Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Halloween Houses: Best Ever Buttercream

One of the kids' favorite Halloween events from last year was when the local bakery did a gingerbread house workshop.  A spooky, scary, Halloween gingerbread house workshop.  So naturally, this year, they wanted to do it again.

Like last year, Thatboy and I helped a lot with the actual construction of the house, then followed their vision for decoration.

Thatbaby stuck with his usual modus operandi of putting as much candy as humanly possible on his house.  He had a little more of a design plan this year, wanting to put snakes and body parts all over the yard.

Thatkid wanted to make his house anthropomorphic, putting faces on both sides.  But also, lots of dead bodies all around the house.  Both kids told us that their houses were where people came to die.

They were both very please with how their houses turned out.

I love helping the kids with things like this, but I admit, I'm also totally jealous.  I wanna sit and nicely decorate a gingerbread house.  It feels like it would be so soothing and relaxing without 2 kids hanging on your shoulders.  Instead, I have to use my creative juices on other forms of decorating.  Like when Thatkid's aftercare asked for parents to bring in things for a Halloween party.  I saw these batty cupcakes in a magazine and figured I could recreate them.  Also - not super relaxing with the kids touching, breaking and asking when they'd be ready every few minutes.  The basic idea is easy enough to figure out yourself (rolos, oreos, and candy eyeballs).  I've already shared a great chocolate cupcake recipe.  But I found a new buttercream frosting recipe for Thatkid's mirror glaze cake for his birthday.  I love it because it's just a couple of ingredients - so easy.  And it takes coloring like a champ, making it great for creative designs.

Best Ever Buttercream (adapted from
2 sticks of butter
16 oz confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp salt
  1. Cream the butter in an electric stand mixer until fluffy (3-5 minutes)
  2. Add half of the sugar and continue to mix until combined.
  3. Add the rest of the sugar and continue to mix.
  4. Add in the salt and mix just until combined.
  5. Color whatever color you wish to use for your cake, cupcakes, or stomach.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Legoland's Brick Or Treat: Witch Hat Cookies

It's that time of year again, time for us to dig into as much Halloween fun as we can find.  As usual, this means starting the holiday off with a BOO at Legoland's Brick or Treat.

Brick or Treat happens every Saturday in October, so this coming Saturday is the last night of the event.  It's an additional add on to your regular ticket (or membership for most levels), but well worth it.  It's so much fun to get dressed up and run around the park in the dark, with the bonus of collecting candy and treats!

Brick or Treat starts at 5pm and goes until 9pm, so after years of experience, we know not to get to the park too early.  It's a long day for kids.  We usually head over after nap time.  Which also helps the little guy not turn into an actual monster.  Once we get into the park we usually ride a few rides before changing into our costumes.

Costumes are not required for this event, but they make everything so much more fun, don't you think?  

The entire park is decorated in fun Halloween decor that is perfect for kids - not too spooky.  Even spooky elements like spiders take on an air of fun when they're jamming to rock music.  There are seasonal specialty foods offered, although we always end up at the pizza and pasta buffet - a good deal for refillable drinks and a place to fill up on something other than candy.

There are so many different events during the night.  Dance parties, shows, stilt walkers and entertainers, people who go around with bubble carts.  The kids usually enter the costume contest, which is always emcee'd  by the best performer who interviews all the kids and is so quick witted.  This year the kids opted not to participate in the contest so they could have more time for rides.   And we rode lots of rides this year.  While most of the rides aren't done any differently for Halloween, it's fun to ride them in costume, or get to ride them at night when it's dark.  The one exception is the "Coast Cruise" which is revamped as the "Ghost Cruise" with corny Halloween jokes instead of corny regular jokes.

In addition to the costumes, shows, and rides, the big draw for Brick or Treat is, obviously, the Treat part.  There are treat stations set up all over the park.  The treats handed out are things that don't melt - things like granola bars, apple sauce, jolly ranchers, sour straws, lollipops, starburst, laffy taffy, and there's always a collectible lego brick and a lego magazine. 

We always end up closing down the park, so our pro tip is to bring pajamas for the kids to change into for the ride home.  They always fall asleep during the drive, which is nice for Thatboy and I.  Because they're not the only ones exhausted!

Know Before You Go

Hours:  5-9pm

Admission: $64, parking is not included and costs $18 on the weekend

Packages: Packages available to add on a day at Legoland, 2 day admission, or even a hotel stay.

See Brick or Treat Tickets on Legoland's website for more information.

In honor of our classic monster costumes, I wanted to make a classic monster cookie.  I've been seeing witch hat cookies all over the internet.  I grew up with these, called peanut butter blossoms, which my mom made every Christmas.  It's weird to see them rebranded as Halloween cookies.  Especially when they don't even look like witch hats - have you ever seen a two toned witch hat?  I felt like I could improve upon the idea very easily.  Take away the peanut butter base and sub in something darker.  My original thought was a chocolate crack cookie, but then I was thumbing through my Maida Heatter cookie book and found something even better.  She calls them "Down East Chocolate Cookies" - an almond chocolate cookie with no flour, so they spread into a nice, flat circle.  But also, because of the use of almond paste, instead of flour they have the most wonderful, dense, chewy quality.  I've seen them described as the texture of a tootsie roll, and that's not far off.  So delightfully decadent, dark, and sinful they make the perfect Halloween treat.  No tricks.

Witch Hat Cookies (Adapted from Maida Heatter's Down East Chocolate Cookies)
1 1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate
3 oz unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 1/2 oz almond paste
1 egg
1/2 tsp almond extract
24 Hershey kisses, unwrapped
  1. Place the chocolate and butter in the top of a large double boiler, uncovered, over warm water on moderate heat.  Stir frequently until melted.
  2. Add the sugar and salt and stir to mix. 
  3. Add the almond paste and stir until the almond paste is completely blended.
  4. Remove the top of the double boiler from the heat and whisk in the egg and almond extract until smooth.  Let the mixture cool, then place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 300.  Place aluminum foil on a cookie sheets with only one raised side.  Drop batter by rounded teaspoons-ful onto the cookie sheet.  Do not place more than 6 on each cookie sheet because they will spread.  Bake for 21 minutes reversing sheets top to bottom and front to back during baking to ensure even baking.
  6. Remove from oven and let them cool for one minute, before putting the kisses in the middle of the cookies.  Let cool completely on the foil.  When completely cool, peel the foil away from the backs of the cookies.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Happy Harry Potter Party!

If you know Thatkid at all, you know he's obsessed with Harry Potter.  We've been reading the books since kindergarten, he's got an account on Pottermore so he could be officially sorted and he even owns the "Syltherin House" version of some of the books as he has embraced his house.

In June he got a talking sorting hat, and the idea for his birthday party came into fruition.  Nevermind that most of his friends didn't know Harry Potter, and those that did were really only familiar with the movies and not the books.  He wanted a Harry Potter party, and he got one.

When guest arrived, they were greeted with a shopping list and sent to Diagon Alley to retrieve their school supplies.

A stop at Madam Malkin's for their school robes.


Ollivander's to pick out their wands.

And of course, Flourish and Blotts to grab their school books.

Here they grabbed both a Monster Book of Monsters

As well as a book containing information for all their classes.

Once most of the guests had arrived, they were ushered over to the Hogwarts Great Hall.

Here they lined up and waited to be sorted into their houses.

Pretty soon, Dumbledoor came out with the sorting hat.

He placed the hat on the head of each child, and once it announced their house, he gave them an identifying tie and they hurried off to join their table.

Once all the children were sorted, Professor Sprout came out for the first lesson - Herbology.

The kids learned all about venus fly traps and got to plant their own.

Then Hagrid came out to teach Care of Magical Creatures.

He taught the kids about nifflers and they competed against each other in a niffler game.

Professor Trelawny led the kids in a Divination game

Then Professor Lockhart helped the children discover their Patronuses.

In Transfiguration, the kids learned to turn pills into animals.

And in potions class, they each made a potion (slime) to take home.

After all those classes it was time to burn off some steam - QUIDDITCH matches!  I hid 2 snitches in the yard so we could have 2 games - Gryffyndor versus Slytherin, and Hufflepuff versus Ravenclaw.

While the kids played Quidditch, the house-elves magically cleaned the tables and put out a feast for the kids to enjoy that was made up of sandwiches, fruit, veggies, house-colored deviled eggs, and sweet sorting hats.

And then it was time for cake.

Thatkid requested a strawberry cake with black mirror glaze.

On the way out, the kids all got to stop in Hogsmede for a trip to Honeydukes for some candy to take home.

I made peppermint toads out of marshmallow fluff, peppermint extract, and white chocolate.

Sugar quills were molded melted jolly ranchers.

I went with a more traditional interpretation of cauldron cakes - welsh cakes which are technically "pan" cakes, but could easily be made in a cauldron if one used that to cook.

My favorite were the ice mice.  Did you guys eat those chocolate ice cubes growing up?  They were one of Thatdad's favorites.  They seemed to melt in your mouth, while also making your mouth feel colder.  I found a recipe online and adapted it to work with white chocolate, which seemed more "ice-y".  These really did melt like an ice cube and chill your mouth!

It was sooooooo much work and I don't think I'll ever do anything like this again, but the kids had a great time!  Thatkid specifically picked out all the food that we served, from lunch, to cake, to candy.  He's the one who requested sorting hats with both regular and white chocolate. 

I especially like these because they're perfect for this time of year with treats and snacks take on that "spooky" aspect.  Because a sorting hat looks exactly like a witch's hat.  These are also incredibly easy, which is another plus.

 Sweet Sorting Hats
1 can refrigerated crescent rolls
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
cocoa powder (use black cocoa powder for an especially spooky witch hat)
  1. Preheat oven to 375.  Separate the dough into 8 triangles.
  2. With the pointed part on top, place a Tbsp of either chocolate chips or white chocolate chips along the bottom of the triangle.
  3. Roll the bottom up and over the triangle to contain the chocolate chips and create the brim of the hat.
  4. Repeat with remaining triangles and chocolate chips.  Bake for 10 minutes, until golden brown.
  5.  Use a sifter or strainer to sift cocoa powder over the warm hats.