Everybody loves a good themed party. One of the most common themes is a holiday-themed party. Plenty of blogs and Pinterest posts can be searched for virtually any subject, but you end up scrolling through uninspiring ideas, complicated recipes or desserts that would have a better place in an episode of Nailed it.
Kim Laidlaw, Caroline Hall and Jody Revenson came together and created a book of creative concepts that are easy to make and look amazing. They also found a subject that covers many themes, including the biggest holiday themes of all, Halloween and Christmas, all inspired by a classic Disney animated film.
Insight Editions’ Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Official Cookbook and Entertaining Guide is filled with over fifty recipes and four different parties to cover the entire year with Jack Skellington and friends.
The recipe section of the book includes snacks, starters & sides, entrées, desserts and drinks that cover the whole spectrum of party guests, from kids to adult foodies. They offer gluten-free and sugar-free options. I wish that they labelled the recipes or organized them in a way that made those recipes simpler to find, but a discerning cook will know the difference.
“The Nightmare Before Christmas Official Cookbook is filled with over fifty recipes and four different parties…”
Recipes include Sally Patchwork Layer Cake, Oogie Boogie Lemon, Homemade Marshmallow Zero Dogs, Worm’s Ward and Frog’s Breath Soup, Igor Cheesy Breadstick Bones and so many more. The photography in the book makes for some true inspiration, but nothing seems too intimidating for the reader to take on themselves.
As a test of this, my children, aged 10 and 6, joined me in the kitchen for a day to make a few recipes from the book. Our lunch was Mummy Boy Dogs, consisting of hot dogs wrapped in puff pastry to resemble a wrapped mummy (complete with a black olive to play the eye that was poking out.
Dinner consisted of two recipes, the Snake and Spider Stew with Igor Cheesy Breadstick Bones. We found the recipes to be easy to follow, but while I appreciated the simplicity of recommending store bought ingredients, particularly the pizza dough in the breadstick recipe, I’d have loved to see a recipe for the dough and let people choose to go store bought if need be.
All of the recipes came out beautifully. They weren’t exact matches to the photos (mainly because 425 degrees on my oven is apparently warmer than 425 degrees), but the overall look was a match and the taste was on point. What was most interesting was how simple they made the recipes to make, even when they were more complex.
Our Snake and Spider Stew (Fettuccine and Meatballs done in a Mexican style with a mirepoix and tomato based soup) was a number of steps, including making the beef and pork meatballs from scratch, getting the soup going and incorporating the fettuccine. The recipe was organized for time management and ensured that I didn’t have four burners going to make dinner.
“What was most interesting was how simple they made the recipes to make, even when they were more complex.”
What’s more is that you will find recipe-related tips on the page to help you not only make it well, but shop to help you make it better. One such tip warns the reader to buy a brick of cheese rather than pre-shredded cheese for a dip recipe because shredded cheese contains an additive that affects its melting capability. Tips like these help take out the guesswork.
Beyond the recipes is the Parties section of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: Official Cookbook and Entertaining Guide, where you take some of the food from the first half of the book and incorporate crafts and activities to make the experience complete. In the book are four parties, including Halloween and Christmas themes, a Birthday Party and a BBQ Cookout.
Each party’s section contains instructions for an invitation, party decor, crafts/favours, activities and a menu curated from the recipe section. The “This Is Halloween” Party, for example, includes a Monster Under the Bed Invitation, a Halloween Countdown Clock decoration, The Mayor’s Mood Changing Mask Favours and a good old Dodge the Sunlight Vampire Game.
The combination of Kim Laidlaw’s recipes, Caroline Hall’s craft ideas and Jody Revenson’s text show that they’re more than just capable creators, they’re three people who understood the movie that inspired the book. This isn’t a recipe book with familiar names attached, it’s a collection of pieces that look like they’ve been plucked from Tim Burton’s mind.