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Better Hallowe'en Menus

By Edited Dec 29, 2015 0 0

So you have invited a bunch of guests for Hallowe'en dinner, and now you are stuck with trying to come up with a menu? Never fear, food has moved beyond the cutesy cupcakes with R.I.P. (requiesca(n)t in pace, often translated as "Rest in Peace") on them, and thanks to the internet (for searching) and online shopping (for those hard-to-find ingredients), you can serve an elegant dinner with appetizing foods to your guests, and still stay in the theme of Hallowe'en! Simply follow these suggestions, and you can have an outstanding menu!

As we all know, the colors traditionally associated with Hallowe'en are orange and black, so by combining these different-colored food ingredients, we can have unique dinner menus that stay within the Hallowe'en theme, yet are pleasing to both the eye and the palate!

For everything I have suggested, recipes are widely available online, so I haven't included them here. If you can use a search engine, you can find the recipe for any of the suggested dishes quite easily. Don't be afraid to substitute one ingredient for another, similar ingredient. If you find what seems to be a wonderful recipe for pumpkin soup, but you don't want to use pumpkin in yet another dish, try it with squash, sweet potatoes, or orange peppers instead. Use your imagination, and make small test batches.

Pumpkin Pie
Credit: Public Domain

Black Foods

Your first building block

Grains, legumes, pastas:

Cooked Black Rice
  • Squid ink pasta
  • Black rice
  • Black beans
  • Black soybeans
  • Black quinoa
  • Black mushrooms
  • Black chia seeds
Al Dente Squid Ink Fettuccine, 12-Ounce Bag (Pack of 6)
Amazon Price: $34.99 $26.64 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 29, 2015)
Even in specialty markets, squid ink pasta can be difficult to find. This brand cooks up well (follow the instructions precisely) and retains its black character even after cooking. In addition, at around $0.40 cents per ounce, and eligible for free shipping, it's one of the best deals on Amazon
Roland Pre-Washed Black Quinoa, 5-Pounds Bag
Amazon Price: $49.15 $46.95 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 29, 2015)
Search high and low, and you might not be able to find black quinoa locally, even in high-end stores. Fortunately, five pounds of quinoa will feed a lot of people, and since it is very high in protein, meat is entirely optional!


  • Black olives
  • Black garlic
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
Black Garlic, PEELED, organic, 5.5 oz; 11 bulbs!! Equal to approx 11 oz. unpeeled black garlic!-No Stems, Cores, or Peels in weight measurement! 5 star quality NO GMOS
Amazon Price: $17.99 $13.50 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 29, 2015)
Forget everything you know about garlic. Black garlic is something else entirely. Use scissors to cut the cloves and you'll be in for an unforgettable Hallowe'en treat.

Other black foods:

  • 90% chocolate (or above)
  • Licorice
  • Black sesame seeds (sometimes called "Charnuska," although Charnuska is slightly different)
  • Charcoal biscuits
Braggs Charcoal 150g Biscuits
Amazon Price: $5.49 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 29, 2015)
From a recipe developed in Britain in 1879, these biscuits contain activated charcoal, which is commonly thought to aid in digestion (in fact, charcoal dog biscuits are widely available, although you wouldn't want to serve them to your guests). Served with an orange cheese, such as sharp Cheddar, these make the perfect Hallowe'en starter!

Dyeing Other Foods Black

If you want to try making your own pasta or other foods and coloring them black, there are two alternatives: squid ink, and activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is available in most large supermarkets and almost any health food store, and is safe to eat: it's used quite often in aiding digestion as the charcoal adsorbs quite well. It typically comes in capsules, so just break open however many capsules you will need into your recipe.

Squid ink may be much harder to find locally; however, thanks to online shopping, that's no longer a problem!

Marky's Caviar Squid Ink, 0.14 oz, 4 Piece
Amazon Price: $10.00 $2.79 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 29, 2015)
Just so you know, squid ink and cuttlefish ink are the same thing. This brand is what they use in the culinary schools. The small packets are far preferable to the larger jars, because once opened, the jars must be used within ten days. Therefore, the packets make more sense unless you're making a ton of food.

This will impart a mildly fishy, salty flavor to your ingredients. Be prepared!

Orange Foods

The other half of what you'll need


  • Squash (butternut, acorn, pumpkin and most other winter squashes)
  • Carrots
  • Peppers (some come in orange varieties)
  • Tomatoes (some come in orange varieties)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yams (the two terms are used pretty much interchangeably in the United States, but they are actually different root vegetables)


  • Oranges
  • Tangerines
  • Blood oranges
  • Persimmons
  • Peaches
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas

Other orange foods:

  • Some cheeses
  • Orange Jell-O

Heavy cream or cream cheese added to red foods (tomatoes, peppers, berries) will give them an orange color. If you need more yellow color, add a yellow spice such as cumin or turmeric to get the shade right. Even mustard will do!

Red Foods

With a little work, they can be made orange!


  • Tomatoes
  • Red peppers
  • Beets


  • Red currants
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Watermelon
  • Red grapefruit


Charnushka is a type of seed, sometimes called "black caraway."

Black sesame seeds are very tasty.

Turmeric will add a yellow color, if you have a red vegetable like tomatoes (yes, I know tomatoes are technically a fruit).

Annatto will dye food an orange color.

All these spices (and many, many more,) can be found at Penzeys Spices. If there's not a store near you, you can order online.

And Now, For a Little Magic

We all know, from our own experience, what goes together and what suits our families. Yet sometimes it seems that people's imaginations freeze when assigning new combinations to food, so I am simply going to give you some ideas to start you off on the right foot. Then you can modify anything to your own taste, and let your brain (and your taste buds) run wild!


Ideas to get you going!

We can't all afford to serve beluga caviar as an appetizer, but fortunately, we can have wonderfully interesting appetizers for dinner that fall into the orange or black color selections! Remember that appetizers should be salty or sour, to get the appetite going!

  • Orange cheeses (there are some good ones, so this doesn't have to be Velveeta) on charcoal biscuits 
  • Tapenade: a paste made from black olives, capers, anchovies, lemon juice, garlic, and black or red pepper. Spread on toasted pumpkin bread rounds, charcoal crackers, or orange cheese crackers. (Make with black garlic for extra oomph!)
  • Raw carrot or orange pepper slices with one or more of queso dip, black bean or black soybean dip, or tomato and red pepper dip mixed with cream or cream cheese.
  • Pate made from roasted red pepper, chicken or fish, tomato, and sour cream. Sprinkle with charnushka or black sesame seeds. If desired, add whole cloves of black garlic.
  • Slightly underripe persimmons (they will be sour)! 


Savory soups:

  • Black bean soup
  • Sweet potato soup
  • Squash soup
  • Pumpkin soup
  • Tomato soup (with cream)
  • Black mushroom soup
  • Orange pepper soup
  • Carrot soup

Sweet soups:

  • Strawberry soup
  • Sweet potato soup
  • Squash soup
  • Carrot soup
  • Cranberry soup
  • Red currant soup

For bonus presentation points, serve any of these in a hollowed-out pumpkin or orange pepper shell. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds, charnushka, or black chia seeds for decoration.

Side Dishes

Any of the vegetables and grains can be combined here to make a stunning side dish.

Roast any of the orange vegetables and serving them with a side of black grains 

Puree any of the orange vegetables, serve over black grains or legumes, or garnish with black grains or black sesame seeds.

Pâtés also come to the rescue here, as they did for appetizers.


Here's where we can go wild! There is so much to choose from it's hard to know where to begin!

  • You can make a sorbet from any fruit, and if desired, add a little cream. For red fruits, adding just a touch of curry powder will turn it orange, and give your sorbet an extra kick.
  • Serve fruits raw, poached (poaching fruits in wine is always popular), or baked
  • Make a pie
  • Make a cake
  • Make candy 

For decoration, sprinkle your dessert with coarsely-ground black pepper (black pepper and fruit is a fabulous combination), black sesame seeds, black chia seeds, or charnushka.


  • Food always looks great on black plates; use cotton gloves to set the table to avoid fingerprints.
  • Need spiderwebs? Learn how to spin sugar! You can even drape it over the desserts.
  • You can also use red foods to make a sly reference to blood.
  • Make a coconut gelatine dessert in a mold to simulate a ghost.

Happy Hallowe'en dining!



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