Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween: Just Treats!

With Halloween right around the corner, we know some of you may be itching for a treat more tempting than your average candy bar. Here are some recipes from our cookbooks that are perfect for a Halloween party. Your guests will be licking their fingers--and not scattering wrappers all over your house!

These jack-o-lanterns are more stylish than scary, and can be used past Halloween

From The New Southwest, you can try "Savory Baked Pumpkin Flautas." Flautas are stuffed rolled tortillas named for the musical instrument they closely resemble. This version is oven-baked, but doesn't skimp on rich flavor. Sweet pumpkin is paired with caramelized onions and creamy Oaxaca cheese, and stuffed inside flour tortillas for a seasonal twist on a Mexican favorite. Baked until crisp, melty, and irresistible, these flautas make perfect snacks or starters.

Savory Baked Pumpkin Flautas

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive + more for brushing
3/4 cup diced yellow onion
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
2 cups pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 1/2 cups shredded Oaxaca cheese (mozzarella cheese may be substituted)
12 or 13 small (5- to 6-inch) flour tortillas

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.

2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over low-medium heat. Add the onion and saute slowly. The onion will slowly go from translucent, lightly colored, to deep golden brown, approximately 10 minutes. Once the onion is browned, add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Set aside to cool slightly.

3. Meanwhile, place t he pumpkin, salt, cumin, black pepper, buttermilk, and shredded cheese in a large bowl and stir until well-blended. Fold in the cooled onion mixture.

4. Warm the tortillas an place on a flat surface to assemble. Top each tortilla with just 2 to 3 tablespoons of the pumpkin mixture, roll tightly into a cigar shape, and place. seam-side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

5. Brush the top of each flauta lightly with oil and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the flautas are golden brown on top and the tortillas are crisped. Cool slightly before serving.

Also from TNS, we have "Hello, Dolly! Bars." While the origin of the moniker for these bars is somewhat obscure, their appeal surely isn't. These bars consist of a thick graham cracker crust speckled with Mexican chocolate and ground ancho chiles, topped off with crunchy pumpkin seeds and pecans, and finished with chewy coconut and butterscotch chips.These super-satisfying dessert bars are a tasty way to use the seeds from your jack-o-lanterns and one of Meagan's personal favorites.

Hello, Dolly! Bars

1 sleeve graham crackers (9 whole crackers)
1 disk (3.15 ounces) Mexican chocolate, chopped*
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground ancho chile
1 cup pecans
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, hulled
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup butterscotch chips 
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

*Note: Especially if it has been sitting in your pantry for a while, Mexican chocolate can be quite hard. Strongly recommend taking a moment to chop it into smaller pieces before processing, just to reduce the workload of your food processor by a bit and ensure a more even finished product.

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

3. Break graham crackers into large pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the Mexican chocolate pieces, melted butter, and ancho chile. Process the ingredients until they are the consistency of wet sand. Press firmly into the bottom of your prepared pan.

4. Coarsely chop the pecans, pumpkin seeds, and coconut and place in a large bowl. Add the butterscotch chips and condensed milk, stirring all ingredients together to coat evenly. Spread mixture in an even layer over the crust. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Finished bars will be deep golden brown and crisp at the edges. Remove from oven and set aside to cool and set in the pan for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

"Chestnut Truffles" from Spoonfuls of Germany: German Regional Cuisine by Nadia Hassani

 While there is no shortage of store-bought candy at Halloween, it's a special "treat" to receive homemade candy. These yummy truffles will be enjoyed by trick-or-treaters of all ages, but are especially elegant on a platter for a spooky dinner party. Roll in orange sugar to add an extra festive touch.

1/3 cup unpeeled raw almonds
4 cups peeled chestnuts (about 1 pound)
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 (1-ounce) squares semi-sweet chocolate, grated
1 tablespoon finely diced candied lemon peel
1 tablespoon finely diced candied orange peel
1 to 2 tablespoons rum
Confectioners' sugar,  unsweetened cocoa, or vanilla sugar for rolling

1. Toast the almonds in an ungreased skillet. Cool, then finely grind them in a food processor.

2. Steam the chestnuts over boiling water until they break apart when pierced with a knife. Cool and finely grind them in a food processor.

3. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the ground almonds, sugar, chocolate, lemon peel, and orange peel. Cook over very low heat until the chocolate is melted. Add the ground chestnuts and mix well Remove from the heat and stir in the rum. Cool.

4. Shape round walnut-size truffles with moistened hands. Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

5. Just before serving, roll the truffles in confectioners' sugar, unsweetened cocoas, or vanilla sugar, and place in candy cups.

"Sweet Black Rice with Cardamom and Coconut" from Indian Inspired Gluten-Free Cooking by Alamelu Vairavan and Margaret Pfeiffer

This dish has the potential to look creepy, but is actually healthful and delicious. It has satisfying sweetness, but is safe for gluten-free diets. Fun fact: in Ancient Chinese culture, black rice was known as "forbidden rice." It was such a fine grain that it was suitable for the Emperor to eat, but was deemed off-limits to the general public. A little sign saying "Forbidden Rice: Eat If You Dare!" would be a fun decoration.

Sweet Black Rice with Cardamom and Coconut

2 cups water
1 cup of black rice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon melted butter (ghee)
1/4 cup grated fresh coconut or unsweetened shredded dried coconut
Optional garnish: pineapple, banana, papaya, or mango

1. Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add rice and cook for about 25 minutes or until soft and water is absorbed. (A pressure cooker can be used to cook rice quickly.)

2. Add sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, melted butter, and coconut to the rice. Mix well.

3. Serve at room temperature or cold. Garnish with fruit as desired.

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