Halloween Food

One of the things I try to do every year is to send some treats to school with my kids for Halloween. Some years those treats aren’t food, and instead come in the form of seasonal trinkets such as erasers and pencils (especially the stacking point kind because it brings back so many happy memories from my childhood). If I choose to send along food, I prefer for it not to be straight-up candy, since I know that the kids will be getting enough of that when it comes time for trick-or-treating. This year, Thing 2 requested that I whip up another batch of her favourite Graveyard Five-Layer Dip, which was an easy enough wish to grant. But since Thing 1’s favourite thing is, in her words, “chocolate with chocolate in it and chocolate on top,” I had to make something else for her.

I was inspired by Delish’s Pumpkin Patch Brownies for Thing 2’s dish, enough so that I even baked a second batch for her to take to her Girl Guides Halloween party as well. However, I wanted to make the brownies themselves from scratch instead of from a boxed mix. (I generally find that if a boxed mix requires additional eggs, water, and oil, you’re really just paying a lot extra per pound to have someone pre-mix your dried ingredients for you.) I used the Book Club Brownies recipe on page 762 of the Joy of Cooking (75th Anniversary Edition, Rombauer & Becker, 2006). It’s a solid recipe that is based on the Brownies Cockaigne that has appeared in Joy since the original 1931 edition. Since I knew that these brownies would be eaten in a classroom, I opted for making them slightly less messy by not adding the frosting and Oreo “dirt”. Instead, I just traced the “vines” on with green icing and made sure that every square got a pumpkin — since every kid argues about which piece is “better” based on number of toppings.

As can be surmised from my Happy Halloween! post, we also carved our pumpkins this year. In an attempt to waste as little food as possible, I had the girls separate the guts from the seeds while I cleaned out the pumpkins. Then I roasted the seeds with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, on a sheet pan in the oven for about 30 minutes at 300°F (150°C), checking every ten minutes or so. They turned out lovely and will make a wonderfully crunchy, salty snack while they last. It always surprises me how few seeds you get from a single pumpkin! This is the result of five quite large gourds, and it probably won’t last us a week.

The Nightmare Before Christmas Garage

Halloween is all over but for the consumption of vast quantities of candy. Due to rainy weather, we didn’t get as many trick-or-treaters as I thought we would this year, so we have boxes of full-sized candy bars on top of what the kids accumulated. I think I’m going to have to Google “things to make with leftover Halloween candy”.

Of course, after Halloween there’s also lots of cleaning up and packing away to do, but before I get to that I’d like to share my favourite part of this year’s decorations: the Nightmare Before Christmas garage.

You see, this year marks the 25th anniversary of one of my favourite movies (and Thing 2’s all-time fave so far), The Nightmare Before Christmas. I thought that part of my outdoor decor should definitely reflect this fact. I purchased the little Jack Skellington inflatable on the right, and the larger one on the left was a generous gift from a friend. I made the Oogie Boogie “moon” light cover out of a plastic platter, a black Bristol board cut-out, and a yellow light bulb. The “hill” on the garage door was just more Bristol board taped on and cut out in the desired shape, with breaks and slight overlaps between the panels so I could still open and close the door. Honestly, it wasn’t terribly difficult, but I was really happy with it all in all.

As for actual costumes the day of, I wore my Robin Hood: Men in Tights costume during the day, and my Discworld Death to take my kids trick-or-treating at night. Death was very well received by most, although he did frighten a few little ones (he’s enormous, after all). I really did enjoy chasing the teenagers. The kids wore their Borderlands 2 costumes, and they were thrilled when a few people even knew who they were supposed to be.

I’d say that it was a pretty great Halloween.

Happy Halloween!

I hope you all have a safe and happy Halloween! We just have our fingers crossed that it doesn’t rain or snow while I’m supposed to be taking the kids out trick-or-treating.

(The three pumpkins to the left were designed by me, the one second from right by Thing 2, and the one to the far right by Thing 1. I carved them all this year, but I think next year that Thing 1 at least will be old enough to do her own.)

Graveyard Five-Layer Dip a.k.a. Wacko Taco Dip

Every year for our family Halloween party, Thing 2 gets really excited when I tell her that I’m going to make what she calls “Graveyard Dip”. It’s really just a basic five-layer dip that I learned how to make from my cousin, decorated a bit to fit the Halloween theme. My cousin calls it “Wacko Taco Dip”, which is what we call it the rest of the year when I bring it to parties without the “gravestones”. It’s really quick and simple to make, and can be made the night before (or even a few nights before) if you’re well-prepared, or immediately before an event if you’re not. It will taste just as good either way. The measurements of the recipe may seem kind of arbitrary at first glance, but they’re made to be the size of a single package of that ingredient. If you’re doling out the ingredients from larger containers, don’t be too worried that your measurements are totally precise, since this recipe is very forgiving.

When I discovered that I was lactose intolerant, one of the reasons I was sad was that I couldn’t have this dip any more. However, I’ve discovered that it’s now possible to buy lactose-free cream cheese, lactose-free sour cream, and lactose-free cheddar cheese. I substitute them in equal quantities for their counterparts in the recipe and it doesn’t bother my tummy at all!

Graveyard Five-Layer Dip a.k.a. Wacko Taco Dip
Yields one 9″ X 13″ pan of dip

Ensuring that it is broken into small pieces, fry until lightly browned and cooked through:
450g lean or extra lean ground beef
Pour off fat. Line a plate with paper towels. Put ground beef on paper towels to soak up any residual fat.
In a small mixing bowl, mix until smooth:
250mL sour cream
227g cream cheese
Spread mixture evenly on the bottom of a 9″ x 14″ pan. Glass is preferable for looks alone; plastic or metal work just as well.
Sprinkle cooked ground beef evenly over the mixture as the second layer.
For the third layer, spread evenly over the contents of the pan:
650mL salsa
For the fourth layer, spread evenly over the contents of the pan:
320g Tex Mex shredded cheese
For the fifth layer, spread evenly over the contents of the pan:
227g shredded iceberg lettuce

If making Wacko Taco dip, the dish is complete! Serve alongside a bowl of your favourite tortilla chips.

If making Graveyard Five-Layer Dip, take:
10 to 12 round tortilla chips
On each of them, write “RIP” with a:
black, fine-tipped edible marker
Push each of these chips into the dip halfway so that the “RIP” is visible on the top. Now you have your gravestones. Serve alongside a bowl of your favourite tortilla chips.

Heroes & Villains: Strange Magic Edition

This past Saturday I braved the first snowstorm of the year in order to attend the Heroes & Villains Halloween cosplay party that’s held every year at The Bourbon Room. It’s a whole lot of fun! This year’s theme was “strange magic”, and keeping with the theme the hosts were decked out as the house founders from Harry Potter, the DJ was dressed up as a gorgon, the decor featured dragons and floating candles, and the specialty drinks were straight out of Hogwarts.

Of course I had to get my cosplay on! (As captured poorly here with the selfie feature on my camera.) After all of the effort of making five costumes in time for Ottawa ComicCon (of which I still haven’t posted all of my photos, gotta get on that, really), I just thought I’d reuse something I’d worn before. Then I made the mistake of going to the Audrey’s Costume Castle fire sale the prior weekend, where I found a fabulous wig… And, well, I threw together a fairy godmother costume to go with the theme.

I knew that there would be black lights there, so I used some black-light-reactive face paint for highlights. I didn’t realize until after I got there that parts of the wig would light up too. Not truly visible in these shots are the twinkly fiber optic lights that were tucked under my hair, which showed really well in the low light.

One of the great things about this party is that included with admission is a couple of professional shots taken by the fantastic Richard Dufault of Open Shutter Photo! He got some great shots of the costume in better lighting.

I’m never sure how to pose for these things, but I think they turned out okay! Also, I wish I’d noticed that my necklace was tangled in my wig and hanging funny. Ah, well. It was actually a really comfortable costume and I might actually wear it again. As a bonus, there was no sewing this time!

I based the makeup very loosely on Charisma Star’s tutorial, mainly for the shape of the final layers of paint. I went with a totally different colour scheme and I used different products. I rather liked how it turned out, even if you can’t see that the makeup actually goes all the way down over my shoulders and a bit down my chest. If I’d realized that the wig blocked so much of that area, I wouldn’t have put so much effort into it. Live and learn!

Last of the Leftovers

I forgot to post about this year’s Halloween costumes, probably because I didn’t make anything new. Thing 1, Thing 2, and I stuck with our Pokémon Go costumes from ComicCon, because I’ll be darned if I put in all that work for us only to wear the costumes once. That’s the deal that I made with my girls when I started making them Con costumes: their costumes have to be based on something that they like well enough to want to wear again almost half a year later. So given that the majority of Halloween activities happen after dark, the best photos of their costumes were taken back in May.


Photo by Richard Dufault Photography.

For Heroes & Villains, which is an annual geeky Halloween party around here, I reused my Femme Joker costume. I added a hat (which is really more purple than blue), a cane, and I took the makeup from almost-jolly Cesar-Romero-like paint, to something a little more sinister, not quite Heath-Ledger-like but closer.

I think I am almost done the Halloween party leftovers, too, except for the cookies. Last night I made grilled cheese for the family dinner, using Light Rye and Caraway Bread (page 75 of Bread Machine: How to Prepare and Bake the Perfect Loaf by Jennie Shapter (2002)) and old Balderson cheddar, with a side of sliced avocado.

For me, since I can’t have the cheese, I made toast out of the bread, and served it alongside Montreal smoked meat and a salad with iceberg lettuce, avocado, and Woolwich Dairy Soft Unripened Goat Cheese Crumbles. It’s a little bit healthier than what we’ve been eating all week, I think! Now if only I can get the temptation of the mini chocolate bars out of the house, things will soon get back to normal.

Halloween Party Leftovers

After about a week of junk food and candy, I thought it was about time to start making some healthy food again. I needed (and still need) to use up some leftover food from the Halloween party on the weekend before it goes bad, so dinner planning for the last few days has been centered on that.

On Monday night I improvised some sushi bowls, which contained garlic shrimp (from my freezer), smoked salmon (leftover), lumpfish caviar (which I had meant to put on the deviled eggs and then completely forgot about), avocado slices, and steamed Swiss chard (from my garden) in a drizzle of teriyaki sauce. I was looking for a better way to serve Swiss chard that my kids might actually eat, and although this wasn’t horrible, I don’t think it was all that great either. I need to experiment more.

Last night’s dinner was French toast and apple slices. I think that French toast looks absolutely hilarious when it’s made with Voodoo Bread. I mean, it tasted just like normal Nan’s Pan Rolls bread dipped in eggs and fried, but the colours definitely made it much more fun. My kids are really into this “rainbow bread”, as they call it. Perhaps I could make it in different colours for other holidays, even if I can’t quite get it into the proper swirl.