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Thursday, October 31, 2019

October 31: Bloody Rat Meatloaves

Happy Halloween!! It's finally here. The big day. (And it's rainy here where we are so that's throwing things into a tailspin. Oy.)

It's been a long, delicious month, and I hope you've had fun counting down with me.

I'd like to close out this month of tricks and treats with a meatloaf meal specially requested by my younger daughter. 

The week after school started, my younger daughter started asking me when I was making Feet Loaf. But, see, I already did feet loaf. (Also heads.)

I wanted to do something new. So, like Pooh, I had to think think think

I thought I was going to use my bat-shaped dish to keep things easy (plus, three years ago I *had* to have that bat-shaped dish and have only used it… once. Oopsies.) But when I browsed online to see if I could find any quick and easy meatloaf recipes, I came upon these Mini Cheddar Meatloaves from Butter with a Side of Bread. (I was fascinated by the idea of putting cheese in the meatloaf because, tbh, I didn't really even want meatloaf; I was jonesing for a cheeseburger.) When I looked at them, though, the shape reminded me of something...


And just like that—sorry bat-shaped dish. Your services will no longer be needed. Again.

Bloody Rat Meatloaves
Adapted from Butter with a Side of Bread

For the “rats”

1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup diced onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 lb. ground beef

For the “blood” (I cut back the amounts slightly from the original recipe) 
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 cup brown sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Beat together egg and milk. Stir in cheese. 
Add chopped onion and salt.

Combine with ground beef. 
Shape into 6 small loaves in a sort of oval-ish shape. (The original recipe calls for making 8, but somehow I missed that until after I’d already formed them and I didn’t feel like touching the raw beef again so I decided 6 was fine.) 

Arrange loaves in a 9x13 baking dish. 

Whisk together ketchup, ground mustard, and brown sugar. Pour over the raw loaves.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the meat is cooked through (internal temp of 165 degrees. Generally, pull it out at 155 degrees and let it rest 5-10 minutes. It’ll keep cooking and it’s safe to eat at 165.) 

I served my rat loaves with mashed potatoes and peas. 

For serving: arrange the “rat” in the center of the plate. Place 2 peas on the front of the loaf to look like eyes. Slice a green onion into long, thin strips. Arrange one strip at the back of the loaf and angled forward to serve as a tail. Arrange side dishes around the “rat.” 
Everyone in my house got a kick out of these, and they tasted good, too! With bloody rats, who needs feet loaf?

Now, enough with the recipes. It's time to TRICK OR TREAT! (Weather permitting...)

Happy Halloween, friends!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

October 30: Knuckle Sandwiches (Tuna "Finger" Sammies)

I still mostly make my girls’ lunches each day (I do it the night before to save time in the morning) and sometimes I like to put fun surprises in there for them. Especially this time of year. (When I was in high school and made my own lunches, I remember my mom would occasionally sneak silly things in there for me. I’d reach in for my sandwich and find a little baggie with a single olive on which was scrawled a message in Sharpie: “Olive you!” One day I got the olive AND an uncracked walnut, with the note attached reading “…but you’re a nut!” Good memories.)  

The other day I surprised them with these knuckle sandwiches.

I’d seen these “finger sandwiches” in one of my old Taste of Home magazines. But my kids don’t really like cream cheese smeared on bread (and I discovered at the last minute that I was out of carrots because I’d used them in fake-Thanksgiving the day before) so I made a few changes.

I chose tuna as the bread topping (my girls looooove tuna) and cheese sticks as the fingers. From there, it was a quick process.

I sliced the bread into strips and made open-faced tuna sammies. 
Then I sliced the cheese sticks in half lengthwise so I’d get two “fingers” per stick. 

Using a paring knife, I trimmed the cheese so it vaguely resembled a finger. Be sure to put the “knuckle” marks mid-finger. (I made 2 shorter fingers and left 2 full length because the inspiration sandwiches used longer carrots, but I was partial to the look of the “fingers” flush with the bread versus the ones sticking out longer. That’s up to you.) 

I cut an almond in half (because I’d also recently used up and not yet replenished my sliced almond stock) and attached it to the top area of the cheese stick “finger” with a small smear of cream cheese.

I laid the finger across the top of the tuna and voila! They’re called “knuckle sandwiches” because my husband jokingly called them that and it made me chuckle. 

The best part is this little trick didn’t take much longer than it would have to make a regular tuna sandwich. Plus, I know it gave the girls a smile the same way my mom’s bits of silliness always did for me. Nice treat. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

October 29: Deadly Piñata Loaf Cake & Pumpkin Cake Pops

I originally had another recipe scheduled for today, but I decided we really needed to amp up the Halloween for this final week. Enter: today's sugar bombs.

On Sunday, I shared chili in a coffin. That made use of a corn bread base baked up in a loaf pan. The loaf was then partially hollowed out and filled with soup.

The next night as I was trying to fall asleep, I thought, "Hmm...that coffin was kind of cool. What if I did it with cake and filled it with candy instead? That could be fun."

Perhaps you're thinking, "Wait a sec. You've already done a coffin. This is cheating." And perhaps you'd be right. But also? I think this dessert one made better use of the concept because it's sort of like a Halloween piñata cake, but in a loaf pan. (Ever hear of a piñata cake? Here's a fun tutorial.) It's basically a partly hollowed out cake with candy in the middle that spills out when you cut it. You know, like a piñata spills out candy when you hit it.

I'm happy I tried it. My kids were HUUUUGE fans of it. (And why wouldn't they be? It's cake with candy. Sugar on sugar.)

So let's take you through this in a photo tutorial. (I apologize in advance that the pix are sort of dark. I made this on a rainy night and despite having all my kitchen lights on, it was dark and shadowy. Hopefully, though, because it's a scary tombstone, it's more on, riiiiiight. Ha!)
Supply list: Entemann's All-Butter Loaf, green Airheads candy (1 flat kind, 1 rope kind),
gummy frogs, gummy snakes, chocolate frosting. I also used some brown M&Ms (not pictured).
Turn the loaf on its side and use a serrated knife to slice just under the domed part
Here it is in half. Domed part on top, bottom part still on the bottom.
Working with the bottom section, use a knife to gently cut a rectangular shape within the cake.
I left only about a half inch border--I would recommend you leave at least 3/4"-1".
It needs a little more structural support.  
Within the rectangle, slice 5-6 smaller slices to make them easier to remove.
Work from the center and use a fork to gently remove a small bite-sized portion
of the cake so you can fit a fork in there to neatly remove the rest.
As you can see, I didn't work from the center. When I removed that first little piece, a crack formed in the corner of the perimeter. Eventually, that broke. This is why you should start in the center (so you can better approach the outsides) AND why you need to leave a thicker border to begin with. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES!
Slide your fork under the cake and the tines will cut and remove for you.
Again, work from the middle toward the edge, instead of inward like I did.
Here is the hollowed-out loaf cake. I slid a toothpick into the corner which had cracked,
to serve like a nail. It held at first, but after I filled it with candy, it cracked open again.
Now turn your attention to the top domed part of the loaf cake you cut off earlier.
Turn the dome to face you.  
Use the chocolate frosting to lightly frost the un-cut top portion. 
(Optional Step - I did it because I didn't want to have gummy candy in crumby cake,
but depending on how you plan to cut it, it could be in your way. So you could skip the lining.)
Gently line the inside of the hollowed out section with a small piece of waxed paper.  
Pour a small, base layer of black or brown M&Ms into the hollow base.
I used Cookies & Screeem flavor.
Add some gummy frogs on top of the M&Ms
Add snakes on top. Try to position them in different ways,
so they look extra loopy and coiled like they'd definitely freak out Indy
This is the point at which the structural integrity of my coffin started becoming a real problem. The weight of the candy pushing against the already-flimsy sides cracked the cake on one side. I tried using toothpick "nails" again to no avail. So that's why you need a thicker edge to begin with. Trust me on that!
Using the rope taffy, cut a 3" section.  
Use your thumb to gently flatten one end, then use a paring knife
to cut out five fingers. 
Continue to press and squeeze into an arm shape.
Remember, it's a ZOMBIE ARM so it can look bumpy and gross.
Leave a little extra length for positioning inside the coffin. 
Using one of the flat taffy, cut thin strips and shape them into RIP.
Feel free to get more creative with your message if you want to spend the time on it.
Spooooooky, edible decorations

Position the RIP letters on the center of your frosted coffin lid 
Gently move the lid onto the snake-filled coffin,
then tuck the arm underneath with the hand coming around
(as though pushing aside the coffin lid to escape.)  
Here's a picture of the inside of the coffin from the side.
You can sort of see the side had collapsed there. 
Zombie hand!!!!
On a whim, I added a few chocolate chips and used a toothpick to gently drag leg
markings into the frosting. The idea there was that when the zombie pushed aside the lid,
some spiders scurried out. I'm not sure that's what they look like,
but that's what they were supposed to be. 
I added a little extra frosting to the sides of the lower coffin section
to add some contrast for where the zombie is reaching out.  
I just moved the coffin lid down more here so you could see the snakes inside. 
To serve, you can slice right on through in vertical chunks (IF you didn't used the waxed paper lining). I sliced the coffin lid into 3 portions and served those up, then let my girls help themselves to the candy. The bottom section can be its own portion since so much of it has been hollowed out.

Speaking of that cake you took out... I even have a plan for that.  It's called OPERATION CAKE POPS. I got 4 good sized pops, plus 1 tasting-sized portion for the cook. They come together in a snap.

In a medium bowl, crumble up the loaf cake you removed from the bottom section of the loaf.
Add 1-2 Tablespoons of chocolate frosting to the crumbs.
Stir until it's completely combined and the crumbs hold together like a soft dough.
Roll into balls. 
Melt about 3/4 cup orange candy melts according to package directions.
Dip the tip of a lollipop stick into the candy melt.
Gently press the stick 1/2-3/4 of the way into the cake pop ball.
When it sets, the melt will serve as a glue to better hold the cake. 
Repeat with the rest of the cake pops.
Freeze for 15 minutes. 
If they hardened while you waited, remelt the candy melts.
Dip the cold cake ball into the warm melt. 
Gently spin and tap to remove excess melt.
Add a small slice of flat taffy to the top of the pop. If your melt has already set,
simply dip the edge of the candy into the warm melt and press it onto the set melt.
Store upright so that the pop retains its circular shape. I poked holes into my egg carton
and it worked nicely to hold them upright while they set.
The "taster" for the cook (that's me!) It was yum!
Pumpkin-shaped cake pop 
There! That's TWO Halloween desserts in one post and from only one store-bought loaf cake. This is semi-homemade at its best. Anyone could do this and have quite a lot of fun with it. (Both making it AND eating it, come to think of it.) I hope you'll give it a try.