With frightful little creatures ringing the doorbell all evening, Halloween isn’t the time for a sit-down dinner party.
But with Halloween landing on the weekend this year, it’d be a shame to call it a night too early. So invite your friends (and their little goblins) to stop in after they make their rounds through the neighborhood.
A comforting soup-and-sandwich supper makes for a simple post-trick-or-treating gathering. Make sandwiches with favorite cheese filing to accompany the tomato-y soup. Serve a light fruit-based punch and, for the adults, maybe some stronger libations.
Just be sure to get started a day ahead so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy all the entertainment anyone needs on Halloween: answering the door.
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Vampire blood tomato soup
This recipe is from Food Network Kitchens ( www.foodnetwork.com).
For fun sandwiches alongside, make cheese sandwiches on dark brown bread and cut into Halloween shapes with cookie cutters.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 fennel bulb, chopped, about 2 1/2 cups
1/2 large onion, chopped, about 1 cup
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
One 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
2 cups homemade vegetable broth or low-sodium canned broth
2 cups tomato juice
6 basil leaves, torn
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add fennel, onion, garlic, salt, fennel seed and crushed pepper, if using, and cook until vegetables soften and brown slightly, about 5 minutes. Drain and reserve juice from the tomatoes, then crush tomatoes gently with your hands. Add the tomatoes, increase heat to high, and cook until they begin to brown slightly, about 5 minutes.
Add the reserved tomato juice, vegetable broth, tomato juice and basil leaves. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook until vegetables are cooked through and soup reduces and thickens, about 30 minutes.
Remove pot from stove and purée the soup in batches, with an immersion or regular blender, or food processor. Stir in lemon juice and season with pepper to taste. Serve. (Can be prepared a day ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat just before serving.)
Per serving: 118 calories, 6 g fat, 12 g carbohydrates, 4 g protein, no cholesterol, 748 millig sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 45 percent of calories from fat.
Sweet and salty pumpkin seeds
This recipe comes courtesy of Real Simple ( www.realsimple.com). Tip: The pumpkin seeds can be made and stored at room temperature in an airtight container up to 3 days in advance.
2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds (from 2 medium pumpkins), rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Spread the seeds on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until dry throughout, 50 to 60 minutes.
Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the seeds with the butter, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Return the seeds to the baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
Per serving: 109 calories, 6 g fat, 12 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 8 millig cholesterol, 121 millig sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 48 percent of calories from fat.
Spider web brownies
Makes about 24
You can make these with your favorite brownie recipe or with a mix. For the frosting, adjust the consistency by adding more milk or confectioners’ sugar as necessary; it should be easily spreadable, like Nutella.
One 19.8-ounce package brownie mix
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup (or more) milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups (or more) confectioners’ sugar
1 tube white decorating icing (such as Wilton) with plain tip
For brownies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 24-count mini muffin tin with nonstick spray. Prepare brownie mix according to package directions. Divide brownie batter among mini muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full (you might have some batter left over; bake separately). Bake brownies until tester inserted comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 20 to 22 minutes (do not overbake). Cool 10 minutes in pan, then turn out of muffin cups onto cooling rack and cool completely.
For frosting: Using electric mixer, beat melted butter and cocoa powder until blended. Beat in milk, vanilla and salt. Beat in confectioners’ sugar, adding more milk or confectioners’ sugar if necessary to achieve a soft, spreadable consistency.
For spider web design: Frost cooled brownies liberally with cocoa frosting. Using plain tip, pipe thin spiral of white frosting atop each brownie. Use a toothpick to drag six lines from center of brownie out, forming spider web design. (Can be prepared a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Per brownie: 191 calories, 10 g fat, 27 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 20 mg cholesterol, 94 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 43 percent of calories from fat.
Prep time: 45 minutes plus chilling
Here’s a clever cheese ball recipe from Taste of Home. Serve favorite crudites alongside.
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cartons (4 ounces each) whipped cream cheese
Moss-green paste food coloring
1 can (4 1/4 ounces) chopped ripe olives, drained
3 colossal ripe olives
2 slices peeled parsnip
Black decorating gel
1 pretzel rod
1 small cucumber
Assorted fresh vegetables
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce and pepper sauce until smooth. Stir in the cheddar cheese, bacon and onions. Shape into a 5-inch-by-4-inch-by-3-inch rectangle; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled.
Unwrap rectangle; place on a serving platter with a 3-inch side on top. Tint whipped cream cheese green; spread over top and sides of rectangle.
Add chopped ripe olives for hair and pepperoncinis for ears. Cut one colossal olive in half; add parsnip slices and olive halves for eyes. With black decorating gel, pipe the brow, mouth and stitches.
Break pretzel rod in half; add a colossal olive to each end. Press into sides of head for bolts. Cut a small piece from end of cucumber for a nose (save remaining cucumber for another use). Serve with vegetables.
Frozen boo-nana pops
1 banana, peeled
4 Popsicle sticks
1 cup white chocolate bark
8 mini chocolate chips
Cut the banana in half across the width, then cut each piece in half lengthwise to make four quarters.
Insert a Popsicle stick into the bottom of each quarter, then place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Place cookie sheet in the freezer for 1 hour or until the bananas are fully frozen.
Melt white chocolate bark in a microwave in 30-second intervals. Stir after each interval.
Carefully dip each banana end into the melted white chocolate. Try to cover most of the banana without getting white chocolate all over the stick.
Place white chocolate-covered bananas back on parchment paper and add two mini chocolate chips for eyes.
Place finished boo-nana pops in the freezer. Remove after 30 minutes or just before the party starts.