The Inspired Cook

Halloween creeps closer and closer with each passing day.

                Are you throwing a themed party this year? Do you have children and/or grandchildren for whom you want to make special treats and eats?

                Unfortunately for me, all of my better half Charles’s and my children are grown, and our grandchildren don’t live close to us. Therefore, I just really don’t participate in this holiday anymore.

                I can hear an audible gasp from many of you reading this. No, I’m not one of those people who don’t turn on their porch lights to deter trick-or-treaters. Actually, we live in the country and don’t get any.

                When my daughters, Ashley and Tracie, were young, I never hosted a Halloween party or made special foods for them. Two primary events persuaded my reasoning for this decision.

                One, their schools always held a Halloween carnival a few days before the holiday. This event featured lots of treats and food. Also, I volunteered several times to help operate some of the games for the students to play.

                Two, my girls always made out like bandits with their trick-or-treat loot on the actual holiday. Each of them amassed a tub of candy, which I parceled out a few pieces at a time on a daily basis. This routine lasted for several weeks.

                Ashley and Tracie, I must confess something to you. Your dad and I raided your stashes of candy on more than one occasion over the years.

                Whew, I feel better now! Confession truly is good for the soul.

                To compensate for not baking special treats, I created several Halloween costumes for my girls since I love to sew. Of those, my most elaborate ones included Mickey Mouse and a beautiful bride for Tracie and Minnie Mouse and a regal princess for Ashley.

                Of course, back then, I was a stay-at-home mom who had the time to spend on sewing while my daughters were at school. After my husband died of throat cancer, my time for sewing ceased.

Anyway, today I’m sharing easy-to-make Halloween dishes for those who live busy lives with not much free time. I drew inspiration from several cute and clever ideas that I found two years ago at www.pillsbury.com.  Although my pictures look similar to theirs, I have formulated my own original recipes.

                Because I had no children with whom to share these fine treats, Charles and I consumed them all. Both of us enjoyed every delicious bite.

                If you choose to make any of these recipes, I’m sure they will not only delight the child(ren) in your life but also the child in you. I hope you have a happy and safe Halloween.

Black Widow Spider Bean Dip

Ingredients:

2 (15-oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup avocado oil or extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 t. finely-ground sea salt

Dash finely-ground black pepper

1 t. garlic powder

3/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 t. ground coriander

1 t. hot sauce or more if you prefer

1/3 cup sour cream

Plastic black spiders for garnish, optional (I bought mine at Walmart.)

Directions:

Into the bowl of a food processer, place the beans and oil. Cover with the lid and process until the mixture is smooth. Add in all the dry seasonings and the hot sauce. Cover and process again until the mixture is thoroughly blended.

Into a resealable sandwich baggie, place 1/4 cup of the dip and close the baggie. Into a round decorative serving bowl with about a 9-inch diameter, place the remainder of the dip, smoothing the top surface. Spoon the sour cream over the dip, smoothing the top surface.

Using scissors, cut off about an eighth of an inch of one of the corners of the baggie. Carefully twist the top of the baggie above the dip. Lightly squeeze the baggie to pipe three circles over the dip. (See photo.) Starting in the middle of the dip, insert a knife about a half inch in depth, and then pull it through to the edge of the bowl. Repeat this process five times to complete the spider-web design.

Serve the dip with seasoned bat-shaped tortilla chips or preferred chips.

Yield: about 12 servings

Seasoned Bat-Shaped Tortilla Chips

Ingredients:

4 (8-in. diameter) flour tortillas

Olive oil cooking spray

Garlic and onion powders, optional

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Using a bat-shaped cookie cutter, cut out bat shapes from all of the tortillas. Try to cut the shapes as close together as possible to get as many shapes as possible from each tortilla.

Onto a large ungreased cookie sheet, place the cutout shapes and then spray with them liberally with cooking spray. Sprinkle with onion and garlic powders. Turn the cutouts over and repeat the process.

Place the pan into the preheated oven and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the cutouts are crispy and golden brown.

When done, remove the pan to a rack and allow the chips to cool completely, about 20 minutes before serving with your favorite dip.

Yield: about 24 servings

                Note: You can use different cookie cutters to make specialty chips for any occasion.

                Ghostly Treats

Ingredients:

1 (20-oz.) pkg. vanilla-flavored candy coating (almond bark), chopped

1 (0.68-oz.) tube black decorating gel

Prepared cake balls, cake donut holes, or any ball-shaped cookie, homemade or store-bought

Directions:

Prepare a flat work surface such as a countertop or table by lining it with waxed paper or parchment. Into a medium-sized microwavable bowl, place the almond bark and microwave it on High for 30 seconds; stir. Continue heating and stirring in 15-second increments until it is completely melted and has a smooth consistency.

Using a toothpick, wooden skewer, or fork, stab each ball and then dip it into the melted almond bark. Gently shake off the excess bark and then place each ball onto the prepared surface. You may need to use a spoon to apply a bit of the bark to cover the hole left after removing the toothpick, skewer, or fork.

Allow the covered balls to stand for about 20 minutes to dry and harden. Then, use the black decorating get to draw on the ghosts’ eyes and mouths. Allow an additional 15 minutes of drying time before serving.