Halloween Entertaining: Slow Sundays Goes Halloween

by Laura on October 10, 2011

in Traditions

This month, Family Eats gets ready for a (long) season of entertaining. As we head into October, we take a look at the Annual Pumpkin Carving Party. For other great seasonal entertaining ideas, we’ve partnered up with Rosanna Bowles of Rosanna Inc. Be sure to ready her latest blog HalloweenEntertaining for Kids & Adults Alike. It is filled with inspiration on how to decorate using the natural beauty of the season, and how to get the most of the season with ideas for dinner parties and informal gatherings.

Since well before October 1st arrived, my kids have been begging me to decorate the house for Halloween. They’ve had numerous discussions trying to decide what they will dress up as on Halloween, have giggled with excitement for hours on end just thinking about all the candy they will gather; and, most importantly, started planning for our annual Pumpkin Carving Party.

The party is a tradition we started 8 years ago while living in Santa Monica. While we may no longer live in Southern California, and now have a houseful of kids keeping us busy, we still look forward to this annual tradition.

The party isn’t a big blow out, with jumpy houses, catered food, required costumes, and goodie bags galore. No, it is a more low key event – a kind of Slow Sundays goes Halloween. And, that’s what makes it a wonderful tradition that the entire family looks forward to – oh, and our friends enjoy it as well. We offer delicious food, an activity that keeps us all together, while we create great memories in the process. The goal of the Pumpkin Carving Party is simple. Gather, eat, laugh, carve, laugh more, leave happy.

Planning Party Food

The first order of business is Party Food. And, my mantra when it comes to party food is “Homemade whenever possible.” From birthday cakes to neighborhood gatherings, I rarely order pizza for delivery, run down to the grocery for a veggie tray, or reach into the freezer and grab a box of frozen pastries previously picked up at Costco.

Me, I find joy in making the food I serve my guests. I find joy in welcoming friends into my home, then serving them some deliciously simple, yet tasty food, and in this case – a little pumpkin-carving entertainment.

Homemade foods add a great personal touch that your guests are always grateful for having. And, it doesn’t need to cause any stress. I make sure that I plan party foods with ‘me’ in mind. I want to attend the party, not tend to the kitchen.

That’s why I am careful to choose foods that I don’t have to prepare last minute. They can be simple, tasty foods that are as delicious to adults as they are to kids.

One of my favorite go-to meals for large parties (where food is served buffet style) is Leek and Manchego Macaroni and Cheese. Kids love mac and cheese, and with the addition of leeks, with the piquant and nutty flavor of Manchego, we’re always assured that our adult guest will love it too. (Sometimes we make two, one with, and one without leeks, just in case the kids don’t want the greens)

Other Pumpkin Party favorites include our chocolate spider cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes, chocolate frosting and black licorice legs ensure they are a hit with everyone, regardless of age.

As for snacks – why not make them healthy? Instead of bagged potato or tortilla chips, try making your own potato or vegetable chips in the microwave. (You can use the Mastrad Chips Maker for a little help!) We also put out some delicious trail mix or nut mixes. For adults, it is the tasty Wine Bar Nut Mix or Martin Yan’s Honey Glazed Nut Snacks. For kids, we offer delicious trail mix made with raisins, date pieces, sesame cracker sticks, dried apricots or cranberries, and banana chips.

Witches Wands – our chocolate dipped pretzel sticks, adorned with holiday sprinkles.

Or Homemade Pretzels for the big kids (although little ones enjoy these, too).

Pumpkin Bread – Bring the flavor of pumpkin to the table, with moist and delicious pumpkin bread or muffins.

Beverages: For kids – there will be water, milk, and a bit of sparkling juice made by mixing sparkling water (we make ours using our SodaStream), then add a touch of juice. For adults, try a Chilled Sparkling Mulled Wine (courtesy of iSi)

As always, freshly cut fruit. For a seasonal touch, create acaramel sauce for dipping.

Set the Mood

The house is already decorated for the Halloween season with its fair share of witches and goblins but the backdrop of it is the fall season. We incorporate the beauty of the season in our decorations, with the colors of fall, colored squash and even leaves to decorate. By incorporating seasonal decorations, rather than strictly Halloween themed decorations, we are able to keep the decorations up – minus the skeletons and other spooky creatures – through Thanksgiving-which is a tremendous time saver. (Rosanna offers more decorating ideas.)

Special Touches for the Carving

I know, multiple children wielding carving knives may not your kind of party. But, with a bit of preparation, you can ensure that the gathering won’t be a free-for-all that ends in a trip to the emergency room for stitches.

With each parent bringing his or her own tools, they are more likely to keep an eye on things. Set out pencils and offer up stencils for drawing designs on before carving. Encourage more traditional designs for the younger kids – that will give them a chance to help out a bit on the carving – rather than the intricate, albeit beautiful, designs that require someone to be adept at carving. For those who may decide carving is too much, have some colored markers, fruits and veggies on toothpicks to be stuck into the pumpkin, and wigs and hats to give pumpkins a new look.

If weather permits, hold the party outside, but be sure to have a rainy-day back-up. Last year it rained, so we moved the party indoors – spread out a plastic tarp, moved the furniture, and set the stage for carving. To ensure slimy pumpkin goo wasn’t tracked around the house, we only made the kitchen, bathroom and living room (where we carved) available for our guests.

Get the Kids involved in Preparation:

My children love parties. They love when friends come over on Pizza/Movie Night, they enjoy our Slow Sundays dinner with friends, and I can’t get them out of the kitchen when the family comes to visit. While I have my fair share of cleaning and food prep to do (which goes much quicker when the kids don’t help), I give each of them a job so that they can feel a sense of accomplishment, as if they participated in the preparation – it is their party after all.

Kid jobs to be done:

  • Finish placing licorice legs on spider cupcakes. Older children can even frost them.
  • Make prize ribbons – scariest pumpkin, funniest, most traditional, and so on. Create enough categories to ensure each guest receives a ribbon for their effort.
  • Set up table where food will be set out. Place the table cloth, get napkins, plates, utensils, and so on.

The Final Requirement:

 Enjoy your Slow-Sundays-goes-Halloween Pumpkin Carving Party! And, don’t forget to save the seeds for roasting. Rosanna offers a quick and tastyrecipe.

Don’t forget to read Rosanna’s Entertaining for Kids & Adults Alike.

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