DIY Halloween: Spiced Rum Sea Salt Tootsie Rolls and Oriole Costume

Like most North Americans, I love Halloween. The history, the nostalgia and the excitement all jump-start us into Do-It-Yourself action to where we can’t help ourselves but to dress-up and party. It’s a very special annual event and I try to pay my respects by putting effort into costumes, candies and parties.

Having spent my previous three Halloweens in the massive metropolis of Seoul, this year’s quaint Berkshire retreat center Halloween just didn’t get my heart pounding. Though Korea doesn’t traditionally celebrate Halloween, the large ex-pat community (composed mostly of English teachers) and a general love of partying have made certain areas of Seoul a fountain of pure Halloween joy. A few Seoul neighborhoods, such as Itaewon and Hongdae, have become foreigner hot spots, so there is an endless stream of bars, people watching, parties and costume contests.

My Halloween this year was very, uh, … quiet. Many of the people I was surrounded by didn’t dress up or acknowledge that a special occasion was occurring. I, on the other hand, was possessed by the idea of a homemade DIY Halloween and fully allowed the spirit to blow through me like a hurricane (speaking of Sandy, we were extremely lucky in the NY Berkshires. We had very few power outages and little damage. A few weak trees were loosened and are threatening to fall, but haven’t yet. Hopefully, they will be removed soon. Other than that, it was just a very windy storm).  

My costume this year was of an Oriole. I was inspired to make this for two main reasons:

1) I’ve had a ridiculous bright red-orange gown for years and have always wanted to alter it into something I’d actually wear.

2) I found this fun, easy and fabulous DIY wing tutorial that made me want to be a bird of some kind. A quick Google search of what birds fit my colour criteria told me that an oriole made perfect sense. Voila!

 

And, for obvious reasons of delciousness and awesomeness, I had to make some spiced rum tootsie rolls, too. They’re very easy and extremely satisfying.

Homemade Spiced Rum Sea Salt Tootsie Rolls

Ingredients

  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 cup icing or confectioners sugar
  • 2 cups nonfat milk powder
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp spiced rum
  • A pinch of sea salt (coarse is preferable)

tootsie ingredients

Directions

In a bowl, mix the cocoa, honey, molasses and vanilla together. Once smooth, add the butter, powdered sugar, salt and rum.

tootsie mix

Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix the milk powder into the mixture. Knead the tootsie mix with your hands, if you prefer. It should form a smooth looking lump when finished.

tootsie lump

Let it rest and further merge into tootsie-ness for 20 minutes.

tootsie lump cut

Using a knife or pizza-cutter cut the giant tootsie into strips. Then into one inch chunks. The chunks should be malleable and not sticky.

tootsie chunk

Cut some wax paper into pieces large enough to wrap your tootsie chunks in.  Wrap them.

tootsie wraps

Bring them to a party and watch your friends devour them.

tootsie rolls

Makes 40-45 pieces.

tootsie costume tray

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Transformation: Spicy Tilapia Quinoa Burgers Crusted With Almond and Hurricane Sandy

With Halloween coming up so soon, I’ve been spending a lot of my free time working on my costume (posts on that to come soon!). Unfortunately, because of the impending destruction of Hurricane Sandy, I might be all dressed up with nowhere to go. Oh Sandy, you’re such a costume block. 

Hurricane Sandy is supposed to reach New York tomorrow evening. We have been warned about possible flooding, power outages and very high winds. There is a possibility that we will lose power for about a week. Eww.

My area of the Berkshires is just outside of the affected region and hopefully shouldn’t be hit too hard. My mum has informed me that our water is connected to the electricity, so if the power goes out, we’ll have no running water. Eww squared. Being in a wooded area, trees fall often. The biggest threat to us that Sandy will throw our way is falling trees. We’ll see how that goes.

fish burger stuff

My transformation recipe this week was inspired by the extra baked tilapia (with a gorgeous tamari, Dijon, garlic and ginger sauce) that I had hanging out in my fridge. Tilapia is a flakey white fish – delicate in flavour and not too fishy. It easily gets overcooked and disappointingly dry, which no one is fond of. I needed to find a way to make the texture more appealing.

 flaked fishfish burger spin

Quinoa provided some answers to my query. The chenopod quinoa is often confused as a grain due to its grain-like appearance. Actually, it is closely related to beets, spinach and tumbleweeds. Light and unique in flavour, quinoa provides many nutrients like phosphorus, iron and calcium.

fish burger crustfish burger rows

I wasn’t concerned about the quinoa overpowering the fish, so I made them into burgers.
fish burger bite

Spicy Tilapia Quinoa Burgers Crusted With Almond

Ingredients

  • 2-3 leftover filets of tilapia
  • 2 cups of cooked quinoa
  • ½ cup oil cured black olives (kalamata will also work)
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 or 2 jalapeños
  • 2 small green bell peppers
  • ¼ cup fresh basil
  • 2 small carrots (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup pickles (2 large spears)
  • 1 cup spinach or arugula
  • 1 cup onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp tamari
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger
  • ½ to 1 tsp salt
  • crushed almonds (about a cup)

Directions

Preheat oven at 400ºF/200ºC/Gas mark 6

In a bowl, flake the filets into small pieces and add the quinoa.

In a food processor, blend all of the ingredients except the fish, quinoa and crushed almonds. Blend until there are no big chunks.

Mix blended contents with the fish and quinoa.

Form the mix into burgers and coat them with the crushed almonds. Lay your burgers on a lightly oiled pan.

Place in the oven and allow them to bake for about 30 minutes. They should be brown on the outside and not threaten to fall apart if moved.

Immediately place a burger on toast with avocado and alfalfa sprouts and devour.

Makes 8-10 burgers.

Visualizing the Flavour Pairing of Cranberry Curry and Mint Cashew Butter

Firstly, here are a few photos of my hood: The Berkshires of New York. The colours at the moment are absolutely outrageous. My eyes are outraged by all this beauty.

Black and orangemisty treesorange treered leaf

Maybe it’s planetary or the fact that Halloween, hearty soups and pumpkin pie are imminent, but fall always gives me a feeling like something huge is happening in the world. It could be that nature’s insane peacock display of beauty is so overwhelming. Either way, I can practically taste the colours. I love the smell of cold that lingers on you after a crisp walk and the chill that draws us closer to others for warmth. What a super cool time of year. How lucky am I? So lucky.

cashew butter plate

Sometimes, to find inspiration when experimenting in the kitchen, I just set several different ingredients out on a table and see what feels right. Looking at the ingredients, I imagine their flavours and textures and see if they could be paired. On this particular occasion I chose cashews as my base.cashew butter2

cashew mintbutter

Cashews have impressed me so many times with their transformative flavour personalities. The vegan movement has spurred on some pretty ingenious ideas (as well as some truly awful ones) and cashews have been a champion in this process. Anyone who has had cream of broccoli soup with creamed cashews to replace dairy cream will know just how wonderful and surprising they can be. Not only did I not notice that it wasn’t dairy when I tried it, but I remarked on how complex and nuanced the soup was. Cashews are light, delicate and creamy and they combine very well with many flavours.

I futzed around with different ingredients (including a nauseating licorice and smoked salt combo) for a while until I found the winning team. Dried cranberries, Indian curry powder and garden fresh pineapple mint also happened to be on my ingredients table. The results were superbly balanced and sophisticated. No one flavour overpowered the other. The cashews saw to it that every player got along with the rest and played fairly. The sweetness of the dried cranberries, the earthy and spicy qualities of the curry powder and the vigor of the mint blended with the cashews in a glorious way. Imagine that.

cashew butter3

Cranberry Curry and Mint Cashew Butter

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup cashews
  • 2 tbsp dried cranberries
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped mint (I used pineapple mint but spearmint or apple mint will do. I do not recommend peppermint.)
  • 1 tsp Indian curry powder
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • a pinch of salt

Directions

Blend all ingredients until creamy. Add more olive oil for a smoother consistency.

Try the spread on a piece of toast with some fresh pesto.

Store in the refrigerator.

Back to Basics and Arugula

I have recently returned (from where will have to wait for multiple other posts) to the place of my birth, a spiritual Sufi community called the Abode of the Message in the Berkshires of upstate New York. Though I wasn’t raised here, it is a place where I have spent a lot of time and have grown to have a strong connection with. The Abode is a converted old Shaker Village with beautiful buildings, some of which are as old as 265 years.

Fatah at the Abode

It is a very peaceful (when the bugs aren’t attacking) and quaint sort of place.

About 37 years ago, it was bought by a group of hippies who needed a space to meditate and be self-sufficient. The Abode turned out to be the perfect spot for their needs. Belle, the lovely draft horse plows the organic farm.

Fatah at the Abode red barnBelle

The farm produces food for the community and its events.The Abode Farm

The herb garden is where herbs, spices and edible flowers are grown.The Herb Garden at the Abode

Herbs are harvested, dried and stored in the apothecary for remedies and teas.The Abode Apothocary

And then there’s the kitchen… oh, the kitchen. So many warm memories of my time at The Abode have been spent making food in this kitchen.The Abode Kitchen

It is well stocked and well-loved.Big woks in the kitchen

With its large convection oven, massive woks and high heat candy cooker, the kitchen combines the efficiency of a commercial kitchen with the cozy realness of grandma’s country home.Spice Jars

Original brick façade exposed, warm wood counters and the beauty of old Shaker construction, the Abode kitchen oozes history from its very pores.The kitchen at the Abode

I often wonder what meals this kitchen has seen. What failures and successes have been cooked here? How was the food spiced when my parents were doing the cooking? What methods did the Shakers use?  What has been the largest number of people served here? There are probably ways to find answers, but I don’t think I’d be satisfied with them. Some queries are best left to wonder about.Little woks and iron skillets

Because the reality of this place is entwined with memories from my childhood, I never quite got over my sense of awe. The buildings are old and creaky, there are unused things from previous residents stored all over the property and awesomely creepy cellars in just about every building.creepy basement

I have mixed feelings about being back (the open road calls me constantly), temporary as my stay here will be, but it’s certainly a great place to explore cookery.  And here I am, just in time for harvest season. So many cooking opportunities, so little time.

Here’s a simple summer salad fresh picked from the garden:

Baby Arugula Mixed Salad

Salad Ingredients

  • arugula
  • carrots
  • cucumber
  • celery
  • black and/or green olives
  • roasted almonds pieces

Vinaigrette Ingredients

  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame oil

Directions

Wash, slice, mix and enjoy ingredientsArugula salad