Back to the Kitchen: Halloween Party Menu

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gwen-upper110x110BY GWEN KENNEALLY

When you have kids Halloween takes on a whole new meaning. My daughter starts planning on November 1 as to what she is going to be for the next year and starts designing her costume before Thanksgiving! This year is really fun because Halloween is on a Saturday so we don’t have to call it quits early because it is not a school night!

On this spooky day, I love to have the gang at my house. Because of the nature of trick or treating I like to make sure that the kids get something nutritious in there bellies before the big event. I usually have people arrive around 5 pm and serve hors d’ oeuvres and hot mulled wine for the grown- ups, and solid food for the kids. They will probably be way too excited to eat, but the old trick you have to eat three bites of hot dog before you can go is really effective! To simplify you can always order pizza for the kids.

Also, I try to serve only milk and water. They won’t need any extra sugar. If I do desert at all (CANDY),  it is geared only towards the adults. Another fun thing to do if you have friends in the neighborhood, start at one house for pre trick or treat and end up at another for the after meal and candy swapping! It is a good idea to have at least one person stay back at the house to answer the door. (Friends without kids or teenagers are super for this post!) We all start out together and have everything set up for the after trick or treat dinner. Your kids can stay with the gang and you can slip back a little early to put up the finishing touches


Pre Trick or Treating Menu

Pigs in a blanket

(Turkey hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls)

Assorted cheese and breads

Hummus and Pita Bread

Lots of veggies and dips

Milk and Water for the kids

Hot Cider

Hot Mulled Wine

After Trick or Treating Buffet Menu

Cookie cutter quesadillas

Caesar Salad

Vegetable Chili

Chili con Carne with Beans

Corn Bread

Jalapeno Corn Bread


Warm Milk

Cookie Cutter Quesadillas

What quesadilla doesn’t taste better in the shape of a pumpkin or a ghoast? You can find great Halloween cookie cutters. The larger, simpler shapes work best. The kids love them and they work well for any holiday.

1-package flour tortillas

1 pound (or 1 bag) shredded cheese

Traditionally it would be jack, but mozzarella works great, and cheddar adds a great color.

Very lightly grease or spray 2 cookie sheets. Lay out the tortillas on a cutting board. Choose a cookie cutter and cut out two of each shape. Place bottom on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with cheese you have to play a bit depending on the shape, but about 1/4 inch high and stop about a quarter inch around. Place second cutout on top. Bake at 350 for about seven minutes. (Again watch closely as the size of the cookie cutter does vary the time) Serve withy guacamole and salsa.

Caesar Salad

In small bowl whisk together-

1 egg

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1-tablespoon anchovy paste

Then add,

Juice of one lemon

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Up to 3 cloves of garlic to taste

2 teaspoon dried thyme

In a steady stream add 1/2-cup olive oil, 2 cups canola oil. If you would like, add a few shakes of pepper or a dash of Tabasco sauce. If you like a stronger flavor or are not keen on the anchovy paste, a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce works wonders.

Fill a large salad bowl with lettuce. The traditional Caesar lettuce is Romaine. I like to add spinach and radicchio for flavor and color. Mix in croutons (see below) shaved or grated Parmesan and then toss in the dressing. Go lightly. The worst Caesars are the ones that are over-dressed. Taste as you go. For variation you can add cherry tomatoes or toasted pine nuts, both are tasty and add a little pizzazz.


Truly, you can use any kind of bread, seasoning and oil. I will give you the basic, but again – go for it and make it your own.

1 baguette (long loaf of French or sour dough bread)

Olive oil to coat

Pinch of Kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper

Slice baguettes into quarter inch slices. Place in large bowl. Toss with oil until well coated. Add salt and pepper. Place on a cookie sheet in single layer rows and bake at 350 until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Vegetable Chili

This is a basic roadmap. You can add or delete any veggies. So warm and cozy, like a hearty chili should be.

1 /2 cup olive oil

4 small red onions, roughly chopped

8 cloves of garlic

2 green bell pepper, roughly chopped

2 yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped

6 carrots cut lengthwise then sliced

3 bunches broccoli, roughly chopped

3 zucchini cut lengthwise then sliced

3 yellow squash, cut lengthwise then sliced

3 carrots cut lengthwise then sliced

2 cans (35 ounces) Italian style stewed tomatoes

3 pounds fresh ripe plum tomatoes cut in 1- inch cubes

4-6 tablespoons chili powder (to taste)

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons dried thyme

2 tablespoons Italian Spices

(Or any combo of basil, oregano, sage, etc.)

2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper

1-teaspoon salt

2 cans dark red kidney beans, drained

2 cans garbanzo beans, drained

2 cups tomato sauce

Heat olive oil in really large pot. Add onion, garlic, peppers, carrots and broccoli. Sauté for 10 minutes. Add all tomatoes and beans. Sauté for 5 more minutes. Add all spices and sauté for a few more minutes. Add the marinara sauce and 1 cup of water. Cook covered, stirring frequently for 1 hour. Serve with lots of shredded cheddar cheese chopped scallions and homemade corn bread.

Chili con Carne

3 red onions, chopped

6 cloves garlic

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Pinch of salt

2 pounds sirloin, cut into half inch pieces

2 15 oz cans kidney beans

3 large cans diced tomatoes

Sauté’ onions and garlic in the olive oil until tender over medium heat. Add seasoning. Then add the sirloin and brown the meat stirring constantly. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for at least one more hour.

Corn Bread

1-cup buttermilk

2 eggs, well beaten

1 stick butter, melted

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1-cup flour

1-teaspoon baking powder

1/2-teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

Spray a 9-inch square pan with bakers joy. Combine buttermilk, eggs and butter. In a medium bowl mix cornmeal, flour baking powder, sugar and salt. Stir in the buttermilk mixture until just mixed. The batter may be a bit lumpy. Pour into the greased pan. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes until the top of the bread is golden brown.

Jalapeno Cornbread

Great flavor with a nice kick!!!

4 eggs

1-cup buttermilk

2 cups corn, fresh, frozen or canned

2 sticks melted butter

4 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped

2 cups cornmeal, blue, yellow or white

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Mix in a large bowl. Spray a loaf pan with bakers joy. Bake at 350 for about one hour or until golden on top.

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.