Happy Halloween!

We have great friends who have hosted a fabulous Halloween party for number of years. I am so happy that we have been able to attend the past few years. This year was no exception:

I was happy this year that my offer to contribute was accepted; I am happiest when I can share good food (although they had plenty). I brought 3 new items that can all be made in advance.

Monster Eyeballs


Monster Eyeballs

makes about 80 eyeballs ∙ source Epicurious.com | October 2009

  • 1½ cups creamy peanut butter
  • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pound confectioners’ sugar (about 4 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
  • 1 (3-ounce) package miniature M&Ms


1. Blend the peanut butter with the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. (I recommend a pastry blender or your hands.)

2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with wax paper. Roll the peanut butter mixture by teaspoons into small balls and place on the baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to firm up the eyeballs.

3. Put the chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl and melt the chocolate in the microwave: Heat on high for 60 seconds, and then stir well. If it’s not quite smooth, heat in two or three 10-second bursts, stirring well after each burst. (Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate, stirring frequently, in a double boiler, over just-simmering water. Avoid overheating, which can cause chocolate to seize up into a stiff mass.)

4. Take the sheet of balls from the refrigerator; use a fork or a toothpick to dip each one most of the way into the chocolate, leaving a round or oval opening of undipped peanut butter on top. (This opening in the chocolate will be the cornea.) Hold each ball over the chocolate to catch the drips, and then return to the wax paper, cornea side up.

 5. Place an M&M in the center of the peanut butter cornea to make an iris. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Store the eyeballs in the refrigerator or freezer and serve chilled.


Scary Barbecue Snack Mix

Scary Barbecue Snack Mix

(Way better than Chex Mix and good for all of fall (football season), not just Halloween.)

makes 8 servings ∙ source Gourmet | October 2012


  • 6 cups popcorn (1½ ounces; see Cooks’ notes)
  • 2 cups coarsely broken blue corn tortilla chips (2¾ ounces)
  • 2 cups Cheddar fish-shaped crackers or other cheese crackers (3¾ ounces)
  • 2 cups corn nuts (6½ ounces) or smokehouse almonds (or 1 cup of both)
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (sometimes labeled pimentón dulce)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon Tabasco (optional)
  • Special equipment: Large (18- by 13-inch) rimmed baking sheet


  • Heat oven to 300°F with rack in middle. Grease rimmed baking sheet with oil.
  • Combine popcorn, tortilla chips, cheese crackers, and corn nuts in a large bowl.

  • Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove pan from heat and whisk in barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, paprika, chili and garlic powders, and Tabasco, if using.
  • Drizzle barbecue sauce mixture over snack mix and stir until combined well.

  • Evenly spread mixture in baking sheet and bake, stirring and turning mixture over every 10 minutes, for a total of 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack (it will crisp as it cools), then break into pieces.


Cooks’ notes: Snack mix keeps in an airtight container for up to 1 week. If you want to pop your own popcorn, we recommend using a hot-air popper. To end up with at least 6 cups, use 1/4 cup kernels.

Pumpkin Seed Brittle  (so sad, I forgot to take a picture)

makes 16 ∙ source Bon Appétit | November 2013

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • A candy thermometer


Spray a parchment-lined baking sheet with nonstick spray; set aside. Bring sugar, corn syrup, and 3 Tbsp. water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Fit saucepan with thermometer and cook until thermometer registers 290°, 3–4 minutes.

Stir in pumpkin seeds, butter, and kosher salt and cook, stirring often, until pale brown and thermometer registers 305°, 3–4 minutes.

Stir in baking soda and cinnamon (mixture will bubble vigorously), then immediately pour caramel onto prepared sheet. Using a heatproof spatula, quickly spread out and sprinkle with sea salt; let cool. Break brittle into pieces.

Do Ahead: Brittle can be made 1 week ahead. Store airtight, layered between sheets of parchment paper, at room temperature.

Busy Week

So I was really excited this week, I was going to post about the meals I had planned which included 3 favorites. This week had other plans for me though, I had to attend a dinner for work, winter soccer practice started this week, my eldest forgot his cleats at home one day, my husband had a late work meeting, and I had a parent meeting to attend for my younger son’s lacrosse. Whew.

Fortunately, this is part of why I plan, when something changes, I already have all the ingredients available for the entire menu and I can switch it up to fit the new plan. Last Saturday in addition to braising the short ribs, I made burgers for dinner and had a few left over. Along with my Sunday cooking I made the filling for Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. I got this recipe a few years ago from my good friend Dawn; it’s great for any busy week, because you can make it in advance and anyone who can put together a grilled cheese can cook it. I thought we would have these on Monday because  we all eat at different times, but with me not home, my husband and eldest opted for the burgers and this got moved to Wednesday. I put the pork shoulder for the Chili Verde in the freezer and moved on.

By Monday, I knew how the week was shaping up, so the minute I got home, I set to work on Oliver Clark’s Meat Loaf for dinner on Thursday. Last Thanksgiving, I received a cookbook from my friend Jan; she and her family joined us for the meal. Cookbook, is an understatement for the book, Essential New York Times Cookbook, by Amanda Hesser, 2010, there are no pictures but the stories and writing within are beautiful and the recipes (which I have tried so far) are wonderful. This is one of those recipes, it is found on page 554; the only substitution I made was to use baby bella mushrooms, otherwise, don’t change a thing the flavor is perfect. When I was recently married, I made a meatloaf that was primarily ground beef and a box of Stove Top, this puts that to shame. Yes it is more work, it took me 30 minutes to put it all together instead of 5. The time you put in is a noticible difference. I separated the beef mixure into two loaf pans and  froze half. I put the other half in the fridge wrapped in foil until Thursday when I put it on a rimmed cookie sheet and baked as directed.

Just before dinner I quickly sautéed the remaining mushrooms and French beans in the pan I used for the bacon.

Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich

cook 10 minutes ∙ makes 4 servings ∙ difficulty Easy ∙ source Dawn

  • 8 slices French bread, sliced ¼” thick
  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ¾ cup blue cheese crumbled (optional – can replace with ¼ cup ranch dressing)
  • 2 cups rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ⅛ cup onion, minced
  • ¼ cup celery, minced
  • 5 Tbsp buffalo wing sauce (such as Frank’s red hot sauce)
  • Soft butter or margarine


In a mixing bowl, whip the cream cheese until smooth and creamy, scraping the sides of the bowl once or twice. Add the cheddar cheese and mix well, then fold in the blue cheese. Mix in the remaining ingredients.

Prepare bread as you would for grilled cheese sandwiches, buttering the outside. Spread this mixture on top of four of the prepared slices and top with the remaining four slices.

Heat a large sauté pan or griddle over medium-low heat. Add the sandwiches and toast each side until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. Serve.
Oliver Clark’s Meat Loaf
source: Essential New York Times Cookbook | Amanda Hesser | 2010 – page 554


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1½ large portobello mushrooms caps, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork or sausage
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp. Cajun seasoning
  • ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 1 tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp. whipped cream cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ lb. bacon


1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Sauté the garlic and onions in 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet until the garlic is golden and the onions are translucent. Remove to a bowl. Add a dash of saalt and pepper: it’s important to season well here. (SMS Note: It’s more than a dash, season well.)

2. Place all the remaining ingredients except the eggs and bacon in a bowl. Paw at it with two forks, combining thoroughly but not overmixing. Mix in the eggs and the onions and garlic. Scrape the mixture into a large baking dish and shape into a loaf about 4 inches wide and 3 inches high.

3. Bake for 50-60 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, midway through the baking time, sauté the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until pale, limp, and partially rendered, about 5 minutes. Adorn the meat loaf with it and finish cooking.


Trust the time in the recipe so as not to overcook. Can be prepared in advance; allow to sit at room temp for an hour, if possible, before baking if prepared in advance.