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A VEGAN HALLOWEEN PARTY
For a dozen frolicking ghouls
Halloween began as the eve of All Saints Day or Allhallows, an ancient Celtic celebration that defined the summer harvest's end and recognized the new year and the approaching dark, cold winter. At nightfall the celebration called Samhain began as people gathered together around large bonfires to recognize the spirits of the dead and pacify the supernatural powers. The ancient Celts dressed in costumes of animal skins and heads and often included fortune telling as part of the festivities.
During the 800's Samhain, pronounced Saawen, became All-hallows Eve. People of this period were fearful of the dark and believed that dressing up in costumes and masks disguised them so ghosts would not seek them out when they went out at night. The holiday was introduced into the United States by the Scottish and Irish immigrants during the 1800's.
The trick or treat tradition evolved from "going a-souling," when the poor would beg for food during All Soul's Day in exchange for praying for the families' dead relatives. The tradition of bobbing for apples arose out of a November 2nd Roman tradition of honoring the Goddess Pomona whose symbol was the apple.
While Hallomas was once a religious tradition, Halloween became a playful holiday for children who don costumes, stay up late, and knock on neighbors' doors to beg for candy. Now a well-honed tradition in the U.S., Halloween is a night of unusual stirrings that befalls every city, town, and burg with jarring howls, screams, eerie laughter, and creepy crawly sounds. A sudden loud knock warns that the little monsters have come to YOUR door festooned in colorful costumes and shouting the typical greeting "trick or treat!" Better be prepared with a few treats to ward off the tricksters.
Wrapped candies have become the expected tradition, but perhaps a departure from the resulting sugar highs and dental concerns may be refreshing. Party shops have many items on their shelves that could go into a trick or treat bag without costing too much. Party favors like balloons, blowers, balls, and toy cars are always welcome. Colorful pencils, pens, and unusual erasers are items kids love. Money is always received well--quarters or dimes are a big deal to little children. On the food scene, tiny boxes of raisins or small packs of nuts or seeds provide healthy treats.
For the big monsters, parties that linger long into the wee hours are becoming quite the trend. Costumes, homemade, rented, or purchased are the vogue or in some cases, even required for the ghastly night's festivities. Dressing up, or in some cases dressing down, allows people to role-play and have fun. In a witch's costume, a reveler might play at casting a love spell over someone special. A ghost or ghoul weaves through the crowd growling spooky chants, while the smiling good fairy waves her wand and grants long-desired wishes.
Naturally, food and drink are an essential aspect of the party scene with a buffet that makes the planning and serving easy for the host and hostess. A table spread with appealing treats helps to create a friendly focal point where people can assemble and chat and charm as they wish.
The table centerpiece could be a tall vase filled with leeks and plump scallions, greens side down. The upright root ends become the hair, while ghost faces are easily created on the white part of the leeks with allspice berries for eyes and a few cuts for the nose and mouth. The mouth can be colored bright red with beet juice or turmeric.
A punchbowl or two labeled Witch's Cauldron or Vampire's Blood adds to the occasion, along with snacks like Dracula's Teeth, the Goblin's Paté, and a Devilish Dip. Warlock's Special and Ghoulie Greens provide the hearty entrée, with Howling Banshee Treats, Rollo the Pet Tarantula, and the Devil's Brew for dessert.
A great conversation piece is the large brimming punchbowl that oozes a foggy cloud into the air like a witch's steaming cauldron. The punch is a tasty combination of fruit juices with sparkling water added. Dry ice is the magic ingredient that creates the whirling puffs of steam.
Halloween decorations are expected. A spooky Halloween party wouldn't be quite complete without dem bones, a skeleton or two hanging up on the wall or in a doorway where it's sure to get attention. Black and orange balloons and streamers fill the empty spaces with color and atmosphere. Some creative touches could include cardboard headstones with RIP placed askew in the front yard or even inside the house. Lots of candles and dim lighting set the mood, while a spooky sounds record plays in the background with howls and eerie sounds that make the skin crawl.
A carved Jack-o-Lantern is a must. If time permits, carve several jack-o-lanterns. Guests love to contribute their artistry to the haunted event. Perhaps you could request some carved pumpkins from those who offer their help.
Vegan Halloween Party Menu
Witch's Caldron - Fizzy Fruit Punch with dry ice
Vampire's Blood - Hot Spiced Cranberry Punch
Dracula's Teeth - Roasted Salted Pumpkin Seeds
The Goblin's Paté - A nut and vegetable paté shaped like a pumpkin with plastic spiders crawling on it
Devilish Dip - Here's an especially appealing presentation for your Halloween party. Form a container that lends a devilish appearance from a large green cabbage. Make bulging eyes from whole black olives, horns from red Fresno chiles with pointed ends upward. Use toothpicks to fasten the ears made from green bell pepper halves, and carve out a large mouth to hold the zesty dip. Serve with crudités of your choice.
Warlock's Special - Sloppy Joe's with a Mexican flavor on whole-wheat burger buns with shredded vegan cheese sprinkled on top before heating under the broiler
Ghoulie Greens - Tossed salad with Kalamata Walnut and Caper Dressing
Howling Banshee Treats - Cinnamon Softies, cookies with a hint of cinnamon and ginger
Rollo the Pet Tarantula - Fruit and Nut Confection formed into a huge spider
The Devil's Brew - Steaming Hot Chocolate
Make both beverages, one hot and one cold, or choose whichever appeals most. Either will add to the spooky ambience of the Halloween celebration. Invariably, guests gather where the food is. Just starting the party with something to sip and nibble relaxes the guests and encourages conversation. As conversation flows, so does the party.
Yield: about 4 quarts (4 liters)
6 cups (1.5 liters) water
2 cups (440 ml) white grape juice concentrate
Organic sugar to taste
4 sticks cinnamon
10 whole cloves
While the hot punch offers comfort on a chilly night, the contradiction of a cold punch that appears to be steaming brings a chilling shiver and sparkling conversation among guests.
Yield: about twenty 6-ounce (180 ml) servings
1 12-ounce (360 ml) can frozen apple juice concentrate
1 42.3-ounce (1.25 liter) bottle sparkling water, chilled
2 juice cans chilled water
1 lemon, thinly sliced
10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) dry ice
Don't worry about the spiders--they won't eat much! Just ignore the arachnids and serve this tasty appetizer with whole-grain crackers and a colorful array of crudités such as wedges of bell peppers, sliced turnip, celery sticks, cucumber slices, radish slices and crinkle cut carrots.
Yield: about 25 servings along with other appetizers
3/4 cup (180 ml) raw almonds.
A devilishly hot dip ought to enjoy a devilish presentation. Begin with a large green cabbage and use whole black olives for the bulging eyes. Secure them close to the top of the cabbage with toothpicks. Use red Fresno chiles for the horns with the pointed ends turned upward. Fasten the ears made from green bell pepper halves, and carve out a large mouth to hold the zesty dip. Serve with crudités of your choice.
Yield: about 1 1/2 cups (360 ml)
1 12.3-ounce (350g) box extra firm silken tofu
A pungent dressing fitting to the evening's expressive attire and ghoulish ambience.
OIL-FREE KALAMATA CAPER WALNUT SALAD DRESSING
Yield: 3 cups
1/2 cup (120 ml) pitted Kalamata olives
1/3 cup (180 ml) drained capers
1/4 cup (60 ml) walnuts
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh lemon juice
*Sold under the brand name Bob's Red Mill, guar gum is a dry white powder that acts well as a thickener. Made from a legume plant grown in India, guar gum is available at Whole Foods Market or other natural foods stores.
When cooking for parties, I always look for the perfect make-ahead dish. Enjoy this easy recipe with robust flavor that has never failed to please. The pleasant pungency comes from the Spanish olives that also add character to the visual aspect of the dish.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1/2 cup (120 ml) boiling water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 14.5-ounce (410g) can diced tomatoes
Whole Wheat Buns
Here's a handy confection recipe that can be made a few days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
ROLLO THE PET TARANTULA
Yield: about 50 confections or 1 giant tarantula
3 cups (720 ml) pecan pieces
7 1/2 ounces (210g) moist dried peaches, quartered, divided into 3rds
Large round platter
VARIATION 1: As an alternative to forming the fruit-nut mixture into the tarantula, divide the mixture into thirds, place each third onto an 18-inch (45 cm) long piece of waxed paper. Lightly oil the hands. Form the fruit-nut mixture into 3 logs. Spread 2 cups (480 ml) of the pecans pieces onto a large baking pan, then roll the fruit-nut roll into the nuts. Wrap each roll in the waxed paper and chill for several hours to firm up the mixture. Cut the logs into 1/2-inch (1 cm) slices and arrange them on a serving platter.
VARIATION 2: To make confection balls, lightly oil the hands and roll about 1 teaspoon of the fruit mixture at a time into balls. Roll the balls into 2 cups (240 ml) of coarsely broken pecan pieces, pressing them onto the surface. Arrange the balls on an attractive serving dish and garnish with a large citrus leaf or two and a small bunch of grapes. Makes about 50 confections.
Easy, delicious, and successful--those are three words with great appeal to anyone preparing party treats for this special occasion. If you would like to decorate the cookies, make them larger than directed below. Drop the batter from a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon onto the baking sheets, and leave plenty of space between for them to spread during baking. To make ghost faces, spread white icing over the top and create ghoulish eyes and mouth with melted chocolate.
HOWLING BANSHEE TREATS
Yield: about 4 dozen cookies
1/2 cup (120 ml) walnuts
2 cups (480 ml) organic sugar
4 cups (960 ml) whole wheat pastry flour
THE DEVIL'S BREW
Yield: about 2 to 3 servings
3 to 4 tablespoons organic sugar
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
NOTE: To make enough for 20 people, use the proportions below and heat in a 12-quart (12 liter) stockpot.
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup (240 ml) plus 2 tablespoons to 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) organic sugar
4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon