Halloween is a beloved holiday in our house. When I was growing up, my parents were not excited about costumes, so I have a lot of catching up on fun to do. And I take it very seriously.
Building up to the big night, I like to get frightfully messy in the kitchen. Meals start to get rather grotesque about a week in advance of Halloween—picture strategically spattered ketchup “blood”, frozen grape “eyeballs” and rubbery noodle “brains.” The stovetop becomes my cauldron for a short time, and our family meals are my chance to bewitch in a creepy, fun way.
Of course, there is no time of year during which it is more fun to host friends than Halloween. Spook-seeking kids and grown-ups too are delighted by any bite that bubbles out of a glass and looks like a broken appendage. For easy end-of-October entertaining, I look at everyday refrigerator staples like crunchy veggies and lunchmeats in haunting new ways. Here are a few of the deliciously dreadful appetizers my family and I like to whip up together:
Four Easy Ways to Make Halloween Appetizers
1. Witch Fingers
Pop a baking sheet of little smoked sausages into a hot oven for 10 minutes, or until the sausages are golden brown and start to wrinkle like witchy digits do. Remove from the oven and let them cool enough to handle. Use a toothpick in between two sausages to connect them (creating “finger joints”), then slice about a half-inch of sausage skin from the top of one link to make a “nail bed.” Use a sharp knife to cut triangle “fingernails” out of green peppers, rounded at two corners and pointed at the third, then set them on the “nail beds” you cut out of the top of the sausages. Serve the fingers in sets of five, as “hands,” and pair them with “bloody” barbecue sauce.
2. Meaty Mummies
Wrap crunchy carrot and celery sticks in sliced threads of turkey breast and affix raisin eyes with dabs of hummus. Or, randomly crisscross thin strips of refrigerated pizza dough around smoked sausages. Halve the links lengthwise to stretch portion sizes and make them easier to eat. Rest slices of stuffed olives on top the mummies so they can “see” right out of the oven. Serve these cold or hot out of the oven and make them the center of a Halloween spread.
3. Stuffed Roaches
Catch these sweet and savory little suckers in traps all over your spread. Slice dates almost in half—expose the pit but do not cut through completely. Remove and discard the pits, then, stuff the sweet dates with your favorite salty contrast like ham and soft, spreadable cheese. Tear the ham into pieces, stuff a little inside a date, then pipe the spreadable cheese through the snipped tip of a resealable plastic bag. Pinch the dates closed (some stuffing may be exposed) and refrigerate until you are ready to serve. When the ghosts and goblins arrive, pile up some roaches on a plate seam-side down, scatter a few others, and make sure one or two are “caught” in an old-school mouse trap.
4. Worm Sandwiches
Use these wiggly little sliders to nourish your trick-or-treaters before they head out for the candy parade. You will need a pot of boiling water, Italian-style smoked sausage, shredded mozzarella, marinara sauce, slider rolls and some greens. As you wait for the water to boil, toast the rolls. Cut the sausages lengthwise into three strips, then each strip into match sticks. Boil the sausages until they curl, about two minutes. Remove the sausages from the water with a slotted spoon and toss in a mixing bowl with the marinara. Assemble the sandwiches—bottom bun, greens, “worm” sauce, shredded cheese, then top with the lids of the buns. Serve warm.
Halloween appetizers are easy to pull off if you pay attention to presentation. In the same way a colander becomes a martian helmet and lunch meats become mummy body wraps. Have fun with Halloween. With a little creativity, the ingredients you eat every day can become gruesome…and gratifying.