Four hundred twenty-six trick-or-treaters pulling one’s bell rope can make a witch grumpy. At my cottage, we can’t beat ’em, so we join ’em!
Halloween 2012, by the numbers:
25 pounds of fun-size candy bars, the good kind (Snickers, Twix, Heath Bars, et cetera) for the hordes of costumed children who descended on my patch of the forest, ferried by hay wagons, SUVs, strollers, pick-up trucks, sedans, and jalopies
1 pound of yucky candy (Twizzlers, in my world) for the teenaged party-poopers who didn’t dress up but went door-to-door with grocery bags for candy shake-downs
4 filets mignon, grilled to perfection by my warlock (quit rolling your eyes, spawn) for dinner on the front lawn, which also included loaded baked potatoes, good wine, and devil’s food cake. (I made the recipe featured in last Sunday’s Parade magazine, which was excerpted from Pippa Middleton’s new book called Celebrate. The cake was delicious, and the recipe is still available online at http://www.parade.com. My only alteration was to add a pinch of salt to the frosting.)
2 card tables draped in black and festooned with a dozen votives, dead echinacea and a thorny weed from the flower beds, and the pièce de résistance: large glass hurricanes holding ivory pillar candles balanced on masses of mealworms (already baked and crispy) [Note for next year: live and wiggly mealworms might make better supports, although escapees could be problematic.]
We feasted on Spinach and Artichoke Dip before the main course. Here it is, adapted from You’ve Got It Made, by Diane Phillips (© 2008, published by The Harvard Common Press). Fresh spinach makes an old standby recipe taste brighter and infinitely better, and it’s hardly more trouble than thawing a block of frozen spinach. I love it with pita chips.
(Fresh) Spinach and Artichoke Dip
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 10-ounce package baby spinach, chopped (I just open the package and snip away with scissors.)
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered (Canned artichoke hearts exude a lot of liquid. I drain them in a small colander, then cut them into quarters with a paring knife right back into the colander.)
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup finely shredded Swiss cheese
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly coat a 1-quart baking dish with non-stick spray.
Melt the butter in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, stirring constantly for about 45 seconds. Garlic burns quickly, so keep it moving. Add the chopped spinach. Don’t worry if the pile of leaves seems to overwhelm the skillet, as it cooks down quickly. Sauté until there is no more moisture in the bottom of the pan, about 4 minutes. Scrape the cooked spinach into a big bowl, and set aside to cool.
To the cooled spinach, add artichoke hearts, mayonnaise, and both cheeses. Stir well to combine, then transfer to the prepared baking dish. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the dip is hot and bubbly, with a few golden brown tips here and there. Serve hot or warm with pita chips.