You should know up front, that I am not very handy in the kitchen, so, I chose very easy, low maintenance finger foods, along with some help from my co-host Desiree and Anthony Gabriele of Plate. Fork. Mouth.
There are some other factors that I had to consider when selecting my menu, such as:
First, my kitchen gets very hot when using my gas oven, and that isn’t very comfortable when your guests are wearing full costumes, so I have to choose items I can pre-cook and just reheat in my toaster oven. This actually works out for the best anyway so that I’m not stuck in the kitchen the whole time and can actually enjoy the party! Plus, I am usually behind the bar shaking up cocktails, since tending bar is more of my forté over cooking.
Second, I need savory but hearty bites that require no silverware.
And third, since pre-cooking the food keeps me very busy during the party prep, I purchase simple, easy table “fillers” to help ease the cooking burden. The following items work out great!
- A dip trio- Guacamole, Salsa and Onion dip with Tortilla Chips & Ruffles.
I use store bought but not from the jars, I go to the deli and get delicious fresh dips. I think a homemade recipe, if you have one, is always a better choice, but for this gal, store bought saves time and allows me to focus on the small bites that I will be cooking.
- Ranch dip with carrots and celery
I also use store bought pre-cut celery and sliced carrots with a ranch dip. For an added touch, I purchase purple carrots, slice them and mix in to add to the halloween look.
I like to put out some fruit on the dessert table for those with a “light” sweet tooth. You can select and cut yourself or purchase pre-cut. I like to use items that have a black or red color such as strawberries, raspberries, blood orange, grapes, blackberries and blueberries. The red and black color adds to the overall tablescape and color scheme!
Now for the actual cooking!
These simple, easy items can be prepared the day before:
The Devil’s Deviled Eggs
My favorite part of most holidays growing up was that it usually included deviled eggs in my family gatherings–Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas but never Halloween. Hello!?! DEVILed eggs! Perfect for Halloween! I am using my mom’s simple, traditional recipe, except we like to use cayenne pepper instead of paprika for a little more kick.
These can be premade the night before. I like to keep my egg white halves in a baggie (with a paper towel to soak up extra liquid) and the yolk mix in a separate baggie. The day of, I put the egg whites out, cut the corner of my yolk baggie and just pipe the filling in.
To make the Devil’s Face:
I cut triangular pieces of red bell pepper to make the Devils Horns.
Serves: Yields roughly 24 eggs
1/3 cup Mayonnaise
2 tsp Mustard
1 tsp White Vinegar
1/8 tsp Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne Pepper for garnish
Red Bell pepper for garnish
- Hard boil your eggs
- Crack egg shells and carefully peel
- Cut egg in half lengthwise, removing yolks into side bowl
- Mash up the yellow yolks and mix salt, pepper, mayo, Vinegar, Scallions and mustard
- Fill egg halves with yolk mix, evenly dispersed (roughly a heaping teaspoon each)
- Top with devil horns & sprinkle Cayenne Pepper.
Black Hearted Cheese Ball
A cheese ball is great option. You can make it at any point and freeze in advance, but since I am prepping the day before, I’ll just keep it in the fridge and hold off on the garnish till the day of!
Serves: Yields 1 Cheese ball
8 oz package cream cheese
8 oz sharp shredded shedder cheese
2 oz blue cheese, crumbled
1 Tsp Worcestershire souce
1 Tsp minced onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
Poppy seed for garnish
- Mix all ingredients in bowl.
- Roll into a ball, wrap in saran wrap, refrigerate for at least 2 hours
- Roll ball in black poppy seeds for color when time to serve
These items can be partially prepared the day before and finished the day of:
Monster Meat Balls
I’m a vegetarian but I like to have some meat options for my guest. Anthony Gabriele from Plate. Fork. Mouth. has an amazing chicken meatball recipe that is to die for! By adding my broomstick toothpicks, it makes them an option that does not require silverware but provides a hefty meat option.
To make the broomsticks:
Cut 10 pieces of raffia into 1.5” lengths. Bunch the cut pieces together and tie onto the toothpick with another piece of raffia. I couldn’t find large toothpicks so I used small dowel rods from the craft store.
ANTHONY’S PASTA SAUCE:
2 16 oz cans of plain tomato sauce (preferably of the San Marzano variety)
Bunch of basil
5 cloves of garlic
2 large chunks of onion (Outer layer peeled off and cut in half)
Extra virgin Olive Oil
Dash of fresh thyme
2 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar
- In a large pot combine the olive oil, garlic, onions and sauté for 10 to 15 minutes until translucent.
- Add basil and cook for a few more minutes. With a slotted spoon remove the large chunks of onion and garlic.
- Add the two cans of pasta sauce and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and the sugar and add a cup of water.
- Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until water has cooked and it is slightly thicker. Remember to stir consistently to prevent burning. Taste for salt.
¾ cup day-old crustless bread
¼ cup whole milk
1 ½ cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
½ large yellow onion, minced
3/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
3 large eggs
5 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 LBS ground chicken
*** Up to Step 5, you can prep the day before. Cover and refrigerate, finish steps 5-7 Day of Party**
- Put bread in small bowl and pour milk into it and led soak for 10 minutes.
- In another bowl, combine the cheese, onion, parsley, eggs, garlic, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir till mixed then add ground chicken and combine well.
- After your bread is soaked, add to chicken mixture. With this mixture, create balls (size to your preference, we did about 1 ½ ounce size balls) and roll them till they are covered with flour
- Using a skillet, add olive oil and sauté each of the meatballs for 3-5 minutes, moving them around till they are slightly brown on most of the sides. Do the meatballs in sections and make sure not to overcrowd the pan (overcrowding will produce moisture and make them soggy)
- Once finished, place the cooked meatballs in a large baking tray or deep pyrex (enough to hold 4 cups of liquid).
- Combine the 2 cups of cooked pasta sauce and 2 cups of chick stock and stir. Pour this mixture into the pan with the meatballs. Add the bay leaves into the tray and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.
- Remove meatballs from the liquid and transfer to your platter. Dab the remaining pasta sauce (not the chicken stock mixture from the pan) onto the meatballs and pour chopped basil on top and sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese to finish it off.
Or mini twice baked potatoes! I prefer to use a russet potato for my twice baked potatoes, but they need to be bite-sized, so I ‘m using small red & purple potatoes. They are a great party finger food!
As for the garnish, I like to use a small piece of bacon for the meat potatoes and small green onion for the vegetarian potatoes so my guest know which is which.
Serves: Yields 40 Mini Potatoes
20 small baby purple potatoes (regular red potatoes if you can’t find the purple)
1 ½ tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 slices bacon
½ cup shreadded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tbsp sour cream
Fine sea salt
Freshly gound black pepper
1 scallion (green part only) minced
¼ tsp smoked spicy paprika
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
*** Up to Step 9, you can prep the day before. Cover and refrigerate, finish step 10 day of party**
- Leaving the washed skins on, cut the potatoes in half across the middle of the potato.
- Place cut side down on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss until evenly covered.
- Bake for 20 minutes, until cooked through. Allow them to cool completely
- While potatoes cook, cook the bacon until crispy, drain with paper towel and mince.
- In a bowl, combine the cheese, sour cream, scallion, paprika, ¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper
- Using a sharp knife, trim a tiny slice off the round bottom of each potato half. Using a melon baller, carefully scoop enough potato insides to form little cups. Mash the scooped-out potato into the cheese mixture along with the butter and cream.
- At this point, I split the potato/cheese mixture into two bowls. I leave one bowl vegetarian, and one bowl mixes with the minced bacon.
- Spoon the mashed stuffing into a zipper bag and cut the corner. Pipe the mixture into the potato cups.
- Just before the party, pop them into toaster oven at 350 degrees and bake for about 10 min.
These items must be made day of the party:
Ghostly “Munster” Grilled Cheese Sandwich Bites
One of the few things I actually cook as a child is a grilled cheese sandwich. I am giving it a Halloween twist by serving it with “bloody dip” (i.e. Tomato soup). These need to be made fairly close the party, but its super easy and clean up is fast.
I cut the grilled cheese into small triangles for easy dipping.
Serves: Makes 4-5 Triangles each
2 Slices Bread
1 1/2 Slices Munster Cheese
Butter to taste
Well, there is really no recipe to give you, it’s a grilled cheese. Use your favorite cheese or add your own touches. Personally, I’m using Munster cheese, because it is my favorite flavor profile for a grilled cheese and lets face it “munster” sounds like “monster”… too cute of a pun to pass it up!
As for the Bloody Dip:
I would normally go to my local deli and purchase tomato soup but thankfully I write a blog with an excellent cook who makes a delicious Tomato Soup. You can find her recipe here on our blog:
Again, while I can barely cook, I actually can bake, but I simply do not enjoy it. So, I choose store bought options at a good local bakery to fill my dessert table in addition to the fruit and a few added personal Halloween touches.
HOWL AT THE MOON CHOCOLATE COOKIES
I purchased these and simply added my garnish, but if you have a good cookie or brownie recipe, it’s worth making these homemade for your guests.
I thought this was a simple solution. I used a moon stencil (cut myself from a piece of cardstock) and sprinkled powder sugar on them.
PUMPKIN SEED CANDY
If you can make homemade peanut brittle, this is a great option–exchange the peanuts for pumpkin seeds and it makes a perfect Halloween treat. I found some delicious pumpkin seed candy at my local market that would blow away anything I could bake myself, so I put them in gold mini-cupcake holders so people enjoy a few bites of pumpkin seed brittle!
SCARY SHORTBREAD BARS
I can actually bake a pretty mean shortbread, do you know why? Because it’s very easy! So if I can bake this, anyone can!
2 sticks butter
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons coarse salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups assorted chocolate candies (I purchased the new “bite-sized” bags of candy)
- Preheat oven at 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar and salt on medium high until it’s light and fluffy (2-3 minutes)
- Put your mixer on low and add flour in 3-4 sections and beat until combined (dough will be a bit crumbly)
- Press the dough evenly into a 8-inch baking dish and bake until golden brown and firm (30-35 minutes), be sure to get your dough even or you will have some parts overcooked and some undercooked.
- Scatter chocolate chips on top of shortbread and bake until soft enough to spread (1-2 minutes). With spatula, spread chocolate evenly over the shortbread. Scatter candies over the top and let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate briefly to set chocolate, then cut into 16 bars.
This seems like a lot of work…because it is. Hosting is never easy, but you can plan a party that allows you to have most items prepped and ready to go. I, for one, prefer to enjoy the party I worked so hard to throw, so hopefully these recipes will help you plan a MONSTER of a bash!
Now, with the hard stuff out of the way… we have the place decorated, food is planned and prepped…up next week…the cocktails! My favorite (and the most fun) part. Make sure to check back next week for that post. Be sure you are in for the night, so you can do a taste test of the cocktail!!!
Do you have any easy recipes that can be prepped in advance? Or fun Halloween food/garnish ideas? I would LOVE to hear them. I am always on the hunt for great recipes for hosting!