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It’s not too late to get in the spirit

October 31, 2017 - 12:05am

Are you a last-minute Louie when it comes to planning for a holiday?

The daily grind of work, home, family and errands can leave anyone too tired for much else, such as a special meal for a “secondary” holiday like Halloween. And now it’s the Witching Hour, with dinner fast approaching. You could just sprinkle a little candy corn on top of the nachos or buy some orange cupcakes at the store. Or how about one or more of these easy recipes to get in the fun spirit of Halloween? All treats; no tricks.

Pumpkin Sage Soup

Fresh pumpkin makes all the difference in this seasonal soup. If you carved a pumpkin and saved the innards, you’re halfway there. Make the “faces” just before serving. Recipe from “Soups &Stews” by Food &Wine Books; makes 6 servings.

4 tablespoons butter

4 onions, peeled and chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

6 pounds pumpkin, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

5 cups chicken stock or canned, low-sodium chicken broth

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, plus 12 whole sage leaves for garnish

3 cups light cream

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Small croutons for garnish

In a large pot, heat butter over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add pumpkin, stock or broth, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until pumpkin is tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the chopped sage; simmer 5 minutes longer. In a blender or food processor, puree soup until smooth. Strain back into the pot; add cream and pepper. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Divide soup into bowls, make a “face” on top, using croutons and whole sage leaves, and serve.

Pumpkin, Rosemary and ChiIi Risotto

This beautiful, orange-colored risotto is rich, creamy and filling, with sweet and savory flavors. Recipe from “Comfort Food” by Maxine Clark; makes 4 servings.

1/2 cup butter

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 fresh red chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped

9 ounces fresh pumpkin, peeled and roughly chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 1/2 cups risotto, preferably Arborio

3 cups hot chicken stock

2/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Melt half the butter in a heavy pan. Add onion and garlic; cook 10 minutes until softened. Add chili and cook about 1 minute more. Add pumpkin; cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Stir in the rosemary. Add rice and stir with a wooden spoon to coat with oil and vegetables. Cook 2-3 minutes to toast rice grains. Begin to add the stock, a large ladleful at a time, stirring constantly until each addition has been absorbed into rice. The rice should be bubbling slowly. Continue adding stock, one ladle at a time, until rice is tender and creamy but grains are still firm, and pumpkin is beginning to fall apart. This should take about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in remaining butter and Parmesan; cover and rest for 2-3 minutes, then serve.

Cider Rice Pilaf

Apple cider is certainly a part of Halloween festivities. Here’s an easy side dish to serve with just about anything. Recipe from “Pure &Simple” by Marian Burros; makes 4 servings.

6 tablespoons butter

1 cup brown rice

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

1/3 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary

2 1/2 to 3 cups apple cider

In a skillet, melt butter. Add rice; cook slowly, stirring, until rice is golden. Add a little salt, pepper, the orange peel, onion and celery; continue stirring about 5 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons parsley and the rosemary. In saucepan, bring cider to boil; stir into rice. Cook, tightly covered, over low heat about an hour or until all the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Top with remaining parsley and serve.

Pumpkin Brownies

No chocolate, but still dense, moist and delicious, these untraditional brownies are great alone or with vanilla ice cream and warm caramel sauce. Recipe from Bon Appetit magazine; makes 10.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 large egg

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup canned solid pack pumpkin

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1/4 cup cream cheese, at room temperature

2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch square glass baking dish. With electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light. Gradually add brown sugar; beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla; beat to blend. Add flour, baking powder, spices and salt; beat until well mixed. Beat in pumpkin; stir in nuts. Spread batter in prepared pan. Mix cream cheese, 2 tablespoons sugar, egg yolk, cream and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a bowl. Drop mixture by heaping tablespoons atop batter. Using small knife, gently swirl cream cheese mixture into batter to create marbled pattern. Bake about 35 minutes, until tester inserted in center comes out clean and top is firm. Cut warm brownies into squares and arrange on serving plate.

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