Neighborly Halloween Gathering

Begin and end your neighborhood's Halloween rounds at your house. Feed the little ones and send them on their way. Then, the get-together continues with appetizers and beverages for the grown-ups.

Getting ready for Halloween night is quite a challenge, especially on a weeknight.

  • Pumpkins needs carving...
  • Pumpkin seeds cry out to be roasted...
  • Candy must be carefully selected and artfully displayed...
  • And oh, yes, trick-or-treaters require suiting up...
  • Finally, a hot meal needs to get into your trick-or-treaters before they set off on their journey.

Real Food for Little Monsters

It just makes sense to get some real food into their stomachs before kids hit the street. To start off the eve, I'll lure the neighborhood children and their chaperones to my house. There aren't too many kids or adults who'll refuse homemade Mac and Cheese (extra hearty with added chicken). I'll also have a big pot of spiced apple cider simmering on the stove that'll make the house smell fantastic.

Fun Food for Treat Givers, Too

Once our little monsters head out the door, I'll bring out my stash of grown-up appetizers for the remaining adults and maybe we'll even spike that cider with a little rum or brandy.

All that's left is to sit back to enjoy the parade of costumes that come to the door. How easy a party is that? And, if you happen to see a particularly worn-looking adult at your door, you can always slip her a mercy canape.

The Menu

Holiday Cider

This punch looks great and smells divine. Oh yes, the taste is splendid too -- warm apples, warm spices, and a splash of citrus.

View Holiday Cider recipe

Chicken Mac and Cheese

A one-dish wonder that packs foods everyone loves -- cheese, macaroni, cheese, chicken, and cheese.

View Chicken Mac and Cheese recipe

Mini Spinach Calzones

These little packets of goodness are packed with spinach and cheese. Like their Greek cousin, spanakopita, but easier since these use refrigerated dough in place of fussy phyllo.

View Mini Spinach Calzones recipe

Chili Powder Chicken with Cilantro Cream

As one reader said, "Quick, fun, and hot!" -- how perfect is that?

View Chili Powder Chicken with Cilantro Cream recipe

Teriyaki Beef and Lettuce Wraps

Long before wraps became the rage in America, Asian cooks folded savory fillings within rice-paper wrappers, thin pancakes, and lettuce leaves. The lettuce leaves provide a crisp, fresh contrast to a spicy filling.

View Teriyaki Beef and Lettuce Wraps recipe

Carrot Dip

A savory dip with cream cheese and sour cream base, enlivened with a dollop of horseradish and studded with shredded carrots -- appropriately colored for Halloween.

View Carrot Dip recipe

Easy Baked Cheese Fondue

Melted brie is sinfully simple and devilishly delicious.

View Easy Baked Cheese Fondue recipe

Up to 24 hours ahead...

  • Prepare the Chicken Mac Cheese except for bread crumb topping; refrigerate.
  • Cook meatballs for the Teriyaki Beef Wraps; prep lettuce leaves and vegetable mixture. Refrigerate.
  • Prepare the Carrot Dip and veggies for dipping; refrigerate.
  • Prepare Cilantro Cream and spice mixture for Chili Powder Chicken.

4 hours before...

  • Make filling for Mini Spinach Calzones; fill calzones and hold in refrigerator.
  • Soak skewers and after 30 minutes thread chicken strips for Chili Powder Chicken onto skewers; refrigerate.
  • Top cheese with nut mixture for fondue.

2 hours before...

  • Begin baking apples for cider.

1 hour before...

  • Start cider simmering on stovetop with remaining ingredients.
  • Top Chicken Mac and Cheese with bread crumbs and put in oven.

Feed the children...

  • Ladle cider into heat-proof punch bowl, removing spices. Add apples to bowl.
  • Serve Chicken Mac and Cheese.

10 to 15 minutes before the trick-or-treaters head out for the evening...

  • Begin baking Spinach Calzones in 400-degree oven.
  • Coat and bake Chili Powder Chicken skewers in same oven at same temperature.
  • If desired, reheat Teriyaki meatballs (also great as cold appetizer).

Begin the adult portion of the evening as children and chaperones exit...

  • Increase oven temp to 450 degrees F. and bake cheese for Easy Fondue.
  • Bring all appetizers to buffet table: Easy Fondue with crackers, Carrot Dip with Crudite, Teriyaki Beef Wraps with fixings, plus the 2 hot appetizers -- Spinach Calzones and Chili Powder Chicken with Cilantro Creme.
  • Spike cider and put on some spooky music.
  • I personally think it should be mandatory for everyone -- adults too -- to dress up on Halloween. It's way more fun to trick-or-treat when the candy dispensers are in the spirit of things. And nothing will be more frightening to your children than seeing Mom or Dad rock out to the Monster Mash in costume!
  • Be sure to light the scene appropriately with lots of flickering candlelight, and have some appropriately eerie music in the background.
  • Fake spider webs and plastic spiders are always an entrancing addition to decor.
  • You can rent a Halloween-themed DVD. The Mel Brooks's classic horror spoof Young Frankenstein can provide amusement in the lulls. Or revisit a misspent youth with a showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show!
  • Buy one or two of those extra-large, super-fancy candy bars as prize giveaways for the truly spectacular costumes you'll see during the evening.
  • And while you are at it, a visit to your local chocolatier or fancy candy store for some grown-up treats is a fiendishly clever idea.

Chicken Lady Fingers with Romanian Romesco Dipping Sauce

Ghoulish and gourmet! A pool of crimson spicy roasted red pepper dipping sauce and a pile of delicious digits...

View Chicken Lady Fingers with Romanian Romesco Dipping Sauce recipe

Hotter-Than-Hades Steak and Salsa Bites

Succulent steak bits and fiery salsa nestle in a bite-sized crunchy shells -- you know there'll be a party monster standing guard over these.

View Hotter-Than-Hades Steak and Salsa Bites recipe

Deviled Eggs with Spicy Crab

Nothing is more appropriate for Halloween than anything deviled -- and it's especially snazzy when it comes packing some heat like these irresistible eggs.

View Deviled Eggs with Spicy Crab recipe

Dracula's Eyes

These are not only hilarious, they taste good too -- creamy peanut butter truffle centers inside a crunchy coating.

View Dracula's Eyes recipe


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