Wednesday, October 26, 2011

So Good Your Eyes Will Pop!

I love the fall. That crisp cool feeling in the air...and of course, the holidays. There's just so much to look forward to! Halloween...Thanksgiving...Christmas. It's even better with kids. They bring back the magic of the holidays that you felt when you were little yourself. It's so wonderful to see the holidays and this time of year through the eyes of a child again. My son is so excited to go trick-or-treating (he didn't really grasp the concept last year). And I'm so excited to go with him!

There's so much fun to look forward to with Halloween. The decorations, costumes, candy, and of course, spooky treats. I decided to add to the holiday spirit this week by making a spooky dinner. As always happens when cooking with kids, it took longer than I expected it to. But it was very tasty and it could easily be made at any time of the year. Besides, cheese sandwiches and tomato soup are pretty timeless.

My husband loves jalapeno poppers and keeps asking me to make some, but I simply haven't had time to make any. So, I found the recipe for these sandwiches and figured it would make a good compromise. I also thought that it would pair nicely with this soup (I didn't think the soup alone would be enough to fill up my hungry family). I made some changes to the original recipe. So, I'm providing the original recipe as well as my version (I also gave my version a spooky name to go with the Halloween theme).

I also made some regular grilled cheese sandwiches in case no one liked the jalapeno popper sandwiches. But all of the sandwiches (regular and jalapeno popper) got gobbled up. The jalapeno popper sandwiches were a big hit.

Eye-Popping Soup


For the soup:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes
1 quart homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
3 sprigs oregano or marjoram
1/2 cup half-and-half
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

For the bugs:

6 pitted black Kalamata olives
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 fresh chives, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the eyeballs:

1 pound (about 30) bocconcini (bit-size mozzarella balls)
1 jar small pimiento-stuffed olives


Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook until onion is translucent, about 6 minutes.

Add tomatoes, stock, and oregano, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer gently until thickened, about 45 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, remove herbs. Puree soup in small batches until smooth. Return to pan, and slowly pour in half-and-half, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, make the bugs:

Use a toothpick to pierce each Kalamata olive times (all the way through to the other side). Insert a rosemary leaf into each hole to make eight legs. Insert two pieces of chive into the small hole at the end of the olive to make antennae.

Make the eyeballs:

Using a small melon baller, scoot out a hole from each bocconcini. Halve each pimiento-stuffed olive crosswise. Place a half, cut side out, in the hole in each bocconcini to make eyeballs.

Ladle hot soup into shallow bowls. Float 4 or 5 eyeballs in soup, and place a bug on the rim of each bowl.

Source: Martha Stewart website.

Notes: I'm not going to lie, those eyeballs took forever to make and the pupils kept popping out. It was so hard to get the holes just the right size. Either they were too small and it split the mozzarella ball when you tried to put the olive in, or it was too big and the olive would slide out as soon as you picked up the eyeball to put it in the soup. Besides that, it was really hard to keep the eyeballs right-side up in the soup...which is the point, right? So, part of me was thinking that in the future, I would still make the soup (it's a keeper), but just skip the bocconcini and olives.

But I will tell you this: adding the mozzarella and the olives to the soup adds richness and extra layers of flavor that I wouldn't exclude in the future for the world. Don't skip it!

However, in order to make it more simple, less time consuming...and still spooky...let your guests serve themselves. Let me tell you how. Provide the soup in a large bowl, in addition to two smaller bowls (one containing mozzarella balls and one containing green olives) labeled as follows: Eyeballs (whites of the eyes only) and Pupils and Irises (with halved it still has the pupil/iris effect). Then everyone can spoon in as much of one or both that they would like in their soup. If you want to get especially gory, you could even label the soup as "vampire blood."

Finally, I didn't make the bugs. I bought the olives and thought I had the rosemary...but I didn't. Oops! Then, when the eyeballs took so long to make, I thought "oh well, who cares? I don't have time to make bugs tonight anyway!" But if you would like to look at them (they are super a spooky way, of course), you can find the picture here.

Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Makes 2 sandwiches


2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon sour cream
10 pickled jalapeno pepper slices, or to taste--chopped
2 ciabatta sandwich rolls
4 teaspoons butter
8 tortilla chips, crushed
1/2 cup shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese


Combine the cream cheese, sour cream, and pickled jalapeno in a small bowl. Set aside. Preheat skillet over medium heat.

Slice each roll in half horizontally, then slice the rounded tops off the ciabatta rolls to make a flat top half. Spread 1 teaspoon butter on the doughy cut side of the bottom bun and 1 teaspoon butter on the now flattened top bun. Place half of the cream cheese mixture, half of the crushed chips, and half of the shredded cheese on the non-buttered side of the bottom bun. Place the top half of the bun on the sandwich and place the sandwich on the hot skillet. Repeat with the second sandwich.

Grill until lightly browned and flip over, about 3-5 minutes; continue grilling until cheese is melted and the second side is golden brown.

Source:, submitted by BrandyE

Goblin Goo Cheese Sandwiches


Cream cheese, softened
Pickled jalapeno pepper slices to taste--chopped
Slices of bread--2 per sandwich (such as sourdough)
Cooking spray
Shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese


Combine the cream cheese and pickled jalapeno in a small bowl. If the cream cheese still needs to be softened in order to mix more easily, microwave it for 30 seconds. Set aside.

Preheat the broiler on high.

Spray a foil-lined jelly roll pan with cooking spray. You can also spray the bread for a buttery toasted flavor. Place bread on jelly roll pan. Toast the bread lightly on the bottom rack of the oven with the broiler on--no longer than one minute. Watch closely as bread under a broiler can burn quickly. You can toast both sides of the bread, or only one side. It's your preference. I only toasted one side (this made for a crispy inside yet a slightly soft outside of the sandwich in the end).

Remove toasted bread from the oven and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Return to the oven and broil for 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Again, watch closely to avoid burning.

Remove cheesy bread from the oven and spread desired amount of cream cheese/jalapeno mixture on top of the melted cheese. Return to the oven and broil for 1 minute, or until cream cheese is heated. I can't repeat or stress this enough--watch closely to avoid burning! Broilers are great because they speed things up, but you don't want to end up with a burned mess either!

Remove bread from the oven. Place one slice of bread on top of another. Slice sandwiches in half. My pan fit six slices of bread at a time, so I ended up with three whole sandwiches per batch. They are very rich, so I only had a half of a sandwich and it was enough for me.

Source: Inspired by

Notes: I broiled rather than grilled these sandwiches on a pan because I had to make so many of them and doing it in a pan would have taken FOREVER.

Also, I didn't include amounts because it really is to your taste. I think I would use less cream cheese mixture per sandwich next time (since they were so rich). I made so many sandwiches tonight that I kind of lost track of the amounts...I'd honestly even have to think about it to figure out how many sandwiches, total, I made.

Another option is that you could top the cheesy slices of bread with plain toasted bread--instead of each slice of bread being topped with cheese and cream cheese and then put together and sliced. It would definitely make for a lighter sandwich...but it wouldn't be light on flavor.

Honestly, I was so rushed with dinner tonight and was under such a deadline that I was just doing my best to get things done as quickly as possible. At any rate, it was yummy! So, the next time I make these sandwiches, I'll have some shortcuts and tricks up my sleeve.


  1. Sarah you are so creative! Are those jalapeño sandwiches really spicy? I like poppers but I can't tolerate really spicy things. I bet Nephi would love those.

  2. Okay, the bugs were really cute. I would guess Pete would either love or freak out at eating them. That boy is so unpredictable.

    Good Halloween stuff!

  3. The jalapeno sandwiches weren't spicy at all. I used mild bottled pickled jalapenos. So, it had the flavor of the jalapenos, but not the same amount of heat. The cream cheese made it more mild too. I think you would like them, Shandie. Nephi would love them. Your girls wouldn't. :) I made regular grilled cheese for Pete.

    The bugs were cute! I was sad I couldn't make them. I thought about using thyme and removing the leaves and using the little stems...but only the leaves are edible on thyme and people would have had to remove the legs before eating the olives. I guess I could have just made one for the sake of the picture, but it was a hectic night and I didn't really think about it.

  4. You know, on second, second thought, I could have made the "goblin goo" sandwiches even creepier by adding just a tiny bit of green food dye. Next year! Because I will definitely be making these sandwiches again.

  5. Also, I might try making the eyeballs with fresh mozzarella formed into ball shape with a melon baller. I think it would be softer and therefore easier to put the green olives into. Because my eyeballs just didn't turn out convincing enough. Blast!