Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Recipes:Old Fashioned Halloween Party

It's Halloween and you want to stay away from the big parties and door to door trick or treating with strangers. What do you do? Give an old fashioned party that will please everyone and get the whole family together! We can take some hints from The Modern Priscilla Magazine issue from October 1915. They advised the hostess to invite family and friends that are close to each other so everyone can feel comfortable dressing up and joining in.
The Invitations and Decorations

Invitations and menu cards should be adorned with witches on broomsticks, owls, black kittens and such things. Menu cards aren't used much for family gatherings, but they are a fun memento for guests to take home. Simply cut cards out of stiff paper, decorate and neatly print the occasion, the menu, date, and even a little poem or quotation. Place one by each guest, or hand them out at the door.
Decorations in the early 1900s were simple but fun. Jack-o-lanterns peeking from every corner, dried corn with branches of colored fall leaves would be suspended from chandeliers. Pumpkin shells can be scraped clean and used for soups, dips or casseroles. Dye cheese cloth yellow and attach autumn leaves, string popcorn spray painted orange, or a modern touch of black plastic spiders can be added. Faces were also painted on gourds and turnips to decorate the entire house.

Festive Food

The food was rather light and easy, which fits in perfect with our busy lifestyles today. Egg, chicken or tuna salad sandwiches, cut into fourths with additions of thinly sliced cucumber, herb butter, tomato or watercress could be served on platters with colored toothpicks holding the bread in place.
Nut sandwiches were a suggested treat. Bake gingerbread or poundcake in loaves and thinly slice. Toast nuts for a few minutes in a hot oven, then chop or crush. Mix with whipped cream or honey and spread on the slices of bread. In addition to the sandwiches serve brownies, fruit compote or salad, hot cider and salted nuts.

Hot Spiced Cider

2 quarts cider
1 cup brown or white sugar
2 sticks cinnamon
6 cloves
1 tsp. allspice
Add the sugar and spices to the cider in a large saucepan. Simmer, do not boil, for 15 minutes. Strain and serve hot in small glasses or mugs. A little grated nutmeg may be sprinkled on each glass before serving.

Halloween Bars


1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
2 well-beaten eggs
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 tsp. orange extract
1 cup flour
1 cup crushed nuts
Cream sugar and butter, add eggs, molasses, extract, flour and nuts. Mix and turn into a buttered and floured cake tin and bake in a moderate (350 degrees) oven for 30 minutes. Cut in fingers and serve warm or cold.

The Halloween Games

Bobbing for apples, dancing, and door prizes were some of the simpler activities in the early 1900's. We can add some modern touches too. On the bottom of each plate tape a number. After everyone finishes eating draw numbers and give away adult and kid's door prizes. Bean bag animals, marbles, and card games are fun and inexpensive for the kids. Adult door prizes can be boxes of herb tea, jams, coffees, fancy cookies or crackers.

Be sure to have some fun music such as the Chicken Dance, The Hokie Pokie, or songs from classic musicals like Oklahoma or The Sound of Music. Besides dancing, musical chairs is a great game to encourage the kids and adults to play together.

A game of Pin the Stem on the Pumpkin can be fun for all ages! Draw and color a large pumpkin without a stem on poster board. Using another piece of cardboard or construction paper cut out a stem, and attach a tack to it with tape. Tape the pumpkin onto a cork board. Blind fold each guest during their turn while they try to pin the stem on the pumpkin. The kids will love seeing the adults playing right along with them!

Old fashioned Halloween parties are a great alternative to door to door trick or treating. It's fun, and safe, plus it brings together family members of all ages to share in the memories.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What is Chai? Where Did It Originate?

There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea. ~Bernard-Paul Heroux

In the simplest terms, Chai is a tea brewed with spices from India. If you live in India, the word "chai" is actually a generic word for tea in Hindi. The brewed, spiced tea we think of as chai is actually known as masala chai. The tea leaves and spices are boiled with water, then strained to serve. Some prefer it stronger and it's actually "stewed" for awhile before straining. Recipes vary from family to family, some have been handed down from generation to generation. Masala chai was thought of as a "cure", kind of like we think of chicken soup in the US. It's possible families have been making a form of masala chai for thousands of years. Early versions most likely used herbs, barks and spices instead of black tea, but changed as black tea was brought to India and became more common.

The following recipes are variations of masala chai. You can use loose tea or tea bags, but all need to be strained before serving. It's fun to create your own version of the chai once you have tried your hand at these recipes!

Easy Indian Milk Tea

2 black tea bags
2/3 cups water
1/2 cup milk
1 cardamom or small piece of crushed ginger
1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Place the tea bags in water and boil vigorously for 5 minutes.
Pour in milk and add sugar. Let it to boil just until the milk
rises. Add crushed cardamom pods or ginger. Steep for
ten minutes and serve hot.

Chai Tea

1 Tbsp. fennel or anise seed
6 green cardamom pods
12 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 inch piece ginger root, peeled, sliced thin
1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
7 cups water
2 Tbsp. loose Darjeeling tea
6 Tbsp. honey or brown sugar
1 cup milk

Add the fennel/anise, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger,
peppercorns and water to a pan. Bring to a boil, and simmer
5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons loose Darjeeling tea. Steep
for 10-15 minutes. Strain. Place back on heat and add the
honey or brown sugar and the milk. Heat just until boiling.

Masala Tea

1 tsp. loose Ceylon or Darjeeling tea
1 pinch cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon
a drop of pure vanilla extract
boiled milk
1 tsp. granulated sugar

Steep tea and spices at least 10 minutes. Strain tea,
add milk and sweeten to taste. Serve hot.

Enjoy! ~Brenda

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: More Fall Photos

I realize this is "wordless" Wednesday, but I wanted to make sure I gave credit for the photo on this post. It was sent to me from Tinker Swiss Cottage in Rockford, IL. Thanks for the lovely shot!

The other three photos are ones I took around town here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More Kitchen Tips

Last week I wrote about a few things that help me in the kitchen. I asked if you had any and Deb in Wisconsin was kind enough to share all these wonderful ideas. Thanks Deb!

Using your favorite pancake recipe.....bag up all the dry ingredients in a quart-size zipper bag. I sift the dry ingredients into a bowl first, then pour into the baggie. You can also do this with scones, johnny cake (cornbread/cakes), and pizza dough. I've been doing this for years, and the only "problem" I've ever encountered was ONE TIME when the baking soda in the scones mixture kind of clumped up, so the batter didn't rise I DID use up that batch (I make about 10 baggies at a time), and simply added another portion of baking soda to the mixture before adding the wet ingredients.

To make this really simple, I posted the Wet Ingredients needed for each recipe, on a sheet posted on the inside of my cupboard door nearest my baking/cooking center in my kitchen. So I don't need to get a recipe book out, just open the cupboard door, and there's a note with the needed ingredients.

Another "step ahead" you can do, when you're freezing or canning any of your garden veggies, make them in sizes that you'd use in your regular recipes. For example, my favorite pumpkin cake recipe uses 2 cups of pumpkin, so when I can or freeze our pumpkins, I do them up in 2-cup portions. Same for grated zucchini (or yellow crookneck summer squash) for
my Chocolate Zucchini Cake recipe.

It also helps to do some mega-chopping sessions with nuts...then freeze them in portion sized zipper bags--they're ready for your recipe!

When red, orange or yellow sweet bell peppers are on sale I buy a slew, then wash, dry, slice and chop into small-ish pieces, lay them out on a cookie sheet (or two), then pop the cookie sheets into the freezer for a few hours (or even longer--as I usually forget!). After they're frozen, I use a pancake turner/spatula to loosen, and then pour into a large plastic container
(with a tight-fitting lid). Whenever I make spaghetti, chili, sloppy joes, or any Oriental recipe, I grab out a handful or two (or more) and into the sauce it goes. They don't stay as firm as "fresh" peppers do, but they still have that great flavor--and the color is just what perks up a winter-time dinner!

Another EXCELLENT time-saver at the end of August or beginning of September...when your tomatoes are all turning red at the same time, and you can't stand another minute cooking in a hot-n-humid kitchen, or you don't have time "right now" to make up tomato sauce.... Put your tomatoes (right off the vine) into a large brown paper grocery bag. Fill that right up,
then close it tightly. Put in the freezer and in about January, when you dig in there after all the holiday fuss, you'll see that bag (or bags!) of 'maters. Then all you have to do is SO SIMPLE: fill the sink with HOTTEST tap water, drop about 13 'maters in there, let float for 20-30 seconds, and the skin should slip right off. Plop the de-skinned tomato in your LARGE canning pot; when the pot is as full as you want, then cook at low to medium heat, they will be juicy and need stirring every so often. Once they break down, you can add your other ingredients. I run mine through a blender--after they've cooked down. I like my
tomato sauce to be broken up.

Thanks for all those fabulous tips Deb! I especially love the tomato idea, excellent. If you have some time saving kitchen tips, send them my way and I will post them here.