A few weeks back, we were at my parents’ house. It was a party they were having for the annual Air Show at our local Marine Corps Base – their backyard is right in the flight path and it’s always a spectacular show, with planes screaming over just a few hundred feet overhead – you can even read the pilots’ names at times, if you’re quick enough. Anyway, the point is that my parents invited my best friend and his wife to come along to the party, and we were sitting at the table with them. We happened to ask them what they were up to for Halloween. Nothing, they said, so we suggested they come over to our place.
We always have tons of trick-or-treaters, so even though Halloween is my least-favorite holiday (something to do with scary masks the year I was three, I think), we thought it would be a fun way to spend the evening. Later in the month, we happened to be hanging out with two other couples and mention the idea of coming over to them too. Suddenly we had a party on our hands!
First, decorations. We’ve only got 2 boxes for Halloween (as opposed to about a dozen big Rubbermaid tubs for our Christmas stuff), but we were able to do a little bit of decorating.
I spent a lot of the morning cooking, including spinach artichoke dip. A couple of years ago I posted a recipe for this, but I tried to make this a little more standard:
Elisa’s Spinach Artichoke Dip
- 1 bag (16 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
- 1 bag (12 oz) frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped (they have these at Trader Joe’s)
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp granulated garlic or 1 medium garlic clove, chopped fine
- additional mozzarella for sprinkling over the top of the dip
Mix all the ingredients except the additional mozzarella in a bowl. Smooth into a greased baking dish and cover with additional cheese. Bake at 375 degrees until cheese is melty and browned. Notice that I didn’t say what size a dish to use – that’s because you can really use anything it’ll fit into. It depends on whether you want a lot of brown bubbly cheese on top (use a wide dish) or just a little (use a deep one). This will feed 4-8 people, depending on whether you use it as an appetizer or a side dish. Serve it with toasted baguette or tortilla chips.
I also made these babies, gorgeous fluffy cupcakes from one of my favorite blogs, Patent and the Pantry.
I did make a couple of adjustments to the recipe, specifically the spices. I used 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (mostly because I actually don’t have ground allspice, plus I actually like the mixture), and a pinch of ground cloves. I’m not a big fan of ginger in pumpkin dishes – I’m not sure why, I just have never really liked it. Anyway, these were originally a Martha Stewart recipe, and sometimes her stuff is a little too fussy for me but these were quite easy and really delivered on flavor. With the cream cheese frosting (at the same link), they were perfect. Honestly. My sister commented that they tasted like pumpkin cheesecake. Which gave me an idea… I haven’t tried it out yet, but I’m pretty excited. Let’s just say that if my idea ends up being good I’ll post it next week. Anyway, I digress.
Our dinner was a pizza bar. I didn’t get any good photos, unfortunately, but I made a TRIPLE batch of my basic bread dough recipe. I mixed up the dough Saturday afternoon and let it proof in the fridge overnight in two huge bowls, and then Sunday morning I took it out and let it warm up to room temperature and get all beautiful and puffy. I divided it into roughly the same size pieces and rolled them into 1 1/2″ balls and pulled them into odd-shaped thin crusts by hand and poked them with a fork so they wouldn’t rise too much in the oven. I made five or six dozen of them, dusting the bottoms with corn meal and baking them in batches, 5 minutes at a time.
The rest of the pizza bar was made of various sauces, meats, vegetables, and cheeses, laid out and labeled (you can see the cute little labels I made in the photo below). On the menu:
- tomato sauce (bottled – the best one I’ve found is by Barilla)
- BBQ sauce (our favorite is Sweet Baby Ray’s – it’s very sweet but full of great flavor)
- Trader Joe’s curry sauce
- garlic oil
- homemade pesto (no real recipe for this one – I just blend up some basil leaves, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil in my food processor)
- roasted garlic
- carmelized onions (cut and mixed with a little butter and salt, and placed in the crock pot on low overnight)
- roasted eggplant from the garden
- roasted zucchini
- roasted sweet peppers
- garlic mushrooms (sauteed with a little butter)
- artichoke hearts
- cut basil leaves
- cooked chicken
- Trader Joe’s sweet Italian chicken sausage
- Trader Joe’s pepperoni
- garlic shrimp
- mozzarella cheese
- parmesan cheese
- cheddar cheese
I had planned on using goat cheese too, my Mexican hot sauce, and fresh tomatoes. But I didn’t realize the goat cheese had been opened the week before (and it was no good, sadly) and forgot the tomatoes and hot sauce completely. Even so, one of our guests said there were just too many choices! I say there are never too many… Especially during a party like this, it’s totally worth giving people lots of options. Each person grabbed one (or two, or three!) pizza crust and decorated it with exactly the toppings he or she wanted. My favorite was roasted vegetable; my husband loved the BBQ sauce with chicken sausage and figs (no one ever said he was conventional!)
Of course I got to wear my Wonder Woman costume again, this time with a modification to the belt. It still sort of flopped down, but at least it wasn’t unsticking all the time. You can also see the “golden lasso” I got at WalMart for $1.75 (that Iaccidentally left at home on Friday).
I also made my hubby’s costume – he was Clark Kent, wearing a blue shirt underneath his button-up that I applied an iron-on Superman logo to. Since he used mostly clothes he already had, this was an $8 costume, thanks to Old Navy.
We had an awesome time with our friends, even though L&J couldn’t make it. We had over 200 kids come to the door, gave out lots of pencils and plastic spider rings (what can I say? we learned how expensive candy can be at our house on Halloween, plus it’s kind of fun to be different), and watched Halloween cartoons (including my very favorite “Disney’s Trick or Treat”, with Donald and his three nephews and Witch Hazel! Thank you ABC Family for showing it this year!). By the end of the night we were totally exhausted, but it was such a fun time that hubby suggested this might be an annual event. We’ll see… More than 6 people in our teeny living room would be a bit of a stretch, but maybe by next year we’ll have a new place?
Anyway, since we had costumes, we suggested our friends dress up too, and we took this on my camera’s timed setting: