Sugar & Spice Halloween and Fall Cookies

Sugar & Spice Halloween and Fall Cookies

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There’s a bit of a nip in the air, even here in Hawaii it’s been rainy and gloomy.  And Starbuck’s has added my seasonal favorites like Pumpkin Spice Latte!  This can only mean Fall is here!

This time of year I get a yen for spice cookies, nothing smells better than oven fresh cookies.  It fills the house with those delicious fall aromas like cinnamon and ginger.  And since this year’s Halloween will probably be very different from Halloweens past cookie baking is one of the activities we’ve added to our yearly festivities.  I mean Halloween parties (or parties of any type involving multiple people from different households) is out of the question and for our family and friends Trick or Treating is a no go too.  Instead we’ve been making Halloween crafts, watching Halloween movies, and reading Halloween books.  And now we’ll also be baking and decorating Halloween cookies.

These Sugar & Spice cookies are yummy without the icing.  They’re great for all the Fall occasions including Halloween and Thanksgiving.  That’s right one recipe different styles!

 

 

 

 

 

You can even use the same cookie cutter, well at least the pumpkin shape!  And the same icing colors!

These cookies are so easy to bake and they are so yummy!  To make them pretty I used royal cookie icing in 2 different consistencies, piping and flooding.  I also saved some cookies and icing so the kids can decorate them next when they’re in the mood!

This cookie recipe makes a dough that is great for rolled and cut cookies without having to refrigerate it before cutting!  Here’s the recipe for the cookie icing, the cookie recipe is below.  Enjoy!

Royal Cookie Icing

Ingredients:

4 Tbs. Meringue Powder

1/2 Cup Water at room temp

7 Cups Powdered Sugar

2 Tsp Vanilla extract or other flavor

2 Tbs Shortening

2 Tbs Corn Syrup

1/8 tsp Salt

Procedure:

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment mix together meringue powder and water until frothy and all powder is dissolved.

Add 1/2 of the sugar and beat on medium speed about 4 minutes.  It will be thick and glossy.

Add flavor, shortening, and corn syrup and mix well.

Slowly add in remaining sugar.  Mix on slow/medium until well blended.  Mix for another 3 minutes.  It should be thick like a  piping consistency. (if you want it really thick add another cup of sugar, this is used for hard decorations like roses, eyes, and more that you stick to the top of cookies and cakes.)

Cover bowl with plastic wrap or damp cloth to keep moist.

Divide to make different colors and consistencies.

To make flood icing thin with water but add 1/8 to 1/4 tsp water at a time until you get desired consistency.  Flood icing should be a bit thin and runny, but not too runny and watery that it rolls off the sides of the cookie.

To decorate cookies place a small amount of icing in a small bowl and color using gel food coloring.

I usually color a bowl then separate it again so that I can change the consistency of a portion of the colored icing.   I place the Piping or thicker consistency in a piping bag and the thinner flood icing in a plastic squeeze bottle.

Pipe a thin line of icing, piping consistency of course, around the edges of the cookies and any other place you want to separate the flood icing from.  Let dry.

Squeeze flood icing on the cookie surface and spread out making sure it all stays inside the piped lines.  Let dry.

Pipe other decorations onto to dry flood icing, like words, eyes, and designs.

Let everything dry completely and store in air tight containers.


Sugar & Spice Fall Cookies
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Instructions
  1. In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking powder, and spices.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer cream together butter and sugars.
  3. Add in egg and vanilla. Mix until well incorporated.
  4. Gradually add in flour mixture scarping down sides and bowl bottom to make sure the dough is well blended. Dough will be thick.
  5. Roll out dough on floured surface. The thickness should be between 1/4" and 1/2".
  6. Cut out shapes and place on parchment or silicone covered baking sheet.
  7. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 11 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and let sit on sheet about 2 minutes.
  9. Gently transfer to wire racks and cool completely before decorating.
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Veggie Skeleton

Veggie Skeleton

You know your kids are going to have way too much candy on Halloween, so here’s a healthy snack idea for a change. Added bonus: Because kids like the idea of eating this helpless guy’s “bones” (ewww!?), they just may eat more veggies than usual. A healthy snack with entertainment value. A keeper!

Head–lettuce leaves, sliced olives, veggie dip in a small bowl
Body–celery, baby carrots, bell pepper, mushrooms, cherry or grape tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers

Arrange the veggies on a platter in the shape of a skeleton, top with an appropriate sized bowl of veggie dip for the head. (I’m sure your presentation will look better than mine. Note to self: skip the waxed paper next time. I’m not really sure WHY I used it in the first place.)

Take a picture of your final Veggie Man, print it up, then let your kids recreate him with the left-over veggies the next day.

I found this vegetable skeleton idea on the internet last year, but I’ll be darned if I can find it now to give appropriate credit.

 


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Halloween Strawberry Shortcake Skull Cake

Halloween Strawberry Shortcake Skull Cake

We topped elegant strawberry shortcake with a ghoulish white chocolate skull in this spectacular Halloween dessert. Pour over the hot strawberry sauce to reveal the surprise inside!

Level: Intermediate

Total: 2 hr 45 min (includes chilling and cooling times)

Active: 1 hr 10 min

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

Chocolate Skull:

4 ounces white chocolate melting wafers

1 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil

4 ounces strawberries, sliced

Cake and Filling:

Nonstick cooking spray, for the pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (see Cook’s Note)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 large egg, at room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

8 ounces strawberries, sliced

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

2 cups sweetened whipped cream

Strawberry White Chocolate Sauce:

8 ounces strawberries, finely chopped

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 ounces red candy melting wafers

Directions

 

1. For the chocolate skull: Add the white chocolate melting wafers and coconut oil to a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between each, until melted and smooth, about 2 minutes.

2. Pour the chocolate mixture into the front and back cavities of a 2-part medium plastic skull mold (3-by-4-by-4-inch) and tilt to swirl the chocolate around until coated entirely (you can also use your finger to swirl the chocolate around). Tap out any excess and freeze until the chocolate is set, about 5 minutes.  

3. Reheat the melted chocolate, if needed, and brush the sides of the mold cavities with a second layer. Freeze until set, about 5 minutes. 

4. Carefully unmold the skull halves and fill one with the sliced strawberries. Microwave the melted chocolate again until smooth, about 30 seconds. Use the melted chocolate as glue to carefully attach the skull halves. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

5. For the cake and filling: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 6-inch round cake pan with 3-inch sides with nonstick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and spray the paper. 

6. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  

7. Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat on low just to incorporate, then beat on high until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vanilla and egg, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and continue to beat until creamy, about 2 minutes (the mixture will look curdled, but will come back together after everything is combined). With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. 

8. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. 

9. Bake until golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan, turn the cake out onto the rack, remove the parchment and cool completely.  

10. Meanwhile toss the sliced strawberries and granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to allow the strawberries to release their juices. 

11. Cut the cake into 3 layers with a long serrated knife. Place a cake layer on a cake stand and top with half of the strawberries. Spread 3/4 cup of the whipped cream on top. Repeat with another cake layer, the remaining strawberries and 3/4 cup whipped cream. Top with the final cake layer and remaining 1/2 cup whipped cream. Position the skull in the center of the whipped cream.

12. For the strawberry white chocolate sauce: Add the strawberries and granulated sugar to a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries have broken down and thickened slightly, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and vanilla. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and return the liquid to the saucepan (discard the solids). Add the cream and red candy melting wafers to the sauce and heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until melted and hot, 10 to 15 minutes. 

13. When ready to serve, pour the hot sauce over the center of the chocolate skull.

 

 

Cook’s Note

When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)


Halloween Strawberry Shortcake Skull Cake
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Loin of Pork with Fennel and Garlic

Loin of Pork with Fennel and Garlic

Level: Easy

Total: 2 hr

Prep: 10 min

Inactive: 50 min

Cook: 1 hr

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:

 

1 (5-pound) loin of pork, bone in,”frenched” and tied

6 garlic cloves

1/3 cup fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

2 tablespoons lemon zest (about 2 lemons)

 

 

 

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

2 tablespoons good olive oil

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Allow the pork to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Place the pork, fat side up, in a roasting pan just large enough to hold it comfortably. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade process the garlic, rosemary, lemon zest, and fennel seeds until roughly chopped. Add the olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper and process until it forms a smooth paste. Rub the paste on top of the pork and roast for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees F. Remove from the oven, transfer to a cutting board, and cover with aluminum foil. Allow to sit for 20 minutes, then remove the strings, slice between the bones and serve warm.


Loin of Pork with Fennel and Garlic
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Virtual Tours of 5 of the World’s Spookiest Places

Virtual Tours of 5 of the World’s Spookiest Places

There’s a chill in the air, days are getting shorter, leaves are falling, and the spicy scents of autumn fill our homes.  That can only mean it’s almost Halloween and we’re all in the mood to get just a little bit scared.

This time of year we usually list some of the scariest places you can visit to get in the Halloween spirit and possibly get the pants scared off you!  But travel is challenging these days and physically visiting anywhere may not be possible.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t take virtual tours of some of the world’s scariest places.  That’s right you can visit some of these places without ever leaving the safety of your home or the comfort of your couch!

Here are Virtual Tours of 5 of the world’s spookiest places, I’m sure you’ll find one that will send chills up your spine!

Chernobyl

Near the Ukrainian town of Pripyat the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant’s reactor exploded in 1986.  This disaster forced thousands to evacuate and the town became a ghost town.

It’s no wonder it’s one of the spookiest places on earth.  In recent times under very strict safety protocols visitors have been allowed to visit on day trips.  I’m not sure if these tours have resumed, but honestly the safest way to “explore” these ruins is virtually.

This YouTube video will take you on a virtual tour of the abandoned town and will even let you travel inside derelict buildings still filled with the evacuees belongings.

RMS Queen Mary

Docked in Long Beach, California this luxury liner turned into a luxury hotel is said to have been haunted since its maiden voyage. I’m certain that having 60 people die on board since 1936 plays a big role in earning this ship her haunted reputation.

There have been haunted tours of the Queen Mary for years.  It’s been a favorite of paranormal investigators and some parapsychologists insist that there’s a vortex to a supernatural realm on the ship that makes her more vulnerable to hauntings.

This virtual tour of the Queen Mary follows the path of the actual tours on board.

The Stanley Hotel

Located in Estes Park, Colorado the historic Stanley Hotel was the inspiration for Stephen King’s novel The Shining.

Room 217 is said to be haunted and not even the toughest folks will stay in it.   The  King of Horror claims that the novel was inspired by a terrible nightmare he had while staying in that room.

The virtual tour give you a glimpse of the entire hotel then takes you on a ghost hunt in the infamous room.

The Lizzie Borden House

“Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother 40 whacks, when she saw what she had done, gave her father 41.”  So the rhyme goes.

The murder in this family home may be the most recognizable and infamous murder mystery in America.  The home currently a Bed & Breakfast located in Fall River Massachusettes was the scene of a particularly grisly murder.  Lizzie Borden who lived in the house with the murder victims who were her father and stepmother is believed to be the perpetrator.  But to this day no one has been able to prove it.

But after such a horrific event it’s almost certain that the house is haunted.  This virtual tour is well done and actually pretty scary.

Pennhurst Asylum

For almost 80 years patients were tragically abused, neglected, and brutalized behind the closed doors of this facility.  Located in Spring City, Pennsylvania this building once housed the region’s mentally and physically disabled residents.  The facility started treating patients in 1908 and finally permanently closed its doors in 1987.  It’s said that paranormal activities linger in it’s halls; no wonder given the amount of human suffering that occurred within its walls.

Which virtual tour will you take?  I’m sure whichever one or two you choose will give you goosebumps!

 

 

 

Skeleton Meat Platter

Skeleton Meat Platter

For meat lovers and the not-so-faint-of heart:

This edible skeleton will likely bring a ghoulish chuckle from your guests.

Level: Easy
Total: 1 hr 

(includes chilling time)

Active: 40 min
Yield: 12 to 14 servings

Ingredients:

Skeleton Head:

4 strips thick-cut bacon, chopped

Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature

One 8-ounce bag shredded Cheddar

4 scallions, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto

1 pimento-stuffed green olive, cut in half widthwise

 

 

Skeleton Body:

1 medium red bell pepper, stem removed

2 pounds coiled hot Italian sausage

1 full rack cooked ribs, cut in half (about 13 ribs)

2 pounds cooked pulled pork (from two 1-pound packages)

Sliced baguette and assorted crackers, for serving

Directions:

  1. For the skeleton head: Cook the bacon in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until golden and crispy, 7 to 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, Cheddar, scallions, bacon, some salt and a few grinds of pepper and mix until fully incorporated.
  3. On a piece of parchment, mold the cheese mixture with your hands into the shape of a skull, then wrap the head in the prosciutto. Make 2 divots for the eyes and place the olive halves in the divots. Pinch the middle of the face together to make a nose and create an indent below the nose to make a mouth. Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes.
  4. For the skeleton body: Prepare a grill or grill pan for medium-high heat.
  5. Grill the pepper whole, rotating occasionally, until charred on all sides and slightly soft, about 10 minutes. Cut the pepper from stem end to bottom on one side to create one long piece of pepper. Grill the sausage coil in one piece, flipping halfway through, until opaque and completely cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.
  6. To assemble: Position the skeleton cheese head at the top of a board or platter. Place the red pepper directly underneath the head and fold it slightly to create a heart. Align the baby back rib racks around the heart, one on each side, with the bony parts facing up to resemble a rib cage. Position the sausage coil under the rib cage to resemble intestines.
  7. Fill the space around the intestines, heart and rib cage with the pulled pork, tucking it under as needed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  8. Serve with sliced baguette and assorted crackers.

Skeleton Meat Platter
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