Most years, Halloween falls on a work night, meaning the sugar highs of Tuesday nights breed sluggish Wednesday mornings.
Not this year. With the holiday on a Saturday, this is your chance to indulge in a sophisticated spookfest.
Reclaim the kid-friendly night for a more grownup crowd with cocktail concoctions and sinful small bites.
Set the macabre mood for the evening with the drinks. We're sticking with libations that come in red and orange hues, including one that uses seasonally appropriate apple cider as its base. If you're feeling ambitious, try crafting one of the three cocktail recipes we acquired from Tampa Bay bars, which use exotic ingredients like squid ink to give their drinks a spooky spin.
For the food, stay away from prepping a big meal and offer a spread of bite-sized hors d'oeuvres. The following recipes are meant to yield finger foods you can eat with one hand — so you can cradle your cocktail in the other. We've opted for bites that feel indulgent — with ingredients like bacon, cheese and chocolates — but are easy to make and interesting enough to graze on all night long.
Bloody Tooth Cocktail
A simple and drinkable cocktail for one, made blood red by the addition of pomegranate juice.
1 ½ ounces rye whiskey (vodka works here, too)
1 ½ ounces pomegranate juice
1 ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, melted together and cooled)
½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pomegranate seeds, for garnish
Lemon twist, for garnish
Place whiskey, pomegranate juice, simple syrup and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker; fill with ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a rocks glass. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and lemon twist.
Source: Adapted from the Martha Stewart Show
Cider Fruit Punch
Embrace fall's signature fruit and work apple cider into a cocktail or two. Using the unfiltered juice as a base for this concoction allows you to serve each drink with or without alcohol, a switch that will come in handy if the kids come back thirsty from trick-or-treating. Feel free to double the recipe and store in a beverage dispenser with a spout.
2 cups apple cider
1 cup pineapple juice
1 cup orange juice
1 cup cherry juice
1 cup light rum
Combine apple cider, pineapple juice, orange juice and cherry juice in a punch bowl or pitcher. Add rum. Garnish with fruit. Chill until ready to serve.
Serves 4 to 6.
Source: Adapted from Food Network Magazine
Not a cocktail person? Opt for a bottle of wine — red, of course — that fits in with the night's theme. Here are a couple of choices with decidedly spooky vibes.
Apothic Dark Red 2014: A medium-bodied California red blend flavored with dark fruits like blueberry and blackberry, plus notes of coffee and dark chocolate. Retails for about $8.
2013 Ravenswood Besieged Red Blend: This deep red wine, the first in Ravenswood's new Storyteller Series, is a blend of petite sirah, zinfandel, syrah, mourvedre and more, sourced from a variety of Sonoma vineyards. The flavor is rich, with notes of blackberry, black cherry and cardamom. Retails for about $16.
Stella Rosa Black: A blend of red grape varietals including Brachetto, this wine has flavors of blackberry, blueberry and raspberry and some natural carbonation. Right now, it comes in a limited-edition Magnum bottle for Halloween. Retails for about $15.
Goat Cheese Balls
6 slices bacon, cut in half
4 ounces goat cheese
4 ounces cream cheese (not whipped)
2 tablespoons chopped thyme or basil, divided
Cracked black pepper
1/4 cup pecans
Apple slices, to serve
Place the bacon in a large skillet without overlapping the slices and turn the heat on low. Cook for about 15 minutes, turning frequently, until the bacon is quite crispy. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
While the bacon is cooking, whiz the goat cheese, cream cheese, 1 tablespoon of herbs and a few turns of cracked black pepper in the food processor. Whiz until creamy and well-mixed, then form small balls, about the size of the tip of your thumb. Put in the freezer for 20 minutes to firm up a little more. (Don't let them freeze all the way; just help them firm up.)
Clean out the food processor. Crumble in the cooled bacon, the remaining tablespoon of herbs, and the pecans. Whiz until very fine and crumbly.
Take the cheese balls out of the freezer and roll them in the bacon mixture, pressing the mixture in with your fingers if it doesn't immediately stick.
Place the balls in a container and refrigerate until serving. Serve with apple slices and crackers.
Makes 16 to 20.
Source: Adapted from thekitchn.com
Pear and Brussels Stacks
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ pound Brussels sprouts, halved
Pinch of salt and pepper
2 pears, sliced into 1-inch squares about ¼ inch thick
1 (8-ounce) block feta cheese, sliced into 1-inch squares about ¼ inch thick
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts and season with salt and pepper to taste. Saute for about 10 minutes, turning often to get a slight char on all sides. Place Brussels sprouts flat side down on a plate and let cool slightly.
Top each Brussels sprout half with a pear slice and a slice of feta, sticking a toothpick through all three to secure.
Drizzle finished skewers with honey.
Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times
2 cups whole mixed nuts (cashews, almonds and peanuts)
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of allspice
Pinch of cayenne pepper
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the nuts out in an even layer. Place the nuts in the oven and toast for about 5 to 7 minutes, until fragrant. Remove immediately and allow to cool slightly. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, black pepper, allspice and cayenne pepper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey and vegetable oil. Add the spices to the honey mixture and whisk well to combine. Add the mixed nuts and toss well to coat.
Spread the coated nuts into a single layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 or 15 minutes, removing from the oven every 5 minutes to stir and check on them. (Nuts burn easily!) Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 2 cups.
Source: Adapted from Joy the Baker Homemade Decadence
Brie Tartlets With Grape Relish
¼ cup chopped walnuts
½ (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie crust
½ (8-ounce) Brie round, rind removed
¾ cup seedless red grapes, chopped
1 green onion, minced
1 ½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Fresh rosemary sprigs, for garnish
Place walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees.
Unroll pie crust on a flat surface. Cut into 24 rounds using a 2-inch-round cutter. Press rounds into bottoms of ungreased miniature muffin cups. (Dough will come slightly up sides, forming a cup.) Prick bottom of dough with a fork.
Bake at 425 degrees for 6 to 7 minutes or until golden. Remove from pans and cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
Meanwhile, cut Brie round into 24 pieces. Stir together grapes and next 4 ingredients.
Arrange pastry shells on a baking sheet. Place 1 Brie piece in each pastry cup; sprinkle Brie pieces evenly with toasted walnuts.
Bake at 300 degrees for 4 to 6 minutes or just until cheese begins to melt. Top tarts evenly with grape mixture. Garnish, if desired. Serve immediately.
Source: Adapted from myrecipes.com
Bacon and Apple Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers
20 medium jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 small Granny Smith apple, cored and grated/finely chopped
5 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 large scallions, finely minced
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
Slice each pepper in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds/ribs with a spoon.
Stir the cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth. Add the apples, crumbled bacon, scallions and half the cheese. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Fill each jalapeno half with the cream cheese mixture. Place the filled peppers on a baking sheet and top each one with a little bit of the remaining mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the filling is warmed through and bubbling. Broil the peppers on high for 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese is lightly browned. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes about 40 poppers.
Source: Adapted from yestoyolks.com.
Chocolate Doughnut Holes
For the doughnut holes:
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
¾ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
¾ cup sour cream
Vegetable oil or shortening, for frying
For the glaze:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Orange and black nonpareils, for decorating
Make the doughnut holes: Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the vanilla and orange zest until light and fluffy, about 2 more minutes. Reduce the speed to low and gradually beat in the flour mixture, alternating with the sour cream, until a sticky dough forms, about 2 minutes. Cover the dough with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.
Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 340 degrees. Meanwhile, roll out the dough until ½ inch thick on a floured surface. (The dough will be sticky.) Cut out rounds using a 1-inch-round cookie cutter, dipping the cutter in flour each time. Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheet.
Set a rack on another baking sheet. Working in batches, carefully fry the doughnut holes until puffed and browned, 30 seconds per side. Transfer to the rack using a slotted spoon or wire strainer.
Make the glaze: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a small saucepan and immediately pour over the chocolate; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and smooth, then whisk in the corn syrup and vanilla. Set aside until cooled and thickened, about 5 minutes. Dip the doughnut holes in the glaze, transfer to the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with nonpareils. Let sit at least 1 hour before serving.
Makes about 5 dozen.
Source: Food Network Magazine