Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Traditional Halloween Night Menu

Since the boys were young lads, we have hosted Halloween Night at our house complete with hearty bowls of Chili Con Carne, Savoury Corn Bread, Ginger Snap Cookies and mugs of steaming Hot Spiced Apple Tea. When the boys were younger, the focus was always on what costumes the kids would wear for their trick-or-treat adventures out into our spooky, well-decorated neighbourhood and the long anticipated fireworks display upon their return.
Prior to sending the kids off on their quest for all things sweet, I would fill them up on a hearty bowl of chili and cornbread, to make sure they had some sustenance to soak up all of that sugar. In the meantime the pot of fragrant Hot Spiced Apple Tea was simmering on the stove waiting for the adults to return from their chilly walk around the neighbourhood. And who wouldn't want to indulge in some chewy Pumpkin Ginger Snap Cookies along with that steaming hot beverage?

Although the kids are grown up now, I have continued to follow in the tradition of Halloween Night at our house and tonight is no exception. Trick-or-treaters of all ages will be arriving at our door without fail as soon as darkness begins to creep in. I have invited my Mom and my elderly Aunt, who has just recently lost her husband (my uncle) and downsized into assisted living. I have assigned both women the task of greeting the costumed youngsters at the front door and handing out the treats as neither of them has the opportunity to do this in their own homes.

A few mugs of Hot Spiced Apple Tea should keep them in good spirits and the cookies will bode well with a cup of this yummy beverage as the evening progresses. I wish you and yours a Happy and Safe Halloween!!

Chile Con Carne
This recipe for chili is my tried and true. The original recipe came from my Mom, but I have modified it over the years to what it is today. I am even willing to share my two secret ingredients: cinnamon and cocoa...

Spice Mixture
4 tbsp Mexican chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 smoked chipotle pepper (canned)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp ground pepper
salt to taste
Combine in mixing bowl and set aside.

4 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb lean ground beef
1 green pepper diced
1 28 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1/2 cup beef stock
2 tbsp brown sugar

Heat olive oil in large cauldron; add onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Add ground beef and cook until lightly browned; add spice mixture and stir to combine. Add green pepper, kidney beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, beef stock and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook, covered for about 25 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for about 1 1/2 hours. Serve bowls of Chili Con Carne topped with grated Cheddar or Monteray Jack cheese, sour cream and fresh cilantro.

Wheat Free Corn Muffins
I switched up my traditional corn bread recipe to make it GF friendly for those who are not eating wheat. The texture is a little heavier than in the original recipe, but the muffins are equally as delicious!

1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 potato starch
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1 cup frozen corn kernels (thawed and coarsely pulsed with milk in the food processor - should still be somewhat chunky)
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1/4 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 green onions, finely sliced
4 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

1.Preheat oven to 400F. Grease corn stick mold or muffin tin. Place molds in preheating oven while preparing batter.
2.In large bowl, mix cornmeal, flours, starches, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder and sugar.
3. In small skillet over medium heat, in hot oil, cook red pepper and green onions until tender, stirring occasionally. Add chili flakes. Remove skillet from heat; stir in corn mixture, then egg until mixed; stir into dry ingredients until batter is just blended (it will be lumpy).
4. Spoon batter into preheated molds. Bake 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Serve warm or cool on wire racks and reserve for later. Makes 12 muffins or 14 corn sticks.

Pumpkin Ginger Snaps
The original recipe for these amazing Ginger Snaps came from my girlfriend Debbie in Colorado. I changed things a bit by reducing the butter and subbing in pumpkin puree, then topping the cookies with toasted pumpkin seeds - yum!

1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 2/3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp each: ground cinnamon, cloves and ginger
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

1.In bowl of electric mixer cream butter until fluffy; add sugar and molasses, continue to mix until well blended; beat in egg.
2. In bowl combine dry ingredients. Add to butter mixture and beat until blended. Add pumpkin and stir until incorporated.
3. Roll into balls and dip into cinnamon and sugar mixture. Place on parchment lined baking sheet, about 3' apart. Gently press to flatten slightly. Press pumpkin seeds into cookies. Bake at 375F for 8-10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Hot Spiced Apple Tea
This recipe hails from my friend Mary Gray, who followed her English roots when she decided to create a spiced hot beverage including what else...? Yes, tea! Because I don't do caffeine, I have substituted African Rooibos for the black tea.

4 cups apple juice or apple cider
4 cups brewed strong tea (I use Rooibos Tea)
4 cinnamon sticks
4 cloves
A sprinkling of nutmeg
Honey to taste
Slices of lemon
Rum or Brandy

Combine apple juice, tea, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a medium pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and continue to simmer until ready to drink. Serve with honey and lemon slices and a shot of rum or brandy, if desired. Serves 6-8.