Halloween = parties for me, so I’m always on the lookout for inspiring buffet food. I can’t remember where I first saw the idea of having guacamole come out of pumpkin as if the Jack O’Lantern is throwing up, but I thought it was hilarious. If you know the source, please tell me and I will attribute it. **Update: I first read it in the book, Extreme Halloween: The Ultimate Guide to Making Halloween Scary Again by, Tom Nardone. Check out his website, ExtremePumpkins.com. **
The recipe for guacamole here is a little different than what you might usually see. Here, it is prepared the Guatemalan way (our Guatemalan friend showed me how to do it). She leaves the avocado in big chunks and chops the tomatoes in large cubes. This approach seemed particularly appropriate for the presentation and turned out to lend great flavor. Now when I make guacamole at home, I always do it this way. Luckily, the pumpkin vomiting guacamole doesn’t inspire any real vomit.
With the avocado in big chunks, this guacamole really stands out and is perfect for the puking pumpkin rendition.
Recipe type: Appetizer
2 ripe but not mushy avocados, chopped in large cubes
1 medium tomato, chopped in fairly large chunks
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
1 fresh green chile, chopped
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lime
1 Bag of Multicolored Tortilla Chips
In a large bowl, gently toss (so as not to mush the avocado), the avocado, tomato, red onion, green chile, cilantro, salt and lime juice. Leave the pit in until you are ready to transfer to the platter. Chill in the fridge until 15 minutes before guests arrive.
For the presentation: Carve a small pumpkin to have a face that looks like it is puking. Haha. Place it on a large platter with a candle inside. Spoon the guacamole onto the platter in front of the jack o'lantern's face. Distribute multi-colored tortilla chips around the perimeter of the guacamole. Enjoy! Happy Halloween!
There’s nothing likely whipping up a little quick bread (muffin, cupcake, bread, whatever) to satisfy the baking need. Mix the wet ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients. Put them together without overmixing, bake and voila! A sweet, sumptuous little treat in no time.
October = pumpkin for me, in case you didn’t know. Psst. There are like 40 pumpkin recipes in this blog. I’ve done pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies before, but never pumpkin chocolate chip muffins (or cupcakes as the case may be). Some people love the combo, and I am one of them. These are equally good with or without the icing, I think. So if you can’t be bothered with the icing, don’t be!
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
The Best Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yummy pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes - perfect for a Halloween party.
Recipe type: Dessert
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
2 cups canned pure pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
1 tsp salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
For the frosting:
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
¼ cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Prepare muffin tins by either spraying them with cooking spray or lining them with paper liners.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, white sugar, brown sugar, pumpkin, vanilla extract, and vegetable oil. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.
In three batches, add the flour to the wet ingredients and stir to incorporate. Don't overmix, but incorporate thoroughly.
Fold in the chocolate chips. Fill muffin cups at least ¾ of the way full. I like to create a big muffin top, so I fill them almost all the way.
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown on top and a knife inserted comes out clean. If you have to have two layers of tins in your oven, rotate them halfway through the cooking time for even baking.
To make the icing:
While the muffins are baking, you can make the icing. With an electric hand mixer, cream together the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and confectioner's sugar until completely smooth, Allow to chill if need be.
To ice the cupcakes:
Once the cupcakes come out of the oven, they will need to cool before you can ice them. Once they are cooled, you can fill a pastry bag with your icing and pipe it out into large concentric circles.
Here’s what you don’t know about Emilio Estevez. In addition to a lifetime of acting in, writing, directing and producing great films, he can now add to his cv the titles of winemaker and master gardener. This is not arm’s length wine-making, where you watch intently while others do all the work. Emilio planted the vines himself right in his own back yard and tends to them avidly. He also planted a vegetable garden for his fiancée Sonja, and together they turn out enough produce to run a small farm stand. When at home (and not out on a Bus Tour promoting his latest film), Emilio can be found each morning out in the garden, weeding the beds, feeding the chickens, or harvesting his latest produce. It is for this reason I thought it fitting to pay tribute to his new film, The Way, by focusing a bit on the food within it.
The Way is a movie that follows four characters as they attempt to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, a 500 mile trek which starts in the French Pyrenées and winds across the North of Spain to the town of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. It is believed that St. James is buried in the Cathedral there and this pilgrimage dates back a thousand years. Today, tens of thousands walk it, each for a different reason.
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In the film, Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez’s father in real life, plays Tom, an eye doctor from Ventura, whose estranged son Daniel, play by Estevez himself, has just died while hiking the camino alone. Tom must travel to Europe to collect Daniel’s remains, and while there, he decides to complete the pilgrimage for his son and sets out on a life-changing adventure. A highly personal film, Estevez was inspired to write it after his father had trekked a portion of the camino with Emilio’s son, Taylor Estevez. At a screening in San Rafael, CA on August 28, 2011, Estevez explained that his son, Taylor, fell in love with a Spanish girl he met on that trip and 5 years later, just before the start of filming, the two were married. Taylor still lives in Spain and assisted during the filming. Estevez said that he felt he had “lost his son to the camino too,” and felt great empathy for the character he was writing. But he laughed. Taylor accompanied Emilio and Martin on their latest bus tour across America promoting the film – 50 days, 50 cities – a camino of their own, no doubt.
The Way - the bus tour
“The Way” is a tender, contemplative film and Martin Sheen’s performance is so vivid and moving. In fact, I was so moved by his emotion during the film, that I asked him afterward, “As an actor, what was it like to contemplate the death of your son, and take yourself there emotionally, all while your son is across the room, behind the camera?” He explained that an actor, “has a toolbox of emotional moments to draw on when they need to go to that place,” and that “you just have to trust that you can walk up to that cliff, and let yourself go and that the performance will be there.” He quickly added, “But my son is an amazing director and he helped draw that performance out of me.” [SPOILER ALERT] “For example, he surprised me. When they pulled back the zipper on the body bag, do you know who it was in there? It was a surprise to me during the scene, but it was his son Taylor in there. So the shock you see on my face is real.”
Shooting a café scene
Despite the tragic premise, this film is not all doom and gloom. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and many of them take place around a table. The first companion Tom meets is “Joost from Amsterdam”, played by Yorick van Wageningen. Joost has set out on the camino to lose weight, but his first stop? A cheese-maker along the path – and then a café where he must try the local lamb and then the wine. Needless to say, he doesn’t lose any weight on the trip, but through his eyes, we learn some interesting culinary facts. For example, Joost sits down at a cafe during the Navarra leg of the trip and tells Martin Sheen’s character that he is excited to try the “pinchos” here. “Oh no, no!” Tom insists, “In Spain, they are called Tapas.” Joost holds up his guidebook. “It says that in this part of Spain, they are called, “pinchos.” “No way,” retorts Tom. “They are “tapas.” When the waiter approaches, Tom announces with true American bravado, “We are here to try the Tapas.” The waiter explains, entirely in Spanish, says “We do not serve, Tapas. Tapas are found farther south. Here in the North of Spain, we serve “pinchos.”
So, what is the difference?A pincho is similar to a tapa, but is distinguished by the fact that it has a pincho (Spanish for spike), usually a toothpick or skewer, stuck through it, often attaching it to a piece of bread, like in this photo.
In the movie, The Way, we also learn that Leg of Lamb is also renowned in the region close to Logroño. The lamb is actually brought to market very young, much younger than in the states. A baby lamb of just 25-30 days is most commonly used in this part of the world. And this brings us to today’s recipe: Cordero is Spanish for lamb. Asado is Spanish for roasted.
Cordero Asado. Photo by Javier Lastras
Here’s how to make it.
Cordero Lechal Asado (Roasted Baby Lamb)
Adapted from a recipe at the blog El Aderezo
2 quarters of a suckling lamb (or in the US, 1 leg of lamb)
Lard or olive oil for coating the meat
3 Garlic cloves crushed with a pinch of coarse salt and a little vinegar
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
2. Smear the skin of the lamb with lard, or butter or olive oil. This will help the skin crisp at the end of the roasting time. Place the leg of lamb in an oval casserole or roasting pan. Add a large glass of water to the pan. Place in the oven and roast for about an hour and half.
3. Halfway through roasting, prepare a garlic paste in a mortar with the garlic cloves, a pinch of salt and a jet (not great) of vinegar. Remove the pan from the oven, and turn over the lamb. Spread the garlic paste over the meat and add a little more water to the roasting pan, if necessary. Return the casserole to the oven and let it finish doing. Eventually the meat will be roasted and crispy on the outside, and very juicy on the inside with sauce on the bottom of the pot or source.
4. In the US, we like to serve this with roasted root vegetables, or potatoes. In Spain, it is recommended that you serve this dish with a simple salad lettuce, tomato, and onion, to allow the lamb to take center stage.
The Way, the movie is now available on DVD. Emilio Estevez and his father Martin Sheen have also collaborated on a Memoir, just released this month. Get them all today on Amazon: