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Archive for Halloween

RECIPE: Pumpkin-Apple French Toast

For seasonal brunching, we like this Pumpkin-Apple French Toast by Serena Wolf of the blog Domesticate-Me, sent to us by grocery delivery service Peapod.com.

Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 15 minutes.

This recipe works best with slightly stale (day-old) bread.For a richer French toast, replace half of the milk with half-and-half. If you don’t want to use butter, substitute coconut milk.

RECIPE: PUMPKIN-APPLE FRENCH TOAST

Ingredients For 4 Servings

For The French Toast

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup pure pumpkin purée (unseasoned)
  • 1 cup milk (substitute unsweetened almond milk)
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 4 1¼-inch slices brioche or challah
  • Butter for frying
  •    

    Apple French Toast

    Pumpkin French toast topped with sautéed cinnamon apples. Photo courtesy Domesticate Me | Peapod.

     

    For The Apple Topping

  • 1 tablespoon or butter
  • 3 apples (Granny Smith, Honeycrisp or mix), peeled and diced into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  •  

    Honeycrisp Apple

    A Honeycrisp apple. Photo courtesy Rainier Fruit.

     

    Preparation

    1. COOK the apples. Heat the butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add the apples, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Cook for 5-6 minutes until tender, and then stir in the maple syrup. Cook for 1 minute. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve. (If you prefer very soft apples, cook them for 10-12 minutes before adding the maple syrup.)

    2. WHISK together the eggs, pumpkin purée, milk, brown sugar, vanilla extract and spices in a large baking dish (at least 9”x13”).

    3. PLACE the slices of bread in the custard mixture and let soak for 5 minutes, turning over the slices halfway through, until most of the liquid has been absorbed into the bread. Gently press on the bread a few times during the soaking process to help it absorb the custard. Meanwhile…

     

    4. HEAT a griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Add a butter to the griddle/skillet. When melted, carefully remove the bread from the custard and place on the griddle/skillet. You’ll probably need to do this in two batches. Cook for about 3 minutes until golden brown. Add another bit of butter, flip the French toast, and cook for another 3 minutes or until golden brown.

    5. TRANSFER the French toast to plates and top with the warm apples. Serve with a pitcher of maple syrup on the side.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Rethink Jell-O As Elegant Gélee

    Jello Mold

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/rainbow jello jellomoldmistress 230

    How can you dis them? Retro-style Jell-O
    molds from JelloMoldMistress.com. See the
    photos below for shaping without molds.

     

    Check online and you’ll find that more people are horrified by retro Jell-o molds than embrace them.

    Yet, these gelatin works of art, that became de rigeur party fare in the 1950s, get a bad rap. Seriously, what’s wrong with different flavors of Jell-O and fruit layered in an attractive mold?

    They are very tasty, thank you, and enable the cook to exercise creativity. If the media mentioned, say, that they were a favorite at the Kardashian or Brangelina household, molds and Jell-O would be flying off the shelves.

    Sugar-free Diet Jell-O provides a low-calorie dessert option. And a holiday offers the opportunity to use theme colors.

    Maybe ditch the brand name, Jell-O, and the generic term, gelatin, when presenting the dish. Call it something that sounds like a sophisticated dessert. We prefer the French name for a gelatin dish, gelée (zhel-LAY) or gélatine (zhay-la-TEEN), which identifies the product, gelatin.

    Trivia: The name comes from the Latin gelare, to freeze.
     
    RECIPE: GINGER GELÉE

    Make this harvest-colored Ginger Gelée with the taste of fall. The recipe was adapted from TheSugarMonkey.com.

     

    As you can see in the photo below, you don’t need to make the dish in a mold. Make the gelée in a baking pan and cut it into elegant rectangles. Or make a layered gelée in glasses, as Martha Stewart did in the second photo below.

    Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup peeled, fresh ginger, cut in 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 6 two-gram gelatin sheets, softened in cold water-or-apricot or mango Jell-O
  • 1 quart bottled or filtered water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped-or-a few dashes of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
  • Freshly squeezed juice of 2 limes, strained
  • Optional: food color
  • Garnish: raspberry, pineapple dice, candied orange peel, mint or tarragon leaf or other contrasting garnish (for kids, try candy corn)
  •  

    Preparation

    1. FILL a small bowl halfway with ice cubes and water. Put the ginger in a small pot of water and bring to a boil. Drain and transfer the ginger to the ice-water bath; let cool. Repeat this process two more times, starting with cold water in the pot each time.

    2. SOFTEN the gelatin sheets in a small bowl of cold water. Lift the gelatin out of the water and squeeze it gently to remove the excess moisture.

    3. BRING the blanched ginger, water, sugar and vanilla bean pod and seeds to a boil in a medium pot over medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, add the softened gelatin and stir until the gelatin has melted. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve in a large bowl; discard the ginger and vanilla bean pod.

    4. COOL the liquid to room temperature, then whisk in the lime juice. Adjust the color as you like with food color (1 drop red + 2 drops yellow = orange, or see this chart). Pour the liquid into a 1-quart mold or an 8- by 8-inch baking pan and refrigerate until set.
     
    THE HISTORY OF JELL-O

    Gelatin (also spelled gelatine) has been made since ancient times by boiling animal and fish bones. Aspic, a savory*, gelatin-like dish made from meat or fish stock, was a French specialty centuries before the invention of commercial gelatin. It was very difficult to prepare and thus a dish for the wealthy, requiring days to boil down and clarify natural gelatin to make the aspic set. The aspic was shaped in an elaborate mold, to be admired by the guests.

     

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    layered-gelee-marthastewart-230

    TOP PHOTO: Gelée cut into elegant rectangles. Photo courtesy Elegant Affairs. BOTTOM PHOTO: Gelée in glasses. Photo courtesy MarthaStewart.com.

     

    Powdered gelatin was invented in 1682 by Denis Papin. The concept of cooking it with sugar to make dessert dates to 1845 and an American inventor named Peter Cooper. Cooper patented a product that was set with gelatin, but it didn’t take off.

    In 1897, Pearle Wait, a carpenter in Le Roy, New York (in Genesee County), experimented with gelatin and developed a fruit flavored dessert which his wife, May, named Jell-O. The first four flavors were orange, lemon, strawberry and raspberry.

    He tried to market his product but lacked the capital and experience. In 1899 he sold his formula to a fellow townsman and manufacturer of proprietary medicines, Orator Frank Woodward, for $450. The Jell-O was manufactured by Andrew Samuel Nico of Lyons, New York. Alas, sales were slow and one day, Woodward sold Sam Nico the business for $35.
     
    Finally, Success

    In 1900, the Genesee Pure Food Company promoted Jell-O in a successful advertising campaign, and by 1902 sales were $250,000—more than $6 billion in today’s dollars. In 1923 management created the Jell-O Company, Inc., replacing the Genesee Pure Foods Company, the purpose of which was to protect the Jell-O trade name and to keep it from becoming a generic term.

    That same year, the Jell-O Company was sold to the Postum Cereal Company, the first subsidiary of a large merger that would eventually become General Foods Corporation. The next flavor, Lime Jell-O was introduced in 1930. Recipes printed on the boxes—including molds—brought more users into the fold.

    Today Jell-O is manufactured by Kraft Foods, a subsidiary of Phillip Morris, which also acquired both Kraft and General Foods in the 1980s and ultimately merged the two companies. Today there are 21 flavors of regular Jell-O and eight sugar-free flavors, plus puddings and snacks in both categories.

    There is a Jell-O Museum in Le Roy, New York.

     
    *Molded sweet gelatin mixes were called gelatin salads.

      

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    HALLOWEEN: Jack o’ Lantern Nacho Cheese Ball Recipe

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    jack-o-lantern-cheese-ball-snackworks-230

    Make a Halloween cheese ball. TOP PHOTO courtesy The Cooking Channel BOTTOM PHOTO courtesy Snackworks.

     

    It’s easy to make a cheese ball: combine room temperature cream cheese with other ingredients in a bowl or mixer and blend; then form into a ball and coat with shredded cheese or seasonings.

    This recipe has Mexican seasonings, but you can make any cheese ball recipe you like.

    TIP: It is better to shred your own Cheddar, as tempting as it might be to buy pre-shredded cheese. The pre-shredded has a different texture, from the additives used to keep the shreds from sticking together in the bag.

    Prep time is 15 minutes, chilling time is 2 hours.

    RECIPE: JACK O’ LANTERN CHEESE BALL

    ingredients

  • 2 packages (8-ounces each) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded Cheddar
  • 3 tablespoons minced onions
  • 2 tablespoons prepared salsa (any kind)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon minced jalapeno (without seeds, unless you want it spicy, then include the seeds)
  • 12 orange colored corn chips or Ritz crackers*, crushed
  • 1 stem of a green bell pepper or a celery stalk for the pumpkin stem
  • Blue corn chips or black bean chips, crackers for serving
  •  
    *Whichever you use, you’ll have the rest of the bag or box to serve with the cheese ball.

     

    Preparation

    1. CRUSH the corn chips in a plastic bag, using a rolling pin. Set aside.

    2. PLACE the cream cheese, Cheddar, onions, salsa, cumin and jalapeño into the bowl of a mixer and blend thoroughly. Form into a pumpkin-like shape and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. You may find it neater to put the mixture on a piece of plastic wrap, and form the ball from the outside of the plastic.

    3. BEFORE serving, roll the cheese ball in the crushed corn chips. Arrange the cheese ball on a plate, and press the bell pepper stem or celery stalk into the top.

    4. MAKE a jack o’ lantern face, if desired, with pieces of break off pieces of blue corn chips/black bean chips to form a jack o’ lantern face. The chip pieces should adhere to the pumpkin cheese ball if you gently press them onto it, but you can also glue them on using a small dab of the plain yogurt or sour cream.

     

    Halloween Jack O Lantern Glowing Pumpkin. FOR DAILY TRAVEL DO NOT USE

    The inspiration: a jack o’ lantern. Photo courtesy PlayBuzz.

     
    5. SERVE the cheese ball with black bean chips, crackers and spreading knives.
     
    WHERE DID THE JACK O’ LANTERN ORIGINATE?

    Pumpkins carved into jack o’ lanterns are an Irish-American tradition. But for centuries before any Irish immigration, jack o’ lanterns were carved from beets, potatoes and turnips and placed in windows of homes in what is now Great Britain, to ward off evil spirits on Halloween.

    The jack o’ lantern is named after Stingy Jack, a fellow of Irish myth. He invited the Devil to have a drink with him, but was too cheap to pay even for his own drink.

    So he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin, which Jack would use to buy their refreshments.

    Jack was not only stingy; he was a cheat. Once the Devil had turned himself into a coin, Jack simply pocketed it. No drinks were had that evening, but Jack was one coin richer. Clever Jack had placed the coin next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form.

    Jack eventually freed the Devil, under conditions including that, after Jack died, the Devil would not claim his soul.

    When Jack died, however, God would not allow his disreputable soul into heaven. Jack then tried to get into hell. The Devil, who had previously committed not to claim Jack’s soul, would not let him in.

    But the Devil was kind enough to send Jack off into the dark with a burning coal to light his way. To carry it, Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip. The spirit of “Jack of the Lantern,” subsequently shortened to “Jack O’ Lantern” (and evolving to the lower case jack o’lantern) has been roaming the Earth ever since.

    In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lantern by carving scary faces into potatoes and turnips, and placing them in windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets were used.

    Immigrants brought the jack o’ lantern tradition to the U.S., where they discovered that the native pumpkin made the biggest, scariest and best jack-o’-lanterns.

      

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    HALLOWEEN: Best Chocolate Witch

    Chocolate Witch

    Bewitching in dark or milk chocolate. Photo
    courtesy Li-Lac Chocolates.

     

    We’ve been looking around, and think we’ve found the best chocolate witch for Halloween. Eight inches tall and weighing in at 14 ounces of solid chocolate, the Big Halloween Witch from Li-Lac Chocolates is our favorite this season.

    There are many nifty chocolate molds around, but we like the garments and expression of this particular paranormal practitioner of magic. With her crooked smile, flowing robe and pointed hat, carrying her broomstick and jack-o’-lantern, she’s almost too cool to eat.

    The chocolate witch is made fresh to order in milk or dark chocolate, and is certified kosher (dairy) by OU.

    Get yours at Li-LacChocolates.com, or at the company’s retail stores in New York City.

    The 90-year-old chocolatier has been delighting New Yorkers for generations. We love to sneak in for a bite; or, in the case of this witch, many bites.

     
    THE HISTORY OF TRICK OR TREATNG

    “Guising” traditions began as a Christian practice in the Middle Ages, when children and sometimes poor adults would dress up in the costumes and go around door to door during Hallowmas (All Saints Day, November 1st, the day after Halloween). They begged for food or money in exchange for songs and prayers for the dead (the latter called “souling”).

    That tradition was ported to the U.S., with children going door to door for treats in exchange for reciting a poem or singing a song. Bonfires, a European tradition on All Hallows Eve (Halloween), were also held.
     
    The night before Halloween came to be called Mischief Night, when the neighborhood youth would sow some wild oats. Front gates were removed, windows were soaped and outhouses were tipped over [source].

    The term “trick or treat” didn’t emerge until the 1920s. The first printed reference is found in a newspaper from 1927 [source].

    While today the “trick” portion of trick-or-treat is usually an idle threat, it began with youthful participants who insistently rang doorbells and promised worse (knocking over trash cans, sticking a pin in the bell so keep it ringing, papering the house) if they did not get a treat. The residents paid the price in candy or other treats, and the costumed visitors went on to the next house.

    Individual trick-or-treating evolved in some locales in the 1960s and 1970s, into community events for the whole family, house parties for kids, and other activities that circumvented the need to send children to strange houses (and the reverse, to avoid having to opening one’s door to strangers).

     

    THE HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN CANDY

    For hundreds of years, Halloween came and went with no candy! Costumed children going door-to-door received everything from homemade cookies and cake to fruit, nuts, coins and toys.

    It wasn’t until the 1950s that candy manufacturers began to promote their products for Halloween.

    In the 1960s, following a hoax that miscreants had inserted pieces of glass into apples and other treats, factory-made, wrapped candy became the only acceptable treat to hand out. Producers of the most popular candies made miniatures, making a household’s candy giveaway more affordable.

    Here’s some trivia about popular Halloween treats:

     

    Chocolate Pumpkins

    Chocolate pumpkins from Woodhouse Chocolate.

     

  • Candy corn: Candy corn was invented in the 1880s in Philadelphia by George Renninger of the Wunderle Candy Company. He didn’t trademark it, so other companies produced their own versions. The Goelitz Confectionery Company (now the Jelly Belly Candy Co.), has been making candy corn since 1898.
  • Hershey’s: The first Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar was produced in 1900; Hershey’s Kisses followed in 1907. Chocolate, which had previously had been a luxury item, became affordable for average Americans.
  • Reese’s: In 1917, Harry Burnett Reese joined the Hershey Company as a dairyman and later worked in the factory. He began making candies in his home basement, and ultimately left Hershey to built his own factory. He invented in Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in 1928. Full circle: In 1963, Hershey acquired the H.B Reese Candy Company.
  • Mars: In 1923, a Minnesota candy maker, Frank Mars, launched the Milky Way Bar. It was followed by Snickers in 1930 (reportedly named for his favorite horse) and Three Musketeers in 1932. Frank’s son Forrest Mars joined the company, had a falling out with his father, relocated to England and created the Mars Bar.
  • Kit Kat: The Kit Kat Bar first appeared in England in 1935, known as Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp. In 1937 it was rechristened the Kit Kat Chocolate Crisp said to be named after a venerable London literary and political group, the Kit-Cat (or Kit Kat) Club. The brand was acquired by Switzerland-based Nestlé, which debuted the Nestlé Crunch Bar in the late 1930s.
  • M&Ms: In 1941, Forrest Mars launched M&Ms. He had anticipated that World War II would engender a cocoa shortage, so he partnered with Bruce Murrie, son of a Hershey executive, to get access to a sufficient supply. M&Ms stands for Mars & Murrie.
  •  
    [Source]

      

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    PRODUCT: Pumpkin Design Loaf Pan

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    This Nordic Ware loaf pan makes plain cake look lovely. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     

    With the disclosure that we love to eat cake, and can enjoy a slice a day, we actually prefer loaf cakes to elaborately iced and filled cakes. We can have our cake and eat it, too, because we convince ourself that a loaf cake is better for you.

    (In fact, because there’s no extra sugar- and butter-laden filling and frosting, it is a bit better. A bit.)

    That’s why we allowed ourself to buy another loaf pan. This intricately sculpted pan adds autumnal beauty to a banana bread, carrot cake, chocolate loaf, pound cake, pumpkin bread, spice bread, zucchini cake….

    Not to mention, cornbread soda bread and other homemade loaves.

    All you have to do is buy the pan and pour in the batter. The beautiful Nordic Ware pan—an exclusive to Williams-Sonoma—will take over.

     

    You can top the cake with a simple glaze or a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, but we think the plain relief of pumpkins and vines is lovelier.

    The pumpkin loaf pan is made of durable cast-aluminum, which ensures even baking. The nonstick finish guarantees your cake will release easily, and clean-up will be a breeze.

    Get yours at Williams-Sonoma stores or online.

     
      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Better For You Candy & Treats

    Every time we dip into a bag of Bare Fruit Apple Chips, we wonder: Why isn’t everyone eating these?

    So before Halloween, we’re recommending them as the better-for-you treat, for the people you love. Everyone else can get those miniature junk candies from the supermarket. (Sorry if we have maligned your favorite candy bars; but honestly, you hardly taste the chocolate for the sugar/corn syrup.)

    Consisting simply of baked apple chips—no added sugar—these sweet, crisp chips satisfy the desire for sweetness an crunch. They’re fat-free, gluten free, fiber-filled.

    The apple chips are made from non-GMO project verified Washington State apples. And they’re certified kosher by Earth Kosher, an organic and kosher certifier.

    There are four flavors of all-natural apple chips, 90-100 calories per ounce (half cup serving), depending on the flavor.:

  • Fuji Red Apple Chips
  • Granny Smith Apple Chips
  • Sea Salt Caramel Apple Chips
  • Simply Cinnamon Apple Chips
  •  
    There’s also an organic line, including each of the flavors above plus a combination of all of them in one bag, Medley Apple Chips.

    There’s also an organic line, including each of the flavors above plus a combination of all of them in one bag, Medley Apple Chip
    This time of year we particularly like Simply Cinnamon Apple Chips, but will gladly eat whatever is closest. Who needs apple pie when you can have Bare Fruit Apple Chips?

    But you may think that Caramel Apple is better for Halloween. Plan ahead for stocking stuffers, and keep a supply in your glove compartment, desk drawer, gym bag, etc.

       

    cinnamon-apple-chips-bare-230

    chips-lovewithfood-230

    TOP PHOTO: It’s like apple pie in a crunchy chip. Phot6o courtesy Bare Fruit. BOTTOM PHOTO: Out of the bag. Photo courtesy Love With Food.

     
    You can get Bare Fruit products on Amazon.com or find them at retail via the company’s store locator. The “BUY” tab on the company website takes you to their Amazon store.

    They’re available in individual .53-ounce bags and in 1.69-ounce bags, three portions’ worth.
      
    NUTS FOR CRUNCHY COCONUT CHIPS

    After success with the apple chips, Bare Fruit came out with a divine line of coconut chips:

  • Chocolate Bliss Coconut Chips
  • Sea Salt Caramel Coconut Chips
  • Simply Toasted Coconut Chips
  • Sweet ‘n Heat Coconut Chips
  •  
    Loved ‘em all, but Chocolate Bliss truly is.

    GO BANANAS
     
    Most recently, the company has introduced crunchy banana chips. We haven’t yet had the pleasure of trying them, but you can let us know how you like them:

  • Cinnamon Banana Chips
  • Cocoa Dusted Banana Chips
  • Simply Baked Banana Chips
  •  

    HalfPops

    These crunchy popcorn nuggets are popped without oil. Photo courtesy Halfpops.

     

    HALFPOPS POPCORN NUGGETS

    If you grew up loving CornNuts, as we did, take note of the non-fried, gourmet version.

    Some people dig through the popcorn bowl to find those crunchy, half-popped kernels that taste even better than the fully popped corn. Smaller than a fully popped kernel, they’ve got the soft popped portion on the inside while the kernel remains crunchy on the outside.

    Halfpops is an entire bag of them. We like this fiber-filled half-popped popcorn even better than the conventional full-popped. It was love at first bite for us. These little nuggets are a go-to snack whenever we need something crunchy and salty.

    These are healthy, whole grain snacks. They’re all-natural, with zero sugar or preservatives. As a whole grain product, each bag contributes 3g fiber/serving. Halfpops are certified gluten-free and are also nut-free.

     

    Halfpops are currently available in four flavors:

  • Natural Butter & Sea Salt
  • Aged White Cheddar
  • Caramel & Sea Salt
  • Chipotle Barbeque
  • Each one-ounce serving contains 130 calories and 260 mg salt. And we love each flavor Don’t decide: Try them all!

    They’re certified kosher (dairy) by OU. Get yours at HalfPops.com. There’s also a retail store locator on the website.

      

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    HALLOWEEN: Barmbrack, An Irish Tradition

    Fruitcake lovers and tea cake lovers: It’s time for barmbrack, also known as barm brack, barnbrack or simply brack.

    Brack?

    The original barmbrack was a sweet yeast bread with raisins and sultanas. Barm is the term for the yeast filtered out of beer in the final stage of production, a cheaper yeast source than commercial yeast.

    In Ireland it is sometimes called bairín breac, Gaelic for “speckled loaf.” The speckling refers to the raisins and sultanas in the loaf. It is usually made in flattened rounds. The dough is sweet but not as rich as cake, so it can be enjoyed any time of the day. It is similar to Irish soda bread, minus the baking soda.

    In Ireland, barmbrack is often served with afternoon tea, toasted with butter. But barmbrack evolved into an Irish Halloween tradition.

    A FORTUNE-TELLING BREAD

    For Halloween, the traditional loaf was baked with talisman-like items inside. They formed a kind of fortune-telling game. Whoever received a slice with a talisman could interpret it thusly:

     

    Barmbrack

    Barmbrack, an Irish tradition for Halloween, reinterpreted. Photo courtesy Stasty.com.

  • The pea meant that the person would not marry that year.
  • The stick foretold an unhappy marriage or a continuously quarrelsome one.
  • The cloth indicated bad luck or penury.
  • The coin meant wealth or other good fortune.
  • The ring meant that the recipient would be wed within the year.
  • The thimble meant that the recipient would be permanently single.
  •  
    To us, the talismans imply that this cake was meant for single people. An optional talisman included a medallion of the Virgin Mary, foretelling that the recipient would go into a religious order (priest or nun).

    Hmm: Do we want a bread or cake to predict our fortune? We think not. And as British baker Vicky of Stasty.com notes, “It kind of seems like a choking hazard now when I think about it!” (Commercially produced barmbracks for Halloween still include a toy ring.)

    Vicky has created her own take on bambrack, a denser speckled loaf, a fruit cake with the dried fruits steeped in tea and whiskey.

     

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    The original barmbrack loaf resembled Irish soda bread. This one is from Maplespice.com.

     

    “Even though I wasn’t a fan of this fruit cake as a kid, I loved when we had barmbrack at Halloween. The reason I liked the cake so much was because it contained hidden fortune-telling treasures. For kids this was all kinds of fun, but we never cared much for the actual cake. As an adult though, I’ve grown to love fruit cakes—but I don’t bother adding trinkets.”

    For this recipe, says Vicky, ”I went for a more adventurous selection of fruits than the traditional ones used in a barmbrack.

    “This cake contains a colorful mix of dried cherries, apricots, cranberries, blueberries, golden raisins and dates [you can also add dried figs]. It’s a really simple cake to make, and as it’s very moist, it keeps fresh for well over a week.

    “This barmbrack is best served with lots of salty butter and a nice, strong cup of tea on the side.”

    It’s her Halloween tradition. Make it one of yours. Here’s the recipe, trinkets optional. Well, maybe just the ring.

    As for the tea: How about a spiced tea like Constant Comment or chai?

     
    HALLOWEEN HISTORY

    Halloween has its origins in the festival of Samhain (sah-WEEN), celebrated at the end of the harvest by the ancient Celts of what is today Great Britain. (Pronunciation: It’s KELTS, not SELTS.)

    Samhain marked the end of the “lighter half” of the year and beginning of the “darker half.” The Halloween colors of orange and black represent the lighter side (fall harvest) and the darker side.

    The Celts believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased returned to cause havoc.

    To fool the spirits and ghosts that roamed the countryside, people began to wear masks and costumes to avoid being recognized as human. To keep away spirits and ghosts on Samhain, they placed candles in their windows, using hollowed-out turnips and other vegetables as the holders. (Pumpkins, a New World fruit, took over when Irish immigrants discovered them in the U.S. in the 19th century.)

    Around 600 C.E., Christian missionaries replaced the pagan festival of Samhain with All Saints Day, also called All Hallows Even (even means evening), abbreviated as Hallow’een. The name Halloween is first found in 16th-century Scotland, evolving from All Hallows Eve.

    Afraid of Halloween? That’s called samhainophobia.

      

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    HALLOWEEN: Jack O’Lantern History & Macarons

    Jack O Lantern Macarons

    Yummy jack o’ lantern macarons from
    Williams Sonoma. Here’s the history of
    macaroons and macarons
    . Photo courtesy
    Williams-Sonoma.

     

    We love these jack o’lantern macarons, made exclusively for Williams-Sonoma by Dana’s Bakery.

    We asked ourself: We know the history of Halloween, but not how the jack o’lantern got its name. So we researched it, and the History Channel provided the answer.

    WHERE DID THE JACK O’LANTERN COME FROM?

    Pumpkins carved into jack o’ lanterns are an Irish-American tradition. But for centuries before any Irish immigration, jack o’ lanterns were carved from beets, potatoes and turnips and placed in windows of homes in what is now Great Britain, to ward off evil spirits on Halloween.

    The jack o’lantern is named after Stingy Jack, a fellow of Irish myth. He invited the Devil to have a drink with him, but was too cheap to pay even for his own drink.

    So he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin, which Jack would use to buy their refreshments.

     

    Jack was not only stingy; he was a cheat. Once the Devil had turned himself into a coin, Jack simply pocketed it. No drinks were had that evening, but Jack was one coin richer. Clever Jack had placed the coin next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form.

     

    Jack eventually freed the Devil, under conditions including that, after Jack died, the Devil would not claim his soul.

    When Jack died, however, God would not allow his disreputable soul into heaven. Jack then tried to get into hell. The Devil, who had previously committed not to claim Jack’s soul, would not let him in.

    But the Devil was kind enough to send Jack off into the dark with a burning coal to light his way. To carry it, Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip. The spirit of “Jack of the Lantern,” subsequently shortened to “Jack O’Lantern” (and evolving to the lower case jack o’lantern) has been roaming the Earth ever since.

    In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lantern by carving scary faces into potatoes and turnips, and placing them in windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets were used.

     

    Jack O Lantern

    The American jack o’lantern. Photo courtesy Burpee.

     

    Immigrants brought the jack o’lantern tradition to the U.S., where they discovered that the native pumpkin made the biggest, scariest and best jack-o’-lanterns.

      

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    RECIPE: Pumpkin Lasagna & Pumpkin Ravioli Lasagna

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    Pumpkin lasagna made in a Dutch oven.
    Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     

    How about a festive pumpkin lasagna for Halloween or Thanksgiving?

    One of the tips to enjoy a rich, hearty dish like lasagna is to serve it in smaller portions as a first course. Our friend Ruth’s Italian-American mother always served a pasta course before the Thanksgiving turkey.

    You can buy delicious pumpkin ravioli and serve it with any sauce—Alfredo, butter, olive oil, pumpkin or tomato. You can make pumpkin mac and cheese, and for more fun serve it in a hollowed-out baby pumpkin garnished with shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas).

    You can add diced pumpkin (or its stand-ins, acorn or butternut squash) to cooked pasta, purée the pumpkin into a sauce (here’s a recipe) or both.

    The first recipe is from Williams-Sonoma. You don’t need a lasagna pan because it’s made in a Dutch oven. Find more delicious recipes on the website.

    Our second lasagna recipe is even easier, because it’s a ravioli lasagna: ravioli is used instead of lasagna noodles.

     
    RECIPE: DUTCH OVEN PUMPKIN LASAGNA

    Ingredients For 8 To 10 Servings

  • 1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon julienned fresh sage
  • 1/4 cup (1/3 ounce) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 yellow summer squash, cut into rounds 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick
  • 2 zucchini, cut into rounds 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 jar (24 ounces) pumpkin pasta sauce or sauce of choice
  • 12 sheets dried ruffle-edged lasagna noodles, cooked to al dente
  • 1 pound Fontina cheese, shredded (substitute Emmental, Gruyère or Provolone
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

    2. STIR together the ricotta, sage, 3 tablespoons of the parsley and all the garlic in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

    3. TOSS the yellow squash and zucchini with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and roast until tender and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile…

    4. WARM the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in an oval Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add the yellow squash and zucchini. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F.

    5. SPREAD 1/2 cup pasta sauce in an even layer on the bottom of the Dutch oven. Arrange a single layer of lasagna noodles on top, tearing them as needed to fit. Spread 1/2 cup of the ricotta mixture on the noodles and scatter 1 cup of the vegetable mixture on top. Spread 1/2 cup pasta sauce over the vegetables and sprinkle 1 cup of the Fontina on top. Layer the noodles, ricotta, vegetables, sauce and fontina 3 more times, omitting the sauce and fontina on the last layer. Top with the remaining noodles, sauce and Fontina.

    6. TRANSFER to the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted and browned, 45 to 50 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of parsley on top. Let the lasagna rest for 15 minutes before serving.

     

    RECIPE: RAVIOLI LASAGNA

    If you don’t make lasagna often, you may find yourself struggling with the lasagna noodles. Bless the person who first thought of this trick: use cooked ravioli instead of lasagna noodles. Alternatively, you can use penne or other tube pasta, but ravioli supplies added filling.

    This recipe from Taste Of Home takes 25 minutes to prep and 40 minutes to bake.
     
    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

  • 1 pound ground beef, pork or turkey*
  • 1 jar (28 ounces) pumpkin pasta sauce or sauce of choice
  • 1 package (25 ounces) frozen cheese or sausage ravioli
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
  • Herbs of choice: basil, chili flakes, garlic, oregano, thyme
  •  

    Pumpkin Ravioli Lasagna

    In this lasagna, ravioli substitutes for the lasagna noodles. Photo courtesy Taste Of Home.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400F. Cook the meat in a large skillet over medium heat until no longer pink; drain the fat.

    2. LAYER in a greased 2-1/2-quart baking dish: a third of the spaghetti sauce, half of the ravioli and beef and 1/2 cup cheese; sprinkle with herbs. Repeat the layers. Top with the remaining sauce, cheese and herbs.

    3. COVER and bake at 400°F for 40-45 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 6-8 servings. If you have leftover fresh herbs, sprinkle them over the cooked lasagna.

     
    *Vegetarians can substitute TVP, textured vegetable protein.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Halloween Mummy Apples

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    I want my mummy! Photo courtesy Marci Coombs.

     

    Here’s a fun Halloween treat that makes a nutritious apple even more attractive than a piece of candy.

    All you need are apples, gauze and candy eyes. Here’s how Marci Coombs did it.

    You can set the apples out in a glass bowl, use them as place settings, or wrap them in cellophane bags as gifts or party favors.

     

     
      

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