Monday, October 31, 2016

On the Homefront: Harvest Halloween Table

Dalmatian pirate One-Eyed Jack returns to celebrate another
Halloween, bringing his own pumpkin to the harvest celebration!

The Halloween harvest is here! 
Let all gentle wildlife come near,
Costumed in their best
As per our request,
To partake of the bounty this year!

Last year my Halloween table was black and white and bewitchingly spooky.  This year I decided to go in a different direction with an autumn-hued, harvest-themed table.  My inspiration was the Harvest Garden Critters Salad Plate Set I purchased from Pier 1 recently.  All of the critters are wearing cute nature-based disguises, as if in costume for Halloween.  Pumpkin orange, sage green, and a bit of harvest gold, all hues found in the plates, dominate the color palette for this table.


Spice Stripe Tablecloth in Rust (Sam Hedeya Linens Homewear from HomeGoods years ago); sage green round woven placemat; pumpkin orange dinner plate (from Walmart years ago); Pier 1 Harvest Garden Critters Salad/Dessert Plate; pumpkin orange soup bowl (from Walmart years ago); pumpkin orange napkin; autumn colors glass beads napkin ring (from Pier 1 a few years ago); The Pioneer Woman Green Cowgirl Lace Flatware (from Walmart this year); Arc International Luminarc Storage Jar Glass.

The other three plate designs (I adore hedgehogs, so the one above hiding his spiny back under a blanket of fall leaves is my favorite, but they are all cute):





A harvest gold leaf-shaped platter from HomeGoods last year will
serve up the grilled cheese sandwiches.  The pumpkin-shaped bowls
on either side will be filled with Halloween candies (Pumpkin Spice
Lindt Lindor Truffles).

A large pumpkin soup tureen in the center of the table will be the
perfect vessel for the minestrone soup.

The wheat sheaf used on my previous table, this time surrounded
by colorful gourds and flanked by pumpkin orange candles.

Notice a contemplative Maddie in the background, waiting for my
husband to come downstairs!

Since Halloween falls on a Monday this year, a quick and easy menu is a necessity.  Use store-bought apple cider, or if you are really ambitious make your own slow cooker Maple Apple Cider (if it were cooler here I would give it a try, but we are having summer-like weather again and it is just too warm for hot apple cider!).  My version of minestrone soup is a great way to get a generous serving of vegetables without having to wait all day for the soup to cook.  Don't be intimidated by the long ingredient list, as most of the ingredients require little or no prep time.  Grilled cheese sandwiches are so easy that they don't really need a recipe here.  One clever trick I did just discover this year is to substitute mayonnaise for butter as the bread spread for pan-frying.  The end result tastes no different, and you won't risk tearing your bread with butter that is not soft enough.  The dessert recipe combines fall pumpkin with Halloween chocolate flavors, which is a wickedly winning combination for me!

Harvest Halloween Menu:

Apple Cider (hot or cold)
Minestrone Soup*
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars**



3 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 zucchinis, quartered lengthwise and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 C. vegetable broth (I used unsalted)
3 C. water
1 can (15 oz.) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz.) white beans (any variety), drained and rinsed
1 can (15 0z.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 T. Italian seasoning
2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp. pepper (or to taste)
1 bag (8 oz.) microwaveable green beans, cooked and sliced into thirds
1 bag (16 oz.) microwaveable diced butternut squash, cooked
1 bag (5 oz.) baby greens (kale, spinach, or a blend)
1/2 C. orzo or other small pasta
Parmesan cheese rinds (optional)

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  SautΓ© the onion, celery, carrots, and zucchini for about 5 minutes, until the onion begins to soften.  Stir in the garlic and sautΓ© one minute longer.

Add all but the last four remaining ingredients (green beans, squash, greens, and pasta) to the pot.  Bring the soup to a boil and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir in the remaining ingredients, including leftover Parmesan cheese rinds if you have them, and cook for another 20 minutes, until the pasta is cooked and the rinds have softened.  Remove any undissolved cheese rind and taste for seasoning, adding more salt and/or pepper if needed.  Serves 8-10.

Note: My soups always turn out more like a stew, but this minestrone can be thinned down with a bit more water if desired.



2 C. flour
2 tsp. cinnamon (or 1 T. pumpkin pie spice)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 C. (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C. pumpkin purΓ©e
1 C. brown sugar
1 1/2 C. chocolate chips

Whisk together the first four ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.  In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar.  Mix in the egg, vanilla, and pumpkin.  Stir in the flour mixture just until combined (do not overmix). Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spread the batter into a greased 9x13-inch baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes (a toothpick inserted in the center will have just a few moist crumbs attached).  Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting.  Makes 24 bars.


Dalmatian Witchie-Poo happily makes her annual appearance
at our Halloween party, bringing a tiny pumpkin of her own!

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Happy Halloween feasting and festivities to one and all!
                

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