Monthly Archives: November 2015

4 Side Dishes to Make the Turkey Jealous

janine hanover block

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover

Thanksgiving is right around the corner guys!  Who’s ready to eat their weight in food?  Raised hand right here!  My favorite thing about the holidays, other than my family, is all the food and alcohol I shamelessly consume.  Turkey is the go-to on Thanksgiving, but turkey is not the star of the meal.  The sides are.  So ready those stomachs, because you’ll be licking the plate.

First up (which is technically not a side, but something to eat while you wait for your meal) is the cranberry and bacon cheese ball.  I don’t know if cheese balls are a midwest thing, but cheese balls are very common during the holidays here in Kansas City.  This one is full of dried cranberries, bacon, roasted garlic, and gorgonzola.  Make sure to serve these with buttery crackers or slices of fresh apple.


Cranberry & Bacon Cheese Ball

Makes 1 large ball

½ head garlic

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1 8 oz. package cream cheese

½ cup gorgonzola, crumbled

⅓ cup dried cranberries

4 strips thick cut bacon, cooked and roughly chopped

1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

Salt & Pepper, to taste


Take the ½ head of garlic, making sure all the cloves are peeled and toss in a bit of olive oil.  Wrap it up in some foil and put in a 375F oven for 25 minutes until the cloves are soft and golden brown.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add your roasted garlic, butter, cream cheese, gorgonzola, cranberries, bacon, salt, and pepper.  Mix on low to medium speed until the mix is smooth and everything is evenly distributed.  Make sure to scrape down the sides during the mixing process.

Remove the mix from the bowl and using your hands form a large ball, or many small ones.  Roll them in the chopped parsley.  Eat right away or refrigerate.


I love when you can put something in the slow cooker and forget about it.  This dish is great because it’ll free up oven and stove top space, plus everything goes straight in and cooks for several hours.


Slow Cooker Cheesy Corn with Smoked Ham

3 15oz. cans corn, drained (or 1 bag frozen)

1 1/2 cup milk, half & half, or cream (depending on how rich you want it)

1 8 oz. package cream cheese

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

1 ½ cup smoked ham, cubed

Salt & Pepper, to taste

Fresh Thyme, to taste

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover

In your slow cooker add the corn, milk, (or cream or half and half), cheddar, smoked ham, cream cheese, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme.  Set your slow cooker to the high setting and let the corn mix cook for 3 hours.  Make sure to stir every 30 minutes so it cooks evenly.

The corn will be very thick and creamy, adjust seasoning with the salt, pepper, and thyme.


The green bean casserole is a staple during the holidays.  This recipe is traditional but ditches the canned soup and opts for fresh fried onion strings.  The fried onion strings you could eat by themselves!  Make sure to watch out for thieving fingers who will try to swipe a few.


Green Bean Casserole

1 lb green beans, trimmed and washed

2 Tbsp butter

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 cup Flour plus 1 Tbsp reserved

1 ½ cups half and half

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup chicken stock

1 medium onion, julienned

2 Eggs

2 Tbsp milk

2 cups Seasoned Breadcrumbs (to follow)

2 qts. vegetable oil for frying

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover

Preheat oven to 400F.  In a deep saute pan, add the butter and melt over medium heat.  Saute the sliced mushrooms until the liquids start to release.  Add the minced garlic and cook until aromatic.  Add the 1 Tbsp flour to soak up a little bit of the excess liquid in the pan.  Then add the chicken stock and bring everything up to a light simmer.  

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover

Add your half and half and cook until liquid has reduced by half and thickened.  Add the green beans and toss everything together.  Set aside while you make the onion strings.


To make the seasoned breadcrumbs: using store bought or homemade breadcrumbs toss them with salt, pepper, dried sage, dried thyme, dried basil , dried parsley.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover

In three separate bowls: one with the flour, one with the egg and milk whisked together, and one with the seasoned breadcrumbs.  Working in batches, toss the onion in the flour, then the egg mix, then the breadcrumbs.  In a deep sauce pan, add your vegetable oil and heat until a thermometer reads 375F.  Again, working in batches add the breaded onion strings.  Cook for about 2 minutes per batch, pull and drain them on paper towels.  Sprinkle with salt while still hot.  (Yes my paper towels have minions on them.  Don’t judge me.)

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover

To assemble the casserole: add the green bean mushroom mix in a buttered glass casserole dish.  Make sure everything is evenly spread out.  Then place all over or around the edges the onion strings.  Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, remove foil and bake 5 more minutes.  Remove from oven and serve.


I’m a stuffing fanatic.  If it’s served you will see more of it on my plate than anything else.  I have a deep appreciation (obsession) with stuffing because it’s the perfect dish to play with flavors.  For this I took a traditional stuffing and added some sweeter elements with the apples and dried cranberry.  I added the pork for some additional heartiness and for complimentary flavors to the apple.  This dish can be made vegetarian or vegan by removing the pork and replacing the chicken stock with vegetable stock.


Pork, Apple, & Cranberry Stuffing

1 lb. ground pork

2 carrots, peeled and small dice

3 celery stalks, small dice

1 medium onion, small dice

1 green apple, peeled and cored, small dice

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup dried cranberry

1 bunch fresh sage

6 cups bread for stuffing, store bought or homemade

1-2 cups chicken stock

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover

Preheat oven to 375F.  In a deep saute pan, cook the ground pork.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  Add the carrots, celery, and onion.  Cook until the vegetables start to soften,  This could take up to ten minutes.  After they have softened a bit, add the apple.  Cook for another 5 minutes.  

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover

Next, add the garlic, dried cranberry, and fresh sage, and cook until the garlic and sage are aromatic.  Add the chicken stock and bring the mix up to a light simmer.  Turn the heat off and fold in the cooked pork and bread.  Make sure everything is evenly distributed.
Spray with nonstick or butter a casserole dish.  Add the stuffing mix and bake covered for 30 minutes.  Remove the cover and cook an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve immediately.


Don’t Visit: South Dakota

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           My wife is always nagging me that we don’t do enough, that all we do is sit around the house getting fat and old.  I asked her what she wanted to do, she looked at me said she wanted to go on a trip.  Fine, I can do a trip.  I looked back at her, “Okay, where do you want to go?”


“I don’t know.”



Of course she knew, women always know what they want, but they can’t let men know that.  It’s why men exist, to pitch the terrible ideas, then women shoot them down, making their choice the superior one even if it’s not.

           After a week or so, she decided she we should visit South Dakota.  I’ve never been there, because I’m thinking what’s the point?  I’m pretty sure it looks like the majority of Nebraska, our current state of residence:  full of nothingness and people who want to move to a better place.  I agreed because I couldn’t be bothered to argue about where we should go for vacation.



           We packed up the car and headed out of town. I think everyone had the same idea, as traffic was backed up for miles.  I was tempted to end the trip there and go back home, as there was no way South Dakota was worth this.  As we sat in traffic, my wife was telling me all the things she did when she went with her family in South Dakota as a kid.

I was confused and asked her why we were going to South Dakota if she had already been there, but she ignored me in that “Listen to your wife” way.   Isn’t the whole point of travelling to see new places?  If I went to another state, I wouldn’t bother going back because I’ve probably already seen everything I wanted to.  The first time you go somewhere, you visit everything that’s cool and you want to see.

           She told me to shut up and keep driving.  We took I-29 to Sioux Falls, which was a dreadful drive.  I thought the drive from Kansas City to Omaha was bad, this was so much worse.  It was literally miles and miles of absolutely nothing to see but corn and depression.  It also doesn’t help that the radio only seems to play shit these days.  I don’t know who Nicki Minaj is, all I know is that I want her to stop doing whatever she thinks she’s doing.


           We made it to Sioux Falls, South Dakota after dark.  I was already tired of driving, and we still had 5 more hours to go to get to our final destination: Rapid City.  We were hungry, so we went to Applebee’s for those half-price appetizers.  Their appetizers are really the only thing worth ordering.  Everything else tastes like it came from the frozen section of a gas station.     

           Our waitress wasn’t very friendly.  I get it, it’s late, you don’t want to be here, but Jesus, put a little life in your step.  You don’t see doctors moaning when they have to jam their fingers up a man’s ass to check his prostate, all you’re doing is bringing me wings.

           The morning came too quickly as I had an amazing dream that I was chasing a herd of donuts.  We had barely gotten any sleep that night because there was a man next door who sounded like he was passing a kidney stone.  That, or he saw his fat wife get naked.  My wife punched me and said that wasn’t a nice thing to say.  I told her that wasn’t a nice thing for her to do to him.

           We needed to get gas, so we found a BP near our hotel.  It was an old-looking gas station; in the front there were six pumps, and four of them looked like they had been out of service for a while.  It took us almost ten minutes to get gas due to the pumps right out of the Flintstones.  After that ordeal we were finally on our way to Rapid City.  My wife’s mom called.  I had forgetten how long they can talk to each other.  When my family calls, we talk for about 20 minutes, then we don’t talk again until the next month.   


           It was well into the afternoon by the time we got to Rapid City.  They really make up their downtown, but then again, they really have to.  No sane person wants to willingly visit South Dakota.  I don’t think we would lose anything if we sold the Dakotas to Canada.  What does Canada really have going for it anyway?  Canadian bacon and apologies?  C’mon Canada, step it up.

           Rapid City has one of those typical touristy-looking old downtowns.  All of the buildings were new, but they were made to look like they’ve been there since the town was founded.  The street was lined with sweet shops, souvenir stores, and law offices.  I never understood why there are so many law offices located in tourist downtowns.  I imagine the sweet shops and souvenir stores are always having a bout with each other over customers.



There was a small cafe at the end of the street, so we popped in for bite to eat. The place was decent, and the food was leaps and bounds better than Applebee’s.  I’m pretty sure the people who owned it bought all the tables and chairs from garage sales as none of them seemed to match.  There was a group of guys a couple tables over.  They all had to be in their 30’s or 40’s, and they were talking about My Little Pony.  I’ve heard about these people on the radio, they’re called ‘Bronies’ or something like that.  I bet when they walk into the toy store, everyone else clears out.  My wife told me to stop staring and finish my lunch.

           I’m glad we ended up eating there.  Food everywhere else was ridiculously overpriced, almost double what we paid at the cafe.  I don’t much care for tourist towns like this.  Everything is overpriced, and everything says ‘Rapid City’ or ‘Mt. Rushmore’ on it.  If I needed a new pair of boxers, chances are I would end up with Washington’s face across my crotch.  I guess when that’s only thing your state can capitalize on, you run with it.  We popped into a shop and bought a magnet, because my wife loves collecting magnets for the fridge.  Half of one of the doors is covered with them.  We got our magnet and headed out to see the big heads in the rock.

           We drove up to the monument.  It was $11 for parking.  Are you serious?  My wife told me to pay the fee, as there was no parking around for miles, and she didn’t want to walk all that way.  The monument was alright, the heads of our former Presidents looking out over a pretty useless state.  I don’t know why they just stopped at the heads, at least go down to the shoulders and make it count.  I wish there was more to say, but it’s literally just heads in a rock.  There were fat people in Hawaiian shirts taking pictures. This guy was way far back trying to get them all in the picture.  If your fat family can’t fit in a picture taken from a reasonable distance, you need to think about your lives.



           There was another miserable, uptight family there, and the mom was bragging to another family about how they only take educational trips in the summer.  The dad looked more than fed up with her, and so did her kids who were dressed in pressed clothing.  There was  another man there tending to his RV.  Have you seen the size of these things?  You have to have a special license to drive a bus, but these things are just as long and you need no special training.  It worries me a bit when I see them driving down the interstates.  The people-watching we did was more amusing than the monument itself.

           After spending thirty minutes gazing into the face of Washington and company, we headed back to town.  My wife wasn’t feeling well, so she had a lie-down at the hotel.  Being the amazing husband I am, I went out and picked us up some dinner.  I was walking down Tourist Town when I happened across a model railroad store.  This was amazing, as I love model trains.  Think what you want, but it’s what my grandpa and I did all the time when I was little.  I talked to the guy who owned it, and he said he got good business from the tourists, but he wishes they would all just piss off.  I couldn’t have agreed more with him.

           The next day we drove over to the Badlands National Park.  I was a bit worried to be going to a place called the ‘Badlands.’  I was right to be worried.  There was a Park Ranger there who warned people to stay on the trails and be careful of rattlesnakes.  South Dakota was the last place I thought I would see rattlesnakes.  The park was alright, it mostly looked like a big open field.  I feel like I could have seen this back in Nebraska.  There were loads of people taking pictures of the grass and dirt.  We did reach a part of the park that looked like a mini Grand Canyon.  It was a bit impressive, but I couldn’t enjoy it with the threat of Rattlesnakes everywhere.

           We went out for a nice lunch before getting on the road to go home. There was a big woman riding a scooter down the sidewalk, rudely pushing people out of the way.  Her scooter was barely scooting and the wheels looked flat, probably because she was so big.  She had a fat kid with her who was eating ice cream.  He was covered in it.  I thought it was a good thing he wasn’t in a scooter, he wasn’t paying attention and probably would have killed someone.

           We packed up the car and headed home.  It was an alright vacation, certainly more entertaining than visiting Kansas.  I would recommend visiting someplace else before making your way up to a useless state like South Dakota.  My wife told me not to judge South Dakota on what little we saw.  I think I’ll take my chances and assume the rest of this state is just as bad; after all, ignorance is bliss.



9 Shows Worth Binge-Watching

michael putthoff block

With the winter months right around the corner, it’ll be time to pull out the fleece blanket, put on some hot chocolate, and curl up with your best friend: Netflix.  The chilly months ahead are perfect for binge-watching great shows, and with the colder weather setting in, it’ll be harder to work up the courage to leave the warmth of your home anyway.  To help you decide what you should devote your precious time to, here’s a list of shows that are worth your weekend (or life).  With a mix of titles you have (and maybe haven’t) heard of, and spanning about 450 hours, it should be enough to get you through to the thaw of spring.  Happy bingeing.



9. Dexter (2006 – 2013)

No. of Seasons: 8; No. of Episodes: 96

Source: network

Originally airing on the Showtime Network in 2006, “Dexter” follows the life of Dexter Morgan, a Miami Police blood splatter analyst by day, and a serial killer by night.  When Dexter is adopted at a young age by Harry Morgan, Dexter and his adopted father realize there is something different about Dexter.  Dexter loves to kill, but only does so by a code set by his adoptive father.  Targeting only the worst of criminals that escape the justice system, Dexter must keep his ‘hobby’ from his sister, and the rest of the Miami Police Department.

Source: Network

I won’t lie, this one takes an episode or two to get going, but when it does, it really takes off. Watching Dexter juggle work, his ‘hobby,’ and a girlfriend makes for an interesting hour of television.  Warning: the show is very graphic, and very full of blood.  I mean, there is a lot of blood.  If you’re squeamish, move onto the next show on the list.  With the main story spanning entire seasons, you’ll be wanting to move onto the next episode when the credits roll.  Starring Michael Hall, Jennifer Carpenter and more, it’s a show that’s hard to pull away from.



8. House M.D. (2004 – 2012)

No. of Seasons: 8; No. of Episodes: 177


First aired on Fox in 2004, ‘House M.D.’ is medical drama that follows Dr. Gregory House, a Vicodin-addicted, puzzle-solving medical genius who isn’t afraid to break the rules.  Working with his team at Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital, House takes on cases that other doctors can’t solve.  With the help of Dr. Foreman, Dr. Chase, Dr. Cameron, and Dr. Wilson, they push the bounds of traditional medicine to save their patients’ lives before time runs out.  Dr. House often clashes with Dean of Medicine, Dr. Lisa Cuddy, who desperately tries to keep House in check, and the hospital out of trouble.


“House” is one of the greatest medical dramas out there, “Grey’s Anatomy” doesn’t even come close.  Every episode has you sucked in from the beginning and on the edge of your seat, and when you think you know what will happen next, you get hit with a curveball.  With the most episodes on the list, make sure you chuck out a few weeks to get through this one.  Starring Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Lisa Edelstein, Robert Leonard, Jennifer Morrison, and many more, “House” is an amazing show for all the drama lovers out there.



7. Community (2009 – )

No. of Seasons: 1-5 (NBC), 6 (Yahoo!); No. of Episodes: 110

Source: Universal

Premiering in 2009 on NBC, “Community” follows a group of outcasts at a fictitious community college known as Greendale.  Jeff Winger, a disgraced lawyer who faked his bachelor’s degree, goes back to community college to graduate in order to reclaim his former life.  Wanting to get through it as quickly and as easily as possible, Jeff forms a study group.  Complete with a know-it-all psychology major, a former high school football player, a single mom, a girl formerly addicted to Adderall, a man trapped in a world of alternate reality, and a baby boomer trying to finish finally finish school, the group makes for an interesting show.


‘Community’ is a great show.  It’s full of comedy and so many references to so many different things in pop culture.  It’s hard not to fall in love with this gang of misfits.  I recommend only watching seasons 1-5 from NBC, as season 6 by Yahoo! doesn’t really live up to the standards set by creator Dan Harmon.  Starring Joel McHale, Alison Brie, Donald Glover and more, it’s the show that makes you wonder why your college years weren’t this awesome.



6. The IT Crowd (2006 – 2013)

No. of Seasons: 4; No. of Episodes: 24 (+1 Special)

The IT Crowd
Source: 4 [UK]
Originally airing in 2006 in the UK, ‘The IT Crowd’ follows two computer geeks and their technically illiterate Manager of the IT Department at Reynholm Industries.  Led by their manager Jen Barber, who lied her way into the position, Roy Trenneman and Maurice Moss solve the company’s computer crises in a lethargic manner.  The show also focuses on the father and son who run the company.  Finding themselves in typical British problems, the three awkwardly stumble through work and life.

The IT Crowd2
Source: 4 [UK]
‘The IT Crowd’ is a British workplace comedy that is funny from beginning to end. From the lazy Roy Trenneman to the socially-awkward Maurice Moss, this show will have you busting a gut minutes into every episode.  Last time I checked, the special was only available on Hulu, but it’s available for free.  Starring Chris O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade, and Katherine Parkinson, this show is a treasure trove for the comedy-seeker.



5. An Idiot Abroad (2010 – 2012)

No. of Seasons: 3; No. of Episodes: 19

An Idiot Abroad
Source: 1

Follow British traveler Karl Pilkington as he travels the world.  From India to China to Route 66, Karl is on a mission to find out what makes the world so great. Thinking it’s going to be an easy trip, Karl’s friends Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant make it their mission to make Karl as miserable as possible.


An Idiot Abroad2
Source: 4 [UK]
If you love to travel, or love travel shows, this program is right up your alley.  Karl Pilkington is a moaning, hilarious host who will have you laughing as he stumbles his way through the world.  This is the only travel show I have ever seen that had me laughing from start to finish.  Starring Karl Pilkington, Ricky Gervais, and Stephen Merchant, this is one round the world adventure you don’t want to miss.



4. Raising Hope (2010 – 2014)

No. of Seasons: 4; No. of Episodes: 88

Raising Hope

‘Raising Hope’ first aired on Fox back in 2010.  The show sees James ‘Jimmy’ Chance, an underachieving high school dropout, try to raise his daughter, whose mother happens to be a serial killer.  After a one-night stand with Lucy, the serial killer, Jimmy learns she is pregnant before her date with death row.  Jimmy brings his daughter, Princess Beyonce, who is renamed Hope, home to his equally underachieving family.  Along with her grandma, Virginia (Jimmy’s mom) and her husband Burt will help Jimmy raise the little girl, along with the help of his crush Sabrina.

Raising Hope2

When I first heard of this show I didn’t think I would get into it, but after the first episode I was hooked.  “Raising Hope” is your typical sitcom: the Chances find themselves in stupid situations every week, and they have 22 minutes to right everything before the credits roll.  Maybe it’s the ridiculous situations we find them in, maybe it’s how relatable they are to average families, or maybe it’s just the odd, but loveable cast.  Whatever it may be, this show is one for the books. Starring Lucas Neff, Martha Plimpton, Garret Dillahunt, this show is a romping good time.


3. Parks and Recreation (2009 – 2015)

No. of Seasons: 7; No. of Episodes: 125

Parks and Rec
Source: Universal

Premiering in 2009 on NBC, ‘Parks and Recreation’ follows Leslie Knope, Deputy Director of the Parks and Rec. department in the fictitious town of Pawnee, IN.  The show is a mockumentary  type show, much like ‘The Office.’  The show follows Leslie through her life in politics, friendship, and romance. She is a driven, hard-working government employee who will do anything to get the job done.  Leslie isn’t alone; with the help of her Parks and Rec crew, Ron, April, Donna, Jerry, Andy, and her best friend Ann, nothing will stop her.

Parks and Rec2
Source: Universal

NBC comes out with a lot of hit or miss shows, but this one is a home run.  “Parks and Recreation” is a clever, funny, and all-around fun show.  This is show that I looked forward to every week.  The writing is amazing, the cast is hilarious, and it has Chris Pratt in it.  It’s a delightful show that you can easily fall in love with, and it’s one I highly recommend.  Starring a whole slew of incredible people, including: Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Rashida Jones, and many more, “Parks and Recreation” will have you grinning from ear to ear from beginning to the end.



2. Archer (2009 – )

No. of Seasons: 6 and counting; No of Episodes: 75

Source: Network

‘Archer’ premiered in 2009 on FX.  This spy spoof animated comedy centers around Sterling Archer, codename: Duchess.  If you’re having trouble picturing Archer, just imagine James Bond, but 100x more awesome, drunk, and horny.  Archer is an agent of ISIS (The agency name has since changed because terrorists have to ruin everything), whose boss just happens to be his mother, Malory Archer.  Each week Archer humps and fights his way out of difficult situations with the help of Lana Kane and the bumbling buffoon, Cyril Figgis.


Source: Network

‘Archer’ is a great show for binge-watching, and with 10 to 13 episodes a season it is the perfect show for a one weekend binge-watch.  The writing is amazing, the voice acting is spot on, and this show will have you rolling on the ground.  If you love inappropriate comedy as much as I do, this show is for you.  Featuring the voices of H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Chris Parnell, and more, this is one show you’ll be glad you watched.



1. Chuck (2007 – 2012)

No. of Seasons: 5 No. of Episodes: 91

Source: Universal

‘Chuck’ is a show that premiered on NBC back in 2007.  It’s an amazing spy comedy that centers around an underachieving ‘Nerd Herder,’ Chuck Bartowski.  When Chuck is emailed secret information from a government project, known as the ‘Intersect’, he accidentally downloads all the information to his brain.  Two agents, Sarah Walker from the CIA, and John Casey from the NSA, are sent to protect Chuck, who uses the Intersect to save the day.

Source: Universal

This is a show I had heard of when it was running on NBC, but back then I didn’t make much time for television.  I won’t lie, I consider this to be one of the best shows to ever grace television.  ‘Chuck’ is an amazing show that packs comedy, action, romance, and drama into a tight 45 minutes.  If you pick one show to watch this winter, make it this one, as it will not disappoint.  Starring Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, and Adam Baldwin, this show is a can’t miss. Spoiler, make sure you have some tissues handy from the last episode, it’s a doozy.


The “I worked on Halloween but this is what I would’ve consumed if I hadn’t” Menu

janine hanover block

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
I’m going to confess a possibly unpopular opinion:  I’m not a Halloween person.  I’m not the kind of lady to pick out a costume or go to any fun parties, because frankly, I’m a little bitter about the whole thing.  I’ve always been stuck at work on Halloween, I’ve rarely gone to a fun, spooky party, and the options for women’s costumes are laughable.  Sorry not sorry, but I don’t want to be a sexy firefighter or wear a culturally-insensitive costume.  No thank you.

This year turned out to be no different…  I was stuck at work in an empty restaurant, while the rest of Kansas City partied it up.  I should have been at a zombie pub crawl or a costume party having a good time, but the reality is that I scrubbed the night away and got off at an ungodly hour when all those parties and events were coming to a close.


Pity party aside, I know that next year will be a different story as some career-related changes are coming.  So this article is for those who get to party on Halloween and for those who don’t.

No matter the holiday, whether it be Christmas or MLK day, I will be drinking.  I drink every day, but that’s beside the point.  On any special occasion I will drink MORE than what I’d typically drink.  So for this Halloween I’m treating you to two awesome cocktails.  Along with those cocktails I have a three course menu, laid out for those who are having a spooky sit down dinner, but it can also be adapted to fit the needs of a large party with small bites.

First off, let’s talk alcohol.  If you are having a party, especially a party that involves food, I beg of you not to start off with a heavy cocktail.  The last thing you want is to serve a drink that tastes artificial, sugary, or filling.  It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when the mixed drink of the night tastes like I’ve devoured fifty pixie sticks.  We’re adults, let’s drink like adults.  The pre-dinner cocktail sticks with the theme of Halloween.  It’s a bold red color (that reminds you of blood or other creepy things), and also follows my guidelines on a good first cocktail.  This drink is crisp, refreshing, and stimulating to the pallet.

Blackberry Gin & Tonic

For Blackberry Simple Syrup (makes about 2 1/2 cups of syrup):

2 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen (if using frozen, make sure to thaw overnight)

1 cup water

1 ½ cups sugar

For 1 drink:

1 1/2 oz. gin (I used Beefeater)

3 oz. tonic water

Fresh Blackberries, for garnish

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Make the blackberry simple syrup: Combine the blackberries, water, and sugar in a large saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Reduce the heat to low and let the mix simmer for 5 minutes.  While this happens take a wooden spoon and muddle the blackberries. This will help release some of their natural juices and sugars. This process should take no more than ten minutes.  When done, carefully pour into a fine mesh strainer.  The goal is to separate the liquid from the muddled fruit and seeds.  Trash the muddled berries and refrigerate the blackberry simple syrup until completely cool.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Now let’s build the drink.  I used a 5 oz stemless wine glass, but you can use another glass as long as it holds 6 oz or less!  Add the ice, it should go up to the very top of the glass.  I lightly crushed my ice with a rolling pin so I wouldn’t have large cubes in a small glass.  Pour in your gin first, add the blackberry simple syrup, then top with the tonic water.  Stir together, then garnish with two blackberries.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
To make this party friendly:  You can easily premix everything and pour it into a chilled punch bowl.  I recommend not adding ice to the mix as the ice will melt and dilute the drink.  Instead, leave the ice off to the side or put the punch bowl on ice to keep it cold.

Now that you’ve got a cocktail, it’s time to start cooking.  First up on the menu is a butternut squash and pumpkin bisque.  This soup is a great starter for fall, and the leftovers are perfect when it’s a little chilly outside and you want something to warm you up.  This soup is thick and can be filling, so I highly recommend a small portion when serving this.

Butternut Squash & Pumpkin Bisque

Serves 10 small or 5 regular portions


1 butternut squash

1 stick butter

1 yellow onion, medium dice

2 carrots, medium dice

2 celery stalks, medium dice

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp. ground cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp. ground cumin

1 Tbsp. ground coriander

1 Tbsp. ground nutmeg

1 Tbsp. ground allspice

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, plus 1 cup reserved

1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

2 cups cream

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Olive Oil

Creme Fraiche, for garnish

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Preheat oven to 400F.  Split the butternut squash in half, lengthwise and place onto a pan.  Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast the butternut squash, about 35-40 minutes or until a fork can easily pierce the skin.  Set the squash aside to cool before handling.  Once cool, take a spoon and scoop out the inside, making sure to not scoop up any skin.  The skin should be discarded.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
On a cutting board, medium dice the onion, celery, and carrot.  Mince the garlic.  Set aside.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
In a large pot, big enough to hold the soup, melt the butter.  Saute the onions in the butter until translucent.  Then add the carrots and celery, and keep cooking until everything is cooked through and soft.  Add the cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, allspice, and garlic.  Cook until the garlic becomes aromatic.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Next add your chicken or vegetable stock.  Bring to a light simmer and let it go for about 15 minutes.  Then add the pumpkin and butternut squash.  At this point, the soup will be very thick.  Add the reserved 1 cup of stock here and let the mix simmer at a low temperature for another 15 minutes.  Then add your cream, which will thin out the soup a bit.  Let it go for another 15 minutes.  

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
After the soup has simmered, you’ll need to puree it.  Working in intervals, ladle the soup from the pot into a blender.  The mix will be hot, so work slowly and carefully.  When all the soup has been pureed return it back to the pot.  Put it back on low heat and taste the soup.  Season with salt and pepper to your liking.  Garnish the soup with the creme fraiche.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
To make this party friendly:  In tall shot glasses, or the sturdy plastic ones (the cheap ones will melt!), pour in “shot” sized portions and add a dollop of creme fraiche.  This is perfect for parties because they can be easily picked up and carried.

I’m a meat and potatoes kind of lady, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.  Beer is a great alternative to many braising liquids.  Stouts are thick, malty, and full of flavor, which makes it a perfect braising companion to bone-in pork chops.  Accompanied by a balsamic glaze that pops on the tongue, creamy mashed potatoes, and pan-seared brussel sprouts that give the dish a great crunch.

Stout Braised Pork Chop w/ Balsamic Maple Glaze, Creamy Mashed Potatoes, & Brussel Sprouts


2 bone-in pork chops

2 Tbsp olive oil

1-2 12 oz. bottle stout beer (I used Boulevard’s Dark Truth Stout)

For Glaze:

½ cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup maple syrup

2 Tbsp.  dijon mustard

2 oz. whiskey

1 Tbsp. honey or agave nectar

1 Tbsp. sriracha

For Potatoes:

2 russet potatoes

⅓ cup cream

2 Tbsp. butter

Salt & Pepper, to taste

For Sprouts:

½ lb. brussel sprouts

1 Tbsp. butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 shallot, minced

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Heat a deep saute pan over medium-high heat, and add the olive oil.  Season the pork chops with salt and pepper.  When pan is hot sear the pork chops on both sides.  Add the stout beer to the pan and turn the heat down to low.  Cover with lid and cook the chops to your desired doneness.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
To make the glaze: add the balsamic, maple syrup, mustard, whiskey, honey, and sriracha in a small pan.  Whisk it together over medium heat and let the mix lightly bubble.  Reduce by half and then remove from heat.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
When the pork chops are done, turn the broiler function on for your oven.  With a pastry brush, brush one side of the pork chop with glaze.  Transfer them to a sheet pan and put them under the broiler.  Pull them out when you see the tops starting to bubble and the glaze is cooked into the meat.  The glaze should not be running off the sides.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
For the mashed potatoes: wash and peel the russet potatoes.  Cut each potato in half, then half again.  Cut each into 4-5 equal portions.  Place them in a deep pot and cover with cold water.  Put the pot on the stove over medium heat and bring the water to a boil.  Cook the potatoes until a fork easily pierces them.  When done, remove from the heat and strain off the liquid.  Return the potatoes to the pan, adding cream, butter, salt, and pepper.  Mash with a wooden spoon until the potatoes are creamy.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
For the brussel sprouts:  Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Generously salt the water.  Add the brussel sprouts and cook them for about two minutes.  Strain them off and stop the cooking process by flashing them in a ice water bath.  Once the sprouts feel cool, remove from the ice water and pat dry.  In a saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter.  When pan is hot, saute the sprouts until they start to brown on the outside.  Add the minced shallot and garlic, salt, and pepper and toss it all together.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
To make this party friendly: I would ditch the bone in pork chop and go for a pork loin.  I’d braise the loin with the beer in the oven.  Slice the pork loin into medallion sized pieces and serve it with a small scoop of potato and sprouts.  Don’t glaze the pork but instead use the balsamic maple glaze as a sauce to drizzle over the dish.  To plate it, I’d use the clear disposable cake plates (or small bowls) that are supposed to look like china.

Starting to see a pattern?  Chocolate goes well with a lot of things, and stout beer is one of them!  When making the pudding I highly recommend using a stout beer that you would enjoy drinking.  The beer in this recipe is cooked down until it’s a thick syrup, concentrating the flavor.  It packs a punch, so make sure whatever stout beer you choose is flavorful.

Chocolate Cake, Stout Pudding, & Spiced Cream Trifle

For cake:

1 ¾ cup all purpose flour

2 cups granulated sugar

¾ cup cocoa powder

1 Tbsp baking soda

1 tsp. salt

2 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk

½ cup or 1 stick butter, melted

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup water, warm to room temperature

For Pudding:

4 large egg yolks

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

½ cup sugar

1 12 oz. bottle stout beer (I used Boulevard’s Dark Truth here as well)

2 cups heavy cream

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

For Spiced Cream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

½ cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 tsp. ground clove

1 tsp. ground allspice

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray two round cake pans with nonstick spray.  In a bowl of a stand mixer, sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Using a paddle attachment, turn it on low speed and add the sugar.  Add the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted butter to the mix and let it go until combined.  Make sure to scrape down the edges as you go.  Add the water last, and just until incorporated.  Pour the batter equally into the two pans.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  When done, remove from oven and let the cakes rest in the pan for 10 minutes.  

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Gently remove the cakes from the pan and refrigerate them until they cool completely.  When cool, you want to cut the cake into cubes, about ½ inch by ½ inch per cube. Cover and refrigerate cake when not in use.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
For the pudding:  In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks and cornstarch, set aside.  In a pan over medium heat, reduce the stout beer until it becomes a very thick syrup.  Remove from the heat.  

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
While beer is reducing combine the heavy cream and sugar.  Whisk until the mix just starts to simmer.  Add the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate melts completely.  Remove from the heat and temper the chocolate cream into the egg yolk and cornstarch mix.  To temper, slowly ladle in the hot liquid into the egg yolks.  Make sure you whisk the entire time to prevent curdling of the yolks.  Return that back into the pot.  Add a little of the warmed chocolate cream to the reduced stout beer to help release any beer that is stuck to the pan.  Scrape with a rubber spatula and return it all to the pan.  

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Put the mix back on the stove over medium heat, whisk constantly until the mixture starts to thicken a bit.  Remove from the heat and pour it into a bowl.  Put the pudding into the fridge and let it cool completely, or until it sets. It will be very thick.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
For the cream:  In a bowl of stand mixer, with a whisk attachment, add all the ingredients.  Whisk until medium peaks form.

To plate this I recommend using small glasses or small mason jars.  Begin with a little bit of the spiced cream at the bottom.  Add some cubed chocolate cake, then pudding.  Repeat until glass is full and top it off with some spiced cream.  Sprinkle the top with some ground cinnamon.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
To make this party friendly: Do everything exactly as it says in the recipe, just make the container you serve them in smaller.  Here I’d recommend those cheap plastic tall shot glasses.

Can you blame me for this?  Nutella, chai, and Rum Chata.  Yum!  I consider this beverage an after-dinner cocktail.  This drink should be served an hour to two hours after dinner because I’m sure everyone will be full from all the delicious food.  This is a hot beverage that is designed to warm and comfort you.  It doesn’t have any added sugar, so it’s not overly sweet.  As the night wears on it starts to cool off, this drink is a perfect way to warm up those party-goers.

Nutella Chai Latte


3 cups milk

6  chai tea bags

¼ cup Nutella

1/2 cup RumChata

whipped cream

ground cinnamon

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Heat the milk over low heat until it just starts to bubble.  Steep the chai tea bags in the milk for about 10 minutes.  Making sure your hand is gloved, gently squeeze the tea bags to release more of their flavor.  Return the mix to the stove and add the Nutella, stirring until it is incorporated.  Ladle Nutella chai milk into a mug, about halfway.  Top with RumChata.  Add the whipped cream on top and garnish with cinnamon.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
To make this party friendly:  Follow all the same steps except when you get to the serving portion.  I recommend mixing in the RumChata and transferring the liquid to a thermis, crock pot, or a pot on the stove and let guests serve themselves.  You can leave a can of whipped cream and a shaker of ground cinnamon off to the side.

Why don’t cannibals eat clowns?

Because they taste funny! *buh dum tss*

I deserve a drink for that one and so does my editor for putting up with me.  Cheers Brittany!  Even if you don’t use these recipes for any spooky fair, they are always great during the fall and winter months.  It’s starting to get chilly outside so make sure to have these on hand when you need to warm up this fall!