Back when I was single, I have to admit I thought Halloween was annoying. You have to go buy candy that you don’t want. You have to answer the doorbell that is interrupting your evening. You would rather turn off the lights or go out.
Now that I’m a parent Halloween is unavoidable. And I have to admit, I love the creative aspect of it. I find myself completely immersed in pinning Halloween craft projects on Pinterest. I can’t help but buy more Halloween decor every year at thrift shops. We spend weeks talking about Joe’s costume ideas, and then days shopping for said costume and props. I invite Joe’s friends to come over and do the outdoor decorating and we transform the front yard with spiderwebs, gravestones, dorky signage, a strobe light on the porch, a mechanical ghoul on a motion sensor, streamers, and lights.
Go away! Halloween is not fun. Wait, yes it is!
We have a great neighborhood with lots of kids and families and for the past few years we’ve had a group Halloween party to get the kids together before trick or treating. Our neighbors across the street hosted a pizza party for a couple of years and when they moved, we picked up the baton (or wand or scepter or scythe, if you will.)
It is a great opportunity to see all the kids in their costumes and have some spooky fun.
We host it outside and pitch our party tent (which is a plastic canopy with flaps I bought online from a golfing outlet.)
Here is our skeletal (ha ha) party plan in case you’d like to do one in your neighborhood:
- Prepare your guest list. We like to be inclusive so all trick-or-treating age kids and babies on the 3 streets that comprise our neighborhood are invited.
- Send out an invitation. We like Evite and Paperless Post for their cute invitations and easy way to track RSVPs. Some families have filters that block those emails and some families I don’t have email addresses for so we also do a paper flyer that a helpful mom puts in the appropriate mailboxes.
- Lay in your supplies and groceries. We have pizza delivered so there’s no cooking. Make sure you have enough Halloween-y paper plates and napkins. We also buy bottled water, sodas and ice. And candy. Don’t forget the candy.
- Decorate the weekend before. Save some last minute touches (lanterns, gauze spider webs, garlands, table linens, candles and flowers for the day of.)
- Start the party before sundown so the little ones can get an early start on trick-or-treating and you get to see everyone’s costume before dark.
- Guests often want to know what they can bring so delegate dessert and appetizers. It is BYOB for adults but do have a cooler filled with clean ice, a full ice bucket with tongs, bottle and wine openers, and cups for those adult beverages.
- Make your Halloween playlist or set your ipod to Pandora’s Halloween Party Radio station. Michael Jackson is a must. Loud speakers are a must. Blast it!
- Party down. When it gets dark, the children set off for the candy hunt with adult chaperones. Other designated adults take their stations at their doors to give out the candy. And other designated adults (usually those who have worked to help set up the party and do the hostess’s bidding hang around to polish off the pizza, have a beverage, and enjoy the spooky candle glow.)
Time to trick or treat! Give us some candy or we will egg your house.
Many, many thanks to Allison Beuker of Allison Beuker Photography for the outstanding pictures that captured the children’s infectious Halloween excitement and creativity. Perfection.
Mushrooms and wild rice were a centerpiece of my Minnesota childhood holiday meals. Both ingredients were considered “spendy” (Minnesota slang for expensive), and thus we didn’t have them everyday.
On Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter my mom would break away from the budget and our guests would be treated to luxurious dishes that made these holidays special, such as Minnesota Wild Rice Casserole which combined sautéed onions, green pepper, celery, button mushrooms, chopped pimento and lots and lots of butter.
Wild rice is actually a grass, sustainably harvested by hand by the Ojibwe Nation in northern Minnesota.
Mushroom and wild rice soup was a budget-friendly alternative. You could have a small cup or bowl if you were out shopping, which my mom and I did at Byerly’s, an upscale grocery store in St. Paul. My sister, who lived in the more cosmopolitan Minneapolis, took me to Cafe Brenda in the 1980s, and this is the soup I came to love.
Mushroom and Wild Rice Bisque
adapted from The Cafe Brenda Cookbook: Redefining Seafood and Vegetarian Cuisine
- 3/4 C. wild rice (order from White Earth Nation/Ojibwe site)
- 7 C. vegetable or chicken stock
- 1/3 C. long-grain brown rice
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 green onion, chopped (optional) (save the green parts for garnish on top)
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 4 T. butter
- 1 pound mushrooms, sliced (I used a combination of cremini and white button)
- 2 C. half and half
- 1/4 C. parsley, chopped
- 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire
- salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse wild rice thoroughly in a strainer.
- Bring stock to a boil, add wild rice, brown rice and rosemary sprigs.
- Simmer, covered, for 1 hour or until rice is tender.
- While rice is cooking, chop vegetables.
- Sauté onions, carrot, and celery in 2 T. of butter until very soft (about 10 minutes.)
- Warm the half and half in a saucepan and add the vegetable mixture. Let steep for 5-10 minutes.
- Melt remaining 2 T. of butter and sauté the mushrooms until nicely colored and soft.
- Add half of the mushroom mixture to the vegetables and half and half. Puree the vegetables in the pot with your immersion blender or pour into a blender and puree.
- Add the pureed mixture to the rice and stock mixture and stir to combine. Take out the rosemary sprigs.
- Add the remaining sautéed mushrooms.
- Season the soup with Worcestershire, salt, pepper and parsley.
- Simmer the soup gently, until heated through but do not let it boil. Flavors develop best overnight.
The Ojibwe people still harvest wild rice by hand in Northern Minnesota. Photo: White Earth Nation.
Anyone with any knowledge at all of French cuisine will scoff at calling this pâté, but I certainly can’t call it “meat dip” and get anyone to try it, now can I?
My mom broke out this retro appetizer at Christmastime and it is really tasty despite its homely looks. For you skeptics out there, I made this for friends in college and a Corks & Cake college friend reached out to say she had a request from another college friend for the recipe! That’s almost 28 years later, people! (Gulp! I just divulged my real age.)
It is very easy and makes a large quantity, so save this to try when you are having a cocktail or holiday party or when you have multiple pot lucks to contribute to. (A little goes a long way to satisfy, and believe me, this dip is rich so you don’t want a large quantity lurking in your refrigerator for days and days after you’ve had your fill.) Share it, baby!
- 1 16 oz. package of Braunschweiger (pork liver sausage); I use Kahn’s brand that I find in my grocer’s deli section
- 8 oz. Philadelphia brand cream cheese, softened (NOTE: do not use the whipped kind, it has too much air and contains more emulsifiers)
- 2 T. grated yellow onion (NOTE: it is important that the onion is grated, not minced. That will give you a wonderful, juicy mush to intoxicate your pâté with. Break out the box grater.
- 1 1/2 T. Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. garlic powder (NOTE: I don’t recommend chopped fresh garlic here because you want a perfectly smooth paste without bits of garlic for your guests to bite into on their cracker.
- 1/4 tsp.Worcestershire sauce
- Mash the Braunschweiger and the cream cheese with a fork in a mixing bowl until incorporated.
- Fold in all the other ingredients.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate. You can serve right away but I find that the flavors develop better overnight.
Serve with your favorite retro crackers. I’m partial to Triscuits Original. Melba toasts if you are old school. Ritz crackers if you are a junk food hedonist. Carr’s Water Crackers if you are a snob (just kidding.)
Cheers! And enjoy your ‘meat dip’ with a dirty martini or an IPA.
Photo credit: Chip Pye.