Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Party's Over

Our 19th annual Halloween party is over.  The Tigers were playing and it it was freezing so not too many people watched the movie outside but the party was still a hit.  The party will always take care of itself so I have learned to just go with the flow.

We used a projector and a screen to post updates from the game.  Bob hung a 8x12 foot painters tarp from the house and use his portable Bose speakers for the sound system.  It wasn't perfect but for 6 bucks the screen was pretty sweet.

I asked neighbors to bring portable fire pits and wood to keep people warm.  The adults seem to party outside while the kids partied inside. Surprising huh?
We now have more older kids than young ones so not to many people dressed in costume.  As a result I will make a few changes next year.

Here are some pictures...

We served popcorn and movie candy.  Hot dogs are in the green cooler to stay warm.  Perfect meal for a movie or a ball game.  The candy disappear first.  Bummer I wanted to give it away on Halloween.  My mistake.
Carson wrapped the water bottles in a swamp water label. Believe it or not nobody would drink it until I assured them it was just water.  We also served cider and hot chocolate.
These cupcakes put me on the map when I was first starting out as a pastry chef so I always serve them when requested.  I still had people texting me this morning to get some to eat today. 
I added glow sticks to our planters and flower arrangements.  Even our fall centerpiece.  A package of 15 cost a dollar and lasted all night.  I got them from the target dollar section.  A lot of bang for my buck.  Bad photo, I know I must have had some adult swamp water by the time I took the photo.
Paula brought this amazing puking pumpkin filled with spinach dip!  Thanks Paula!
Looked even better as the night continued.


After Thoughts...

After each event I write down notes and put them in my monthly excel spread sheet.  Our party is always in October so I will place these notes there for next year.
  • No candy-everyone forgets to eat the REAL food
  • Have a fall party and not a Halloween one.  No one dresses up anymore and hopefully we will have better weather if I move the date up.
  • Serve popcorn in a bowl with bags on the side.  No one opened the bags.
  • Serve only hot chocolate the cider did not go.
  • Serve marshmallows and not whipped cream with the hot chocolate.  I forgot that whipped cream is a toy.  Silly me.
  • Disconnect all electronics so everyone has to go outside to run around to keep warm.

 Next Year's Plan

  • Chili Cook Off -adults
  • Cookie Cook Off-kids
  • Prize for each winner plus bragging rights
  • I will supply the water, hot chocolate, chili fixing's, bowls and silverware.
  • Serve a fruit and cheese platter or meat and cheese roll ups for guest who do not like chili.
  • Start the movie on time even if know one is watching
  • Borrow fire pits again 
  • Spray paint a wooden spoon (kids) and ladle (adults) gold for the the winners and attach a gift card.  Even after I buy the gift cards I will probably save money because everyone else will be doing the cooking.  Hee Hee!
    Take it One Prep at a Time,
    Chef Jackie

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fall Centerpiece

I made this centerpiece for our Halloween Party.  It is just apples and a black wire bowl (thanks Lu Ann for the bowl. Great gift!). 

Check it out.

I put sunflowers in small water picks.
Bought them at Kroger's  flower shop (the grocery store) .  I also bought the organic apples there.  They seem to have the best organic and natural foods available at a conventional grocery store.  Very convenient.


Love it!!!!  Easy as can be and edible.  Nothing to store after the Halloween.  That is right up my alley.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Candy Corn Pizza and Fox 2 TV

I was going to post this pizza sometime this week.  We actually made this last night so I could take pictures because I forgot to on Fox 2.  Well I forgot again and we just can't eat another pizza for the sake of pictures.  As luck would have it my sister posted it and the links to the Fox 2 cooking school.  She saved the day for me once again.  Thanks Kim!

Click here to see a picture of the pizza and the procedure to make it. 

Just after the recipe there are links to Fox 2 if you want to see me in action on TV with my mentor and friend Chef Kelli.  We still had an 80/20 food presentation but it was flip flopped.  80% sweets and about 20% real food.  It's Halloween sometimes you have to be a little scary and jump in head first to this sweet holiday.  Just remember to flop back!

Enjoy today and take it one prep at a time!
Chef Jackie

Friday, October 19, 2012

REAL Halloween

Halloween is one my favorite holidays. Each year we host a big party. My husband and I have been doing this for 18 years now. Our first party was actually right after our honeymoon. We had a giant masquerade party to celebrate! I have a huge family so it was go big or go small for the wedding! Small wedding big party. Best of both worlds.

Of course we have changed a lot since that first party and so have our parties! Our first party was with all of our family and friends. Then for the next 5 years we had “adult parties”. After we started a family our focus changed again and started to have “family friendly parties”.

We have done so many themes, harvest olympics, chili cook off (adults) and cupcake decorating contest (kids), night of the living dead (Zombies), pumpkin carving and Minute it to Win it (one of my faves). This years theme will be an Outdoor Movie shown on painters cloth hanging on our house (I really miss drive in’s for scary movies). I hope it works. We keep trying to do a test run but it keeps raining. I figure that we have better odds for good weather on our party because mother nature keeps sending us bad weather now (wishful thinking). We are going to play the movie Gremlins (not too scary)! We love that movie and I wanted to have something appropriate for the kids and nostalgic for the rest of us.

Every year I say “this is going to be our last party”. Around August the following year the kids start asking me what the theme of the party is and the adults start emailing and texting me in the beginning of October to find out the date of the big party! That’s when I realize we have to have the party. It’s tradition and it is is who we are as a family and a neighborhood. Really goofy, kind of scary and definitely creative! I keep thinking the teenagers and the pre-teens would be over this party by now but they never are. They are the reason we keep having it! I say if your kids still want to be with you jump at the chance to spend time with them especially when it reinforces to them all you need to have fun is each other (and maybe a little good food).

The food at our parties that has change a lot too. I have learn the simpler the better and to let people bring something if they want to instead of trying to do everything myself. It’s Halloween for goodness sake! Nothing has to go together or match or even make sense. Plus when your guests bring a dish to pass you know there will be something they like to eat!
As my menus have simplified the have become more REAL. What is simpler than the food that God gave us presented in a new and creative way to fit the theme of Halloween. Here are some ideas....

  • Poison Apple Tray-Serve apple slices with caramel dip and label it poison apples with goblin snot dip! Or spread cream cheese in the bottom of a pie plate followed by caramel apple dip and serve with apples on the side.

  • Pumpkin Cheese Ball -shaped a cheese ball like a pumpkin; use a butter knife to make side indents and celery stick for the stem; serve with crackers and veggies.

  • Banana Ghost- bananas cut in half. Stand up on flat side. Use mini chocolate chip for eyes. Brush with lemon juice if not eating right away or you will have gray ghost.
  • Frogs On a Log-fill a celery stick with cream cheese and top with green olive slices.
  • Spider Eggs -make deviled eggs and top with half a green or black olive. Cut slices from olives and cut olive slices in half to make the legs for the spiders.
  • Candy Corn Cheese Tray- Assemble yellow cheese cubes (or colby jack) followed by orange cheese cubes then white cheese cubes in the triangle shape of a candy corn on a serving platter.
  • Candy Corn Cracker-Spread cream cheese on a triangle shaped cracker and top with cheese slices in the color of candy corn and cut to fit the cracker. Yellow is the widest then orange then white.

  • Voodoo or Vampire Punch Bowl-peel apples and carve out faces or skull shapes. Float in red juice or apple cider.
  • Hot Apple Cider Floats-top hot apple cider with whipped cream ghost with mini chocolate chip eyes or a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.
  • Homemade Hot Chocolate
  • Three Cheese Pizza Candy Corn Slices-Sauce a pizza crust and sprinkle with shredded yellow cheese around the outer edge of the crust then do a ring of shredded orange cheese followed by a shredded white cheese circle in the center. After baking cut into wedge to resemble candy corn.
  • Pumpkin Faced Black Bean Dip -Combine 1-15 ounce can of refried beans with 2 teaspoons taco seasoning and 4 ounces cream cheese. Spread into a pie plate or round baking dish. Topped with shredded cheddar and bake until warm and cheese is melted. Remove from oven and place down 2 blue corn chips for eyes and one for the nose. Arrange black olive slices to form a mouth. Serve with blue tortilla chips-label them bat wings or cat ears.
  • 7 layer Mexican Dip. Make the last layer shredded orange cheddar. Do not cook. Make the face in the same way as above. Serve with blue tortilla chips. Label them bat wings or cat ears.
  • Pizza Muffin Mummies-Spread pizza sauce on 1 half of an english muffin or sprouted grain or gluten free hamburger bun or use a cookie cutter to cut a circle out of you desired bread. Cut provolone or mozzarella cheese slices into strips on place on top of sauce; leaving space for the sauce to peek through even after the cheese melts. Tuck 2 olive slices under one strip of cheese and over another so that the eyes show. Bake in a 350 degree oven until cheese is melted.
  • Zombie Intestines or Blood and Guts-Purchase hot dogs or sausages that are still linked together. Bake in a 350 degree oven and brush with BBQ Sauce or Ketchup. Remove from oven and serve on a platter labeled Zombie intestines. Let guest use scissors to cut of their own portion.
  • Zombie Food-Spaghetti noodles with red sauce. Label it Brains!

Ghost Hunters Buffet
Fill clear jars and containers with the items below then make creepy looking labels and hang them on the jars.
  • Bat Wings-chocolate covered pretzels
  • Ravens Bones-white yogurt covered pretzels
  • Rat Droppings-chocolate covered raisins, cranberries or cherries
  • Witches Warts or Ghost Poop-popcorn or fresh mini mozzarella balls
  • Pumpkin Teeth-baby carrots
  • Werewolf Claws-cashews
  • Frog Eyes or Toad Warts-green grapes
  • Poison Apples-fill a jar with small apples
  • Goblin Fingers-baby pickles in a jar
  • Cat’s Tongue-place beef jerky strips in a jar.
  • Franken Fingers-ham slices wrapped around cheese stick or ham sticks and cheese sticks
This menu isn’t completely perfect but it’s pretty close to all REAL and definitely hits my 80/20 rule for eating bridging foods in moderation (this would be foods that are not picked, gathered, hunted or fished but are organic, sprout and/or contain only a few ingredients).

What am I serving at our Party?
Steamed Hot Dogs in buns wrapped in foil and kept warm in a cooler. I have one of the short stackable Coleman ones. Love it! Fits in low profile place like on a boat or in the bed of a truck. It also keeps a 9x13 dish warm or cold. Easy to reach into even on a table.
Hot Chocolate and Warm Apple Cider
Popcorn and Kettle Corn
Pot Luck-whatever anyone else wants to bring. I’m hoping for some chili or soup! It already is pretty cold here in good old Michigan!
The party starts at dusk so everyone should have eaten dinner at home but I never count on that! The simpler the food the more the kids eat and then they don’t turn into crabby monsters when they get tired from all of the fun!

Looking for more REAL Halloween Recipes. Check the Ebook at Get REAL for Kids . I wrote the recipes and Dr. Sue and Angelle provided a lot of great content and ideas on how to keep your kids sweet without filling them with sugar!

Halloween Treat Bags

I got this idea from It is what it is and made it using a different technique.  I am not a techy (spelling) so I enlisted my sons help.  Clearly I can't spell either!  Hear is what we made and how we did it.

 Creating the Images-no special program or skills needed!  Believe me I am low-tech.
  • First we went to Google images and picked some free clip art. 
  • Then we copied it to a word document and change the paper settings to 5 x 10 inches. 
  • We clicked on the image then clicked on format on the tool bar. Then we clicked text wrapping and clicked on square.  This allowed us to move the picture.  Not sure if we needed this step but he was in charge of the technical support for this project so I just went with it. 
  • We dragged the clip art down towards the bottom of the page and re-sized it by pulling the little circle from the corner so the image would increase in size without it becoming distorted.  Carson taught me that.  I always pulled from the sides and had funky looking images.  Great tip Carson!

Preparing the Bags
  • We taped the flap edge down so it would not get stuck in the printer.  I know its hard to see.
  • We cut the jagged edge from the top to make a clean edge to feed through the printer.

Printing the Bag
  • We fed the straight edge through the printer with tapped side facing the printer. 
  • We could only print one at a time.  I would load then he would press print.  Then we would do the next one.  We are not sure why the image print correctly when we fed the paper (lunch sack) upside down.  Every printer is different so this may take a few tries to get your image to print where you want it.  You might need to move the image to the top of the paper and turn it upside down.  We have a few misprints that we will actually use as lunch sacks. LOL!

Finishing the Treat Bags
  • After printing we gently removed the tape and filled the bags. Then we folded them down one inch towards the image and then fold down again another inch.   
  • We punch  two holes through the folds about one inch apart.
  • We cut a 13 inch piece of ribbon and threaded it through the holes starting in the front through the back and through the front again. 
  • We turn the bag upside down and tied the bow.  This made the bow lay correctly.  We trimmed any excess ribbon.
We loved this so much that we made a few different designs.

I would like to thank Carson and his Media Arts teacher Ms. St. Pierre.  She taught him so many great things.  Now I have my own Tech guy right here at home.
Yeah me!
Thanks for visiting!
Chef Jackie

Thursday, October 18, 2012

One More Halloween Printable Website

Mom's by Heart offers 100 Halloween Printables all in one spot.  Cupcake toppers, posters and jar labels.  You name this site has it.  They also feature a lot of different styles scary, cute and modern.  Check it out!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Halloween Printables

As Halloween approaches I have begun working on our annual Halloween party.  I will also be doing a Halloween segment on Fox 2 Detroit October 20th with Chef Kelli from Pure Food 2u .  Both these events require a that I do some research for free Halloween printables.  I might be able cook but I stink at the decoration and the packaging end of things. My sister Kim from Plumberry Pie is great at the little details that make a party cool.  I am more a big picture kind of girl and concentrate on the food. I spent this weekend looking for free Halloween printables and this is what I found.  The below links were the easiest to access and use. I hope this will save you some time as you prepare for your own Halloween festivities.

The first two links are fellow bloggers so I wanted to recognize them right away.  Some times you have to look out for us little guys and make sure credit is given where credit is due.

Tip Junkie led me to many other great blogs and websites.  It was quick and painless.  What a great Halloween resource!
Craft Interrupted was my favorite site that her site led me to. 
Great job you guys!  I loved everything you had to share.

Okay now for the big guys.  My favorite large companies that have great ideas and printables are Better Homes and Gardens and Family Fun.

Happy Haunting!

Chef Jackie

If you are interested in a healthy Halloween Cookbook check out my REAL Halloween eCookbook co-written with Dr.Sue and Angelle from Get REAL for Kids.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Shop at Home Meals

As a chef my greatest strength has always been prepping and planning ahead for the next week’s menu. I teach classes and write EBooks on this subject for the home cook. I also started this blog to help others be more successful in their home meal planning efforts.  Recently I found myself behind the eight ball and did not have time to shop nonetheless prep our weekly meals. Being so busy I decided I would skip grocery shopping for two weeks and make meals from food we had in our home. 

For the first time in a very longtime I would be cooking without a REAL plan and just living in the moment. YIKES! I know people do this all the time but that’s not how I roll.  This was very scary for me and I’m trained chef!   In addition to everything else I decided to take a blogging class; what was I thinking putting more on my plate right now? My first assignment is to write a post without a recipe or picture in it! This is my homework so I hope you like it!   

This is how I fed my family with almost no plan, no grocery shopping and no recipes for two weeks. 

1.      Evaluated what I had in my refrigerator, freezer and pantry.

2.      Wrote down simple dishes I could make from what was on hand just like when I was single, broke and didn’t feel guilty if I didn’t have a perfect meal on the table (Mommy guilt is a killer). Okay I admit it this is somewhat of a plan but I had to do it!  Ultimately I knew this would save me time and that was my goal.

3.      I accepted we might not eat 80/20 more like 70/30.  We strive to eat 80% REAL unprocessed food; which means picked, hunted, gathered or fished.  Picking up fast food, hunting for a cookie, gathering up snacks for a meal and fishing for excuse not to cook doesn’t count.

4.      I accepted that it is okay to live in the moment and not plan everything. People live and cook this way every day.  So could I! 

Our Meals (not in any particular order)


·         Apple, hard-boiled egg and nuts

·         Apple slices with almond butter and cheese cubes

·         Cheese stick (cut from a block of cheese) , grapes and hard-boiled egg

·         Cinnamon Ezekiel toast spread with Nutella and topped with apple slices (It’s made with nuts and cocoa so it was gathered right?)  

·         Cinnamon Ezekiel toast spread with peanut butter and on topped with banana slices

·        Egg, Cheese and Potato Quesadillas made from leftover scrambled eggs, potatoes, and cheese sandwiched between two tortillas; cooked in my Panini maker.  I really want to put a picture here. That darn assignment!  You’ll just have to picture this buttery yummy quick breakfast in your mind!  Okay you can stop drooling now and go make one!

·        Breakfast Burritos I made from leftover (“planned over”) sausage and eggs, I added cheese and just rolled it all up in a tortilla and then in parchment paper.  I reheated them in a steam basket.  They also could be wrapped in foil and baked.  I don’t microwave but if you do go for it! 

·        I had soups and meatloaf muffins from the freezer, leftovers and fresh and frozen steamed veggies.  Thank goodness for my friend Jen from the gym who gave me some extra veggies from her garden otherwise we would have been light in the fresh veggie department!  Of course it helps that I go to the gym at 6:00 am so I pretty much beat everyone to the free food!

·        Carson my son has been living on nuts, nut butters, apples, grapes, oranges, beef jerky, cheese and meat cubes.  He’s not a big veggie fan.

·        Bob my husband tends to fend for himself and just eats whatever’s available. He’s the gatherer in the family.  I’m lucky because I have friends who tell me they cook meat, potatoes and salad every night.  They even bake fresh bread after working all day!  I don’t have to tell you Mom’s that you have many jobs and are expected to do them all well.  What I will tell you is you are amazing for working or staying home, being the chauffeur, scheduler, counselor, cook and loving mate all with a smile on your face even if you are grumbling a bit inside both from hunger and frustration.  At dinner time Carson always quotes the movie A Christmas Story and says “my Mom hasn’t had a hot meal in 15 years” It cracks him up that her oldest son Ralphie is only 10 but she hasn’t had a hot meal in 15 years.  Hmm, wonder how long she’s been married? 


·        Pork Stew– From the freezer re-heated and served with baked potatoes.  I made a few extra potatoes so I could add them to a breakfast quesadilla and use as a side with another dinner.

·        Chicken Pot Pie Soup and Chicken Potpie from the freezer.

·        Tacos – Cooked taco meat from the freezer.  We made soft tacos and taco salad.

·        Oat Crepes with almond butter, apples and cinnamon, served with nitrate free bacon.

·         Scrambled Eggs with Sausage- I made extra for the breakfast burritos and quesadillas.

·        Nitrate free hot dogs that came back with us from our last summer hoorah at the beach house, thanks Chef Kelli!  Served with cucumbers and tomatoes tossed with a little vinaigrette.

·        Marinated (used vinaigrette) Grilled Chicken served with steamed organic frozen veggies and pan fried potatoes from my “planned over potatoes”. I made extra chicken for the chicken rice toss, quesadillas, cubed lunch meats and salads.

·        Chicken Rice Toss-Diced leftover grilled chicken, fresh and frozen vegetables and frozen cooked rice (yes cooked rice can be frozen; I always keep it on hand for a quick side or stir fry anytime). I reheated everything in a steam basket then tossed with pine nuts, dried cherries and vinaigrette. This was a hit!  Very easy, very inexpensive and tasted great cold the next day as a salad!  Really a double duty dinner!!  Maria (my blogging instructor) if you’re reading this that wasn’t really a recipe more like a quick dinner “suggestion”.

·        Quesadillas-Grilled chicken and leftover veggies tossed with cheese and sandwiched between two tortillas pan fried like a grilled cheese. Yes I buttered the tortillas!

·        Pizza and Salad- we pick up from a local pizza place.  This was not as quick as my other meals because of driving there and back but everyone loved it!

·        Leftovers and Salads

So many great things came from these two weeks.  We tried and like a new easy dinner, the fridge was easy to clean, I saved time and money. I learned that it is okay to plan a little or not at all.  My previously frozen meals saved the day and those were planned, see my freezer fall back post.  The unplanned meals force me to be more creative. This was a great experience and I PLAN to do it one week every month!  You know I can’t go too long without a plan! 

Take it one prep at a time,

Chef Jackie

FYI-There are some recipes from previous posts in the links if you click on them!  Maria I had to do it!