Bootiful Bites

Take back the scariest night of the year with some tapas, hors d’oeuvres and munchies worthy of a more mature Halloween crowd.

Sure, Halloween is about the kiddos in their cute costumes and their sweet pleas for treats in lieu of tricks. It’s about orange plastic pumpkins filled with bite-size chocolate bars and sugary candy that moms and dads hope their pint-sized progeny forget about in a week or so. But what about those moms and dads…don’t they deserve a wee bit of Halloween fun, too?

Now we know we can’t subsist on candy alone, so what about a decidedly less spooky, classy soiree, where you and your closest friends can nosh on delicious Halloween-inspired culinary delights—think Indian meatballs, spicy maple Parmesan popcorn, jalapeño poppers and more. Rachael Perron, culinary director at Kowalski’s Market in White Bear Lake, offers up some great ideas and recipes for a boo-tiful Halloween happening.

And like most parties, it’s all about the food. “It’s nice to have both cold and warm bites,” Perron says, even if you are planning a dinner alongside. She recommends having eight to 10 appetizers per person at the party if you aren’t serving a dinner—that way everyone will be filled up enough to go without a full meal and will also get to experience a variety of treats.

Here are some of Perron’s seasonal favorites, from scary-simple to hauntingly regal.

Makes 20
1¼ c. flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ c. unsalted butter, room temperature
⅔ c. dark brown sugar
½ c. sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
½ of an 8 oz. pkg. Kowalski’s Caramel Corn, roughly chopped
1 c. smoked almonds, chopped

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, soda and salt; set aside. In an electric mixer, beat butter with sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat just until well combined. Add dry ingredients; beat on low speed just until flour is no longer visible. Fold in caramel corn and nuts. Drop 20 evenly sized, rounded spoonfuls 2 inches apart on two parchment-lined baking sheets; flatten slightly with the back of a spoon. Bake pans one at a time in a preheated 325° oven until just barely set and slightly puffy (about 15 minutes), rotating pan halfway through. Cool cookies on pans for 2 minutes; move to wire racks to cool completely.

Tasty Tip: Make these decadent cookies gift- and holiday party-ready when you drizzle them with a bit of melted chocolate; garnish with candy corn.

Serves 2
1 Tbsp. honey, warmed in the microwave
1 Tbsp. water
¼ c. cold hard apple cider
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 c. sparkling wine (approximately),
to taste

Whisk together warm honey and water until dissolved; let cool completely. In each of two sparkling wine flutes, evenly divide cider, honey syrup and lemon juice. Top with sparkling wine, to taste.

Mocktail: Substitute hard apple cider for the pasteurized version for a non-alcoholic treat. Care to spook it up a bit? Consider halved peeled grapes for a gory garnish.

Serving size varies
Anna's Swedish Thins or Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, your choice of flavor
Buttercream icing (at room temperature), your choice of original, salted caramel or chocolate flavors, to taste

Spoon frosting on flat side of a single cookie; top with another cookie, flat side in. Repeat as desired.

Serves 2
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
2½ tsp. unsalted butter
1½ tsp. hot sauce (or more, to taste)
¼ cup unpopped popcorn
½ tsp. ground sumac (available at Kowalski’s)
Kowalski’s Popcorn Salt and freshly grated parmesan cheese, to taste

In a small spouted measuring glass, combine syrup, butter and hot sauce; microwave a few seconds at a time just until butter melts. Stir mixture; set aside. Pop popcorn in an air popper according to manufacturer’s instructions. Place popcorn in a large serving bowl. Drizzle syrup mixture over hot popcorn, and sprinkle with sumac, salt and cheese; toss well.

Note: Popcorn can also be made in the microwave. Place popcorn in a paper lunch sack; fold top of bag down twice and crimp to hold the bag well closed. Stand bag upright in the microwave, cook until there is a 2 second break between pops (about 1 1/2-2 minutes).

Serves 8
1 c. plain yogurt
1 garlic clove, mashed to a paste with ½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground coriander
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp. chili powder
Dash cayenne pepper
Coarse ground black pepper, to taste
1 pkg. Kowalski’s Sun-dried Tomato Chicken Meatballs (from the Deli), warmed
Indian simmer sauce, such as Stonewall Kitchen Butter Chicken or Maya Kaimal Tikka Masala, to taste (warmed)

Serves 10
½ gallon Kowalski's apple cider
2 c. no-pulp orange juice
½ c. fresh squeezed lemon juice
12 whole cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

Stir together all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes. Discard whole cloves and cinnamon sticks. Serve hot.

Serves 6
3 Tbsp. Kowalski’s Original
or Smokey Sweet BBQ Sauce
1 Tbsp. seedless black
raspberry jam
12 small jalapeño peppers
½ c. Kowalski’s Signature Herb Spread (or other flavor of your choice)
6 thin slices prosciutto, each cut into 4 thin, long strips

In a small microwave-safe dish, combine barbecue sauce and jam. Microwave mixture in 15-second intervals until jam melts and mixture is hot, stirring after each interval; set aside. Slice jalapeños in half from stem to tip; use a sharp paring knife to remove the seeds and light-colored membranes. Fill peppers with herb spread; wrap with a strip of prosciutto. Place poppers on a parchment-lined baking sheet; brush with sauce mixture. Bake in a preheated 400° oven until prosciutto is crispy and filling is bubbly and dark on the edges (about 20 minutes). Let stand for 2 to 5 minutes before serving.