Healthy Halloween Treat: Bloody Popcorn

October 19, 2010
healthy halloween treat bloody popcorn

Healthy Halloween treat: Bloody Popcorn

Maybe you are sick of the candies everywhere at Halloween. Or you are just one of those people who prefers savory, salty treats. You are in luck!

Okay, I admit, this isn’t exactly red, so the name Bloody Popcorn doesn’t quite do it justice. Besides, it’s not runny, like blood. You could always say it’s flavored with dried blood.

The color will be more red if your paprika and chili powder are really fresh. At any rate, trust me, nobody will complain about the flavor, even if they do scrunch their noses at the name.

This has cayenne in it, which gives it a bit of heat. If you are serving this to kids who aren’t used to spicy foods, leave the cayenne out.

The mixture of spices makes for a sweet, salty, slighty fiery mixture. It’s quite addictive.

And popcorn is a whole grain. That’s right! You can eat it without guilt. In fact, know that you are getting fiber and nutrients from it.

Popcorn Nutritional Information

It is full of complex carbohydrates and 1.2 grams of fiber per cup of popped. That means it keeps you fuller longer and your blood sugar from spiking, unlike simple sugars and refined foods without fiber.

It contains a small amount of protein, as well as other minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. It’s a good source of manganese as well, a micro-nutrient.

Vegans, no worries. This is a completely vegan recipe.

Recipe: Vegan Bloody Popcorn

“Dried blood” spice mixture:
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar (organic if possible)

2 Tablespoons popcorn (organic if possible)
2 Tablespoons canola oil


Combine spices in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside while you pop the corn.

In a saucepan with a tightly fitting lid, place oil and ONE kernel of popcorn. Cover and place on high heat.

When the one kernel pops, dump in the rest of the kernels.

Cover and begin shaking the pan back and forth over the stove, to keep everything moving and to prevent burning.

Keep one hand on the lid while you continue to move the pot. The popcorn will start popping and continue for about 30 seconds or so.

The moment you hear the popping stop, remove it from heat and dump it into a large bowl.

Immediately add the spice mixture and toss well, to get as much to stick to the kernels as possible. There will be some that collects at the bottom, but you’ll get enough to stick to make it delicious.

My guess is that this will become one of your favorite healthy Halloween treats. And I think you’ll end up snacking on it the rest of the year, too!

Find more ideas for healthy Halloween treats, party food and Halloween party stuff.

Samosas and Banana Lassi

November 23, 2009

I couldn’t resist the temptation to have some Indian food. There are two restaurants in my neighborhood here, and one was closed, so I tried the other one. This one is New Delhi Restaurant on Ratchawithi Road, near the intersection with Ratchaphakhinai Road.

Like most places, it looks unpretentious enough: a few tables roadside and about eight more inside, just a step up onto the platform and under the roof. The man sitting at the front looked unfriendly and bored, watching people go by. But he was actually quite sweet, making suggestions to people as he took their orders, and encouraging me to add the cilantro-mint sauce to the samosas.

I decided on two samosas and a banana lassi, since my stomach was feeling a little gurgly and unstable, and I know the beneficial bacteria in yogurt not only helps to balance the digestive tract, it also helps improve immunity.

The creamy, tart yogurt was in perfect harmony with the apple banana, which has just a hint of “green” flavor to it. I could taste the touch of salt along with the sweetness, something I think many of our desserts at home could benefit from.

In Asia, it’s quite common to add some salt to your dessert, which balances the sweetness and makes it not cloyingly sweet, as desserts can be.

Crisp samosas, stuffed with curried potato filling, and cilantro-mint sauce

The samosas were perfectly crisp and crunchy, without being heavy or oily, despite the oil stains on the red tablecloth, which were there when I sat down. The filling was flavorful and light, not overly spicy, and not tasting like it just mashed potatoes inside, like other samosas I’ve eaten have been.

As I left, I told him the man it was delicious, patting my stomach. He smiled broadly, which transformed his face into one of a boy. That alone was worth the 100 Thai baht I paid (about $3 US.)

Vegan Banana Smoothie

November 9, 2009

banana smoothie

Yet another use for that homemade yogurt--smoothies!

A friend of mine has been enjoying the soymilk smoothies I’ve shared with her, and she especially likes anything with bananas in it. She wanted to know how to make a drink with yogurt, which her husband likes, and bananas, which she likes. I whipped this up for her.

Banana Smoothies

1 cup yogurt (soy or dairy–both work great)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups or 1 tray ice, or 16 ice cubes
1 haole banana* or 3 apple bananas

Put all ingredients in a blender. Blend until mostly smooth. This is quite thick; you’ll need to stop and scrape down the sides several times in the process.

If you can’t fit all the ice into your blender, leave a few cubes out, blend a few seconds, then add the remaining ice.

Makes 2 to 4 drinks.

*By haole bananas, I mean the big, long ones you will find in any grocery store. I don’t know the variety names. Their ends are smooth and blunt.

The apple bananas are the shorter, stubbier, tangier bananas with a “nipple” on the end. They are often used in Asian desserts (such as Thai coconut milk and bananas) and retain a firmer texture when ripe or cooked.

Both the yogurt and apple bananas, which I used today, give a lovely contrasting tang to the drink. Adjust the sweetener and spices, which are inspired by lassi, an Indian blended yogurt drink, to your taste.

Vegetarian Halloween Party Food

October 31, 2009

The vegetarian Halloween party was a hit. Despite a few “WHAT are we eating?” comments throughout the evening, all the guests were great sports and tried everything. In fact, despite being so full after the appetizers that they only ate a small portion of the main course, everyone finished all their dessert….

I mentioned some of this in yesterday’s post…The vegan Coagulated Blood Dip and Mummified Skin Flakes (aka beet dip and pita chips) were a hit, as well as the Stuffed Roaches (dates filled with a vegan cream-cheese-like mixture and dipped in fake bacon bits.)

My friends very artfully laid out vegetable slices and strips to create this Skeleton Platter, which I served with my vegan ranch dip, renamed Moldy Brain Dip. Find the recipe here. Lip-smackingly delicious, and cute, too!

halloween party part two 003

Skeleton Platter with Moldy Brain Dip

“Eeyoo,” my friend said, as she ladled out the Pond Scum Soup. I had her pipe soy yogurt on top to create the spider web appearance, and next time I looked, she had consumed all of it. So it obviously tasted just fine.

I had another friend (who loves deviled eggs) work on these Devil’s Eyes. He put an olive in the center of each one and piped ketchup to create blood vessels. Not a great picture, but you get the idea.

devils eyes

Devil's Eyes, aka Deviled Eggs

The main course–Chunky Cat Barf and Steamed Maggots with Spider Web Bread was also eaten, albeit sparingly.

But I think the two standout dishes (if you had to choose two; they were all devoured with equal amounts of gusto) would have to be the Pumpkin Smoothies and the Black Widow Spider Cakes.

Vegan Pumpkin Smoothies
1 cup yogurt or soy yogurt
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sugar or other sweetener, or to taste–depends on the sweetness of your pumpkin and the tartness of the yogurt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 cup water–you may need to add more
1 tray (=2 cups or 16 ice cubes) ice
Blend in a blender until smooth. Adjust sweetener and water as necessary.

For the Black Widow Spider Cakes, I used a basic vegan cake recipe, and tried to do a vegan molten chocolate lava cake using the method explained by Bryanna Clark Grogan.

Basically, you make a filling, freeze it in ice cubes, then put them into the center of the batter and bake. The cake batter cooks into cake; the filling thaws into ooze.

I made a filling of berries cooked with cornstarch and a small amount of sweetener, water and lemon juice, and froze them in an ice cube tray. I put them into greased custard cups and oven-safe tea cups, then poured the cake batter over them.

After baking, we turned them out onto a plate upside down and used melted semi-sweet chocolate chips to pipe legs. The heads were made by adding a commercial chocolate truffle (on top a tiny mound of melted chocolate, so it would stay in place.) Although the “guts” didn’t ooze like I had hoped, because I made the filling too thick, it did make the middle of the cakes appropriately mushy and the tartness of the berries complemented the cake nicely.

I got the idea for the spider cakes from this website called “Not Martha.”

Vegan Chocolate Cakes
1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup water

Mix all ingredients together. Spoon over “guts” (optional) into greased custard cups or muffin tins. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Invert immediately onto a plate. Use melted chocolate to create legs and something (truffle, doughnut hole, cookie, mound of melted chocolate) for the spider head.

black widow spider cake

Vegan Black Widow Spider Cakes--fun to make and eat, and cute, too

Beverage was Body Part Punch, made with cranberry and grape juices. I froze a hand made from soymilk and orange juice, to create a realistic flesh color, in a latex glove. Lychees were stuffed with raisins and frozen for “eyeballs”, and a can of peaches was also dumped in for “flesh.”

Despite my worries, the food wasn’t so gross that it stopped anyone from eating it. Thanks to my friends for letting me have my dream of a Halloween party come true, and thanks to all the creative people and cooks out there who come up with these ideas and share them online.

I hope you can take some of these recipes and ideas and use them for your own spooky, fun, and delicious vegetarian Halloween party. Happy Halloween!

Vegan Chocolate Frozen Soy Yogurt

October 23, 2009

Tangy and refreshing with rich chocolate flavor

Tangy and refreshing with rich chocolate flavor

More playing around with the delicious soy yogurt I’ve been making. Since the weather has been so hot and muggy, I have been reluctant to experiment in the kitchen with anything requiring heat. But frozen yogurt hits the spot.

This has less of a creamy consistency than the
mango frozen yogurt, since there is no fruit to give it body. It melts more like a sorbet or ice milk and always refreshes.

I made this for my father using dairy yogurt. The only difference was you could taste the dairy in it–it tasted more like a milk chocolate bar than the soy version. But both have an unexpected tang from the yogurt, which grows on you.

Vegan Chocolate Frozen Soy Yogurt
2 cups yogurt
2 TBS cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Blend all ingredients in a blender. Freeze until half frozen. Blend again to break up ice crystals. Freeze until firm.

To serve, remove from freezer about 10-15 minutes before serving, so it can soften.

Vegan Mango Frozen Soy Yogurt

October 13, 2009
Yogurt tang, fresh fruit, and a dash of spice combine in this creamy frozen yogurt.

Yogurt tang, fresh fruit, and a dash of spice combine in this creamy frozen yogurt.

What to do with all the soy yogurt I’ve been making? I mean, besides just eating it by the spoonful? 🙂

Our 30-foot mango tree is still dropping a few mangoes every day, the very last of the season. However, from such a height, not much is left once they’ve hit the ground. So I have been painstakingly cutting the tiny bits from every salvageable fruit and freezing them to use where the texture isn’t crucial.

This frozen yogurt highlights both fruit and yogurt. The tang from the yogurt comes through, and you can add spices and tinker with the flavor.

Why pay for commercial yogurt when this is easy and loaded with beneficial microorganisms? Substitute other seasonal fruit in your area if mango is not available. Persimmon season is starting…I bet that would work splendidly.

Gee, now I am forced to consume all of this batch to make room in the freezer for the next test. heh heh.

Vegan Mango Frozen Soy Yogurt
1 cup mango
1-1/2 cups soy yogurt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp salt

Puree all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Freeze until halfway frozen. Put back in the blender and blend again, to create a thick, shake-like consistency without lumps. Freeze until firm.

For ease of serving, remove from the freezer about 15 minutes before serving, or microwave 15 seconds to soften just enough that you can scoop it easily.

Soy Yogurt, Take Two

September 17, 2009
This second batch of soy yogurt (served with the end-of-season mangoes) was slightly thicker than the first time but still not as thick as I'd like.

This second batch of soy yogurt (served with the end-of-season mangoes) was slightly thicker than the first time but still not as thick as I'd like.

My first attempts at making soy yogurt were a success, but I wanted this time to see if I could get it a bit thicker. I don’t want to have to strain it, so I’m tweaking the recipe in the hopes of getting something I like.

After watching Alton Brown on the tv show Good Eats, I thought adding a small amount of soy flour to my soymilk might help. The finished product was noticeably thicker, at least on the bottom of the container, although there still is some wateriness, which you can see in the photo above.

However, I also wrapped a towel around the inner container before stuffing it into the insulated cooler, and I put a towel underneath the whole thing, to maintain the warm temperature for a longer period of time. The ideal range is about 115-120 degrees F. The bacteria will continue to make yogurt as it cools, but not as vigorously.

Since it was thicker at the bottom, this may be due to the towel and not the soy flour. It didn’t occur to me to put a towel on top. So I need to isolate the effects. Next time I’ll try towels but no soy flour and see what happens.

One thing is for sure: the yogurt from the first batch, which has been in my fridge, is getting more sour over time. The lovely tang and creaminess make it addictive, and I find myself dipping in for a spoonful every now and then. I guess it’s healthier than dipping into something like caramel sauce!

The live bacteria are good for my digestive system, which helps my immune system. And I could be paying a lot of money for commercial yogurt instead, which often has gums, thickeners and gelatin, which I don’t want to eat. Mine has just soymilk, a small amount of the first batch of soy yogurt, and some soy flour.

Gee, on second thought, maybe the soy yogurt as starter this time made a difference. Last time I used commercial dairy yogurt as a starter.

Well, I guess that means only one thing: back to the lab!