This comforting soup-and-sandwich supper makes for a simple post-trick-or-treating gathering. Everything can be prepared ahead of time, and it’s easy to adjust to your crowd: Swap out the bread and cheese choices to accommodate picky little palates, or skip the punch in favor of wine for a more grown-up bash.
1 (12-oz.) container frozen limeade concentrate
4 cups white grape juice, chilled
4 cups ginger ale, chilled
Gummy worm ice ring (see recipe below)
Stir the limeade and white grape juice in a large punch bowl until the limeade concentrate melts and is fully incorporated. Stir in the ginger ale. Add the gummy worm ice ring and serve.
Gummy Worm Ice Ring: This ice ring can be made a few days ahead and left in the freezer until it’s time to serve the punch. It’ll keep the punch cold, and as it melts, it’ll release creepy worms into the mix.
You’ll need: a nonstick Bundt pan, ice ring mold or medium mixing bowl; distilled water or tap water; and a 17-oz. bag of gummy worms (not the sour kind). Gummy tarantulas or other gummy creatures for garnish are optional.
Fill the pan, mold or bowl to the desired depth with water. Add a handful of gummy worms to the water (worms will sink) and arrange them around the bottom of the pan (reserve the remaining gummy worms for garnishing individual servings). Freeze the mixture until it’s solid. Leave in the freezer until you’re ready to make punch.
To unmold the ice ring: Hold the pan sideways with a hand over the ice to catch it, and run warm water over the bottom of the pan; the ice ring will loosen quickly. Transfer, worm-side-up, to a punch bowl, and garnish the ice ring with additional gummy worms, gummy tarantulas or other gummy creatures, if desired. Serves about eight to 10.
These pumpkin seeds can be made and stored at room temperature in an airtight container up to three days in advance.
2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds (from 2 medium pumpkins), rinsed and patted dry
2 T unsalted butter, melted
2 T granulated sugar
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Spread the seeds on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until they’re dry throughout (50 to 60 minutes).
Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the seeds with the butter, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Return the seeds to the baking sheet and toast them, tossing occasionally, until they’re golden brown (10 to 15 minutes). Makes eight servings.
3 T olive oil
½ fennel bulb, chopped (about 2½ cups)
½ large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1¼ tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. fennel seed
to ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1 (28-oz.) can plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
2 cups homemade vegetable broth or low-sodium canned broth
2 cups tomato juice
6 basil leaves, torn
1 T fresh lemon juice
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, onion, garlic, salt, fennel seed and crushed pepper, and cook until the vegetables soften and brown slightly (about five minutes).
Drain and reserve the juice from the tomatoes, then crush the tomatoes gently with your hands. Add the tomatoes, increase the heat to high, and cook until they begin to brown slightly (about five minutes).
Add the reserved tomato juice, vegetable broth, tomato juice and basil leaves. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook until the vegetables are cooked through and the soup reduces and thickens (about 30 minutes).
Remove the pot from the stove and puree the soup in batches, with an immersion or regular blender, or food processor. Stir in the lemon juice and season with pepper to taste. Makes eight servings.
This soup can be prepared a day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate it, then reheat it just before serving.
You’ll need a cookie cutter or two in spooky shapes (such as pumpkins, ghosts, black cat, bats or witches). The recipe calls for small pumpernickel; we used a larger loaf for bigger sandwiches. Makes 8 sandwiches
16 (3½-inch square) slices Westphalian Pumpernickel, or other thin black bread
½ cup apple jelly
8 slices Muenster cheese (about 3 oz.)
8 slices yellow Cheddar cheese (about 3 oz.)
Optional garnishes: Dill pickle rounds, fennel fronds and Spanish olives with pimentos
Toast the bread in a toaster or toaster oven until it is slightly crisp (about five minutes, or less if you’re using a toaster).
Spread one side of each slice of bread with apple jelly. Layer the cheese over the apple jelly, then top with the remaining slice of bread.
Cut out and garnish as desired.
For party menus, it’s nice to have a shortcut: You can make these with your favorite brownie recipe or with a mix.
For the frosting, adjust the consistency by adding more milk or confectioners’ sugar as needed; it should be easily spreadable, like Nutella.
1 (19.8-oz.) package brownie mix (such as Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge brownies)
½ cup oil
¼ cup water
2 T butter, melted
½ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup (or more) milk
½ tsp. vanilla
Pinch of salt
1½ cups (or more) confectioners’ sugar
1 tube white decorating icing (such as Wilton) with plain tip
For brownies: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 24-count mini muffin tin with nonstick spray. Prepare the brownie mix according to the package directions.
Divide the brownie batter among the mini muffin cups, filling each about ¾ full (you might have some batter left over; bake separately). Bake the brownies until a tester inserted comes out with moist crumbs attached (about 20 to 22 minutes). Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn the muffins out of the cups onto a cooling rack and cool them completely.
For frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat the melted butter and cocoa powder until it’s blended. Beat in the milk, vanilla and salt. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar, adding more milk or confectioners’ sugar if necessary to achieve a soft, spreadable consistency.
For spider web design: Frost the cooled brownies liberally with cocoa frosting. Using a plain tip, pipe a thin spiral of white frosting atop each brownie. Use a toothpick to drag six lines from the center of each brownie out, forming a spider web design.
Spider web brownies can be prepared a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Makes about 24 brownies.