Sunday, October 25, 2009

#GreatHallowTweet: El Dia de los Muertos Party

Once upon a time, a not-so-technologically-inclined girl named @ShelleyBakes joined a wee Internet phenomenon called Twitter.  After meeting some great folks like Renee at Flamingo Musings, Elle at Elle's (now Helle's - get it?) New England Kitchen, Paula at Dragon's Kitchen, Heather at Bodacious Girl, er ... Ghoul, Michelle at Big Black Dog, Jeff at Culinary Disasters and Deeba at Passionate About Baking, I can now confidently say that I am pretty damn hooked on Twitter. (By the way - these are just a handful - not even all of the culinary talents that are participating in this project - see my sidebar on the left-hand side to visit their blogs and others.)

So when Renee decided to host a #GreatHallowTweet bloghop that would celebrate a week of ghoulish recipes to kick of Halloween, I excited jumped at the chance to get all ghouly with my Tweeps.  And the #GHT seemed like a good of reason as any to throw a party.  On a chance afternoon when the Cat and I were watching Food Network, Rachael Ray happened to be cooking Tex-Mex and that episode (which I can't, for the life of me, find on the FN webpage ... FAIL!) inspired this particular party menu, which I mentally referred to as the El Dia de los Muertos party, in honor of the Mexican holiday that celebrates the Day of the Dead.  (Incidentally, this occurs on Nov. 1, but hey ... I jumped the gun.)  I turned to Rachael Ray for Beef and Bean Burrito Sliders, found a spicy chili recipe (perfect for the four inches of snow that got dumped in Rochester that afternoon), Mexican hot chocolate cookies, a Tex-Mex inspired salad featuring a avocado-lemon dressing, lots of Corona and some sangria that was contributed by my friend Carey.  (As well as a butternut squash lasagna from my resident vegetarian friend ...)

Beef and Bean Burrito Burgers/Sliders
from Rachael Ray

This is my friend Erin, doing his Vanna White impression with the sliders

I'm still not entirely certain that this is the recipe that I saw that fateful day when Cat and I were watching some Food Network.  And while these burgers were very tasty, they had a huge "pain in the ass" quotient caused by the fact that without mashing the black beans a little bit before you incorporate them in the ground meat?  Yeah - my sliders were extraordinarily fragile little burgers that left half of their rice and beans like fallen comrades on my hot griddle.

Mexican Salad with Tomatoes, Red Onions and Avocado Dressing
Again ... by Rachael Ray

Alas ... I never got as far as eating the actual GREENS associated with this salad, but I highly recommend RR's dressing - it made a perfect topping for the sliders.

Crockpot Turkey Chili

These little "Soup Kettles" are straight out of my childhood - the same bowls that my grandma used to ladle her Halloween soup into.  I love tradition ...

What I thought was going to be a fail ended up being one of the best items on the menu.  I used this "lightened" version of chili as a base.  When I realized that the recipe as-is only fed four people (and I was set to have six adults and three kids over for the party), I panicked and hurled in a can of light red kidney beans, more salsa, more canned tomatoes and finally ... leftover bloody Mary mix from the fridge to get this to the zippy soup I served my guests.  I even had leftovers.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
adapted from Joy of Baking

One of the features that makes Mexican hot chocolate different from its other North American brethren is the inclusion of cinnamon.  When I first made these cookies in preparation of my party (it was a kind of test drive that was almost immediately consumed by Hubby and I), I just really wanted to make cookies and decorate them with frosting so they resembled cobwebs (and truly - to show my mad decorating skills.  That's sarcasm - really.)  So after the first round of cookies was decimated and I went to make another batch, I added a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon to the rich batter to give it a bit of a spicier kick.  To be honest - the next time I make these, I'd even add more.  Plus I'd add a hint of cinnamon in the frosting as well ...

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (**I used Penzey's)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes).  Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.  First sift together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and then add to the butter and egg mixture.  Mix just until incorporated.

Using a small ice cream scoop or two spoons, place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of batter on the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches (5 cm) apart.

Bake for approximately 8 minutes or until the the cookies are still soft in the center but are firm around the edges.  Remove from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes before removing the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 24 - 3 inch round cookies.

These may also be made in advance and kept in the freezer until they are ready to be baked.  For this, I measured out the scoops onto parchment lined cookies sheets and froze the cookies overnight (well - it doesn't take that long, I just whipped together the dough before I went to bed).  You can then remove the frozen nuggets of joy and store them in freezer bags until they are ready to be baked.  I upped the cooking time to about 10 minutes.


Elle said...

Wow, what a great party! Everything looks fabulous, even the spider web cookies. Love how you stretched the chili-nice one! Also, great tip about mashing the beans in the sliders.

Awesome entry to the #GHT, and thanks for the shout out!

Tracy @ Sugarcrafter said...

Wow, everything looks great!!

RJ Flamingo said...

I love how forgiving chili is - the only way you can possibly wreck it is by doing what my husband did once: having a brain fart and adding a whole chili per person rather than according to the quantity of actual food! :-)

And your cookies are divine!