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If there’s anything more synonymous with vampires than stakes, it’s garlic. I knew if garlic didn’t make an appearance in this menu, I could never again call myself a Dracula fan with good conscience. Luckily, these cheesy garlic potato wedges by Chungah suggested themselves right away. Crispy on the outside, soft and warm on the inside, with a punch of garlic and red pepper to liven them up–they’re the perfect side dish to serve alongside our Robber Stakes!

Garlic Fang Fries

“…when she was in bed he came and himself fixed the wreath of garlic round her neck. The last words he said to her were:
” ‘Take care you do not disturb it; and even if the room feel[s] close, do not to-night open the window or the door.’ ”
— Dracula

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INGREDIENTS:

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  • 4 red potatoes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • sour cream and snipped fresh chives (for garnish)
  • Makes 4 servings

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°. Remove any obvious eyes from the potatoes and slice the potatoes into eight wedges each.

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    All red potatoes have a variety of little indentations and “craters.” Don’t worry about those. You’ll only want to cut something away if there’s clearly a white eye growing out of it.

  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil and garlic.
  3. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil (shiny side down, if you’re using double-sided foil). Gather the wedges into the center of the foil and pour the oil mix over them. Toss to coat.
  4. Sprinkle on your spices and toss to coat once more.

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    I stuck with the amount of red pepper suggested in the original recipe and found it to be just right for me, but feel free to add extra red pepper if you want a spicier kick.

  5. Tightly fold the sides of the foil over the potatoes to create a packet, making sure the potatoes are completely covered. If you need to lay an extra strip of foil over any exposed potatoes, that’s fine as long as the edges are pressed tightly down and sealed shut.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.
  7. Unwrap the foil packet and sprinkle on the cheese.

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    A whole cup of cheese might seem like a lot at first, but believe me, you’ll be glad for every speck of it. The cheese is what makes these fries extra special!

  8. Broil 2-3 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the edges of the potatoes begin to crisp up.

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    When you open the oven door, prepare yourself to meet the best aroma of cheesy, garlicky goodness you’ve ever encountered. At least, that’s how I felt when I smelled it! :)

  9. Add some sour cream and snipped fresh chives for a little flair.

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    You can place the sour cream in a separate bowl for dipping (which adds a nice “dripping fang” touch), or you can spoon some of it into a piping back with a small, circular tip and pipe some sour cream squiggles onto each fang. It’s up to you!

  10. Serve at an all-nighter while waiting for a sinister vampire to make his appearance! :)

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    One of the best things about these guys is that they reheat really well. Just wrap up your remaining fries in tinfoil and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. When you’re ready to reheat, just pop them in the oven for about 10 minutes. I’d also recommend adding a touch more cheese and repeating the broiling step for a minute or two, since the twice-heated cheese likes to stick to the foil.

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Sometimes, it’s easy to feel like an author has you in mind when you read a passage in a book. For me, those passages usually involve food. ;)

In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a common Transylvanian dish is robber steak: grilled beef kabobs with bacon, red pepper, and onions. How could I pass up a dish so perfectly tailored for someone like me, looking to include stakes in a vampire-themed Halloween menu? It’s also the perfect entree to accompany our spider chips and salsa!

There are lots of recipes for robber steak out there. To make the dish my own, I swapped regular onions for pearl onions, added green pepper for color, and treated the kabobs with a dry rub composed of my own special blend of spices. For the ultimate Dracula experience, enjoy with a generous glass of Golden Mediasch! :)

Robber “Stakes”: An Alison’s Wonderland Original Recipe©

“I dined on what they called ‘robber steak’—bits of bacon, onion, and beef, seasoned with red pepper, and strung on sticks, and roasted over the fire, in simple style of the London cat’s meat! The wine was Golden Mediasch, which produces a queer sting on the tongue, which is, however, not disagreeable.”
— Dracula
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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1  10.5 oz sirloin tip steak
  • 5 strips thick cut bacon
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 10 white pearl onions
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • your favorite dry rub (I used my own recipe: 2 tbsp paprika, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 3/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp ground mustard, and 3/4 tsp salt)
  • some kabob skewers (if you use wooden ones, remember to soak them before use)
  • Makes 5 kabobs

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Begin by cubing your steak and peppers. Then peel your onions and cut them in half.

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    Be sure to keep the pieces pretty big, so they don’t split down the middle when you slide them on the skewer.

  2. To assemble the kabobs, take one skewer and push a piece of green pepper about an inch down onto the stick. Next, push the end of a strip of bacon onto the skewer. Add an onion, a red pepper piece, and a second onion. Push everything down further on the skewer a little bit to make room, fold the bacon over the top of the second onion, and skewer that part of the bacon into place. Add a piece of steak, and skewer another fold of bacon over that as well. Repeat the process until you have used 4 pepper pieces, 4 onion halves, and 2 steak cubes. The bacon should be threaded through the other ingredients in a wave pattern. Use this same process to assemble the four remaining kabobs.
  3. Brush each kabob with olive oil and lightly dust or rub the dry rub onto the meat and vegetables. Don’t worry about getting seasoning in every nook and cranny. Since these are bite-size pieces, you want to be careful not to overpower them. We want the natural flavors to shine through!

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    This was my first time making a dry rub, and it turned out pretty well (maybe just a little too much paprika). I might continue to play with the proportions of the ingredients to get them just right.

  4. I recommend grilling the kabobs on a George Foreman classic plate grill if you’ve got one (it cooks them a little faster). Place the kabobs on the grill two at a time and allow them to cook for two minutes. Turn them once and allow them to cook for another two minutes.

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    A regular grill works too. Just allow for a couple extra minutes of cooking time on each side, since you won’t have heat coming from two sides at once. If using wood skewers, make sure they are still very wet before adding them to a gas or charcoal grill.

  5. All done! Easy right? And they’re just as easy to eat as they are to make. Each component offers something fun and different. The steak is smoky, and the bacon absorbs the spices to take on a unique flavor. The peppers are crisp and fresh, and the onions are sweet and juicy!

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    I’m a sucker for customizable food, so I also love that you can alter the proportions of the ingredients to suit your taste. The onions were by far my favorite component!

  6. Serve while traveling the Transylvanian countryside in search of an ancient vampire! :)
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I’ve been looking forward to starting this menu for ages! I just read Dracula this past year, and it easily became one of my favorite books. I love the noble characters, gripping suspense, and quietly menacing nature of the Count. I knew right away that Dracula would be the inspiration for my Halloween menu!

We’re starting things off with a much more appetizing version of the madman Renfield’s favorite snack: spiders! With a simple spider stencil and some blue corn tortillas, I made a batch of spider chips. For a fun twist on traditional dipping sauce, I made a Transylvanian salsa recipe from a Romanian site called Transylvanian Kitchen (the Google page translator doesn’t do a perfect job, but the instructions are pretty easy to piece together). Nothing beats the crisp, simple deliciousness of homemade tortilla chips still warm from the oven, and I love the unique, smoky flavor of the salsa—still recognizable as salsa, but decidedly different from the Mexican variety. Together, they’re just the right kickoff for any Halloween party…or Dracula movie night!

Spider Chips & Transylvanian Salsa

“[Rendfield's] spiders are now becoming as great a nuisance as his flies, and to-day I told him that he must get rid of them…when a horrid blow-fly…buzzed into the room, he caught it, held it exultantly for a few moments between his finger and thumb, and, before I knew what he was going to do, put it in his mouth and ate it…This gave me an idea, or the rudiment of one. I must watch how he gets rid of his spiders. He has evidently some deep problem in his mind, for he keeps a little note-book in which he is always jotting down something.”
— Dracula
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INGREDIENTS:

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  • 2 regular tomatoes or 4 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 red onion (depends on how onion-y you like your salsa)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1/4-1/2 tbsp Tabasco sauce (depends on how spicy you like your salsa)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • approximately 7 fresh flat parsley leaves
  • 1 bag blue corn tortilla shells (Most major grocery stores don’t sell them. You’ll have better luck at a mercado or international grocer. I got mine at Fiesta Market in Mt. Prospect, IL)
  • Makes about 4 servings

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° and coarsely chop all your vegetables.

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    Don’t worry about making them even and pretty. They’re gonna get all blended up soon.

  2. Pour the veg into a blender or food processor and blend for about 45 seconds. Drain out the excess liquid.
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  3. Squeeze the juice from the lime into the mix and add all your other ingredients (except the tortillas). Pulse a few times until well combined and you’ve reached your desired consistency. After this, you can drain once more, if you like. Few things bother me more than watery salsa, so I was willing to risk losing a little lime juice for the sake of a second drain.
  4. Salsa’s all done—time to start your chips! For this step, you’ll need a spider cookie cutter or stencil. Since I was a having a hard time finding a cookie cutter that really looked like a spider, I used this stencil that I found on Scrapbook.com:

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    Now THAT’S a spider!

  5. Stack 2-3 tortillas on top of each other. If using a cookie cutter, just press firmly into the top the same way you would with cookie dough–quick and easy! If you’re using the stencil, trace around the outside edge of the stencil with a small, sharp knife, being careful to cut all the way through to the bottom tortilla. Carefully remove the extra tortilla bits from around the outside of the stencil and discard. The stencil method takes a little extra time, but to me, the end result was worth it.
  6. Repeat the process until you have approximately 16 spiders. On two ungreased cookie sheets, place the spiders an inch or two apart. Liberally salt both sides.
  7. Place the sheets in the oven until the legs begin to brown slightly. For stenciled spiders, this will be about 7 minutes. For cookie cutter spiders, it will be about 10 minutes.
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  8. Allow the chips to cool on the pan for about 5 minutes.

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    I love how they curl up a little and actually stand on their legs!

  9. To store, place the salsa and chips in separate airtight containers. The salsa can be refrigerated for about three days, and the chips can be stored at room temperature for the same amount of time before they start to lose their crispness.
  10. Serve in the dark dining hall of a decrepit Transylvanian castle to a sinister looking Count. :)

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    Of course, there’s no rule that says you have to stick to spiders. You can make a bunch of Dracula-themed chips: coffins, tombstones, bats, the works!

Happy October, folks! It is officially an acceptable time to decorate for Halloween, so you can bet my apartment is decked out in its finest spooky raiments. Of course, this means it’s time to say goodbye to September and our Redwall menu, but don’t worry. As always, we’re concluding our current menu with an awesome new Adagio tea blend: Abbot’s Chocolate Hazelnut Tea!

Want a hint to our October Book of the Month? I got you covered:

IMG_4649     Most Redwall recipes are simple, hearty affairs, and dessert is no exception. In fact, sugar barely even makes an appearance in this recipe. Instead, apple pie spice walnuts are the star of this dish, lightly sweetened and accompanied by a generous helping of Redwall’s famous meadowcream. This dessert’s cozy flavors and simplistic feel make it the perfect way to end our Redwall menu. Enjoy!

P.S. I got the nut recipe from The Café, and the meadowcream recipe is my own invention.

Candied Nuts with Meadowcream

“Gnoff indicated a spot on the butter-colored meadowcream, between a candied chestnut and a honey-preserved rose petal. ‘Cut the cackle an’ slice the cake, matey!’
“A loud cheer went up as the keen blade slid into the massive confection.
“…Columbine took over the slicing and Cogs served drinks, whilst Martin sat in a corner with some of his friends, eating and sipping happily.”

— The Legend of Luke
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INGREDIENTS:

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  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey (for the nuts)
  • 1 tsp apple pie spice
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 cups chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp honey (for the meadowcream)
  • Makes approximately 4 servings

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Start by preheating your oven to 325°. Line two baking sheets with tinfoil and spray the tinfoil with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium size pan, cook the butter, olive oil, brown sugar, 2 tbsp honey, apple pie spice, and salt over medium heat. You’ll want to cook and stir until the mix is well combined and very bubbly.
  3. Pour in the walnuts and cook for another 5-6 minutes, stirring continuously. When they’re finished, the nuts should be completely coated and adhering to each other a little bit.
  4. Pour half the nuts onto one baking sheet and the remaining half onto the second baking sheet. Spread the nuts around with a spatula (not your fingers—they’ll be hot!). The key here is to spread the nuts apart as much as possible, so you don’t wind up with giant walnut clusters, which won’t baking evenly.
  5. Put your baking sheets in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Every 5 minutes or so, pull out the sheets and stir the nuts with your spatula, making sure to spread them back out again to avoid clusters.
  6. NOTE: Keep an eye on the baking sheets for the last few minutes, as the bottom sheet may finish a little sooner.
  7. They’re all done when the nuts are a lovely toasted brown color, like this:

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    And they will smell like the essence of happiness itself.

  8. Remove the pans and set them on a wire rack to cool (do NOT remove the nuts yet). While you wait, pour your whipping cream into a standing mixer and whip on medium-high speed for a few minutes, until it begins to have a solid texture but doesn’t yet form peaks.
  9. Stop the mixer while you add your 3 tbsp of honey. Stir the mix a few times with your spatula, to keep the honey from settling to the bottom.IMG_4585
  10. Whip for a few more minutes or until soft peaks form. If you like, you can whip it a little longer, until you get stiff peaks. It will have a little more texture and a stronger form, but might not look as smooth and pretty.

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    PEAKS EXPLAINED: To determine how strong your peaks are, stop the mixer and pull the whipping attachment straight out of the whipped cream. If pulling it out does not cause a little pointed peak to form, you’re at the “no peaks” stage. If a peak is formed but bends (or the tip curls), you’re at the “soft peaks” stage. If a peak is formed and points straight up like a tiny little mountain, you’re at the “stiff peaks” stage.

  11. When the nuts are cool and the candy coating has hardened, break up any remaining clusters into small, bite-size pieces.
  12. To store, transfer the apple pie candied walnuts to an airtight container and store at room temperature (they will keep for about two days before beginning to go soft). Transfer the meadowcream to another airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  13. To serve, fill a small bowl with 2/3 meadowcream and 1/3 apple pie candied walnuts.IMG_4646
  14. Enjoy with all your favorite Redwall heroes! :) IMG_4655
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