Halloween House Hop…for Grown-ups!

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Halloween House Hop…for Grown-ups!

There are two parts to this blog post.  First a story and after that the plans for an Adult Halloween Party, complete with recipes.  

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All Hallows Eve

How do you feel about Halloween?  To tell you the truth, it was a cherished part of my childhood memories.  When I was a kid growing up in our small town, it was a BIG affair.  Every kid in our town participated.  The morning before, our mom would drag down her big box of costumes from the attic and always let my sisters and me pick which ones we wanted to wear from it.  Some Halloweens were very cold and snowy and our costumes would have to fit over our snow boots and heavy winter coats, lots of them were windy – not that a kid ever really notices such things, and a good handful of them were completely pleasant nights, semi warm, lit up with a big full moon that sometimes hid behind a dark, ominous cloud, and a sky dazzling with glittery stars.

Of course the first houses we headed to were the ones with the really awesome treats, like big, soft popcorn balls and glorious caramel apples. 

carmeled apples

Those were the good old days of home-made Halloween treats, usually made by the older church ladies.  A few of the more affluent families handed out regular size candy bars, and we always made a bee-line to their houses next.  And then we spent the remainder of the night collecting pillowcase-fulls of the little stuff.  We always made a stop at our grandparents’ house, although they weren’t big on Halloween and usually had the lights off.  But they’d answer the door for us, and ALWAYS gave out the same awful orange and black wrapped candy that was sort of like some kind of peanut butter taffy — yuck!  Not my favorite.  But we were privileged because they only answered the door for us.

When all the porch lights started going out, it was time to call it a night.  My sisters and I would shuffle on home, shuck our duds at the back door (poor mom sifted the piles and washed off the mud), and then dash for the living room where we’d dump out our buckets and sacks and compare booty.  Sometimes we’d trade if we had something we didn’t like and another sister was willing to deal.  Mom would let us eat some of it before it was time to brush our teeth and get ready for bed.

“Well, the fun’s over and she’s gone to church!”

I grew up.  Got married.  Got saved.  Had kids, and found myself wedged inextricably in a sticky little quandary between learning the origins of Halloween and those fond memories of my childhood.  The church we belonged to when my kids were little was understandably very much against the whole idea of Halloween. I felt like I might be excommunicated if I turned maverick and rode the fence on this one?  So I reached down deep in my soul to find an acceptable, fun, non-observing observance of the holiday that would satisfy all the little guilt-trips I had going on in my psyche.  Desperately seeking to come up with something that would get both a stamp of approval from my church, and Jesus, but also my excited, bright-eyed, beaming blonde baby girl with trick-or-treating friends as well.

Halloween Alternatives

I prayed and asked God what He wanted us to do, as salt and light, not to cast judgement on anyone, but to be all things to all people that we might by some miracle save some. God led me with various verses of scripture to go ahead and take my darling little baby girl door to door, but as an angel of light instead of darkness.

I dressed her cute little self in a ghost outfit, but with a halo on her head, and a big round button on her chest that said “HOLY GHOST.”   I came up with a little ditty that she dutifully memorized, and then that night we tricky-trotted from door to door in our little neighborhood doing what I felt lead of God to do.  Each door that answered her little knock-knock-knock was met NOT with “trick or treat,” but with our little poem that went something like this:  “On this night when the spirits are about, we pray that the Holy Spirit dwells with you!”  

It was our goal to bring blessings to our neighbors. We handed out tracts to every home and said a prayer over every house and every person we encountered. Basically prayer-walked our neighborhood, singing worship songs quietly to ourselves as we went.

They were all a little puzzled that a kid was there to give THEM something, and of course they offered her candy in return, which she happily accepted (although in retrospect I guess that could have been possibly construed as food offered to idols, eeeks.  Oh well, we’ll just have to ask forgiveness for that one).  It seemed the perfect solution.  My little girl had a great time, and we didn’t hide from the holiday or let it have our neighborhood all to itself.

The next year, and for several years after that, we went to the church’s Fall Festival, held at the Fairgrounds Industrial Bldg, where the kids were not allowed to dress up, but they did get to play a plethora of carnival games that paid out in little dollar-store prizes and bite-sized candies.  We ate sloppy joes and hot dogs which the church provided, and sampled all the side dishes that had been carried in.  And the adults visited and fellowshipped at the tables in the center of the room until the whole thing drew to a close.

When the kids got older and didn’t want to play the kiddie games any more, they would help me pass out candy to the trick-or-treaters who came to our door.  We always gave a Halloween Bible tract to each kid with a handful of whatever the coolest candy was at the time, sometimes we dressed up and played organ music in the CD player, and always blessed them as they went off into that dark night, saying a little prayer for each of their souls.

And then my kids grew up.  And it wasn’t long before there came grandkids…

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…and the whole thing came full circle again.  

The first year the darling little ones came knocking at our door and we lavished them with buckets of healthy snacks – because their mom would have our heads if we gave them candy.  The next year we sat up lawn chairs in their yard in town and handed out treats to trick-or-treaters while they took their girls door-to-door.  And the next couple years after that we went with them to the church’s Fall Festival, which is remarkably like the Fall Festivals my kids went to — only in Texas it gets to be outdoors because the weather is spectacular!!!!  

And so, like sands in the hour glass, so are the days of our lives.  I suppose it will go on the same until we’re too old and feeble to participate any more.  Maybe they’ll do something fun for us at the nursing home; let us bang our canes on our rockers while the staff bobs for apples?  And then I guess the door of life will just creak to a close, and Saint Peter will pop out from behind the pearly gates and shout “Boo!!!” at us as we are approaching.  (I’m kidding of course).

But wait.  We’re not dead yet.  Stop it.  Why should the kids have all the fun?  I’ve got an idea.  

Adult Halloween Party

I’m not always the best at facilitating these things – hence the “reluctant hostess” tag I’ve given to myself, but I’m never lacking in ideas.  Maybe you’ve got all the charisma in the world and are just always drawing a blank?  We would make SUCH a great team! 

Are you an “empty nester,” baby-boomer who wishes she/he had something fun to do on Halloween night?  Are you living in an all-adults-neighborhood and want to get to know your neighbors?  Even if you live in the same old neighborhood going on decades this party will still be a howling fun thing to do.

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PROGRESSIVE DINNER PARTY

A FEW WEEKS AHEAD:  Have a meeting with all your neighbors to decide who will be House #1, 2, 3, etc., so that everyone can prepare their part, plus have time to decorate if they want to, and know who else is participating.  Each neighbor can totally plan their own part of the meal, or y’all can use this one I am suggesting below. 

You can be kids again and wear crazy hats or silly masks, or fully dress up, and after trapsing hither and yawn over rocks and fences, and around bushes, by the light of the moon (and a few trusty flashlights) to get to each other’s house for the courses of your supper, your group could crown the evening with a game of cards, dice, or dominoes, or have a couples pumpkin carving contest, or pop some popcorn ( if you can fit any more into your swollen bellies) and watch a movie on somebody’s big screen TV.  Outside. Under the stars.  What a scream!

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House #1        

Everyone meets at the first house at dusk.  (Remember to bring flashlights and cameras to take lots of pictures – you’ll treasure them later. )  

I saw the cutest idea on Pinterest for serving Halloween party appetizers buffet style.  Lay out your table with a pair of pants and a flannel shirt as if a person was laying on your table.  Tuck the shirt into the pants.  You could also tuck some straw into the arm holes and leg holes, or put skeleton hands and feet there instead.  Unbutton the shirt and set a tray of goodies in the chest part.  Cut the pant legs with a slit up the middle of each leg and place trays of goodies inside.   

Menu Suggestion: 

Chorizo-Filled Dates Wrapped in Bacon  (www.foodandwine.com)

INGREDIENTS

1 small Portugese (hard) chorizo sausage (about 2 ounces), casing removed

24 large, meaty dates, pitted

12 slices of Applewood smoked, thin sliced bacon, halved crosswise

DIRECTIONS

Slice the chorizo crosswise in thirds. Halve each piece lengthwise, then cut each half into 4 lengthwise strips to make a total of 24 small sticks.

Tuck a chorizo stick into each date and pinch the dates closed. Wrap a strip of bacon around each date and secure with a toothpick.

Place the wrapped dates in a large skillet, seam sides down, and sauté, turning, until the bacon is browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Especially good served with very thin sliced pieces of blue cheese.

Black Sangria  (www.nationaldrinkwineday.org)

1 bottle Apothic Dark

2 cups organic blackberries, washed

4 black plums, washed and sliced

1/4 cup brandy (optional)

2 cups black grapes, washed

1 cup sparkling water if you desire, but you don’t have to if you want a strong wine taste.

DIRECTIONS

Add everything into a pitcher and mix with a large spoon.

Let it sit in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. The longer it sits the darker the plums become. Best to keep sangria in the fridge. Enjoy!!!

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House #2 

Salad and spicy Bloody Marys. (Remember to take pictures!)  

Menu Suggestion: 

Classic Nicoise Salad*

INGREDIENTS (4 large or 8 small servings)

1 pound red-skinned potatoes, sliced 1/3 inch thick

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons dry white wine

10 ounces haricots verts or thin green beans, trimmed

4 large eggs

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1/2 shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons dijon mustard

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Freshly ground pepper

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

8 cherry tomatoes or small cocktail tomatoes, halved or quartered

1 head Boston lettuce, leaves separated

6 radishes, trimmed and quartered

2 5 1/2 -ounce cans Italian or Spanish tuna packed in olive oil, drained

1/2 cup nicoise olives

DIRECTIONS

Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan; cover with cold water and season with salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook until fork-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl; drizzle with the wine and let cool. Reserve the saucepan.

Meanwhile, bring a separate saucepan of salted water to a boil. Fill a bowl with salted ice water. Add the haricots verts to the boiling water; cook until crisp-tender and bright green, 2 to 4 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into the ice water to cool; drain and pat dry.

Place the eggs in the reserved saucepan and cover with cold water by about 1 inch. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then cover, remove from the heat and let stand, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain, then run under cold water to cool. Peel under cold running water.

Make the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, shallot, mustard, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl. Whisk in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until emulsified.

Toss the tomatoes in a small bowl with salt and pepper to taste. Add about 1/4 cup dressing to the potatoes and toss. Quarter the hard-cooked eggs.

Divide the lettuce among 4 plates. Arrange the potatoes, haricots verts, radishes, hard-cooked eggs and tuna on top. Pour any juices from the tomatoes into the dressing, then add the tomatoes to the plates. Drizzle with the dressing and top with the olives.

*Recipe courtesy of Food Network Magazine

Salad could be served with spicy Bloody Marys, decorated for the occasion, or a nice Cotes du Rhône rosé (as suggested by www.matchingfoodandwine.com) with a small stemmed rose (or any crazy party favor) laying across each glass.

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House #3 

How about a warm dip with bread sticks, a veggie nibble, and a nice white wine? 

Menu Suggestion:   

Crudité Platter

(Photos from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/20/crudite-crudites-beautiful-photos_n_4302956.html)

Hot Crab Dip (www.marthastewart.com)

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 medium shallots, minced

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

1 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

3/4 cup half-and-half

8 ounces cream cheese, cut into small pieces

4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grater (about 1 3/4 cups)

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

10 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over for cartilage

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4-inch pieces

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Toast points or bread sticks, for serving

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the center. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon water and simmer for 30 seconds. Stir in the cayenne, Old Bay, and dry mustard until well combined. Pour half-and-half into saucepan and bring to a simmer. Slowly whisk in the cream cheese, a few pieces at a time. When the cream cheese is fully incorporated, whisk in the cheddar cheese, a handful at a time. Stir the mixture for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce; stir to combine. Stir in crabmeat and half of the parsley.

Transfer mixture to an ovenproof baking dish and sprinkle with bread pieces. Dot top of bread pieces with remaining tablespoons butter; sprinkle with paprika. Bake until bread pieces are golden and dip is hot, 18 to 22 minutes. Garnish with remaining 1/4 cup parsley and serve with toast points or bread sticks.

***Foodthinkers.com suggests a light Sauvignon Blanc, specifically Golden Kaan Sauvignon Blanc.   (Or you could go with a green “Witch’s Brew” smoothie which you will find recipes in abundance on Pinterest)

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House #4 

…has the main dish (a meat dish, and small side) and of course a special drink to go with it.  And of course more photography. 

Menu Suggestion: 

Chimichurri Grilled Beef Skewers (with Fruit and Nut Farofa)

INGREDIENTS

1 pound flank steak, trimmed

20 wooden skewers

Soak skewers in warm water, at least 20 minutes. Slice the flank steak against the grain into 20 strips, about 1/8 inch thick. Thread the meat accordion-style onto the skewers and set aside until ready to grill.

Chimichurri:

1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

6 large cloves garlic, minced

1 small bunch fresh oregano (about half the quantity to parsley)

1 small onion, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 Tablespoon Red (Cayenne) Pepper flakes

1 tsp. Spanish Pimenton (smoked Paprika)

3/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons wine vinegar

DIRECTIONS

Puree all ingredients for chimichurri in a blender until just blended. Season the steak with salt and pepper. Brush chimichurri sauce on each side of meat before grilling. Brush the grill with olive oil, then grill the skewers until marked, about 1 minute per side.  Serve more chimichurri on the side as a condiment.

Fruit and Nut Farofa

This is a perfect accompaniment to any roasted meat, but especially Brazilian Chimichurri steak!  Farofa is made of course ground manioc flour (which can be found in most Latin/South American markets), like farina cereal.  If you cannot find it, or don’t want to bother looking, you can go with Quinoa instead, prepared according to package directions.  (Also, some yummy looking Quinoa recipes can be found here.

1/3 cup water

2 Manioc Flour

1 Tablespoon butter

1 Tablespoon oil

1 large chopped onion

2 large chopped tomatoes

1 hardboiled egg, chopped

¼ cup golden raisins or currants

¼ cup chopped prunes

¼ cup chopped walnuts

2 Tablespoons of chopped parsley.

INSTRUCTIONS

Place manioc flour in a medium glass bowl.  Stir water into manioc flour to moisten and then set aside.

Heat butter and oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add chopped onion and tomatoes.  Saute until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the moistened manioc that you set aside earlier, stir and cook for about 5 minutes.  Remove skillet from heat and add 1 hardboiled egg, raisins or currants, chopped prunes, chopped walnuts, and chopped parsley.  Serve.

White Wine Smoothie (Palate cleanser)

20 ice cubes

1 cup very cold fruity white wine (unoaked Chardonnay, Moscato)

1 chilled orange, cut into 4 pieces

1 chilled lemon, cut into 4 pieces

2 cups lemon sorbet

½ cup heavy whipping cream or plain Greek Yogurt

1 to 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)

Place ice, wine, and fruit in a blender. Blend until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse until combined.  Pour into tall skinny glasses (flower vases work great) with a sprig of mint and a fancy striped straw.  Serves 4

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House #5 

…hosts dessert and a game of dice or cards, or pumpkin carving contest. 

Menu Suggestion:  Coffee and Cake

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After-dinner game suggestions:

Spinner or Chicken-Foot Dominoes, Rollin’ Bones Pirate Dice game, Liar’s Dice, Pinochle, or dealer’s choice Stud Poker. When’s the last time you played CLUE?  Or Monopoly?  Or Spoons?  As long as we’re reliving our childhood we could even play a game of hide-and-go-seek!!!  

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I hope you’ll give this party a whirl.  And please, tell me how it turns out!!!!

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“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:15

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