Here Comes Peter Cottontail

Chocolate Tarantula and Octopus

Gosh! Easter’s on its way! April Valley must really be hopping right now. Well you know, in Spring the Easter Bunny never sleeps. There are tulips that need tending and baskets that need mending and a million other things. But don’t worry guys. Peter Cottontail’s the right bunny for the job and he’s got everything covered. He won’t let us down. Sure he made one little mistake and ruined Easter, but that’s all in the past. You know the story, right? Seymour S. Sassafras first told/showed it to me a long time ago and it’s been one of my favorites ever since.

Colonel Wellington B. Bunny decides to retire from the position of Chief Easter Bunny and chooses Peter as his successor. However, the kid hating, January “Boom Boom” Irontail (Hee hee. I couldn’t help myself.) wants to be the ruler of April Valley and won’t allow Peter to have the the job. According to the constitution of April Valley, the Chief Easter Bunny shall be the one who delivers the most eggs, so Irontail swoops in and proposes a contest. Peter readily accepts, certain that he’ll win. But instead of getting lots of sleep, the irresponsible bunny decides to stay out late partying the night before Easter. Thanks to that and Irontail sealing the lips of Peter’s alarm clock rooster, Peter sleeps through Easter and loses to Irontail. To make up for his blunder, Peter sets out in Mr. Sassafras’ Yestermorrowbile, piloted by Antoine the caterpillar, to revisit Easter. Unfortunately, Irontail spies Peter and has his spider foul up the wires of the Yestermorrowbile. They pass right over Easter, but there are still plenty more holidays in a year. If Peter wants to give away his eggs, he has to try one (or all) of those.

Now you’d think that since Here Comes Peter Cottontail is all about Easter eggs, I’d just paint some eggs. Well it’s not happening. Maybe someday in the future, but not today. I’ve always enjoyed the egg hunt, but my favorite part of Easter is the chocolate. Works of delicious art like those created by Milkchocolateangelo and Leonardo di Bittersweet. And even though Irontail’s idea of Easter is a lot less…umm cheerful, he still wants the candy sculptors to keep busy. But instead of bunnies and chicks, Irontail wants chocolate tarantulas and octopuses. Ha! I just can’t pass those up! The candy carvers of April Valley start off with big blocks of chocolate to make their art, but I don’t have those. Plus carving isn’t very forgiving because you can’t add back what you’ve taken away. So I’m going to sculpt these guys out of modeling chocolate instead. A wise caterpillar once said, “When you can’t get it all together, improvise.”

Recipe makes one chocolate tarantula and one chocolate octopus.

Ingredients

2 pounds chocolate, finely chopped-Milk, Dark, Whatever (I’m a Semisweet fan myself.)

2/3-1 cup light corn syrup (Milk takes closer to 2/3 cup while Dark takes 1 cup)

 

Directions

I prefer to make the modeling chocolate in two smaller batches, but you can make it all at one time. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or a bowl over a pot of simmering water. At the same time, microwave the corn syrup for a few seconds until it’s warm. Allow the chocolate to cool to 90-91 degrees F., stirring often. Pour the corn syrup into the chocolate and fold it in with a rubber spatula until fully incorporated. Be careful not to overmix! Pour the chocolate out onto a cool countertop. I like to chill a baking sheet in the refrigerator and work my chocolate on that. Cover with plastic wrap and let the chocolate rest until it firms up to a workable consistency. Depending on how hot it is, this can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. Unwrap the chocolate and knead until smooth.

Now comes the fun part. Half of the modeling chocolate will be used for the tarantula and the other half for the octopus. For the tarantula, you’ll need to mold a large oblong shape and a large round shape for the body. You’ll also need to roll out 6 legs. Now I’m no artist, so please sculpt as you see fit. I placed the oblong piece on a support. (They were small boxes of jellybeans.) I attached the round piece to the back and placed more support behind it to keep it in place. Then I attached the legs. For added stability, use toothpicks or dry spaghetti noodles to attach the pieces. Let the tarantula sit until firm. For the octopus, you’ll need one oblong/rounded piece for the body and 6 arms. I flipped a short glass upside down and placed the large piece on top. I then attached the arms. Let the octopus sit until firm. Now you can eat them!

PeterCottontail ChocolatePeter Cottontail ChoTarOct

Halloween is more of Irontail’s kind of holiday, so my chocolate tarantula and octopus don’t seem too Eastery. I still like them, but I don’t think they’ll catch on. Can you imagine an Easter basket with one of these guys sitting in it? Peter Cottontail’s got jellybeans for Tommy, colored eggs for sister Sue, and a big chocolate tarantula!!! Nope. Not going to work. Oh well. Have a hippity hoppity, Happy Easter Day!

 

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!

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Jack Frost

Noodles

If you look at your calendars, you’ll notice that today is February 2 and that means it’s Groundhog Day. If you’ve been experiencing February 2nd for several days now, sorry but I can’t help you there. I’m not covering THAT movie. This may be Punxsutawney Phil’s day, but I’m giving some love to a different groundhog: Pardon-Me-Pete from Jack Frost. He’s the one that spilled the beans on the whole Groundhog-seeing-his-shadow bit. I knew there was something funny going on because how often do we really see an early Spring? Jack Frost is nipping at noses well into late March and even April. (So much for Father Winter’s sign from Nature.) But it’s hard to say no to Jack Frost. He’s just so cute and sweet and he breaks my little heart when he sings “It’s Lonely Being One of a Kind.” So because I love him so much, you can guess that I’ve got some issues with this special. After watching it again and again and it always ending the same, I practically banned it in my house for years. Of course, that never stopped my dad from going around saying, “Hello, Kubla,” every time he got the chance. (He actually does a pretty decent Dummy impression.) Well I couldn’t stay away from Jack Frost forever and it’s now my first stop when I’m looking for some Groundhog Day animated goodness. (Even if it is considered a Christmas special.)

Jack Frost is the special to check out for wintertime goodness in general. I love the idea of the Kingdom of the Winter Clouds and how Snip, the Snow Gypsies, the Sleet Sisters, and the Hail Fellow all create and provide the snow and ice that falls on us all year. And I can’t get enough of January Junction’s ice money. I could watch Papa cut coins all day. Ah, and now we’ve come to the part where you ask why the residents of January Junction need ice money. That’s because Kubla Kraus rules over them with an iron hand. He owns all the timber and the brick, the only horse, and all the gold. He’s got everything, except human and animal companions. I love how Kubla Kraus is such an awful guy, that no one could stand to live with him. He had to build himself a horse, a butler, ka-knights, and even a friend. And Dummy is still pretty harsh. (“How can you woo her? She doesn’t like you.”) Kubla Kraus is such a great character, I can’t help liking the guy. So when I saw him slurping up his noodles, (Well, noodle.) all sad and alone, I knew that I had to give a little love to the villain and make some.

Recipe makes about 4 cups of noodles, cooked.

Ingredients

1 ¼ cups flour

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 tablespoons water

½ teaspoon salt

 

Directions

In a large bowl, combine eggs, butter, water, and salt. Add the flour and mix until the dough just comes together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

Roll the dough out into a rectangle an 1/8 inch thick and let rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and roll into a cylinder. Cut into 1/8 inch thick strips. Spread out and let rest for 15 minutes.

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for 5-6 minutes and strain. Enjoy!

Variations:
Kubla Kraus seems to have just one continuous noodle, so you can cut out a ridiculously long noodle if you want. The noodles are perfectly fine on their own but you can also toss them in a bit of melted butter before serving.

jack-frost-noodlesjack-frost-kubla-noodles

Kubla Kraus can build a machine that can serve noodles and he wants to be a cruel ruler? He totally missed his calling. Whether he was a pharaoh, a rajah, or a shogun, he’d still end up alone. Oh well. Villains will be villains. That’s why he loses because this is Jack’s story. (Although Jack kind of loses too.) I think the one who has it best in this special is Pardon-Me-Pete. The worst he gets is a kick in the butt and a little scare and then he’s rewarded with six more weeks of shut-eye. Speaking of the little forecasters, I just checked the news on Punxsutawney Phil and he saw his shadow. (I’m not too surprised.) And I wasn’t there so I don’t know, but some people are saying that it was too cloudy to cast a shadow. Hmm. I see what you did there, Jack Frost.

 

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!

Bump in the Night

Episode: Better Homes & Garbage
Slice of Sweet Potato Pie

I never dare sleep with my hands or feet dangling off my bed for fear of being grabbed by something under there. I know it’s silly. Why am I assuming that the monster under my bed is a bad one? My monster could be just like Mr. Bumpy. Sure, he’s a little rough around the edges, but he’s not bad at all. In fact, he really cares for The Boy. (He’s Mr. Bumpy’s hero.) And Mr. Bumpy is a great pal too. He does whatever he can for Squishington and Molly. He’d even give them the warts off his own back.

However, all friendships have limits and there are times when even the best of friends will fight. Squishington tries to repay Mr. Bumpy’s kindness for letting him stay under the bed, but he takes things a bit too far. (After seeing his nest cleaned and organized, Mr. Bumpy pinches his arm so hard it comes off.) And things only go from bad to worse when Squishington tries to feed Mr. Bumpy lunch. For a monster who craves dirty socks, used facial tissues, and the occasional clogged drain hair and toenail sundae, foods like lettuce, carrots, and celery aren’t very appetizing. When Mr. Bumpy runs for the filing cabinet to get some socks, Squishington tries to have him eat a slice of sweet potato pie. Instead of eating it though, Mr. Bumpy just pretends and tosses it on the floor. That doesn’t sit too well with Squishington. He feels his cleaning, cooking, and comforting aren’t being appreciated and after another fight, he says he never wants to see Mr. Bumpy again. I hate to see the bosomest of buddies fighting, especially over things like pillows, garbage, and pie.

Recipe makes one deep-dish 9-inch pie.

Ingredients

Crust:

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup butter, cold and cut into chunks

4-5 tablespoons ice water, plus 1 or 2 more tablespoons if needed

Filling:

3 cups cooked and mashed sweet potato

½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled slightly

¾ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs, beaten

1 cup heavy whipping cream

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

Crust:

In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until dough just comes together when pressed. If the dough is too dry, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse again. Form dough into a disk and cover in plastic wrap. Let dough chill until firm, 30 minutes to an hour.

Filling:
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, eggs, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smooth. Beat in sweet potato. Add cinnamon and nutmeg. Gradually stir in heavy cream and beat until combined.

Putting It All Together:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Unwrap dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out dough 14-16 inches across and place in a pie tin. Gently press dough into place. Trim excess dough or fold it back on itself. Crimp edge for a more decorative look.

Pour filling evenly into pie crust and bake for 1-1 ½ hours, or until skewer inserted in it comes out clean. Remove pie from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate until ready to serve!

Variations: As soon as I saw the slice of sweet potato pie in Bump in the Night, I got all sorts of excited to make one. I came up with the recipe, made the pie, fell in love with it, AND THEN realized that it’s supposed to be good for you. Whoops! Although sweet potatoes are pretty healthy, loading them down with cream, sugar, and butter probably isn’t the best thing for you. (But Molly considers stray sock holes to be a part of a comforting and nutritious meal, so who knows?) Anyway, here are some tips to make a lighter version.
For a healthier pie crust: Replace half or all of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat (I’d use white whole wheat.) and you can omit the sugar.
For the pie: Reduce the granulated sugar to 1/4 cup or omit it all together. Feel free to use a sugar substitute or baking blend for the brown sugar. Reduce the butter to 3 tablespoons and replace the heavy cream with 3/4 cup of milk.

bump-in-the-night-piebump-in-the-night-sweet-potato-2

It doesn’t take long for Mr. Bumpy and Squishington to start missing each other and make up. (Causing the “Moral Alert” sign to hit Mr. Bumpy on the head.) I’m just glad to see those two getting along again. And I got a yummy sweet potato pie out of it too. Maybe I can make friends with my own monster by leaving some pie out for him or her. (I know Squishington likes eating pie in the dark.) Alright, time to fess up. Do I have a monster living under my bed? No, and I know for sure that I don’t have one in my bathroom. (Although one would so come in handy.) But my closet, that’s another story.

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!

The Nightmare Before Christmas

 

Soup

 For a brief point in my childhood, this movie was almost taboo in my house. It wasn’t that the movie was Satanic or anything. My mom just didn’t care much for it and told us not to watch it. You know, so we wouldn’t waste our time. However, we took it to mean that the movie was evil and if we watched it, we’d be punished. Stop motion animation was so new to me, I was completely captivated each time I saw a commercial. It didn’t take long for us to ignore my mom and watch the movie. Before “This is Halloween” was even over, I was hooked and we’ve loved the movie ever since. My sister’s room is practically a shrine dedicated to Jack Skellington and there’ve been some years where we’ve watched Nightmare every night from October through December.

Out of all the characters, Sally is actually one of my least favorites. I know she’s just trying to be reasonable, but why does she have to be such a party pooper? She does have some good qualities, though, like how she’s not afraid to slip Deadly Nightshade into Dr. Finkelstein’s food and drink every chance she gets. And keeping a slotted spoon in her sock is absolute genius. I’m not too sure about eating something with ingredients like Worm’s Wort and Frog’s Breath, but I would like to give that soup a try.

Recipe makes about 6 one-cup servings.

 Ingredients

1 pound dried split peas

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped celery

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or parsley

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon lemon juice

8 cups chicken broth

1 cup half-and-half (optional)

 

Directions

 Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add celery and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until onions and celery are soft. Add garlic and cook for 20 seconds. Pour in chicken broth. Add peas, salt, pepper, thyme or parsley, bay leaf, and lemon juice. Cover and cook for 1 hour or until peas are tender, stirring occasionally

Remove bay leaf. Puree the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender. If the soup is too thick, add some water. If you want a creamier soup, stir in half-and-half. Adjust the seasoning, if needed. Serve and enjoy.

Variations: You can soak split peas for 8 hours or overnight and they’ll cook a bit quicker (about 40 minutes). You can also use 5 cups of fresh or frozen peas. You’ll only need to cook these for about 10 minutes before pureeing.

nightmare sally soup DSC_0394 (2)

I don’t know how popular this soup would be in Halloween Town, but the ghosts and witches here like it. It’s good, and green, and won’t knock you out and give you a heck of a headache. I can understand how The Nightmare Before Christmas has become the phenomenon it is. Just like mashing Halloween and Christmas, it’s magical, spooky, and a little weird. That’s why it’s always near the top of our “must watch” list for the holidays.

 

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!