In terms of the menu, I didn’t clown around…
My annual costume party was driven by the food, as usual, but this year I felt a need to go above and beyond.
I think it was because I was expecting a record number of people… We had 20!
Or maybe it’s because I just love to give people good food.
The brainstorming began right along with the planning of my little brother’s wedding… that was back before I knew the number of guests. I was looking for the best finger food ideas that I could get my my.. well.. fingers on.
I learned last year that the key to cutting back on stress is cutting out hot foods. When you’re decked out in make-up, costumes, and props the last thing you want is a blazing-hot oven or stove around you. Plus, timing is EVERYTHING with hot food. You can burn it. It can dry out. Maybe it’ll be cold in the middle.
This year’s edible entourage included my good ol’ go-to, the Oreo truffle. I added a new decoration – so naturally, no one could keep their eyes off of them.
The truffle is relatively easy. Grind up a whole package of Oreos (I used a food processor), then mix it with a softened 8 oz. block of cream cheese. Wet your hands, and take little pieces of the “mud” and roll it into balls. Place them on a pan or baking sheet (that’ll fit in your freezer) lined with wax or parchment paper. Freeze for an hour. Dip them into melted white candy chocolate (use a double-boiler). You can’t use chocolate chips here. You need almond bark or candy chocolate that’ll harden instantly. Dip and lift the truffles into and out of the hot chocolate using two forks. The excess chocolate will run between the tines.
I also made “vampire cupcakes” – these are based off a treat from the Chocolate Moose bakery.
Bake devil’s food cupcakes according to the directions. Once they’ve cooled, carve out a cone from the center… spoon in some cherry pie filling (2 cherries per cupcake).. snip the pointed end off the cake cone.. then place what’s left onto the top of the cupcake. I used a vanilla buttercream icing.
The final dessert: mini pumpkin cheesecakes with a caramel drizzle.
Crush up some ginger snaps and sprinkle the dust into the cups of a mini cupcake tin lined with mini liners.
Mix together the cream cheese and the pumpkin. Add everything but the eggs, mix until combined. Add the eggs one-by-one. Spoon mixture into cups, and bake at 335 for 22 minutes. This makes 48-55 mini cupcakes. Cool, then frigerate. Just before serving, drizzle on some caramel.
From sweet – to savory.
The star of the show turned out to be my Texas Pinwheels. This is a flavor combination based on a “sushi” roll at a restaurant that closed down years ago. Last year, I did something similar using cucumbers.
For the pinwheels:
I marinated a London Broil in soy sauce, worcestersire sauce, 4 cracked cloves of garlic and a bit of rice wine vinegar. It sat in the fridge overnight. I grilled it for 5 minutes on each side, then let it cool. I refrigerated it for a few hours, then sliced it thinly.
Dice 1-2 jalapenos (depending on the level of heat you can handle) and add it to an 8 oz. tub of WHIPPED cream cheese. Mix well. Put the mixture into a resealable bag and snip the tip. Squirt the cream cheese along the length of each steak strip. Roll it up and pierce with a tooth pick.
To really give it a zing, I made a wasabi vinaigrette: Wasabi paste, honey, rice wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Add all this to a small container, put on the lid, and shake what your mama gave you.
My spicy-sweet shrimp wontons were also a hit. Like the pinwheels, they were inspired by a dish at a restaurant. City Range has an appetizer called “Tuna Wontons”.
I bought wonton wrappers, cut them into fourths, spritzed them with cooking spray, sprinkled on some salt, and baked them at 350 for 8-10 minutes. You want them brown and crispy. You can do this a day or several hours ahead – just keep them in an air-tight container.
For the shrimp, use the the small guys the 51/60 (that’s the number per pound). Peel them, and then put them on a baking sheet. Add some olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Rub ’em around like a big Swedish woman would, then bake them at 400 for about 8 minutes. You want them pink and tender, not like a new product from Bubblicious.
Cool the shrimp.
For the spicy sauce, mix 1 cup of mayo with 3 tablespoons of Sriracha. Add the zest and juice of one lime. Done.
For the sweet sauce, mix 1/3 cup of honey with 2 tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce. Then add a 1/2 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger.
Build: On a wonton, add a shrimp, some sliced green onions and a dab of each sauce.
You get a nice crunch, a smack of heat, a sweet tickle on your tongue, a fresh zing from the scallion, and a buttery hug from the shrimp.
The crowd also loved my pepperoni crisps.
This is SO easy.
Buy a bag of pepperoni. Line a plate with 2-3 layers of paper towels. Spread out the pepperoni (you’ll do this in batches). They shouldn’t touch. Top with 2-3 layers of paper towels. Nuke for 1:30-2 minutes. Move them (they’ll be scorching hot) to another plate lighted with paper towels. You get the flavor of pepperoni and the texture of a potato chip.
Another delicious dish: Kickin’ corn dip. I made up the name, but not the recipe. It comes from the Junior League of Little Rock (Arkansas) – la-ti-da!
2 cups medium cheddar cheese, shredded (I buy the block and shred it myself)
1 4 oz. can of green chiles
2 tsp. diced jalapenos
2 tsp. cilantro (I used the dried kind because I can stomach that flavor – I hate fresh cilantro)
1/2 cup of mayo
1 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp hot sauce
2 cans of corn, drained (I used 1 can yellow, 1 can of mixed white/yellow)
Salt to taste
Mix everything and refrigerate overnight. Serve with corn chips!
My last contribution gets an A for effort. I used molecular gastronomy (food science) to make a crunchy Bloody Mary. I mixed tomato juice with the Spice & Tea Exchange’s Bloody Mary spice, some worcestersire sauce and vodka. You add agar agar (a thickener, not a gargoyle) to that and bring it to a boil. Pour into celery and frigerate. The liquid solidifies, then you slice it up. Honestly, it was pretty, but tasted like spicy celery. NEXT.
Carla, my dear friend, supplied her world famous cranberry-rosemary chicken salad, incredibly tender and tasty sweet & sour meatballs, and spinach-artichoke dip. She made that gooey-green goodness in honor of the time we humiliated ourselves at a party (years ago) by molesting the spinach-artichoke dip… We’d had too much to drink and thought too much of the dip at the time… think finger-lickin’-bad.
My drink of choice: Spiked cherry-coke. Use Bacardi Torched Cherry rum or Cruzan black cherry rum. Mix it with Diet Coke/Coke Zero/Coke, add a squirt of lime and a few maraschino cherries.
If you haven’t thrown a party, try it.
If you have, and ordered food from a restaurant/deli, take a stab at cooking.
It may be tricky, but i’ll certainly be a treat.
And don’t worry, it won’t blow up in your face!
Tip: Don’t underestimate the power of good ol’ onion dip. I can remember my mom making this at parties. When I go home for the holidays she’ll make it and we’ll just sit on the couch, talk, and eat chips and onion dip. When I think of a family get-together, I can immediately taste the flavor of onion dip. It’s like a reflex.
I use 2 packages of Lipton onion soup mix and 1 16 oz. container of sour cream. Mix well, and serve with Ruffles or Wavy Lays. I want some right now.