Creepy Halloween Food

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays.  Dressing up is a low-stress way to be an actor once a year.  And I was lucky enough to have a mom who was a really great seamstress.  She made me some terrific costumes over the years.  My favorites?  Probably a toss-up between the leopard costume I had when I was four (which became pajamas once you removed the hood) and the “starlet” strapless silver gown I wore in kindergarten.  This was for a chunky, freckled child who already knew she had no chance of ever being a “starlet” in real life.  In make-believe, however, I was stunning!

When I got older, I always dressed up as something scary – a vampire or a witch.  When I was in high school, I dressed up just to scare the neighborhood kids when they came trick or treating.  (Actually, if I’m home on Halloween I still do this.  I really like to scare the teenagers who are too cool to wear a costume but still want to score lots of candy.)

If you’re going to have a Halloween party this year, enjoy these creepy crawly munchies.  The pigs in blankets might seem down-market or old-school, but they’ve made an amazing comeback in recent years.  There was even an article in the New York Times recently about pigs in blankets as the hot new (old) party hors d’oeuvres.

I loved PIBs as a child, and I’ve veganized them for wedding and holiday parties over the past few years.  I’ve always used the commercial (Dough Boy) kind of crescent roll dough, however, and while it is technically vegan, it’s full of all kinds of scary hydrogenated fat and chemical preservatives.  I decided to try my hand at making a natural crescent roll dough, and here it is.  It is puffy, slightly sweet, and rich – all the things you remember from the canned stuff.  It’s not health food — I tried a whole wheat version which just didn’t work — but it’s free of the really scary junk.  Halloween things should only be make-believe scary.  If you have a bread machine, it’s almost as easy to make these as it is to open a can.  Maybe not quite, but almost.  Even without a bread machine, these are dead-easy for yeast bread.  (Dead easy…get it?)

By the way, I tried to come up with a creepier, Halloween-y name for Pigs in Blankets, but my husband points out that, to a vegan, the idea of a pig in anything to eat is plenty gruesome enough.  But let me know if you come up with anything clever.

Creepy Crudités:  Arrange a tray of the following:  “Honey, I Shrunk the Trees” (broccoli florets), “Bits of Brain” (cauliflower florets – bisect the cauliflower pieces to play up the “brainy” look of the vegetable.), “Devil’s Tongues” (red pepper triangular strips with a little fork cut out of the tip), and “Vampire Stakes” (baby carrots).  Decorate the platter with Martian’s Eyeballs (stuffed green olives).  Serve with Green Slime (spinach dip below) or with Vampire-B-Gone Dip.

Vampire-B-Gone Dip
This dip looks great in a petite hollowed-out pie pumpkin
For adults or brave kids only – it’s very garlicky hot

Serves 10
Recipe by Lisa T. Bennett
Preparation Time: 5 minutes

1 box of Mori Nu Tofu
5 cloves fresh garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)

Whirl all ingredients in a food processor until creamy.  Mix longer than you think necessary – wait until the mixture turns glossy.  Adjust salt and lemon juice to taste.  Serve with Creepy Crudités.

Green Slime (Spinach Dip in a Pumpkin)

You can either present this spinach dip in a carved bread “pumpkin” or a real one.  If you use a round bread loaf, carve out just the top layer of crust to make your jack’s face.  If you use a real pumpkin, be sure to clean out the seeds and strings thoroughly.  You can carve a jack o’ lantern face into the skin without going all the way through, or use pieces of red or green pepper to make a scary face, depending on the color of pumpkin you choose.
(Wheat-free option below)
Serves a crowd as an appetizer
Recipe adapted by Lisa T. Bennett
Preparation time: 10 minutes to mix, best if refrigerated at least 2 hours before serving

16 ounces vegan sour cream substitute (Sour Supreme)
1 cup Vegenaise (or 1 package Mori Nu Tofu – pureed)
2 small envelopes of vegan onion dry soup mix (Fantastic Foods or other natural brand)
1 small can water chestnuts, finely chopped
2-3 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
1 1/2 cups – 3 cups chopped spinach, frozen, thawed, and WELL pressed
1 clove finely chopped garlic
1 round loaf of sourdough bread (or see wheat-free option below)
small wedges of pumpernickel bread (reserve shapes for decorating)
small wedges of sourdough bread (reserved from loaf)

1.  Whisk the sour cream substitute and Vegenaise (or pureed tofu).  Add soup mix and veggies and mix thoroughly. (Use a clear bowl to make sure nothing is sticking to the sides unmixed.)  Use as much spinach as your little demons will tolerate.  The more spinach, the greener (and healthier) the dip.
2.  Cut off the top of the bread loaf as if you were removing the top of a pumpkin. Reserve the “lid”.  Hollow out the inside carefully (you’ll need the insides for serving wedges), leaving 1/4 to 1/2 inch of bread inside.
3.Fill the bread bowl with the dip, replace the top lid portion of the bread, store in a large container with a lid or wrap in clear wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours. Serve on your best platter, surrounded by alternating wedges of pumpernickel and sourdough bread for dipping.
For Halloween – Before serving, decorate front of bread bowl “pumpkin” with cut outs of pumpernickel bread to make a jack ‘o lantern face, using short toothpicks to secure eyes, nose, and mouth.  Cut out pumpernickel leaves using a leaf cookie cutter.  Secure a small one to top of lid.  Decorate platter with bread cut out leaves.

For a Wheat-Free presentation, serve the dip in a small hollowed-out pumpkin or squash and serve with vegetables, like the Creepy Crudités.

Note:  The Vegenaise makes a slightly creamier dip, but the pureed tofu is lower in fat and higher in protein.

Witches’ Fingers (Cookies)

These cookies are a tender cross between a sugar cookie and shortbread.  They look horrible, but taste delicious.  This recipe makes a very pale finger.  If you want your witch fingers to be green, or to have a darker skin tone, see the notes in the directions.
Recipe by Lisa T. Bennett (adapted from several online sources)
Makes about 50 fingers
Preparation Time: 45 minutes to mix and form cookies, 45 minutes to bake and rest

1 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread, softened
1 cup unbleached powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer powder
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon almond extract or coconut extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purposed unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup whole blanched almonds or long curly pieces of sweetened dried coconut
powdered cocoa (optional)
green food coloring (optional)
red food coloring (optional)
1  tube red decorator gel (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 350° F.. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or cover it with parchment paper.
2.  In a large bowl, beat together Earth Balance, sugar, egg replacer powder and water, almond or coconut extract and vanilla.  (If you want your witch fingers to be green add three or four drops of green food coloring here.)
3.  Combine dry ingredients .  (If you want your witch fingers to have a darker skin tone, add some cocoa powder here.  Start with a couple of tablespoons for fairly light tan skin, and work up from there.)  Sift dry ingredients into creamed mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
4.  Working with one-quarter of the dough at a time and keeping remaining dough refrigerated, roll heaping teaspoons full of dough into finger shape for each cookie. Press an almond firmly into one end for nail. Squeeze in center to create a knuckle shape and use a paring knife make slashes in several places to form knuckle lines.   Use your own fingers as models.  If you want to paint the nails, use some red food coloring that’s been diluted with water and brush on with a clean artist’s brush.  (Lisa’s note:  I used long curly pieces of coconut to make scary fingernails.  The coconut toasts brown and looks really creepy.)
5.   Place cookies on the prepared cookie sheet and bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until pale golden. (Check the bottoms of the cookies – they should be very light brown.)
6.   Let cool for three minutes. If desired, lift up almond and squeeze red decorator gel onto nail bed and press almond back in place so gel oozes out from underneath.  Gross.  I found the coconut to stick too well to make this possible, which is probably just as well.
7.  Remove from cookie sheet and let cool on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough.  Store cookies in an airtight container and serve within 3 or 4 days.

Notes:  Make cookies skinnier than you think they need to be, as they puff and spread a little when cooking.

Veggie Pigs in Homemade Blankets

You can add your favorite mustard to the pigs while making them, or set out pots of different mustards so your guests can choose their favorite at serving time.  This is a good solution for a mixed crowd of kids and adults.

2 packages “hot dogs” (Smart Dogs or Tofu Pups), cut in half crosswise
2 cans Worthington Loma Linda “Little Links” sausages
1 recipe Basic Vegan Crescent Roll Dough (below)
your favorite mustard (optional)

1. Divide dough in half.  Roll one half out on floured board to a thin rectangle approximately 9 X 13 inches.
2. Cut dough lengthwise, and then crosswise three times to give you eight rectangles.  Cut each rectangle into two triangles.  Smear on a half teaspoon of your choice of mustard (optional) on each piece
3. Roll each piece of hot dog or each small sausage in dough, starting at the wide end of the triangle.  (If the dough is already puffing up, press it flat as you work.)  Let a bit of hot dog or sausage protrude from each end.
4. Set rolls down on a prepared cookie sheet with the tip of the triangle tucked underneath to prevent unrolling as the dough rises.  Let rise 15 – 20 minutes.
5.  Bake the rolls at 350 F for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly golden on top and brown on bottom.  Let cool for a few minutes before serving (but try to serve them warm).

Basic Vegan Crescent Roll Dough (for Bread Machine)

Recipe By Lisa T. Bennett
Makes about 32 small rolls

1 12.3 oz package Mori-Nu tofu (any variety – soft preferred)
1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
3 tablespoons unbleached sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons dry bakers yeast

1.  Bread Machine directions – add to machine in order above.  Machine will puree tofu during mixing. Use dough cycle.
2.  Check consistency of dough after first kneading.  You might need to add up to 1/2 cup extra flour.  Dough should form a coherent lump, not a ragged and sticky mass.  Add flour slowly, a bit at a time, until dough comes together.
3.  Let dough rise once, then remove dough from machine.  Proceed as per recipe.

Note:  If you don’t have a bread machine, use standard yeast bread making techniques.