Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sweet Halloween Treats

I was inspired by So Yummy's Halloween treat video (which I caught a few weeks ago on Facebook). Have you seen the video I'm referring to? It's mesmerizing. I actually find all of their food videos to be very compelling. And because I need very little reason to justify an opportunity to make some sweet treats, I thought we should organize a Halloween party for the girls and a few of their friends!
2020: I've updated the links in this post to facilitate online ordering of the more hard-to-find supplies for those who are skipping/limiting in-person visits to public places. Affiliate links generate *huge* (LOL) earnings on my end. ;)

I decided to dive in with the girls to see how successful we might be at recreating some of the cute ideas. Plus, it turned out to be a great way to celebrate a random Monday off from school. Knowing how much sugar I would be sending them home with (and they would be consuming along the way), I threw in some fruit, veggies, and some (not-so-healthy) chips & dip. Because, balance.

In case you missed it, here's a link to our video inspiration: 7 Sweet & Easy Treats to Make for Halloween by So Yummy. We didn't take on all seven --but we did tackle FIVE! Most of the ingredients were easy to come by. Purple jimmies (sprinkles) were sold out everywhere so we went with a different shape. The black licorice laces had to be ordered online. Note: the tall jars that I used for the green melts, I just ended up throwing away because after much soaking and scrubbing, there was still so much mess left inside. :(  I will link the more obscure ingredients below for online shopping; however, I was able to find a lot of these ingredients at our local grocery store. I'd bet you could find them on the shelves at Target, Walmart, or Michael's too.

Before you get started, make a "landing station" for each kid (big blank boards pictured above). We worked on one treat at at time and when we were finished with each creation, they transferred their treat to their boards --knowing this would be a sturdy surface they could take home. Pro Tip: Ask your guests to bring a cookie sheet from home that they can load and leave with at the end of your party. Before you begin, remember to show the kids the 7 Sweet & Easy Treats video so they have an idea of what they'll be creating.

[Printable Shopping List]

Peanut Butter Cup Bats
Reese's peanut butter cups
Oreo cookies
icing for adhering the wings

The trickiest part of this treat was breaking the Oreos into the right shape. But the best part of this treat was eating the rejects. Use the scraped filling from the cookie to adhere the wings to the peanut butter cup. (Cookies will break if you spread too firmly --so consider having a little extra frosting on hand for this step.) We discovered that placing the "wings" either way (up or down) resulted in an adorable bat.

You can see that I had six kids (5th and 6th graders) working side by side. I made two sets of topping/supplies that I placed at either end of the counter/table and everyone shared. Line each individual "station" with wax paper, paper towels, spreading utensil, etc. and divvy up the bigger ingredients (Reese's cups, Oreos for this treat) to each kid. Work one treat at a time.

Frankenstein Monster HoHos
candy corn
small candy eyes
white sprinkle for the mouth

These Frankenstein Monster HoHos turned out to be a little tricky. We found that when we dipped the HoHo into the melted candy, the heat from the candy pulled the chocolate from the HoHo. Not cute. There must be a secret ingredient to those candy melts in the video --maybe oil? In the So Yummy video, the green candy melts were definitely more smooth and workable than the melted candy we were working with. Instead of dipping, the girls improvised and began spreading the candy onto the HoHos with plastic knives. Their sweet Frankenstein Monsters still turned out super cute!

Chocolate Cupcake Spiders
chocolate cupcakes
chocolate frosting
chocolate sprinkles
Red Hot candies

I baked the cupcakes the day before and kept them in tupperware overnight. If you can only find the black licorice wheels (best price online so linked above), you'll need to unwind and pull them apart so they are the right shape --or just go with the thicker "legs" for your spiders. This was a very easy treat to create. If you're planning to do a Halloween party for younger kids, I recommend this as a sweet activity for your party-goers! You'll have them entertained and working to create their own desserts. Win-win. Not pictured below, but an excellent and less-messy way to get a thick coating of sprinkles is to frost the top and then turn it upside-down into a shallow dish of sprinkles. The sprinkles will cling to the frosting and you'll have way fewer dotting your countertops and floor! Also, put your sprinkle dish in a rimmed baking sheet on the counter, that way when stray sprinkles make their escape, they land in an enclosed area --much quicker for cleanup!

Creepy Monster Pretzel Fingers
pretzel rods
green candy melts (linked above)
sliced almonds

We found it much easier to work with the green melted candy when we used the sturdy pretzel sticks! This was another of the easier/simpler treats that would be excellent Halloween treat/activity for younger kids too. The tall jar was key in getting the melted candy up the pretzel far enough --of course, you could spread it along with a knife again too.

Purple Oreo Cyclops
Oreo cookies (double-stuffed are strongly recommended)
purple sprinkles
lollipop sticks

Apparently, I didn't capture any pictures of the girls making these. They were certainly the trickiest and I had my hands full helping --which is probably why I didn't take any pictures. ;)  According to the video, you insert the lollipop stick and then dip the Oreo into the melted candy. Again, our melted candy was not nearly as smooth or workable as the candy in the video. When they tried to dip, the Oreos fell off the sticks or broke. Using their knives, the girls just frosted one side instead. Still cute!

After they were finished making their Halloween treats, we enjoyed some Halloween Punch that my friend, Trisha, made (including dry ice smoke and frozen hands). It turned out a beautiful purple-red color and was delicious. The floating hands of ice made it especially festive! Her recipe is below. She filled rubber gloves with water and froze for the spooky ice cubes.

Halloween Punch
Equal parts:
100% juice orange juice
grape juice

Each guest left with a tray full of spooky treats to enjoy (with our without siblings) during this spooky Halloween season! 

This post may contain affiliate links and I may make a HUGE commission (j/k it's literally pennies) when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You should know (and I'm legally required to tell you) that as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Feel free to make me RICH. lol ;)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Recipe Review | PLATED Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Crispy Cauliflower, Tahini Sauce, and Za'atar

One of the best things about this recipe from Plated was the fact that Greg was almost done making it by the time I got home from an outing with Piper on Sunday evening (Ha!). The Middle Eastern spice blend added a smokiness to the dish and the "honeyed" capers were an excellent contrast. The chicken thighs were unbelievably tender and juicy. Plated sent 2 thighs per serving. They were very generous in size so we cooked only 4 total (one for each of us) and it was plenty of food. I look forward to preparing the other four with the same searing/roasting method used in this recipe later in the week.

Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Crispy Cauliflower, Tahini Sauce, and Za'atar

Recipe curtesy of Plated
(I've adjusted the recipe to 4 servings)
What you need:
20 ounces cauliflower florets
1/4 ounce parsley
1 lemon
2 yellow onions
2 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons capers
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons za'atar
4-8 chicken thighs (depending on size, you'll want 1-2 per person)
1/2 cup tahini (favorite is Soom)
6 ounces baby spinach
olive oil
salt and pepper
What to do:
  1. Before you get started: Preheat oven to 450ºF. (Make sure there's enough room in your oven for a large pan and a baking sheet to fit at the same time. Move racks around if needed.) 
  2. Prepare Ingredients: Cut cauliflower to 1/2-inch wide florets and place on a baking sheet. Roughly chop parsley leaves, discarding stems. Halve lemon. Peel onion, halve, and thinly slice. In a small bowl, stir together honey, capers, and 1 teaspoon olive oil to combine, and set aside.
  3. Prepare Cauliflower: Heat butter, za'atar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large oven-proof pan over medium heat. When butter is foamy, remove pan from heat and add juice of lemon. Pour za'atar-lemon butter over cauliflower on a baking sheet, reserving pan for the ext step. Toss cauliflower to coat, then arrange in a single layer. Set aside. 
  4. Sear Chicken Thighs: Pat chicken dry with paper towel and season all over with a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the pan from butter over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add chicken skin-side town and sear until skin begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Flip and brown on opposite side, about 1 minute more. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside. 
  5. Roast Chicken Thighs: Discard almost all excess fat in pan from chicken, leaving behind a thin layer. Place pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan, until onion is coated, about 1 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons water. Return chicken to pan on top of onion, skin-side up. Transfer to oven and roast until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink, about 18 minutes.
  6. Roast Cauliflower: Transfer cauliflower to oven (with chicken) and roast until golden, about 12 minutes. Meanwhile, place tahini in a medium bowl and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Adding 1 tablespoon at a time, whisk in up to 1/2 cup of warm water until sauce is smooth and pourable. Set aside. After 12 minutes of cauliflower roasting, sprinkle over honeyed capers and continue roasting until capers are crisp, 3 minutes more.
  7. Plate Chicken Thighs: Once roasted, transfer chicken to a plate, leaving onions behind in pan, off heat. Stir in spinach to wilt, about 1 minute. Divide spinach and onions between serving plates, top with chicken and serve with crispy cauliflower. Drizzle over tahini sauce, garnish with parsley. YUM! 

    This post may contain affiliate links and I may make a HUGE commission (j/k it's literally pennies) when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You should know (and I'm legally required to tell you) that as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Feel free to make me RICH. lol ;)