Shrunken Head Punch

We are in full Halloween mode here: decorations are up, costumes are in progress, treats have been purchased. And something I’m extra excited about this year: we’re having a trick-or treat party.

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Every year while growing up, our house was home base for trick or treating friends. We’d all meet up there, my parents would order lots of pizza, and we’d spend Halloween coming and going and eating too much candy.  This year, we’re having some friends over to do the same thing with our kids, and I’m totally geeking out about it.

If you’re hosting a trick or treat party – or other Halloween party – this is the perfect spooky drink to make. Leave it virgin for the kids, or spike it up with caramel vodka, vanilla vodka, or Fireball for the adults.  You can make the apples ahead and mix up the punch in less than five minutes when you’re ready for it.

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Carving the shrunken apple heads is the most difficult part of this, but the beauty is it’s Halloween – they can be perfectly imperfect. You can also make the faces to match the crowd – scarier faces for an older crowd while silly faces would be perfect for a preschool gathering.

We had a lot of fun with this – the kids especially got a kick out of “the faces floating in there”!

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Shrunken Head Punch
(a Kate’s Recipe Box original)
Serves 12

3-4 apples
1/4 cup lemon juice

6 cups apple cider
1 1/2 cups pear nectar
4 1/2 cups ginger ale

Optional: Vanilla vodka, caramel vodka, or Fireball, to taste

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Working with one apple at a time, peel and core the apples, then cut in half. Using a paring knife or other tool, carve faces into the apple halves and dunk in the lemon juice.

Lay the carved apples on a rack over a baking sheet. When they are all carved, transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 1-2 hours, until the apples appear shrunken. Remove from the oven and cool.

Combine the apple cider, pear nectar, and ginger ale in a punch bowl or large pitcher. Add the cooled apple heads, and alcohol, if desired.

Fresh Corn Salsa

Looking for more Halloween inspiration? Here you go! And check back on Thursday when we’ll have another round of Halloween goodies ready for you!

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Roasted Peach Lemonade #farmersmarketweek

I’ve been waxing nostalgic lately about the summer before my senior year of college. I think a lot of it has to do with how easy life was then. I had cobbled together a few cushy jobs on campus – web design, the library – that were enough to pay my bills, but leave me with long weekends. I binge watched Sex and the City for the first time. Mark and I took our first real summer vacation. It was just a really laid-back time.

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And why have I been thinking about that summer? Because things here have been absolute chaos for months. I was overly hopeful that things would calm down once we’re in the new house, but the universe just laughed at that. I’ll be spending this afternoon home while the plumber fixes a leak from the kids’ bathtub (which involved cutting out the ceiling below it). And calling roofers, because the roof is leaking too. And did I mention I have a bubble in my tire that needs fixing? Of course, these are only the urgent things that have popped up in the last few days — the entire to do list is SO much longer.

But, back to that easygoing summer. One of the highlights was the fruit lemonades they served at the campus café. I randomly thought of their peach lemonade the other day, and decided I needed it asap.

This is a great recreation. Roasting the peaches brings out such a great flavor for really no effort. It’s the perfect addition for a barbecue or summer brunch!

Roasted Peach Lemonade

Roasted Peach Lemonade
(adapted from The Naptime Chef)
Makes about 4 cups

2 large peaches, halved and pitted
1 tsp. sugar
4 cups of your favorite lemonade

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with foil and place the peaches on skin-side down. Sprinkle the tops with sugar. Roast for 25 minutes.

Let them cool for a minute or two, then peel them (you should be able to easily pinch the skin off after roasting. Add the peaches to a food processor or blender, along with 1/4 cup lemonade. Blend until smooth and frothy. Stir into the remaining lemonade and serve.

Roasted Peach

#farmersmarketweek wraps up today! Here’s our grand finale:

Friday #FarmersMarketWeek Recipes

 

Strawberry Lemon Sun Tea

My first semester of college, I had a really mothering professor. She taught us how to take the train to Philadelphia. She clued us in on the best places to eat on campus. And she offered to bring us coffee to class. In one of the early classes, when I wasn’t indulging, she commented that if I could make it through college without developing a coffee habit, I’d probably never drink it.

She was right, so far. I’m really not a coffee person.

Or, tea. Unless it’s iced and fruited up, like this one. This is a perfect summer tea.

StrawberryLemonSunTea

Strawberry Lemon Sun Tea
(from Wonky Wonderful)
Serves 2-3

2 lemons
1 cup strawberries, halved
3 Tea bags
Water

Into a 24 oz. jar, juice one of the lemons. Slice the other lemon and add it to the jar along with the strawberries. Add the tea bags and fill the jar with water.

Sit in the sun for 2-3 hours, then remove the tea bags and chill. Serve over ice.

Homemade “Tru Blood”

I am so, so excited that True Blood is back. I’m a bit of a fangirl when it comes to this show. I have several True Blood tshirts and other trinkets – and got the True Blood cookbook for Christmas. Since the show takes place in the south, it’s full of classic Southern dishes. There are also a lot of cocktail recipes, as a lot of the characters work in or regularly frequent bars – and these are a lot of fun to make while watching the show.

A lot of the drinks include Tru Blood as an ingredient. HBO used to sell it – it was a specially bottled blood orange flavored soda – but it’s been discontinued. Instead, they included a recipe in the cookbook so you could make your own. It’s a little sweet to drink straight, but it’s perfect as a cocktail mixer!

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Homemade “Tru Blood”
(from True Blood: Eats Drinks and Bites from Bon Temps)
Makes 2 1/2 cups

2 c. orange soda
3/4 c. grenadine
1/4 c. lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together in a pitcher and stir to combine before serving.

Make it Yourself Monday: Shamrock Shakes

For me, Shamrock Shakes appearing at McDonald’s are a sign that spring is coming. By the time you hit St. Patrick’s Day, the weather around here is starting to get decent again. And by decent, I mean you probably won’t need the scarf, gloves, hat AND your car warmed up so you don’t freeze on the way to work. I’ve grabbed two so far this season and have sipped them happily dreaming of warmer weather.

Of course, Friday morning we woke up to some unexpected snow – total buzz kill. I decided another dose of the minty goodness was what I needed to shake the snow blues. Luckily, these are ridiculously easy to whip up yourself at home.

I used low-fat ice cream and low-fat milk to keep these slightly healthier and it didn’t feel like I was missing calories at all. I also opted for the more generic mint extract over peppermint extract, which a lot of the Shamrock Shake recipes call for. I think the flavor of the mint extract is closer to what you get at McDonald’s. Add on some whipped cream, a cherry and a green straw and you’ve got a perfectly festive treat.

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Shamrock Shake
(adapted from Number 2 Pencil)
Makes 1 Shake

1 1/4 c. vanilla ice cream
1/4 t. vanilla extract
2-3 drops mint extract
1/4 c. milk (plus additional if needed to thin the shake)
1 T. sugar
2-3 drops green food coloring
Whipped cream and cherry, for garnish

In a blender, combine the ice cream, vanilla extract, mint extract, milk, sugar and green food coloring. Blend until smooth. If too thick, blend in a little more milk until the desired consistency is reached.

Top with whipped cream and a cherry.

DIY Hot Chocolate Mix

I’m not a coffee drinker. Or a tea drinker. Hot chocolate, though, I could drink by the gallon. I keep some in my desk at work and always have some in the house – even in the summer months. We could seriously go broke on cocoa mix.

Last year for Christmas, I made this mix for family members, and fell in love with it. It’s a great gift, or just great to have in your pantry.

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DIY Hot Chocolate Mix
(from Brown Eyed Baker)
Makes approx. 20 servings

3 c. nonfat dry milk powder
2 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2  c. cocoa powder
1 1/2 c. white chocolate chips
1/4 t. salt

Whisk all ingredients together and then, working in batches, pulse in a food processor until everything in finely ground and well combined. Store in an air-tight container for up to three months.

To prepare: Mix 1/3 c. hot chocolate mix with 1 c. hot milk.

Strawberry Lemonade

Have you ever been on a college campus during the summer? They have a secret they don’t want the students to know: the food is much better in the summer. Seriously.

I worked on campus the summer before my senior year and was shocked the first day I walked into the student center food court and found a completely different menu. I was quite disappointed when the fall semester rolled around and the fresh salads and sliced steak sandwiches once again became chicken fingers and burgers.

One of the things they served that summer was fresh lemonade with fruit puree – a different fruit every day. The strawberry was my favorite. Even if I wasn’t planning to buy lunch, I’d stop down to make sure I wasn’t missing out on the strawberry lemonade.

This is a dead-ringer for my favorite drink of that summer. I’m not sure there’s anything better.

Strawberry Lemonade
(slightly adapted from My Baking Addiction)
Makes approximately 6-8 cups

1 c. sugar
1 c. of water
1 pint fresh strawberries
1 c. fresh lemon juice (approximately 8 lemons)
4-6 c. cold water (depending on your taste)

Make a simple syrup by combining the sugar with 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and heat until the sugar in completely dissolved; swirl the pan occasionally. Let cool.

Once the simple syrup has cooled, puree strawberries in a blender with 1/2 cup water.

In a large pitcher, combine strawberry puree, simple syrup and lemon juice. If using the vodka, add it to the pitcher and stir to combine.

Add 4-6 cups of cold water. The amount of water you use will depend on your taste, so add as little or as much as you want to achieve your perfect sweet/tart balance. Serve over ice.

Watermelon Agua Fresca

A few weeks ago, we had a housewarming party to finally show off our now one-year-old house.  I had planned a slew of food, including watermelon with dessert. My plan was to cut up the watermelon right before dessert but in the hubbub of everything I completely forgot about it.

When we remembered it later we thought, oh well, we’ll just eat it ourselves. Clearly, we didn’t realize how much watermelon we had. After a few days of eating it with breakfast or lunch we were getting sick of it so I decided I needed to jazz things up a bit. 

Mark’s a big fan of juice so I knew this would go over well. It was light and refreshing – really a perfect summer drink. In the mood for a summer cocktail? It’s great with vodka.

Watermelon Agua Fresca
(slightly adapted from Chef In You)
Makes approx. 1 liter

1/2 large watermelon, seeded and cubed
1 1/2 c. water
3 T. agave nectar

In batches, use a blender or food processor to blend the watermelon and water. Filter using a fine strainer to remove any watermelon pulp. Stir in agave nectar. Serve well chilled.

Sparkling Punch

Several of our friends and family members aren’t drinkers so when we have parties it’s nice to have something non-alcoholic that’s a little fancier than just serving soda.

I’ve made this one twice – for Christmas and again for a dinner party with my friends – and both times it was well recieved. It’s got a light, refreshing taste that would also make it great for Easter or a shower.

Sparkling Punch
(from All Recipes)

1 lemon
2 large oranges
1 (6 ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 liter club soda
2 (750 milliliter) bottles sparkling apple cider
1 T. sugar

Thinly slice the lemons and the oranges and place in a large punch bowl. Pour in the thawed lemonade. Gently stir in the club soda and the sparkling apple cider. Add sugar to taste.

Power of Pink Challenge – Cotton Candy Cocktail

When I saw Beantown Baker’s Power of Pink Challenge I knew I had to participate. Like too many other people, breast cancer is something that has touched me personally. I lost my aunt to breast cancer when I was in college.

My aunt was one of the most fun-loving people I’ve ever known so I wanted to whip up something fun to honor her. Aunt Pat would have loved a good girls night in with this pink cocktail.

Cotton Candy Cocktail
(adapted from Drinks Mixer)

1 oz. vodka
1 oz. Di Saronno (Amaretto Liqueur)
Pink lemonade
Cotton candy for garnish

Shake together vodka, Di Saronno and pink lemonade with ice. Strain into glass and garnish with cotton candy.