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Halloween is a holiday celebrated on the night of Oct. 31. Most other Western countries have also embraced Halloween as a part of American pop culture.
Halloween is also called Pooky Night in some parts of Ireland, presumably named after the pookah, a mischievous spirit.
Many European cultural traditions believe that Halloween is when the spirit world can make contact with the natural world and when magic is most potent.
Halloween dinners are not really about the food as much as they are about the atmosphere you create and the presentation of the dishes and the implication of what they might be. With this in mind, it’s time for me to indulge in my traditional “ghoulish” Halloween dinner/party festivities.
Enhance the lighting with votive candles placed in carved-out pumpkins; garnish Halloween martinis with three candy corns speared through a toothpick, instead of the traditional olives; or freeze gummy worms and other wiggly creatures into ice cubes for other drinks.
For your centerpiece, serve up some “witches brew” from a black cauldron filled with dry ice for a smokey, “graveyard” effect. I think the adults like this more than the kids. Use 1-2 pounds of dry ice for each gallon of water. Keep the water warm using a hot plate or crockpot or some other heat source to produce fog for a longer period of time.
Ladle punch into cups without any dry ice and it will be perfectly safe. For cooler drinks, add the gummy worm ice cubes to the cups, not the punch bowl.
Don’t let a carved pumpkin be the only frightening food you display this Halloween. These super-scary eats and treats are perfect for a frightening Halloween feast.
This hot brew is sure to warm up chilly ghosts and goblins.
3 cups water
1 pkg. (6 oz.) orange flavor gelatin
4 cups apple juice
8 cinnamon sticks
In separate pans, boil water and apple juice. In a large bowl, add boiling water to gelatin mix; stir until completely dissolved. Stir in boiled apple juice. Serve in mugs with cinnamon sticks. Makes 8 servings, about 1 cup each.
Ghostly Shepherd’s Pie
This skillet-style shepherd’s pie is topped with mounds of whipped potatoes to resemble ghosts, complete with peas for eyes.
1 pkg. (16 oz.) frozen mixed vegetables (corn, carrots, green beans, peas)
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup beef gravy
4 oz. cream cheese, cubed
1 cup milk, divided
1 cup water
2 cups instant potato flakes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook vegetables as directed on package. In a large skillet, brown meat; drain fat. Stir in gravy and simmer about five min. or until heated through, stirring occasionally.
Place cream cheese and 1/4 cup milk in a medium microwaveable bowl on heat on high for 30 seconds. Remove and whisk until blended. Gradually whisk in remaining milk and water. Microwave mixture for another couple minutes, or until hot. Stir in potato flakes and Parmesan cheese until blended. Spoon into a resealable plastic bag; cut one corner off bottom of bag.
Remove 12 peas from the mixed vegetables; set aside. Stir remaining vegetables into the heated meat mixture. Squeeze potato mixture into 6 mounds on the meat mixture to resemble ghosts. Add two of the reserved peas to each for the eyes. Makes 6 servings.
For a ghoulish side dish, fill a carved-out pumpkin with a steamed, whole cauliflower that has been brushed with diluted blue and red food coloring. Pour some “blood sauce” over the cauliflower and use the top of the pumpkin as a lid. When the lid is lifted off for serving, the cauliflower looks like the pumpkin’s “brain.”
For the blood sauce:
8 oz. Velveeta cheese
4 oz. mild cheddar cheese
4 oz. Swiss cheese
1/2 stick butter
1 pt. milk or cream
1 tsp. garlic powder
Red food coloring
In a large saucepan or double boiler, heat all ingredients until cheese is melted and combined. Keep warm, but do not cook any further. Just before serving, add red food coloring to the sauce; mix well.
Bat Wings with Swamp Dip
Chicken wings are roasted in a dark, black sauce and then dipped in some “swamp dip” for extra flavor.
4 lbs. chicken wings
2 cups ketchup
1-1/2 cups molasses
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsps. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsps. sugar
Hot sauce to taste
Black food coloring
Blue food coloring
Green food coloring
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large roasting pan, whisk together the ketchup, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, hot sauce, salt and pepper until smooth. Add enough black, blue and green food colorings to the sauce to make a dark, black sauce. Add wings to the sauce and toss to coat evenly, poking the wings liberally with a fork.
Bake for 20 minutes, and then increase the temperature to 450 degrees. Toss the wings in the sauce again to coat evenly. Bake until the sauce is thickened and slightly blackened, flipping the wings over occasionally, about another 15 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Swamp Dip: In a small bowl, stir together an 8-ounce container of sour cream and 3 tablespoons of coarse ground mustard. Add a couple drops of green food coloring and mix well. Garnish with fresh whole chives.
1-2 lbs. whole carrots, medium length
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 stick butter
Cut whole carrots into 4-inch lengths. Using a vegetable peeler, shape the carrots into finger shapes. Make sure there is a flat spot at the end where the “nail” should be. Carefully place carrots in water just to cover. Add salt, sugar and butter. Cook until tender. Arrange carrots on a serving plate, nail-side up. Place a sliced almond piece where the nail should go.
1 spice or German chocolate cake mix
1 white cake mix
1 pkg. white sandwich cookies
12 small Tootsie Rolls
1 litter box
1 plastic scoop
Prepare cake mixes and bake according to directions. Crumble white sandwich cookies in small batches in blender; they tend to stick, so scrape often. When cakes are cooled to room temperature, crumble into a large bowl; toss with half the white cookie crumbs. Put mixture into clean litter box.
Microwave Tootsie Rolls on a safe dish until soft and pliable. Shape ends so they are no longer blunt, curving slightly. Bury a few in the mixture. Place the rest on top of the litter. To serve, sprinkle litter over vanilla ice cream (don’t forget a Tootsie Roll) using a new pooper-scooper or an old one for added flavor.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at email@example.com.