Monday, October 31, 2022

Catacomb Crumble Topping

It was a picture on Instagram wherein I was tagged by my daughter-in-law that sent me to the GhoulatHeart website where I first saw this clever catacomb crumble topping. Things like this really intrigue me, and I knew that I had to make it. There was no time, at this late date of discovery to shop around for small skull molds, so I used what I had that’s a little bigger. I actually prefer the look of mine (the kind that you see on old gravestones), to the more modern version.

Making the streusel skulls.

I’m not going to lie this was labor-intensive. Because my mold was bigger, it took longer in the freezer (more like 30 minutes) than author’s 10 minutes, so my process dragged out quite a long time. I also had only an eight-well mold, so I had to do it four times. Not every time was successful. Gradually I learned to pack the streusel as tightly as I possibly could, and made use of the smaller end of a tart tamper that worked quite well. I also learned that when I went to pop it out of the mold, in my case anyway, to start with the small end and work my way up to the top of the skull.

Ready for the oven.

 I absolutely love the look, it made my pumpkin bread look perfect for Halloween, it cut like a dream, and it is delicious! This crumble topping can be used on anything you like from coffee cakes, tarts, quick breads, to cupcakes. Just cover a cupcake with a light topping of crumbly streusel and press a streusel skull in the top. They hold up quite well in the oven (one of my fears was they wouldn’t), and as you can see, it’s quite eye-catching.

Right out of the oven.

Use your favorite pumpkin bread recipe add this for the topping.

Catacomb Crumble Topping
As seen on

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Make skull streusel ahead of time and keep refrigerated.

Add streusel ingredients to a medium bowl and use a fork to cut in butter until combined. Transfer 1/2 teaspoon of the streusel mixture into each skull cavity of the
skull mold and use the back of a teaspoon to pack the mixture tightly. Place mold into the freezer for about 10 minutes to set the skulls and tap to remove skulls onto parchment paper. Stores skulls in a plastic container and pop back in the fridge. Repeat until you have about 60 skulls. Reserve the remaining streusel mixture.

Make your favorite pumpkin bread. Sprinkle the crumbly streusel topping over the batter. Add about half the skulls to the top of the loaf. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove loaf from oven and top it with the remaining skull streusel, filling in where the bread has expanded. Return the loaf back to the oven and allow to bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes, then remove from pan to cool completely. Wrap and store at room temperature for up to four days, or 10 days in the refrigerator.

Note from Olla-Podrida: I rarely bother with the cut-in method. I placed all ingredients into the work bowl of a food processor and processed until large crumbs formed. Because my skulls were larger, each one took a tablespoon of mixture in order to make a full skull. I tamped it tightly into the mold using a
tart tamper. Unlike the originator of this recipe, I placed the crumbly streusel onto the pumpkin loaf, jammed all of the skulls on top, and baked it just once for 60 minutes at 350°. As you can see, it worked perfectly.

Something of major importance that the originator failed to mention is that your baking pan needs to be lined with either foil or parchment so that you can lift the loaf directly out of the pan. You don’t want to attempt to take it out on its side or invert it.

Have fun on Halloween. Bake something scary!

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Friday, October 28, 2022

Italian Sausage Soup

If you are anything like me, you can not get enough soup -- cold soups in the summer, broths in the early fall, and heartier varieties in winter. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I have been making a lot of soup in the month of October, and pleased with every one of them. This one is the only one that contains meat, so it is hearty, delicious, very filling, and sure to please the carnivore in your life. Aside from browning and draining the fat off of the meat, I think this was the easiest one to make. It freezes well, so I am set for the winter…at least for the time being.

Italian Sausage Soup

 1 lb. Italian sausage

2 Melissa's shallots, chopped

1 c. sliced mushrooms

1 clove garlic, minced

32 oz. low sodium beef broth

1 14.5-oz. can Italian-style stewed tomatoes

1 c. sliced carrots
¼ t. salt

¼ t. freshly ground black pepper

1 14.5-oz. can Great Northern beans, undrained

1 small zucchini, cubed

2 c. torn fresh baby spinach

Heat a stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sausage, garlic, onions, and mushrooms; cook and stir until browned, 5 to 7 minutes; drain, return to pot. Stir in broth, tomatoes, and carrots; season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes.

 Stir in beans with liquid and zucchini; cover and simmer another 15 minutes, or until zucchini is tender.

 Remove soup from heat and add spinach; replace the lid and allow spinach to wilt. Stir until warmed through.

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Thursday, October 27, 2022

Pumpkin Crumb Cake Muffins

I have had a lot of pumpkin muffins in my time, but none as good as these. I baked them Sunday morning shortly before number one son and my nine-year-old granddaughter were to arrive. Honestly, that girl can sniff out baked goods like nobody’s business. Once she was through the door, she made a beeline to the kitchen and stared at them telling me how good she thought they looked. (What that meant in kid speak was, “Give me one, please!”) She made so many yummy sounds while she was eating a portion of this muffin, that my son had to follow suit, and they both loved them. Well, just look at them!

They don’t require getting out a hand mixer, everything can be stirred together; you’ll dirty couple of bowls, but they are well worth it. Trust me.

Pumpkin Crumb Cake Muffins


1¾ c. flour

1 t. baking soda

2 t. ground cinnamon

1 t. pumpkin pie spice

½ t. salt

½ c. vegetable oil

½ c. sugar

½ c. packed brown sugar

1½ c. canned pumpkin puree

2 large eggs, room temperature

¼ c. milk, room temperature

Crumb Topping

¾ c. flour

¼ c. sugar

¼ c. packed brown sugar

1 t. pumpkin pie spice

6 T. unsalted butter, melted

Maple Icing

1½ c. confectioners’ sugar

2 T. pure maple syrup

2 T. milk

 Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray a 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with cupcake liners. This recipe makes 15 muffins, so prepare a second muffin pan in the same manner. Set aside.

 Make the muffins: In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt together until combined. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs and milk together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then fold everything together gently just until combined and no flour pockets remain.

 Spoon the batter into liners, filling them almost full.

 Make the crumb topping: Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice together until combined. Using a fork, lightly mix in the melted butter until crumbs form. Don’t over-mix. Spoon crumbs evenly on top of the batter and gently press them down into the batter so they’re snug.

Bake for 5 minutes at 425°F and then, keeping the muffins in the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Bake for an additional 16-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The total time these muffins take in the oven is about 21-22 minutes, give or take. Allow the muffins to cool for 10 minutes in the muffin pan as you make the icing.*

 Make the icing: Whisk all of the icing ingredients together until combined and smooth. Drizzle over muffins and serve warm. Cover tightly and store at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

 * I pretty much feel the same way about regular size muffins as I do those fun size candy bars. Personally, I can have a lot more fun with a big candy bar that I can with a fun size, and I can enjoy large muffins more small. If you decide to make jumbo muffins, you can pretty much put all of the batter into all six wells of your jumbo muffin pan. Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 20. That worked well for me.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2022

A Literary Halloween

I decided to go in a different direction for Halloween this year inspired both by my love of Poe (I once had, in my youth, all 18 stances of his iconic poem, “The Raven” committed to memory), and by the fabulous offerings of Michael’s earlier in the season. The Poe bust and typewriter were two things I absolutely could not pass up.

I think this is one of my favorite tablescapes of all time. There are many layers here as you can see, from the chocolate brown table round, to the skeleton hand fabric, to the gauzy runner, all combine to give this table an ethereal look.

Simple black placemats are topped with tin chargers, on which I placed square black plates. Books, published in the 1700s (to give it a literary feel), were placed on top and serve to hold salad plates from Carly Dodsley, and then appetizer plates from the “Midnight Dreary” collection a number of years ago from Pottery Barn.

The skull coffee mugs are from Williams-Sonoma, a couple years back. A bit of sparkle is provided by Mikasa wine and water glasses in the “Parklane” pattern.

 The adorable mice place card holders really worked here, I thought, they can be found here.

 The amber tea lights, provide a bit of an unworldly glow, and can be found here.

The ravens were purchased years ago at a local shop, and have served me well over the years. The mirrored black flatware is a new addition this year, and I have found it quite versatile. You can find it here.

No matter how you plan to celebrate the year's spookiest of all nights, I hope you’ll do it with style.

 Happy Halloween!


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This post is linked to: Tablescape Thursday


Monday, October 24, 2022

Smoky Jalapeño Cheddar Potato Soup

When you suddenly go crazy and make three different cauldrons of soup in one week, you can often come up short when it comes to storage/freezer containers. That’s precisely what happened to me when I decided to try a number of new soup recipes. Fortunately, one recipe was better than the other, and I am pretty much set for winter when it comes to soup. I do find that a nice cup of soup is a wonderful accompaniment to half a sandwich, salad, or roll. This recipe for smoky jalapeño cheddar potato soup is phenomenal! I think it is my favorite of the three that I tried. Be sure to cook your potatoes, as mentioned in the recipe, only until fork tender, you don’t want to cook them to mush. This bit of spicy, cheesy goodness is a must for the coming months.

Smoky Jalapeno Cheddar Potato Soup

Slightly adapted from

6 slices thick cut bacon

2 c. mirepoix (mixture of celery, carrots, and onions, all minced)

½ T. Melissa’s minced garlic

1 Melissa’s pickled jalapeño, seeded and chopped

1 t. dried thyme

1 12-oz. bottle of lager or Pilsner

1/3 c. flour

3 c. broth, chicken or vegetable *

1 c. heavy cream

4 small to medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed

½ lb. of sharp old white cheddar cheese, grated coarsely

4 oz. smoked cheddar cheese grated coarsely

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, cook the bacon over med/high heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a bowl.

 Add the carrots, celery, onion, jalapeño, garlic and thyme to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened, 5-8 minutes. Add ½ of the beer and cook until reduced by half, another couple of minutes.

 Sprinkle the flour over the veggies and stir for a few minutes to cook off any floury taste.(see recipe note about thinking) Add the chicken broth just a little bit at a time, stirring as you add until smooth and creamy. The soup should start out very thick and eventually thin out as you add the full 3 cups of broth.

 Then stir in the remaining beer and the potatoes, and simmer for approx 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.

 Add the heavy cream, cheddar cheeses and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened and creamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the reserved bacon and season with salt and pepper.

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Friday, October 21, 2022

Minestrone Soup (Olive Garden Copycat…Almost)

I have often mentioned that once September hits I enter “soup mode,” but when October hits, that really intensifies. Last week I made three different kinds of soup, each one quite different from the other, and all delicious! I enjoy having soup alongside a piece of cheesy bread as a meal, but I also appreciate a cup with half a sandwich. Fill your freezer full of delicious soups, and you will be able to eat as well at home as you would have had you chosen to have lunch out. Plus, it’s cozier, you don’t have to put on make up, and it’s far less expensive.

Minestrone Soup (Olive Garden Copycat…Almost)

 1 T. olive oil

2 small zucchini, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

6 celery sticks, diced

½ large onion, diced

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes

1 32-oz. container vegetable broth

1 T. Italian seasoning

T. dried basil

½ c. small shell pasta

1 15-oz. can kidney beans, drained

1 T. Melissa’s minced garlic

2 c. water

2-3 handfuls fresh baby spinach

 Heat olive oil until shimmering in a medium stockpot; add zucchini, carrots, celery and onions. Sauté for about 10 minutes, until vegetables soften. Add tomatoes, broth, Italian seasoning, and basil. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

 Add pasta, kidney and Great Northern beans, garlic, and water. Simmer for about 10 additional minutes.

 Add baby spinach and let it simmer until it wilts. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm with a crusty roll.

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Thursday, October 20, 2022

Spicy Cheese Spread

 I don’t know about the rest of you, but I like to keep some sort of cheese spread in my refrigerator at all times. Not only do I enjoy having it to make a quick snack or sandwich (as is often the case with pimiento cheese), but it can come in handy when you are wanting to add additional flavor to everyday dishes such as scrambled or deviled eggs, and can be turned into a lovely bowl, surrounded with crudités and crackers, should you need a quick snack for surprise visitors. This is a good one, and should please everyone. It’s delicious on crackers, but also goes well with wedges of apple. It’s perfect for fall.
Spicy Cheese Spread

8 oz. grated cheddar
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ c. mayonnaise
¼ c. sour cream
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
¼ t.
smoked paprika
¼ t. cayenne pepper

Crackers for serving

Play some ingredients into the work bowl of the food processor and process until creamy. Serve topped with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Festive Fall Tablescape

I honestly had no idea what I was doing with this table setting. It’s kind of a hodgepodge of all things fall. My aunt was coming for lunch to help me celebrate my birthday, so I decided to use some of my favorite things at the table in the conservatory. I used a chocolate brown tablecloth topped with a bohemian style runner, and woven placemats.

Number two son had brought me this lovely bouquet of flowers. The prior year he had brought me the skull planter with a succulent in it, but considering the succulent had outgrown that planter, I decided to use it as a vase, and loved the outcome.

The plates (that I had lost track of for almost a year) are my favorites for fall. They are by Maxcera and are the sunflower pattern. The green chargers (that weigh a ton!) I inherited from my mother. They have no markings on the bottom other than that they are made in Italy. I paired these with yellow stemware, and rust napkins.

The BoHo napkin rings are a new acquisition, and I just love them! You can find them here. They are packaged beautifully, and come with their own comb!

The mugs are a new acquisition as well. I thought they would pair nicely with a dark and spooky table using solely black and green, but they worked here as well.

The leaf bowls that I used for salsa are actually a partof a relish set. It’s rare that I use the relish set, but quite often that I use the bowls. In some pictures you will see little amber tea light holders. I used those to give a lovely glow to the table when the skies turned dark and ugly.

We had a delightful lunch and I suppose that’s all that matters. Hope you are enjoying a colorful fall!

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 This post is linked to: Tablescape Thursday