All Hallows Eve & Vegetable & Rice (or Noodle) Bowls

There are holidays and, then, there are HOLIDAYS. Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to top the charts but Halloween has to be an ever-so-close runner up. So, why does Halloween beat all the other movers and shakers? Think about it, kids get the day off from school on Columbus Day – in spite of a ton of controversy. On the other hand, All Hallows Eve, is loads of fun but no one gets the day off.

Then again, Halloween is not without controversy. Over the past several of years, some Halloween costumes have found themselves in the news. Instead of fun fantasy or scary spookdom, some disguises are nothing short of offensive. So, here’s some simple advice, when it comes to Halloween, don’t be a yahoo.

In case you are wondering, what’s a yahoo? Say the word a few times, out loud with enthusiasm. Now, think about the kind of person who might fit that description and you’ll get the picture. If you’re still not sure; it all boils down to this – don’t choose an offensive costume. Traditional or inventive, have fun with it but show some common sense. Show some common courtesy.

As I understand it; there are some politicians, pundits and their fans out there who are getting tired of political correctness. With or without air quotes, politically correct has somehow or other become an insult. But wait a minute there; back up the train. Accusing someone of political correctness is like accusing them of common courtesy. How or why would anyone suggest that being polite is a bad thing?

I don’t know about your mom but Mrs. Nye didn’t raise her kids to be rude. She didn’t raise them to be bullies or to offend people that didn’t look, act or talk the way they did. No, Mrs. Nye raised her kids to be pumpkins and fairy princesses, clowns and super heroes, witches, vampires, ghosts and goblins.

Which brings us back to the initial question, why does Halloween beat all those other holidays in the top of the pops charts? Easy – it’s the costumes. It’s fun to dress up. It’s fun to pretend you are someone or something else. It’s fun to give your imagination free rein and come up with an amazing costume. It’s fun to show how clever you are. Dress up is part of being a kid and being a kid again.

So have a ball. Throw caution to the wind; let your imagination run wild. Be silly, be scary, be surprising. One of my favorite costumes of all time was a group effort. Three or four friends dressed up as a construction site. One put on a yellow slicker, reflective vest and hardhat while the others dressed up as traffic cones, complete with flashing lights. At least for me, it was clever, funny and memorable because – how in the world do you come up with such an idea? To be a traffic cone, a TRAFFIC CONE, for Halloween?

This year and every year, forget stereotypes. Black face and Nazis are more outdated than your great-grandfather’s fedora. However, a fedora could be the start of something interesting. Or maybe a bowler? Anyway, if you are unsure about a costume, ask yourself, “What would my kids or grandkids or future kids or grandkids think?” Would they laugh? Or, would they squirm uncomfortably and, then, shrug, sigh and admit that, as much as they love you; you’re a yahoo.

Happy Halloween and bon appétit!

Vegetable & Rice (or Noodle) Bowls

Everyone likes a cozy dish on a chilly night. These spicy vegetable bowls are quick and easy at the end of a busy day – or after trick or treating! If you like, add tofu or shrimp or slices of leftover chicken or pork. Enjoy!

Serves 4

  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 pound broccoli, cut in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced or chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons or to taste sriracha
  • 2 tablespoons tahini or smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 12-16 ounces tofu or leftover chicken or pork (optional)
  • 1 cup rice or 8 ounces Chinese or udon noodles
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, toasted and finely chopped or toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro

Lightly coat a large wok or skillet with vegetable oil and heat over medium-high. Add the broccoli, mushrooms, onion and carrots and tossing frequently, cook until the onion is translucent. Add the ginger and garlic and, tossing frequently, cook for 2 minutes more.

Stir in the sriracha, tahini, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar and toss to combine. Stir in the chicken stock. If using, add the tofu, chicken or pork, toss to combine. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and simmer until the broccoli is tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles or rice according to package directions.

Transfer the noodles or rice to a large platter or individual bowls. Stir the sesame oil to the vegetables. Top the noodles or rice with vegetables, sprinkle with peanuts, scallions and cilantro and serve immediately.

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What’s your favorite Halloween costume? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

A Lot to Like about Halloween & Halloween Candy Brownies

Hang onto your hats (and your turkey legs), it looks like Halloween is poised to become the second most popular holiday in the country. Well, maybe not this year or next, but it’s trending in that direction. For as long as I can remember the triumphant trinity of holidays has been Christmas in the number one spot, followed by Thanksgiving and then Halloween. According to a Harris poll, Halloween is now more popular than Thanksgiving with millennials. That’s anyone between eighteen and thirty-five years old. Already thirty percent of the population, their ranks are growing.

Why do millennials love Halloween? Why not? Halloween has a lot going for it. You get to decorate. From cheery autumnal pumpkins and gourdes to ghosts, ghouls and gravestones, there are loads of options. You dress up in some fantastic outfit. What could be better than showing the world your alter ego, your true self or if-only self? There’s candy.

On the other hand, Thanksgiving has family, food and football. When it comes to family, Thanksgiving is famous for its meltdowns. A few weeks after the election, there is more than enough fodder for conflict. Even if you all agree, someone or everyone will begin to rant and rave. Right, left, liberal or conservative, it doesn’t matter. There’s discontent on all sides. Throw in a few alternative lifestyles, a dash of sibling rivalry and one too many glasses of wine and you have an explosion ready to happen. But the food is good and the football is never ending.

But back to Halloween, for little kids and big ones, there is a lot to like about this spooktacular night:

First my favorite part, you can let your imagination go wild. From scary to sexy to silly (or some combination) you get to be someone else for an evening. Try on a new identity; someone braver and wiser. Who knows? You might decide to keep it on for a week or so – maybe even longer. Literally or figuratively, is there anything more empowering than tights and a cape?

It’s all in good fun. As the days grow shorter and colder, Halloween gets us out and about. It’s a celebration. Whether you are a little kid dashing from one house to another or a big kid dancing the night away, there is nothing too terribly serious about Halloween.

There’s something for everyone. If you don’t feel like trick or treating or dancing, you can travel back through history and learn about the origins Halloween. The ins and outs of ghosts and goblins, witches and their familiars make for interesting reading and study.

The community comes together. Clusters of kids and their parents roam the neighborhood. Parks and parking lots are filled with cars for trunk or treat. Friends come together for festive cheer. History buffs gather at the library for a lecture on the Salem witch trials or some such thing. Superficial divisions melt like a jack-o’-lantern candle and cheery neighborliness rules. By the way, beneath our masks, we’re all human – suggesting that any and all divisions are superficial.

There is a spirit of generosity. Everyone turns on their porch light and stands at the ready with peanut butter cups and crunch bars. Well, not everyone. In quiet rural neighborhoods like mine, we see nary a ghost or superhero. However, we would be ever so happy to welcome you with a treat if you happen by.

Have a wonderful Halloween and bon appétit!

Halloween Candy Brownies
Start with your favorite brownie recipe and add leftover Halloween candy for a spooktacular treat. Enjoy!
Make 24 squares

About 12 ounces leftover Halloween candy – try M&Ms, peanut butter cups, Milky Way, Snickers, Heath Bars and/or Three Musketeers
8 ounces (2 sticks) butter
8 ounces (1 1/2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

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

Cut the candy bars into small pieces – about 1/2-inch square.

Put the butter, chocolate chips and unsweetened chocolate in a heavy saucepan and heat on very low until the chocolate is about 2/3 melted. Remove from the heat and stir to combine until melted and smooth. Add the sugar and instant coffee and stir to combine.

Put the eggs in a bowl and beat with a fork. Beating constantly, a little at a time, add about a cup of warm chocolate to the eggs. Add the remaining chocolate and the vanilla to the chocolate-egg mixture and stir to combine.

Put the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate and stir to combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the candies evenly over the top and gently push into the batter.

Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool and cut into squares.

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One Year Ago – Apple Oatmeal Cookies
Two Years Ago – Chipotle Sweet Potato & White Bean Hummus
Three Years Ago – Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares
Four Years Ago – Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Five Years Ago Ago – Pumpkin Spice Cookies
Six Years Ago – Chicken in Every Pot
Seven Years Ago – Roasted Carrots & Pearl Onions
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Nine Years Ago – Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pearl Onions
Ten 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 Halloween candy? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

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

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