Next week is Halloween, and what better way to celebrate with the family than to cook something gross looking?
“Bloody Baked Rats” is a cheese-stuffed meatloaf molded into the shape of a rat, decorated with two carrot ears and peas for eyes and a nose. “Witch Fingers” are rolled up cookies decorated with almond “fingernails” to look like, well, witch fingers.
First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then wash your hands. Dump the ground beef into a large bowl, followed by the chopped onion, egg, breadcrumbs and meatloaf seasoning. If you can’t find meatloaf seasoning (I couldn’t), a dry spaghetti sauce mix works great. Start mashing everything together with your hands until everything appears evenly distributed.
Once this is done, grab a portion of the mixture, flatten it in your hand, and place two or three of the cheese cubes in the middle, depending on how large the portion is. This step is great for including kids, especially younger ones — just have them hand you the cheese and decide how much goes in.
Fold the meat mixture over the cheese and mold it in your hands until the seam becomes invisible. This will make it less likely for the cheese to escape when it melts. Once this is done, shape the mold until one end is larger than the other, then use one hand to pinch off a section between the two sections to look like a neck, creating a “head and body” shape to the blob. Put it in a shallow baking dish and move on. Do this until all the meat mixture is used up, creating portions as you see fit.
Next, break off strands of dry spaghetti and place them in the back of the rats, creating tails. Do not let them hang over the edge of the pan. Otherwise, if the tails fall out of the bodies they will be stuck to the bottom of the oven and unsalvageable.
Set the rats aside and wash your hands again. For the sauce, you’ll mix the tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Once everything is well mixed, pour the sauce evenly over the rats, coating them as much as possible. This is also a good time to include the kids; give your little helper a ladle or large spoon and let them help you pour the sauce.
Cover the rats with aluminum foil or, if you don’t have any, find your inner genius. My apartment is constantly out of aluminum foil, so when I saw two unused disposable pie tins, I had my cooking partner cut them so that they’d lay flat while I started collecting the ingredients for the cookies. Two flat pie tins worked for us, but you may need more, depending on the surface area your rats take up.
Once you’ve got the rats covered, stick them in your oven for 45 minutes.
Then you can start with the cookie dough for the witch’s fingers.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg, sugar, butter, almond and vanilla extract. Beat the mixture with an electric mixer, and gradually add in the flour, baking powder and salt.
Make sure you have a strong motor in your mixer that can handle very thick dough, or it’ll be smoking and stinky by the time your ready for the next step. My kitchen smelled of overworked motor for 20 minutes.
Cover the bowl of dough with plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes (or longer, if your rats have more than 30 minutes left in the oven).
Uncover the rats when the oven timer beeps for the rats. Baste them with the sauce mixture in the pan to keep them moist (I used a large spoon), then stick them in the oven for another 30 minutes. You’ll do this step three or four more times while the rats are baking.
Once the rats are back in the oven, take out the cookie dough, and call back your child helper if you have one. Take a tablespoon of dough and roll it between your hands until it’s the length of a finger or a little longer. Pinch it near one tip and then in the center to resemble knuckles. Place it on a greased baking sheet and continue until all the batter is gone, which is anywhere between 30 and 40 fingers later.
Then grab your pack of almonds and press them onto the fingers, wide side of the almond in the finger and the narrow side hanging off the edge, to look like long fingernails. I used dark cocoa-covered almonds for a chocolaty kick. This step and the previous one are great for kids to do with supervision.
For an added detail, take a butter knife and create little cuts over the knuckles to look like wrinkles; it only takes two minutes and adds an eerie realism to the cookies.
If there’s still time left on the oven, cover the cookie sheet and put it back in the fridge. If not, take your rats out and let them cool on the stove.
Reduce oven heat to 325 degrees and wait for a few minutes for the temperature to go down. Once it’s readjusted, put the cookies in for 20 to 25 minutes or until slightly golden.
By this time, the rats are almost cool enough to eat, so slice up your carrot, grab a small handful of peas and microwave them in a bowl for 15 seconds, just enough to heat them up. Then take two carrot slices and set them on each rat’s head to look like ears. Place two peas for eyes and one on the end of the rat for a nose. This usually works better if there is sauce for the veggies to sit in.
Dish up the rats and eat up! Heat up extra veggies for a side if you want, but the rats are filling on their own.
You’re not done, though. Once the cookies are finished baking, take them out of the oven and pry off the almonds. If you’re lucky enough to find the red decorating gel, squeeze some into each almond cavity and replace the almond to make it look like a bloody nail. If, like me, you couldn’t find the red gel, grab a jar of DIY frosting and the flavor of your choosing. I picked mint chocolate, so the frosting turned out green — because witches can bleed green in my book. If you go with frosting instead of the gel, wait until the cookies are completely cooked, or else the frosting will melt and create a mess.
Once the nails are applied, the cookies are ready to eat! Bon appetit!
“Bloody Baked Rats”
Recipe by: Angela O. on Allrecipes.com
Prep and cooking time: 90 minutes
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1 cup white sugar
5 (6.5 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
5 ounces Cheddar cheese
1/8 (10 ounce) package frozen green peas
1 (1.25 ounce) packet meatloaf seasoning mix
2 pounds ground beef
1 ounce spaghetti
Recipe by: Sandra on Allrecipes.com
Prep and cooking time: 75 minutes
2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 pound almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 pound confectioners’ sugar
1 ounce piping gel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt