Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Halloween Treats and a Trip to England

"Witches Cauldron Stew"

"Spooky Spider Salad"

"Ghoul's Graveyard Mud Pudding"

For once in my life I'm actually ahead of the game. Here's Halloween - three weeks early!! I'm off to England shortly and when I return the festitives will be in full swing. 

In our house Halloween is undoubtedly the number one candy day of the year.  Pillow case after pillow case is hauled home, bursting with Tootsie Rolls, Skittles, gummy worms and every available fun-sized bar.  It’s a kid’s culinary paradise.

While not wanting to rain on the candy parade, I do make a sporting attempt to provide some semblance of healthy macronutrients to balance out the sugar frenzy.

I present these offerings in the manner of the occasion, beef and barley stew served in a witch’s cauldron, a salad bursting with health and vitality closely watched by some sinister spiders (fashioned from olives).  For dessert a chocolate mud pudding graveyard, complete with dirt (crumbled Oreo’s) and topped with a cookie tombstone, is sure to please.  I’ve provided a sinfully delicious recipe for the mud pudding but if you want to hold out for a healthier version (or a quicker one), simply use a low fat pudding or soy pudding from the supermarket.  It won’t be quite as delicious as the homemade but I don’t think you’ll get any complaints.

If you’re worried you’re going to spend Halloween in the kitchen and miss all the fun, don’t.  These recipes can be made ahead of time, indeed they benefit from a little time to develop their fullest flavors.  You won’t miss a minute of trick or treating.  Happy Halloween!


Witches Cauldron Beef  and Barley Stew;

This is a perfect meal that will warm you through after venturing out in the cold for trick or treating. It looks like a lot of ingredients but don’t be put off.  You don’t have to use all the root vegetables, especially if you’re serving barley with it.  Many of these ingredients will probably be lurking in your fridge. 

Heat the oven to 300F

1 1/2 lbs of lean stewing beef
1 tablespoon of all purpose flour
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon of minced rosemary
1 large onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 sticks of celery, chopped
4 parsnips, peeled and chopped
4 medium potatoes, washed and quartered, skins left on
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup of red wine
3 1/2 cups of organic beef stock
2 tablespoon of tomato puree
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
1 tablespoon of butter
Sprinkle of fresh parsley

Pat the beef dry with paper towels. Combine 2 tablespoon of all purpose flour, minced rosemary, salt and pepper in a large zip lock bag. Add the beef cubes and shake until the beef is lightly covered in the flour mixture.

In a large Dutch oven or pan, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Brown the beef, do this in batches as you don't want to overcrowd the pan.

When the meat is browned, set aside on a large plate or bowl, cover with aluminum foil. Add the onion to the pan along with a tablespoon more oil if necessary, sauté on medium heat for 5-7 minutes, add the garlic and all the other chopped vegetables. Sauté for another 5 minutes, mixing the ingredients gently.

Add the browned meat and any juices that have collected to the vegetables. Add the red wine, beef stock and tomato paste. Bring to the boil, turn off heat, cover with a tight fitting lid and put in the oven for 2 1/2 - 3 hours. The meat is done when VERY tender.

Remove the meat and vegetables to a large dish and cover with foil, leaving the sauce in the pan. Put the pan on the stove and simmer gently. Mix the tablespoon of soft butter with a tablespoon of cornstarch into a paste. Add a tablespoon of the simmering sauce to the paste and stir until combined. Add this to the pan and gently stir until the sauce has thickened.

Place the meat and vegetables back into the pan and gently mix, sprinkle with chopped parsley.  Add the
barley to the stew or keep separate for people to serve themselves.
For the barley;
1 ½ cups of pearl barley
3 cups of water.
Salt and pepper

Measure the water and pour into a medium sized saucepan.  Add the barley.  Season with salt and pepper. Cover, bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and cook until tender, although you still want a slight “bite” to it.  Start checking after 20 minutes so it doesn’t turn mushy.

Ghoul’s Chocolate Mud Pudding;

8 egg yolks
3/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of cornstarch
1 cup of good quality chocolate
2 1/2 cups of milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
4 oz butter

6 Oreo cookies, crumbled

Milano cookies (for tombstones)
Approximately ¼ cup chocolate syrup
Approximately ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar

Melt the chocolate in the microwave, stir until smooth and leave to cool while the eggs and sugar are whisking.

Place the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until the mixture is thick. About 3-4 minutes with in a Kitchen Aid mixer.  It will have almost doubled its volume.

Add the slightly cooled melted chocolate to the egg and sugar mixture and whisk to combine.

Add the sifted cornstarch to the mixture and combine.

Heat the milk and vanilla extract in a pan to scalding point.  Pour into a measuring jug.

With the mixer running on low, very slowly pour the vanilla milk into the chocolate mixture. 

Whisk until fully combined.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan; add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, on a low heat stir continuously until thick. 

Just when you think it will never thicken, the cornstarch works its magic and you are left with a beautiful smooth pudding like sauce. 

If the mixture becomes lumpy, remove from the heat and whisk it furiously into smooth submission.

Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap directly on the top of the pudding and place in the refrigerator to fully set and chill.
To serve, sprinkle crumbled Oreo cookies on top, pipe “BOO” on a Milano cookie with some chocolate syrup thickened with confectioner’s sugar and stick into the pudding.

Spooky Spider Salad;

This salad is loaded with the flavors of autumn and lightly dressed in an apple cider vinegar vinaigrette.  No wonder the spiders can’t resist!

Mixed greens, romaine, mache, endive, radicchio
A handful of pumpkin seeds
1 gala apple, cored and cubed
A handful of dried cranberries
1avocado, cubed
Cubes of extra sharp Cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper

Place all the ingredients in a jar, put the lid on and shake vigorously until emulsified.   The dressing will keep in the fridge for 1 week.  Dress the salad just before serving to avoid it becoming limp.


  1. I love making those dirt cups. They are so much fun and kids love them.

  2. The spiders are fantastic!! Have fun in England :)

  3. The spiders are so ingenious! And I love that the tombstone has flowers! That´s a good stew by the way. Have fun in England!

  4. Such great recipes for Halloween. I like the spiders too, they are so cute. I hope you have a great trip to England.

  5. I'll have to try my hand at those olive spiders!

  6. That graveyard pudding is so adorable! And so easy! Thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful trip :) XOL

  7. Loved the spider salad... Nice recipes

  8. I hope you have a lovely trip home here to England. Oh how wonderful it would be to meet one day. I love your Halloween treats, especially those cute little olive spiders! How wonderful! Halloween is becoming more and more popular over here it seems! Nice to see all the decorations available now. xxoo

  9. We don't celebrate Halloween here but this sounds like fun :-)) Take care Diane

  10. Mary,
    Love all of your recipes, especially the Ghouls chocolate Mud pudding, and you even gave them great names. Have a great time going home.

  11. What fun! You have some healthy ghoulish treats for the family. Your spider olive are absolutely adorable! So clever.
    Have a wonderful trip; I know you must be thrilled!

  12. Love the recipes, looks not only festive but delicious. Enjoy your trip!

  13. love the spiders! Whereabouts in England do you visit?

  14. You are doing amazing - planning all this for Halloween along with a trip to England! The stew looks delish, so hearty and warming! Have a wonderful trip, say hello to Heathrow for me!

  15. Just found your blog today...and how lovely! Thank you for sharing all of these Halloween treats. Now I need to get ahead of the game!

  16. Yes I think you are ahead to Halloween but all look absolutely beauty!
    Have a nic etrip in England!

  17. What fun foodie ideas, Mary!! I hope you have a wonderful time in England.

  18. What fun ideas for Halloween Mary! Enjoy your trip to England!!!

  19. I just love those olive spiders! Have a great time in England :)

  20. you are one fun mom Mary! Just wow!

  21. I love ideas like these for the holidays!

  22. Have a wonderful time in England! Cute spooky treats too!

  23. I love this post!! Ok, ok.. I love all things Halloween, but still... I want one of everything, please!! :) Have fun on your trip... I wish I could go with you :)

  24. Those spider olives totally caught my eye. My little girl has an inordinate love for black olives. She would love these on her Halloween plate!

  25. Mary, your Halloween treats and recipes are so awesome! Thanks for sharing:)
    Wishing you the best time...ever, in England!

  26. Your slow cooked stew looks wonderful! Have a safe trip!

  27. What great ideas, Mary! I love the spiders, too, but would be happy to have all these yummy dishes on my table. Have a safe trip, my friend!

  28. The whole Halloween menu is top shelf. I usually use barley in soup, but I really like the idea of serving it along side the beef stew. have a wonderful time in England.

  29. Superb recipes. I hope you have a lovely trip home, the weather is just lovely here in London at the moment :-) enjoy your break, and catching up with family and friends.

  30. These are so cool, I love them. The black olive spiders are the best!

  31. What a fun and delicious Halloween menu-- I just love this time of year, it's so fun to make festive dishes like this. I know kids of all ages would love to eat this before a night of trick-or-treating! Hope you have a wonderful trip and enjoy your time with friends and family!

  32. hope you have the most amazing time! I am loving that tomb and pudding! Soooo cute!

  33. cute, cute, cute!!!! simple and cute, is what I like! thanks for sharing!

  34. Mary, how very wonderful - hope you are going to spend a lovely time in England - all the Halloween dishes look just terrific, I especially like the witches cauldron filled with delicious and hearty stew!

  35. Mary, hope you are going to have a splendid time in England. All of the three recipes for Halloween look fabulous. I especially like the "Witches Cauldron" filled with the nice hearty stew!

  36. What a spooktacular menu! I love beef and barley stew. This recipe sounds perfect. The spiders, for the salad, are adorable. As for the pudding-- how lucky your family is that this didn't come from a box! Such a loving meal from a loving mom. Enjoy your trip.

  37. I'm in love with the cute spiders. What a fun idea.

  38. these are great halloween ideas! enjoy your trip!

  39. Enjoy your break and welcome back to England....

  40. I love how creative you are! Especially with that salad... I would never have thought of making spiders out of olives. Just brilliant.

  41. Everything looks delicious! Hope you have a great time in England! Have fun!

  42. They are all adorable! I love the little black olive spiders. Have a wonderful trip to England...it will be a great time of the year to go there. I had fun putting together a Halloween care package for M. She sent photos back with their room decorated. We'll be handing out candy this year at the door...and perhaps having a sneak or two of those little fun size packages.

  43. when my children were little I did the same thing, we often had stew or something similar, substantial, to off set the deluge of sugar!!!!I love the cauldron the stew is in , now thats cute.I have been away, my blog crashed and I started fresh AGAIN, I have missed you!

  44. You are so creative - these are wonderful and I especially love the spider salad and the 'dirt' - clever!

  45. Wow! Your pasta dishes recipes are so dilicious.At last night i just came accross your blog story and i try your recipes, Really this dish so amaizing.Thanks for the tips of the pasta recipes.


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