Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Cook with a Halloween theme

It's the perfect time of year to get creative in the kitchen and Cathi Litzenberger shows you how

Spooks, by Sandra Liatsos: “There’s a goblin at my window, A monster by my door. The pumpkin at my table Keeps on smiling more and more. There’s a ghost who haunts my bedroom, A witch whose face is green. They used to be my family, Till they dressed for Halloween.”

Tonight is the night to see ghosts, goblins, witches and maybe princesses. I have always enjoyed the kids’ excitement and costumes each Halloween when they come knocking at the door. Is it my imagination, or has the numbers of trick-or-treaters been declining steadily these past decades? It seems every year there are less and less little people out walking from house to house, so much so, that I’ve felt forced to purchase treats that I can indulge in during the week after the ghostly night is over (not that I’m complaining), but where have all the children gone?

Today I have a couple of recipes with Halloween in mind, but of course they can be made anytime. Happy Halloween, everyone.

Jack O’Lantern Stew

1 (9 to 12-inch) pumpkin

1 large onion, chopped

1 green pepper, cored, seeded, and diced

1 red pepper, cored, seeded, and diced

4 carrots, thinly sliced into rounds

3 celery sticks, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 pound lean ground beef

1 pound ground chicken or turkey

2 cups cooked rice (instant is okay)

1 large can diced tomatoes

1 large can tomato soup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the top off the pumpkin and scoop out the insides. Rinse well. Carve a spooky face onto the pumpkin, without going all the way through the flesh. Rinse well, oil outside of pumpkin. Bake the pumpkin shell for 30 minutes.

While shell is baking: sauté the onion, green and red peppers, carrots, celery, and garlic until the vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Brown ground beef and chicken. Add the veggies and cooked rice and cook over low heat, stirring often, for 10 to 15 minutes to let the flavours meld. Remove pumpkin from oven and let stand 15 minutes.

Stir the tomatoes and soup into the meat mixture. Place meat mixture into pumpkin. Put back in oven for 20 minutes.

Serve on a platter with cheesy biscuits — very yummy.

Witches’ Brew Chicken Soup

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

4 skinned and boned chicken breast halves, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium chicken broth

1 tbsp. chicken bouillon granules

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

3 (16-ounce) cans great northern beans, rinsed, drained, and divided

1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chilies

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Toppings: shredded Cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions, cooked and crumbled bacon

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add chicken and next 3 ingredients, and sauté 10 minutes. Stir in broth and next 3 ingredients. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Stir in 2 cans of beans and chilies.

Mash remaining can of beans in a small bowl. Whisk together flour and milk, and stir into beans. Gradually add bean mixture to soup mixture, stirring constantly. Cook 10 minutes or until thickened.

Remove from heat, and stir in cilantro. Serve with desired toppings.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.