Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Halloween Recipe for Happiness

Julie Grice, author of the Savvy Eats blog
Holidays are guaranteed to create lots of happiness! With Halloween happening this week, Julie Grice was inspired to reminisce and share her ideas for a spook-tacular feast—whether or not trick-or-treaters ring the doorbell. Julie is the savvy writer behind Savvy Eats, where for more than three years she has tapped her food science and engineering background to teach readers how to make the most of their time, money and ingredients by outlining weekly menus, experiments about the best ways to store foods, plus canning and freezing instructions. She also blogs about gardening, her favorite recipes, and how to appreciate the little things in life. Julie serves as a blog designer for Savvy Blog Services, is a teaching and editorial assistant for Cook ‘n Scribble, and is also an administrator for the Healthy Living Blogs community website. Here she shares her Halloween #RecipeForHappiness.

When I was a kid, my neighborhood would have its own little Halloween party at one family’s home before trick-or-treating time. There would be bobbing for apples and games for the kids, as well as a hearty meal to carry us through the hours of going door-to-door for candy. At the end of dinner, we’d take a few pictures of all the kids, who at the time outnumbered the adults in our two cul-de-sac neighborhood, and split off by age group to start trick-or-treating.

Nowadays, I don’t have children and my husband and I live far away from my suburban childhood neighborhood, but I still feel the urge to throw a Halloween party. Instead of trick-or-treating, we’ll wait for the kids to come by while eating, playing games, and watching cheesy Halloween movies with our friends.

This Halloween party menu works for neighborhood parties or even evening game and movie nights with friends, and with a little prep work on the days leading up to October 31st, you can focus on having fun at your party, rather than being stuck in the kitchen. And that is definitely my #RecipeForHappiness!

The Family Favorites Halloween Menu

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Marinated Peppers
Herman Reunion Cheese Ball
Spicy Pumpkin Chili
Buttery Soft Pretzels
Chocolate Mice Carrot Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing
Easy Spiced Cider

Here’s a super savvy tip: To make sure you don't forget anything at the grocery story, I recommend using Allrecipes’ Shopping List feature to make your list. The only ingredients you need to add are seeds from two to three pumpkins, spiced rum for the adults (optional), plus bread and crackers to serve with the cheese ball and marinated peppers.

The Plan
 Since Halloween falls on a weekday this year, you don’t want to be stuck scrambling to cook everything and decorate in the hours before your guests arrive. By cooking a little each night on the days leading up to the party, you’ll be calm and relaxed and ready to celebrate.

Four or More Days Before Halloween
Bake the Buttery Soft Pretzels and allow them to cool completely before placing them into airtight freezer-safe containers. Separate each pretzel with parchment or wax paper to keep them from sticking together. In fact, these pretzels can be baked and frozen up to a month in advance.
Buttery Soft Pretzels await trick-or-treaters (Photo by Monica Tablada)
When carving your Halloween jack-o-lanterns or cooking any fresh pumpkin, separate the seeds from the pulp. Rinse them in cold water to remove any last bits of pulp, then lay them out to dry on a paper towel. Follow these easy directions to roast the seeds with oil and salt, and then remove excess oil by pouring them into a bowl lined with paper towels. Store the seeds at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one week.

Three Days Before
Prepare the Marinated Peppers. Refrigerate in an airtight container.

Marinated Peppers (Photo by Montana)
Two Days Before
Cook the beef, onions and peppers for the Spicy Pumpkin Chili as indicated in the recipe. Cover, and refrigerate until party day.

Make the Herman Reunion Cheese Ball. Wrap the cheese ball in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until needed.

A creamy Herman Reunion Cheese Ball ready for a party (Photo by Suzy)
One Day Before
Make the Chocolate Mice, and refrigerate overnight.

Chocolate Mice! (Photo by cocococo)
Bake the Carrot Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing. Cool the cupcakes completely on a wire rack. Store them overnight by draping a lint-free tea towel or dish towel over the tops. You'll decorate them the day of the party.

Party Day!
Remove the marinated peppers from the refrigerator in the morning to allow them to come to room temperature, but keep them covered until party time. Transfer to a serving container.

Finish making the Spicy Pumpkin Chili by combining the kidney beans, black beans, Great Northern beans, tomato sauce, tomato sauce with garlic and onions, petite diced tomatoes, fire roasted diced tomatoes, and pumpkin puree in a large stockpot. When your guests arrive, or about one hour before you want to serve the chili, stir in the cooked beef and vegetables and cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat on your stove until the chili is warmed through.

Preheat the oven to 450°degrees F. About five minutes before serving the chili, arrange the pretzels in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for five minutes in the preheated oven.

Decorate the cupcakes anytime the day of the party (or even the night before). For decorating, make the cream cheese icing according to directions in Carrot Cupcakes with White Chocolate Icing. Then, watch this fun video showing how easy it is to decorate the tops to look like spooky Halloween mummy faces. Cover cupcakes with a cake dome to prevent the frosting from drying out. If you don’t have a cake dome, place the cupcakes in a covered container, making sure to not smoosh the frosting.

Who's that mummy? Carrot Cupcakes decorated for Halloween (Photo by chefX39)
Prepare the Easy Spiced Cider in a slow cooker. It may not come to a boil, but this is fine. Keep the slow cooker on the LOW setting to ensure the cider stays warm.

Party Day Presentation
One hour before your guests arrive, follow these step-by-step recommendations to finish getting ready for your party.
  • Set out mugs and a ladle next to the slow cooker to encourage guests to help themselves to the cider. Have some spiced rum available for adults who may want to spike their cider.
  • Pour the roasted pumpkin seeds into several small serving bowls and place around the party room.
  • Slice and toast a baguette and arrange the pieces on a large serving platter along with some crackers to eat with the peppers and cheese ball.
  • Remember to put out serving spoons, appetizer plates, napkins, and a knife for the cheese!
  • To make it easy to “self-serve” the chili, stack bowls and spoons next to the stove and allow guests to serve their own chili when they’re hungry. Have a basket or serving platter nearby with the pretzels so guests can grab them to enjoy with their chili. Or, if guests will be seated at a dining table, arrange serving plates on the table and place a soft pretzel on each plate along with a bowl of chili.
  • Arrange the mummy cupcakes on a cake plate, and place the chocolate mice in a circle below or around the plate. Place the cupcake plate on a buffet or separate table to bring out when it’s time for dessert.
At this point, all that’s left to do is to put on your costume, enjoy some chili with your guests, and hand out fun-sized candy bars to the neighborhood children!

What are you serving this Halloween? Any favorite Halloween recipes you must make?


The Mummy cupcake made me laugh out loud! I'll be trying the soft pretzels.