Halloween on Pleasant Lake & Apple Oatmeal Cookies

What’s Halloween like in rural New Hampshire? Well except for the coyotes, pretty quiet. Yes, I know. There’s plenty going on up on Main Street. But nothing, zip, nada in my neighborhood. Down by Pleasant Lake, we’re a mix of year-round and summer people. By mid-October, most of the leaves have faded, it’s dark before six and more than half of houses are empty. We are not a hub of Halloween festivities, far from it.

It was summer and the neighborhood very busy when I moved into my house several years ago. Up until the Columbus Day, there was still a fair amount of weekend activity. That’s when the summer people closed up their cottages. About the same time, the snowbirds disappeared. That said, down at my end of the road, there were a few kids. Not many mind you but enough to know they were there. From time to time, I’d see them with their heavy backpacks on their way to or from the bus.

Knowing there were kids in the neighborhood, I dutifully bought a bag of fun-sized Milky Way®. About that name, what’s up with that? No not Milky Way, I get that. The candy bar was named after a milkshake. The milkshake was named after the galaxy. Why? Well, the story starts to get murky so that’s about all I can tell you.

No, the part I don’t get is why the teeny tiniest candy bars are called fun size. Where’s the fun in these one-bite wonders? Moreover, and please correct me if I’m wrong, those fun size bars seem to be shrinking every year. Who are the candy manufacturers trying to kid?

The fun moniker would be more appropriate for one of those supersized bars. I ask you, what’s more fun – a teeny tiny drop of chocolate or a big honkin’ bar? Come to think of it, a more fitting label might be fun-while-it-lasted. Eating one of those giant candies in one sitting is an invitation to a tummy-ache. But hey, you’re only a kid once.

All right, enough digressing, let’s get back to my Halloween preparations. Although I dutifully stocked up on miniature Milky Way® bars, I forgot to stop at the bank. So I went through every pocket and purse for loose change for Unicef. I put on my orange t-shirt, the one with the jack-o-lantern. I tasted a couple of the mini-chocolates. (Only a few, I needed to make sure they were safe for the children.) And I waited. Then, I waited some more. And some more. When it started raining, I figured that was that.

About eight-thirty, maybe nine o’clock, I was ready to turn off the outside lights and change out of my silly t-shirt. That’s when a car drove in the driveway. What’s with that, I thought. The parents on Jackson Road never chauffeured their kids around on Halloween. Rain, sleet or snow, we walked from house to house. However, I didn’t judge. Instead, I picked up my bowls of candy and coins and headed to the door.

Hands in his pockets, a hunched over middle schooler shuffled through the rain. He didn’t shout trick or treat and I was none too sure of his costume. However, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he was going for subtlety – Clark Kent on casual Friday. Beyond the headlights, I could see the driver’s silhouette and maybe another person. On second thought, maybe it was a simple ploy by his nitwit older brothers to collect candy. You know – send in the kid. After helping himself to a handful of fun, the boy shuffled back to the car. He was my first, last and only trick or treater.

Hey, wait a minute. Maybe they were lost or Russian spies trying to figure out this bizarre American custom. I’ll never know. Bon appétit!

Apple Cookies
Loaded with fruit, nuts and oatmeal, if you like you can pretend these cookies are good for you. Enjoy!
Makes about 5 dozen cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup instant oatmeal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and ginger
1/4 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and allspice
1 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1-2 apples, about 1 cup finely chopped or coarsely grated
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips

Set 2 racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with silicon liners or parchment paper.

Put the flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and soda and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, sour cream and vanilla and beat until smooth. Turn the mixer down to low, gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Fold in the apple, raisins, nuts and chocolate chips

Drop tablespoons of dough about 3 inches apart (a mini ice-cream scoop works great) onto the prepared baking sheets. If you like, you can flatten the cookies slightly with moistened fingers. Switching racks and turning the pans midway through baking, bake the cookies until they are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Let the cookies set for a minute and then transfer to a rack to cool.

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One Year Ago – Chipotle Sweet Potato & White Bean Hummus
Two Years Ago – Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares
Three Years Ago – Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Four Years Ago Ago – Pumpkin Spice Cookies
Five Years Ago – Chicken in Every Pot
Six Years Ago – Roasted Carrots & Pearl Onions
Seven Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pearl Onions
Nine Years Ago – Mexican Chicken Soup

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How many trick or treaters will be at your house on Halloween? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

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Happy Halloween & Chipotle Sweet Potato & White Bean Hummus

susan_nye_halloween_02It’s definitely one of my top holiday picks. It doesn’t matter if it’s gray and gloomy. Heck, it can snow and it often does. It doesn’t matter. Halloween is a magical night and just about every kid’s definition of paradise. First, you get to wear a costume. Second, you get to run around outside after dark. And third, people give you candy.

But how did all this start? Why the costumes? And moreover, why the candy? Halloween is steeped in myths and legends, some of them scary, many confusing and all of them intriguing. Halloween began a couple of thousand years ago in Ireland, Scotland and Wales not as Halloween but as Samhain, the Celtic end of summer.

The ancient Celts saw the change of seasons as a time of chaos. They believed that spirits roamed the earth before settling back down for the winter. Huge bonfires were lit to ward off evil spirits. People wore disguises so angry ancestors wouldn’t recognize them. Hoping for a blessing and good luck, food and gifts were left in doorways for the fairies and elves. Or maybe it was to placate angry spirits. Like I said, it’s all kind of a muddle.

Anyway, sometime around the 9th century the Pope proclaimed All Saints Day on November 1st. Since Samhain was celebrated on October 31st, it became known as All Hallows’ Eve, the eve of All Saints or hallowed souls. As often happens, the words somehow ran together and eventually morphed into Halloween.

Fast forward several centuries and not a lot has changed. In ancient times, restless spirits wandered the earth on All Hallows’ Eve. Now high-spirited children dressed as ghosts, pirates and princesses wander the streets. There is still food at the door but now it’s Reese cups, Nestlé’s Crunch and Snicker’s bars.

Let’s be clear here. Halloween is not just for kids. It is a wonderful excuse for a party. Foolish adults (like me) are all too happy to don a disguise. And no, the costume is not for hiding from canvassing politicians and their surrogates or even from restless ghosts. Collecting a stash of Milky Way bars is tempting but that’s not the reason either. Elaborate hats, capes and masks are all part of the merrymaking.

NYE_Halloween_TiniOnce you’re in costume, and maybe feeling a tad foolish, a little liquid courage may be in order. Or it could be that you’re just thirsty. Stir up a concoction of pomegranate or cranberry juice and rum, maybe add a splash of triple sec. Don’t forget to give it name like The Zombie or Vampire Punch. After a glass or two, you’ll be ready to dance the night away. Especially if the playlist includes Monster Mash, I Put a Spell on You and Witchy Woman.

All this frivolity is sure to work up an appetite. Invite everyone to enjoy an array of festive autumnal tapas. Be sure to include a few nuts or seeds, pumpkin or sweet potato and beans. They’re super foods and you’ll want to keep up your strength for more dancing!

Have a spook-tacular Halloween! Bon appétit!

Chipotle Sweet Potato & White Bean Hummus
The perfect spread for fall and your Halloween celebration. Enjoy!
Makes about 1 quartsweet_potato_hummus_01

About 1 pound sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
Olive oil
Sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 onion, cut into chunks
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds plus more for garnish
2 teaspoons or to taste puréed chipotle chile en adobo*
1 (15 ounce) can or about 2 cups cooked small white beans, rinsed and drained
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the sweet potato in a heavy, ovenproof skillet, sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat and toss to combine.

Roast the sweet potato at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and about 1 cup water, toss and return to the oven. Stirring once or twice, continue to roast until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes more. Remove the vegetables from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Put the pumpkin seeds in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the roasted vegetables, chipotle purée, lime zest and juice and 1-2 tablespoons vinegar and pulse to chop and combine.

Add the beans and pulse to combine. 1-2 tablespoons at a time, add about 1/2 cup water and up to 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil and process until more or less smooth. Check for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper to taste.

Let the hummus sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes or 2 hours in the refrigerator to combine the flavors.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds and serve at room temperature with pita chips and fresh vegetables.

* Put 1 can of chiles en adobo in a mini food processor and process until smooth. Cover and store the purée in the refrigerator 1-2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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One Year Ago – Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares
Two Years Ago – Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Three Years Ago Ago – Pumpkin Spice Cookies
Four Years Ago – Chicken in Every Pot
Five Years Ago – Roasted Carrots & Pearl Onions
Six Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Seven Years Ago – Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pearl Onions
Eight Years Ago – Mexican Chicken Soup

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s your favorite part of Halloween? The costumes, the candy, the parties? Feel free to share.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

Halloween Potluck Special

NYE_Halloween_TiniAre you off to a potluck tomorrow? Halloween is a great time for a party … but it’s a busy time too. Whether you are the host or a guest, a potluck makes good sense.

By now, I hope you’ve figured out your costume. Queen of the Nile or Count Dracula, whatever you’ve chosen, I’m sure you will be spectacular. Now the only dilemma is … what to bring?

Here are a few ideas:
NYE_Halloween_10-11_01

If you’re you on the hook for an appetizer, well, how about:
Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux (Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks), Savory Blinis with Salmon & Caviar or  Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Horseradish Mustard
.
.
Now, you’ve been tapped for salad: Well then, toss up:
Crunchy Salad with Apples & Grapes Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Salad or Mixed Greens with Roasted Mushrooms

Maybe you’ll you’re on for the main course. Hmmm, how about:
Chili Con Carne for the carnivores and Autumn Vegetable Chili for the vegetarians.
Not into chili? Try my Moussaka or Chicken Provençal.

And finally, maybe you’ve been asked to bring the sweets! Try my
Pumpkin Cupcakes, Apple Bread Pudding or Chocolate Panna Cotta. (After all you can never go wrong with chocolate.)

Have a fabulous Halloween and bon appétit!

What will you be for Halloween? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2015

All Hallows’ Eve & Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares

Halloween_02What’s not to love about Halloween? Yes, it falls in that dreary time of year when summer is long over and the ski season is still more than a month off. It is apt to be cold and rainy, even snowy, on Halloween night. In spite of generally miserable weather, it has always been one of my favorite holidays. The proliferation of chocolate is definitely a plus. The decorations are fabulous. In the past year or two, our little town’s population has swelled in the weeks leading up to Halloween. That’s when a troop of magnificent pumpkin people come to work and play up and down Main Street.

Sure, the decorations are terrific and the chocolate fabulous but the best part of Halloween is dressing up. Dress-up was probably my favorite game as a little girl. I spent countless hours wearing my Mother’s old nightgowns, the lacier the better, pretending to be a magical fairy princess. Each fall I invested considerable time and care choosing my Halloween costume. Over the years, I was a pumpkin, a princess, a witch, a football player, a hobo, a devil and a fine young cannibal.

Even if I’m too old for trick or treat, I am still a big fan of costumes, particularly those with boas; or better yet, capes. You can vamp with a boa but a cape is transforming. A mild mannered food writer can morph into a vampire, Bat Girl, Wonder Woman, a devil and a whole lot more. Halloween is a wonderful excuse to play dress-up. Get your gang together, whip up some delicious treats, including an exotic cocktail with a name like Zombie or Black Widow, and dance the night away.

But where did all this frivolity come from? What is the origin of Halloween? The holiday is steeped in myths and legends, some of them scary, many confusing and all of them intriguing. It all began a couple of thousand years ago in Ireland, Scotland and Wales not as Halloween but as Samhain. This Celtic festival marked the end of the harvest and the onset of winter.

The ancient Celts saw this change of seasons as a chaotic time. Unlike today, the rush from soccer games to piano lessons and Scouts was not the cause of the chaos. With winter approaching, the days grew shorter and colder and ghosts roamed the earth. As soon as winter came, these spirits would settle down for a long winter sleep. In the meantime, the living got ready for winter and anxiously coped with restless ancestors.

To ward off evil spirits, the Celts lit up the night sky with huge bonfires. Fearful of their wrath, they donned disguises to hide from Grampa Bob’s mischief or Great-Aunt Helen and her spells. They turned to the fairies and elves for help, leaving food and gifts to entice their aid and good favor. Or maybe these presents were meant to placate angry spirits.

Although it took a while to stick, Samhain received a new name sometime in the 9th century. It started when the Pope proclaimed All Saints Day on November 1st. Samhain, long celebrated on October 31st, eventually became All Hallows’ Eve, the eve of All Saints Day. Say it three times fast and out pops Halloween.

Fast forward several centuries and not a lot has changed. In ancient times, restless spirits wandered the earth on All Hallows’ Eve. Now high-spirited children wander the streets in search of Reese cups and Snicker’s bars. The young-at-heart are no less high-spirited. Instead of fun-size treats, they’ll be looking for a drink or a dance or both.

Stay safe, have fun and Happy Halloween! Bon appétit!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares
Offer these spicy, chocolaty Halloween treats to your trick-or-treaters or serve them towards the end of your Monster Mash. With two super foods, chocolate and pumpkin, these treats are loaded with anti-oxidants and almost good for you. Enjoy!
Makes 24 squaresPumpkin_Chocolate_Chip_Squares_02

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons dark rum
1 cup pumpkin purée
12 ounces chocolate chips*

Pumpkin_Chocolate_Chip_Squares_09Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan.

Put the flour, spices, baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the egg and rum and beat until combined. Beat in pumpkin purée. Reduce the mixer speed to low, slowly add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.

Cool completely in the pan and cut into 24 squares.

* You can your favorite chocolate chips for the squares but I recommend dark chocolate for an extra chocolaty taste and maximum antioxidants.

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One Year Ago – Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Two Years Ago Ago – Pumpkin Spice Cookies
Three Years Ago – Chicken in Every Pot
Four Years Ago – Roasted Carrots & Pearl Onions
Five Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Six Years Ago – Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pearl Onions
Seven Years Ago – Mexican Chicken Soup

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? Do you have your costume ready? What will you be for Halloween? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

Happy Halloween! & Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

skeleton_03The other day I was shocked, yes shocked. I was chatting with a couple of women and they both agreed that they hated Halloween. Hated Halloween!?! From my first go at trick-or-treating on Mary Ann Lane to this day, I love Halloween and I will love it tomorrow and beyond infinity.

What’s not to love? When you’re a kid, you get to dress up and run around outside in the dark. All the mothers in the neighborhood give you candy and tell you how scary, cute, pretty or heroic you look. It doesn’t matter that your mom tosses at least half of your candy in the trash when you’re at school. Okay, maybe it matters just a little. Filled with sweet memories, Halloween is a wonderful adventure.

And when you’re a grownup (I’ve heard that happens to some people), you get to dress up and have fun with your friends until the wee hours. There is little if any candy but lots of dancing, hooting and hollering. Someone usually makes a big bowl of purple or green punch. If they are clever, they’ll add some dry ice and call it witch’s brew. Proceed with caution. More often than not, these concoctions are powerful stuff; hence the dancing, hooting and hollering.

So with all it has to offer, why do these women hate Halloween? While it still doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, most of the aversion centered on finding a costume. Words like pressure and competition were bandied about. In addition, these ladies weren’t looking forward to the thirty-seven pounds of candy that their kids bring home.

Admittedly, I get the candy thing; but the costume thing? Nope, not at all. Halloween shouldn’t competitive. There is more than enough rivalry in the world and no need to add Halloween to the mix. Dressing up should be fun. A costume lets you try on a different persona for a while. It’s an opportunity to be devilish, heroic, sultry, silly or just plain wicked.

In addition to fun, Halloween costumes should be easy. Life is too busy to spend days on your ensemble. A pair of jeans, a t-shirt and that ancient leather jacket that you bought during your junior year in Rome add up to James Dean or Marlon Brando. A sheet, some ivy from the garden and you can take your pick: noble Roman or animal house Greek. A slim and slinky black dress and gloves, a tiara and pearls and it’s breakfast at Tiffany’s. Some spray paint on an old pitchfork plus a little red dress, tights and shoes and you’re a devil in the making. Horns from the party store will finish the look.witches_hat_02Like Garanimals, you can mix, match and reconfigure your costumes. Skip the tiara and pearls, add a cape and a pointed hat for a wonderfully wicked witch. Swap out your devil’s pitchfork and horns for a cape and mask you’re a superhero. I have a thing for capes at Halloween, so as far as I’m concerned any excuse is a good excuse to wear one.

Whether you buy or make your costumes, it’s okay to wear them more than once. Unless you’re one of those A-list, red carpet movie stars, I doubt anyone will notice. Witch, devil, black cat; keep one or more handy in the back of your closet. Even if you are an A-list, red carpet movie star, the classics never go out of style.

Stay home and pass out candy, roam the neighborhood with your kids or make whoopee until the wee hours – whatever you do, be sure to try on a fun and festive, new you.

Have a spooktacular Halloween and bon appétit!

Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
A New England classic, whoopie pies are the perfect fall treat. Enjoy!
Makes about 3 dozen mini (or 1 dozen regular) whoopie piespumpkin_whoopie_pies_04

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (15 ounce can) pure pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon rum

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with silicon mats or parchment paper.

Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the butter and brown sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the pumpkin, egg, maple syrup and rum and beat until well combined. Mixing well after each addition, add the dry ingredients in two batches.

Leaving about 2-inches between each cake, use a 2-teaspoon ice cream scoop to drop batter onto the baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees until the cakes are firm, about 7 minutes. (Alternatively, use a 1-ounce scoop and bake for about 15 minutes.) Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, transfer to a rack and cool completely.

Spread a dollop of filling on the bottoms of half of the cakes, top with a second cake and serve. Can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated for 2-3 days. Serve at room temperature.

Spiced Cream Cheese Filling
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
Pinch salt
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon rum

Sift the confectioners’ sugar and spices together into a bowl. Set aside.

Put the cream cheese and butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the maple syrup and rum and beat until smooth. With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed and continue beating until creamy.

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One Year Ago – Pumpkin Spice Cookies
Two Year Ago – Chicken in Every Pot
Three Years Ago – Roasted Carrots & Pearl Onions
Four Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Five Years Ago – Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pearl Onions
Six Years Ago – Mexican Chicken Soup

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Have you got your costume ready? What will you be for Halloween? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

Happy Halloween & Pumpkin & Spice Cookies

NYE_HalloweenIt’s that time of year again! Halloween! There are pumpkins on the doorstep and mountains of candy on display in the supermarket. With the big event only a few days away, it’s time to put the final touches on your costume. I am a big fan of costumes. Dress-up was my favorite game as a kid. Unfortunately, I lack the eccentricity, or may it’s the chutzpah, to wear a costume every day so Halloween is an opportunity to show my true colors.

I was a roly-poly pumpkin on my first trick-or-treat adventure. Although it was a hand-me-down from my sister, I was adorable and wore it again the next year. For kindergarten, I insisted that it was time for a change. Over the next few years, I bounced from witch to fairy princess and back again. Such a dilemma, I really preferred the fluff and froth of a princess dress but felt that a witch was more appropriate for Halloween.

As I progressed through elementary school, I did the ghost thing and spent a good part of the evening tripping over the bed sheet. Once was enough and for the next go around, I borrowed a peewee football uniform from a kid down the street. Entering the ‘tween years, I followed the crowd and was hobo like the rest of the sixth graders.

Much to my chagrin, in middle school I discovered that only little kids trick-or-treated. In mourning, I spent the evening in civilian clothes passing out candy to my brother and his friends. Ah but the allure of Halloween night was strong. Even a few years were too many for passing out miniature peanut butter cups. It was time to get back into a costume.

It was a difficult sale and, with only one exception, my friends weren’t buying. Most weren’t dorky enough to dress up. Or maybe, just maybe, they weren’t brave enough. In their defense, trick-or-treating teenagers were considered no better than beggars or panhandlers and usually sent away empty-handed.

In spite of all that, my friend Wendy and I decided to brave the elements and the ire of our neighbors. Riding the school bus on Halloween morning, we hatched a simple but brilliant plan. We’d defy convention and make ourselves welcome with costumes so clever that no one could resist us.susie_wendy_halloween

Channeling Archie Bunker, I put on one of my dad’s shirts and stuffed it with a pillow to cut a portly figure. I added a bollo tie and tweedy jacket. To complete my ensemble, I donned a baldhead and Clark Kent glasses. With her pillbox hat, white gloves, ratty-tatty coat and elastic stockings, Wendy was the perfect partner.

Since we got an admittedly late start, most everyone had run out of candy by the time we started knocking. Although our take for the evening was almost nonexistent, we had a ball. Instead of reprimanding us for trick-or-treating at the ripe old age of sixteen, our neighbors thought we were the funniest things they’d seen all day. Many invited us in and called the rest of their family away from ball games and sitcoms to take our pictures.

Have a fun Halloween and bon appétit!

Pumpkin & Spice Cookies
‘Tis the season to cook with pumpkin! Bake up a batch of pumpkin and spice cookies for your favorite trick-or-treaters and enjoy!
Makes 3-4 dozen cookiespumpkin_spice_cookies_01

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch allspice
Pinch cloves
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups (15 ounce can) pure pumpkin puree

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and pumpkin puree and beat until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Using a small cookie scoop or tablespoon, drop spoonfuls of dough onto baking sheets about 1-1/2 inches apart. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, turn the baking sheets and continue baking until puffed and golden, 5-10 minutes more. Remove the cookies from the pan and cool on wire racks.

Spread a dollop of Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting on the cookies and serve.

Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Sift together the confectioners’ sugar and spices. Set aside.

Put the cream cheese and butter in a bowl and beat at medium speed until smooth. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until creamy.

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One Year Ago – Hearty Black Bean Soup
Two Years Ago – Roasted Carrots & Pearl Onions
Three Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Four Years Ago – Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pearl Onions
Five Years Ago –
Mexican Chicken Soup

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What will you be wearing this Halloween? Feel free to share. Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2013

Trick or Treat & Butternut Squash Lasagna

What’s not to love about Halloween? Yes it falls in that dreary time of year when summer is over and snow is still a month or two off. It is apt to be cold and rainy on Halloween night but in spite of generally miserable weather, it has always been one of my favorite holidays. The decorations are great. The costumes are wonderful. And the proliferation of chocolate is definitely a plus.

At three, I joined the horde of children haunting our neighborhood for the first time. Mary Ann Lane was packed with kids on All Hallows Eve. As a matter of fact, it was packed with kids all the time. It was one of those family-friendly neighborhoods. Our little starter home was wedged between two big houses with eight or ten kids, not between them but each. (My mom always said she kept her window closed at night in case it was catching.)

Not sure if he volunteered or was drafted but Dad took my then six year old sister Brenda and me trick or treating. As I remember it, and granted it was a while ago, it was absolutely thrilling to be out and about in the dark. Not that it was terribly late at night. Combine a grey fall day with a 5:00 sunset and early evening can seem like the middle of the night to a three year old.

Forget about look-both-ways. The big kids raced from house to house and my short little legs did their best to keep up. Dad did his best to keep up with his two little girls. Good thing cars stayed off the road on Halloween night in those days.

Of course I looked adorable. A roly-poly toddler, I was the definitive pumpkin. I didn’t even mind that my costume was a hand-me-down. At least I don’t think I minded. Dashing about with my paper sack I was beyond excited. The street wasn’t that long so my guess is that we were out for maybe fifteen minutes. Thirty tops if my always-chatty dad stopped to talk and accept compliments on his adorable children. I can’t imagine that we let him linger too long. Before the chocolate bar, popcorn ball or candied apple could hit the bottom of the bag, Brenda and I were ready to turn and dash to the next house. All the while, I sang an endless chorus of bick-or-beat, bick-or-beat.

Somewhat miraculously, Dad managed to get his two little girls to every house on the street and back home again in one piece. Well, almost. At the end of our adventure, I burst into the house with an enormous grin, a sack full of sweets and a cold, little foot in a muddy sock. Somewhere, somehow along the way I lost a sneaker.

The next spring we moved to Jackson Road. If anything Halloween became more exciting. Yes, I was forced to reprise my role as a roly-poly pumpkin. But it was new to the neighborhood and I was still adorable. More important, the street was longer and houses were packed close together. Our bags were filled to overflowing with sweet loot by the time Dad corralled us home. I even managed to hang onto both sneakers!

Halloween is fast approaching. Is your costume ready? Jack O’Lanterns carved? Don’t forget to stock up on treats for adorable pumpkins who might come calling. I’m partial to peanut butter cups but will settle for a glass of chardonnay.

Have a spooktacular Halloween and bon appétit!

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Yes, it’s complicated! Yes, it takes too much time to make! … But this crowd favorite is definitely worth the effort. Keep the rest of your menu simple, simple, simple and enjoy a casual Halloween celebration with your best pals.
Serves 10-12
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1 (1 1/2 to 2 pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds Italian sausage; hot, sweet or a mix, casings removed
Béchamel-Sage Sauce (recipe follows)
8 ounces lasagna noodles (12 noodles)
12 ounces ricotta
12 ounces shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
2 ounces grated Parmesan
2 ounces grated Pecorino Romano

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the squash in a roasting pan, toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Add the onion, toss to combine and cook 10 minutes more. Add the garlic, wine and chicken broth, toss to combine and continue cooking until the squash is tender, about 10 minutes. Roughly mash the squash with a potato masher or fork.

Meanwhile, heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and, breaking the meat up into bite-size pieces, cook until brown. Remove from heat, drain the fat and combine with the squash.

Make the Béchamel-Sage Sauce (recipe follows).

Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions less 1 minute. (Noodles sticking together? Check out my tip to keep lasagna noodles from sticking.)

Put the mozzarella, Parmesan and Romano cheeses in a large bowl and toss to combine. Butter a large, deep ceramic or glass baking pan.

Spread about 3/4 cup of béchamel-sage sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Arrange 4 lasagna noodles on top of the sauce. Spread 1/3 of the squash-sausage mixture and 1/2 of the ricotta over the noodles; drizzle with 1/3 of the béchamel-sage sauce and sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat with a second layer of noodles, squash-sausage, ricotta, béchamel and cheeses. Make a third and final layer with the remaining noodles, squash-sausage, béchamel and cheeses.

Cover the pan with foil. (You can refrigerate for up to one day at this point.) Bake the lasagna for 45 minutes (longer if it is cold from the refrigerator). Remove the foil and continue baking until the lasagna is bubbly and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let the lasagna sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Béchamel-Sage Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking continuously, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Whisk in the sage and thyme. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, whisking often, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg and add salt and pepper to taste.

You can make this dish in advance (up to 3 days). Cool to room temperature, skim the excess fat and store covered in the refrigerator. Bring the pot to a simmer over medium heat and then transfer to a 325 degree oven for 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the beef is warmed through.

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One Year Ago – Gingerbread Cupcakes
Two Years Ago – Buttery Chocolate Almond Brittle
Three Years Ago – Pork Stew Paprika

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© Susan W. Nye, 2011