While waiting for trick-or-treaters tonight, my husband and I will be enjoying some Halloween treats of our own.

About a week ago, I made black maraschino cherries to use as a Halloween cocktail garnish. They’re easy — just add black food coloring to a jar of maraschino cherries, and let them sit in the refrigerator for about a week.  Depending on the size of the jar, use about 1/2-1 teaspoon of black food coloring.  Rinse and drain the cherries before using.


McCormick black food coloring works great

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Steeping in the inky liquid

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Black cherries!

Because it’s almost always hot and muggy on Halloween here, a cold drink is welcome on Halloween. Aperol is an apertif made with bitter and sweet oranges and other “herbs and roots.”  An Aperol Spritz, with its neon orange color, garnished with black cherries, makes a very Halloween-y cocktail.

Recipe type: Beverage
  • 1-1/2 ounces Prosecco
  • 1 ounce Aperol
  • Splash of club soda or seltzer
  1. For each cocktail, fill cocktail glass with ice. Pour Prosecco into the glass, followed by Aperol and a splash of club soda. Garnish as desired.



 Aperol spritzes in their Halloween costumes

Now you can’t just drink on Halloween — or can you?  Halloween-y Crostini is a colorful twist on tapenade, made with kalamata olives, carrots, and pickled banana peppers.

  • ½ cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped jarred banana pepper rings
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Toast crackers or toasted baguette slices
  1. Place olives in a food processor or mini-chopper, and process until finely chopped, but not pureed. Transfer to a small bowl. Place capers, banana peppers, garlic, and carrot in food processor, and process until finely chopped. Add to bowl with olives. Stir in olive oil and oregano, and mix well. Transfer to a small ramekin or serving container, and serve with toast crackers or baguette slices. Provide spreaders to spread mixture on crostini.


 Halloween-y Crostini

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Oh no, dolly!  Where did you get that black eye?  Did somebody hit you?  Don’t worry, this little guy, who I found at an estate sale, is not from the Child Protective Services collection. Nope, his twin brother gave him that shiner:


I’m guessing that Dolly Momma probably grew so tired of their seemingly endless bickering that she just gloved up her Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Babies and told them to work it out themselves.  Or at least that’s her story.

My sister and I used to fight when we were kids.  When we’d had enough, we’d yell that we were “telling on Mommy,” which still makes no sense.  And Mom didn’t really want to deal with it anyway.  Except when we were in the car.  We’d be going at it in the back seat on our way to wherever, (“stop humming,” “stay on your side,” “I hate you,” etc.), and when Mom couldn’t stand listening to it any more, she’d reach behind her with her bony manicured bejeweled hand, never turning around to look, and just start waving it around wildly.  We’d burst into uncontrolled fits of laughter, screaming, “the Claw, watch out for the Claw, aaaahhhhhhh!!!!!”  It was very effective at stopping the fighting, at least temporarily, and as best I can recall, she never drew blood.

Although I can sympathize with Dolly Momma– heaven knows listening to your kids bicker can get on your last nerve real fast–a wise Dolly Momma knows to step in before things get out of hand, like it did for this poor dolly:


“Baby Ready for the Trash” is an example of doll-fighting (or doll ownership) gone horribly wrong.  I ran across it in a cradle with a bunch of other sad-looking dolls at an estate sale, with a $10 “as is” sticker on it (I’m thinking the “as is” part was rather obvious).  Someone must have REALLY loved this doll!

Well, the two little fighters inspire me to make one thing — PUNCH!  As much as I am itching to turn on the fireplace and bake pumpkin pies, it is still really hot and humid here on the Gulf Coast, and cold drinks still reign supreme.  I was introduced to this simple and delicious fruity drink at a law firm party.  It was a lavish party, but no matter how much money the law firm threw at it, in the end it was still a bunch of lawyers, and I was B-O-R-E-D to tears.  I went up to the bartender and asked him to mix me up something to help me forget how bored I was, and this is what he made for me.  After a few of these, I have to admit, the party got a lot more interesting.

Recipe type: Beverage
  • 1-1/2 ounces coconut rum
  • 1-1/2 ounces freshly-squeezed orange juice
  • 3 ounces pineapple juice
  • Dash of grenadine syrup
  • ½ cup crushed ice
  1. Place ice in a highball glass. Combine rum and juices in a small pitcher or shaker, and mix well. Pour over ice. Top with a splash of grenadine.




I’ll fight you for it!



Meet Josefina, who came home with me from a local thrift shop.  As her sombrero advertises, she is from Mexico.  Her blank stare has me convinced that Josefina is a Mexican Stepford wife:

020Do you remember The Stepford Wives, the 1972 novel by Ira Levin (who also authored Rosemary’s Baby)?


The 1975 movie version starred Katharine Ross and Paula Prentiss, and the 2004 remake starred Nicole Kidman and Bette Midler.  The inside flap of the book jacket describes the novel as “one of those rare novels whose very titles may well become part of our vocabulary.  For, after reading it, you will never forget Stepford and the horror it contains; and there is a certain kind of woman who, from now on, will be known as a Stepford Wife.”  OK, if you say so.

Curious to see if the novel stood the test of time, I read the Stepford Wives, and let me tell you, this is one of the stupidest books I have ever read.  The premise is that all of the men in Stepford belong to the Men’s Association, where they plot to kill their wives and replace them with robots.  This is supposed to be believable because the President of the Men’s Association, known as “Diz,” worked in “audioanimatronics” at Disneyland, “helping to create the moving and talking presidential figures.”  Other members of the Men’s Association are engineers, vinyl polymer researchers, specialists in microcircuitry, optical sensor designers — you get the picture.  The robots look just like the wives, except that they have big boobs, tiny waists, dress like Donna Reed, and have immaculate houses.  So for all their advanced degrees, are these guys idiots, or what?  Haven’t they ever heard of mistresses and housekeepers?

What if instead of the men replacing the women with robots, the women replaced the men with robots?  Can’t you just picture it?  The men would come home from work — where they would go 7 days a week for at least 12 hours each day — and when they come home and their wives greet them at the door, the men say something like, “Oh, don’t you look pretty — those are my favorite sweat pants.”  And when they ask what their wives made for dinner and the wives say “reservations,” the men toss their heads back and guffaw as if they have never heard that joke before and it is the funniest thing they ever heard.  And then they whisk their ladies off to dinner and buy them surf AND turf, with no expectations of anything in return.  Back at home, the men help the kids with their homework, while the women do . . . oh, who cares, as long as it doesn’t involve hot-gluing crap on a tri-board.

Anyway, I was curious to see what a Stepford wife cooked for her family in Ira Levin’s warped mind.  To my surprise, there were no meals described in the book.  The only references to food were coffee, a sandwich, shrimp on toothpicks, and “hot breakfasts.”  I was surprised at the notion that the men of Stepford would prefer a clean house to a home-cooked meal, and wondered what kind of environment Mr. Levin grew up in.  Did he never come home to the wonderful smells of a home-cooked dinner?   I think the “design team” probably should have included Thomas Keller or Mario Batali or someone who knows what it takes to make a delicious meal.

Well, maybe they don’t eat in Stepford, but surely they drink.  Inspired by the Mexican Stepford Wife, I made a batch (or two or three) of Classic Sangria.  Technically, sangria is Spanish, not Mexican, but I challenge you to find a Mexican restaurant that doesn’t serve some version of sangria.  This drink has been on my culinary bucket list for a long time, and this recipe is a great one.  It’s a sneaky drink — it looks so innocent with the fruit floating prettily around in it, but be warned that the brandy and Grand Marnier in it pack quite a punch.  I’ve served it three times in the last month or so (the last time I made a quadruple batch), and there is never a drop left.

Recipe type: Beverages
  • ½ cup Spanish brandy
  • ½ cup triple sec or Grand Marnier
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 unpeeled oranges, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 unpeeled lemon, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 unpeeled lime, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle red wine
  • ½ cup unsweetened lemon-flavored sparkling water (I use LaCroix)
  1. In a large pitcher or container with lid (I used a large Igloo jug), stir brandy, triple sec, and sugar together. Mix in fruit slices, cover, and allow the fruit to macerate in the refrigerator overnight or least 8 hours.
  2. Just before serving, add the wine and lemon sparkling water. Serve over ice.




 I’ll take self-serve sangria over self-serve ice cream any day!


In honor of the Summer Olympic Games, I created a “Greek Temple” (kind of like a Shirley Temple), for my son.  There’s not much to it — just 7UP with sliced cherries to represent the Olympic rings.  I used maraschino cherries for the red ring, and Roland lemon, lime, and wild berry cherries for the yellow, green, and blue rings.  To make the black ring, earlier this week I put some of the blue cherries and their juice in a small jar and added black food coloring, which worked great (and gives me some ideas for Halloween).  My son told me the drink was “cool.”  🙂

I also made Olympic Pie Crust Cookies, heavily decorated with colored sanding sugars, and was going to use them to decorate a dessert — maybe a sheetcake or trifle.  But my husband said they were lame, and the kids couldn’t wait to eat them, and I guess that’s just the way the Olympic pie crust cookie crumbles.  But just in case anyone’s interested, here they are, in all their sparkly, lame, Olympic glory.  🙂

Lame AND sparkly

And because I know you were wondering, according to Wikipedia, the Olympic rings were introduced in 1912 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games.  The five rings stand for the union of the five continents and the meeting of athletes from around the world at the Olympic Games.