To make your own Flying Crank Ghost, visit Make Magazine.

 

Easy Vegetarian Curry Cuisine

Sometimes what you need for cooking inspiration at home is a good meal out. After eating at Everest on Grand, all I could think about was Indian food, so I decided to whip up a little curry.
curry

The only thing this Vegetarian Times recipe for Curried Potatoes with Cauliflower and Peas was missing was the tofu, so I added some on the side (not pictured). For meat eaters, consider adding some roasted chicken.

Here’s their recipe:

  • 2 tsp. ghee or melted butter (I used butter)
  • 1 10-oz. pkg. diced onions, or 1 large onion, chopped (2 cups) (I used onion)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (4 tsp.)
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 ½ tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. brown mustard seeds (I used ½ tsp. ground mustard)
  • ½ tsp. ground turmeric
  • 6 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ½-inch pieces (1½ lb.)
  • 1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces (1½ lb.)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1. Heat ghee in pressure cooker* over medium heat. Add onions, and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until softened. Stir in garlic, ginger, curry powder, cumin, mustard seeds, and turmeric, and sauté 2 minutes. Add potatoes, cauliflower, sugar, and ½ cup water.

2. Close pressure cooker, and bring up to high pressure. Cook 5 minutes.

3. Release pressure with quick-release button, or transfer pressure cooker to sink, and run cool water over rim to release pressure.

4. Stir peas into cauliflower mixture, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 6, ready in 30 minutes or less

* While I have a pressure cooker, I made mine on the stovetop. I followed the instructions above but simmered on low for 20-30 minutes.

** To make a vegan version of this vegetable curry, substitute vegetable oil for the ghee. Serve with rice and Cucumber Raita.

A Closer Look: Wood Lake Nature Center

Wood Lake Nature Center was one of the first nature centers built in the Twin Cities.
wood lake

Dedicated in 1971, it was once a recreational lake surrounded by homes.
wood lake

The lake was drained of most of its water in the 1950s.
wood lake

Friends of Wood Lake (FOWL) was formed in 1991 and thanks to their advocacy and fundraising efforts, Wood Lake thrives in Richfield, Minnesota.
wood lake

Approximately 72,000 visitors enjoy the 150-acre area annually.
cattails

 

A Grand Evening at Everest

Sometimes despite my best efforts, my photos are an epic fail. Despite the bad photos, I hope that you will make a stop at Everest on Grand in St. Paul because the food will knock your socks off.

I had a real itch this week for non-American fare, so we headed out for Everest’s delicious Nepali, Tibetan and Indian options. We started with the Veggie Momos. Momos are steamed dumplings made with a mixture of vegetables and served with a house sauce of cilantro, tomato and spices – I would love to take this sauce home with me.

momo

Veggie Momos: Cabbage, spinach & onion mix.

The Husband went for the curry. The Chicken Tikka Masala is marinated boneless chicken breast roasted and then cooked in house tikka sauce. He ordered it “hot” and lived to tell the tale.

chicken curry

Tikka sauce is specialty spices blended in heavy cream with herbs

chau chau

Eek!! BLURRY! #drat

I opted for the Tofu Chau-Chau “medium+” spicy and it was perfect. What isn’t to like about sautéed wheat noodles with veggies?

Not only does Everest on Grand have tons of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, they also do takeout and catering. They can feed every appetite, stop in today!

A Wood Lake Walk

Whenever I talk to people about how much I love living in Minneapolis, I tell them about how our fair city was built preserving green space. Because of that, this nature girl doesn’t have to go far to enjoy the outdoors.
fall leaves

The beautiful fall weather was perfect for a visit to Wood Lake Nature Center. This nature preserve  isn’t in Minneapolis proper, but neighboring Richfield is as close to Minneapolis as a suburb can get.
wood lake

The squirrels were busy hiding food; this has always signaled to me that cold weather on the way.
red squirrel

The breeze was refreshing and the sun was warm on my face:
wood lake

I caught this little House Finch bathing:
house finch

And wondered if anyone was home:
tree

Lotta Lentils Soup

I love making soup. It’s a great way to use up odds and ends in the refrigerator or pantry, and warm you up on cool evenings. And since I rarely follow a recipe, each one is always different.

This batch of lentil soup was ready in less than an hour and has fed me for a week:
lentil soup

Here’s how I did it:

3 TBS olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
3 carrots, sliced
5 Swiss chard leaves, chopped
2 cups green lentils, rinsed
8 cups of water

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium flame. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the garlic and remaining vegetables, cook for a few minutes to brighten their color. Add water and lentils along with 1-2 bay leaves and some branches of fresh thyme, cover and cook for 45 minutes or until lentils are tender. Remove bay leaves and thyme stems, salt and pepper to taste.

This makes a large batch of soup that freezes well and reheats beautifully.