‘Fang­tas­tic,’ healthy Hal­loween meals

‘Fang­tas­tic,’ healthy Hal­loween meals What’s scarier than a zom­bie, ghost or vam­pire? A hun­gry kid who wants to de­vour ev­ery piece of Hal­loween candy. So be­fore the lit­tle gob­lins hit the streets, fill their bel­lies with a haunt­ingly healthy din­ner they’l

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Emily Ryan For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

“This might be the one night when you have true bar­gain­ing power,” joked chef Libby Mills of West Ch­ester, spokesper­son for the Academy of Nutri­tion and Di­etet­ics. “Any veg­eta­bles you wanted to try out, this may be the night.”

Get into the spirit with her jack-o’pep­pers — stuffed bell pep­pers carved to look like faces. Or serve raw veg­gies along­side pump­kin hum­mus in a cab­bage “caul­dron.”

“The pump­kin hum­mus, I think, is fun,” she said. “And it tran­si­tions out of Hal­loween into the next month.”

Chef Vicky Hanko sug­gests spooky spaghetti squash with mari­nara sauce. The fin­ish­ing touch: “eyes” made from moz­zarella cheese and black olives.

“That’s re­ally cute,” de­scribed the owner of Cook­ing Spot­light in Phoenixville, who also con­cocts mid­night black bean soup with spi­der­web crema. “It looks fab­u­lous.”

Hun­gry for more fright­fully de­light­ful ideas? Scare up a skil­let and fol­low her recipe for chicken and veg­eta­bles with ghostly mashed pota­toes.

“You put them in a pas­try bag and put a ghost mashed potato com­ing out of the chicken dish,” Hanko ex­plained.

No bones about it — that’s the kind of

hair-rais­ing touch kids love. For adults, she casts a spell with shrimp fra di­avola and blood orange salad.

“Witch-ever” meal you choose this Hal­loween, re­mem­ber…

“It’s gotta be quick. It’s gotta be easy and some­thing that can hold its own if trick-or-treaters come early,” Mills said.

Happy haunt­ing!

Skil­let Chicken & Veg­eta­bles with Ghostly Pota­toes

Serv­ings: 4


2 pounds Yukon Gold or Rus­set pota­toes, peeled and cut into large chunks

4 ta­ble­spoons but­ter ¾ cup whole milk, warmed

4 bone­less chicken breasts

2 ta­ble­spoons olive oil

4 cel­ery stalks, cut into ½-inch pieces

2 cups baby car­rots

1½ cups onions, chopped

1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup frozen baby peas

1 ta­ble­spoon fresh thyme, (leaves re­moved from stalks) or 2 tea­spoons dried thyme, crum­bled

Salt and pep­per, to taste


Make the mashed pota­toes: Place the pota­toes in a pot and cover them with cold wa­ter, sea­son well with some salt. Bring the pota­toes to a boil, then sim­mer un­til ten­der about 15 min­utes. While the pota­toes are cook­ing, heat the milk and but­ter in a small pan un­til the but­ter is melted. Keep warm.

Drain the cooked pota­toes thor­oughly. Force the pota­toes through a ricer or mash with potato masher, adding the warm milk and but­ter mix­ture as nec­es­sary to make the pota­toes smooth, but not runny. You may not need to use all of the milk mix­ture. Sea­son with salt and pep­per to taste. Set aside and keep warm.

Make the chicken: Sea­son the chicken breasts with salt and pep­per. Heat the olive oil in a large skil­let over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sauté un­til browned on both sides. Add the car­rots, cel­ery, and onion, stir and sauté for 5 min­utes. Stir in the thyme. Add the chicken broth and bring it to a sim­mer. Cover and re­duce the heat to medium-low. Cook for an ad­di­tional 10 to 15 min­utes un­til the chicken is cooked through and the veg­eta­bles are ten­der.

Us­ing a slot­ted spoon, trans­fer the chicken and veg­eta­bles to a bowl. In­crease the heat to high and bring the re­main­ing broth to a boil. Re­duce the broth un­til you have about 1 cup liq­uid re­main­ing. Add the frozen peas and cook an ad­di­tional minute. Re­turn the chicken and veg­eta­bles to the pan and stir to coat with the sauce. Cover and keep warm.

Place the mashed pota­toes in a pas­try bag or in a re­seal­able plas­tic bag and cut a 1½-inch hole off the cor­ner. Di­vide the chicken and veg­eta­bles among four bowls. Pipe the ghost pota­toes in the cen­ter of the dish and use some of the peas from the chicken dish to make the eyes. (Al­ter­na­tively, you may use black sesame seeds or sliced pit­ted black olives for the eyes.)


Mid­night Black Bean Soup with Spi­der­web Crema


2 ta­ble­spoons olive oil

1 medium green or red pep­per, chopped

1 car­rot, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

2 gar­lic cloves, minced

2 tea­spoons ground cumin

2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained

3 cups veg­etable (or lowsalt chicken broth)

1 (15-ounce) can diced toma­toes with juice

Salt and pep­per, to taste

Chopped scal­lions or chives for gar­nish (op­tional)


½ cup sour cream

2 tea­spoons lime juice


Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped pep­pers, car­rot and onion and sauté for about 5 min­utes. Add the minced gar­lic and the cumin and sauté an ad­di­tional minute, then add the beans, toma­toes and broth and bring the soup to a boil. Re­duce the heat and sim­mer, cov­ered, about 15 min­utes. La­dle 3 cups of the soup into a blender and blend un­til smooth. Re­turn the pureed soup to the pot and con­tinue to sim­mer the soup an­other 10 min­utes. Sea­son with salt and pep­per to taste.

Make the crema: Com­bine the sour cream and lime juice, mix­ing well. Place the crema into a pas­try bag with a small tip (or al­ter­na­tively into a Zi­ploc plas­tic bag, cut­ting off a small cor­ner of the bag).

La­dle the soup into in­di­vid­ual bowls. Us­ing the crema draw con­cen­tric cir­cles onto the top of the soup (bulls-eye pat­tern). Us­ing a tooth­pick, knife, or a skewer, start at the cen­ter of the cir­cle and run the skewer to the outer cir­cle, to re­sem­ble a spi­der’s web. Gar­nish the cen­ter with chopped scal­lions or chives, if de­sired.


Spaghetti Squash with Mari­nara Sauce

Serv­ings: 4 to 6


1 medium spaghetti squash (3 to 4 pounds)

½ cup wa­ter

1 (28-ounce) can whole Ital­ian plum toma­toes with juice (San Marzano is best)

¼ cup ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped (¼-inch dice)

2 medium cloves gar­lic, minced

¼ cup fresh basil, shred­ded or 1 tea­spoon dried basil

Salt and pep­per

Grated Parme­san cheese


Pre­heat the oven to 375 de­grees. Cut the squash in half length­wise. Scoop out the seeds and dis­card. Place the squash, cut-side-down into a large bak­ing dish and add ½ cup of wa­ter. Bake for about 30 to 40 min­utes, un­til just ten­der.

While the squash is bak­ing, make the mari­nara sauce. Place the toma­toes into a large bowl and break them up into small pieces us­ing your hands. Set aside. Add the olive oil to a medium saucepan and heat over medi­umhigh heat. Add the onion and sauté un­til translu­cent, about 6 to 8 min­utes. Stir in the gar­lic and cook and ad­di­tional minute. Stir in the toma­toes and juices and bring to a boil, stir­ring fre­quently. Lower the heat and sim­mer the sauce for about 20 to 30 min­utes, un­til thick­ened. Sea­son with salt and pep­per and stir in the fresh basil. Keep warm.

Once the squash is ten­der, re­move from the oven and let cool at room tem­per­a­ture un­til cool enough to han­dle. Us­ing a fork, scrape the spaghetti-like squash strands from the shells into a large bowl. Sea­son the squash with a bit of salt and pep­per and lightly toss. Di­vide the squash evenly into in­di­vid­ual bowls and top each with some of the hot mari­nara sauce. Sprin­kle with grated Parme­san cheese, if de­sired.


Stuffed Jack-O’Pep­pers

The charm to this makea­head recipe is the clev­erly carved Jack-O’-Pep­per faces. De­li­ciously ve­gan, but eas­ily caters to all tastes.


4 to 6 bell pep­pers

2 cups shred­ded zuc­chini

2 cups bread crumbs

3 cups oats

2 cups raw cashew nuts, coarsely chopped

2 cups diced toma­toes 2

cups onions, diced fine

3 cloves gar­lic, minced

2 tea­spoons salt

Op­tional: 8-ounces of ground turkey, pork or beef. If us­ing sausage, re­duce the salt by 1 tea­spoon.


In a large mix­ing bowl, com­bine all ingredients, ex­cept the pep­pers.

Us­ing a par­ing knife, cut a 2- to 2½-inch cir­cle around the stem of each pep­per. Be­ing care­ful not to dam­age the pep­per, re­move the stem and seeds. Cut the clus­ter of seeds off the stem. Save the stemmed top for the hat. Into the sides of the pep­per, care­fully cut Jack-O’-Pep­per eyes, nose and mouth.

Gen­tly fill each pep­per with the stuff­ing mix­ture. Do not over­pack. Place each pep­pers up­right in a sprayed bak­ing dish. Top with a hat. Bake at 350 de­grees for 45 to 50 min­utes.



Here’s look­ing at you, kid! Moz­zarella and black olive “eyes” top this mon­strously good spaghetti squash with mari­nara sauce.


Dem bones ... are made of veg­gies.


Carve spooky faces into bell pep­pers be­fore stuff­ing and bak­ing them.

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