Easy dinner recipes: Have a spooky Halloween dinner feast

Happy Halloween! Looking for ways to satiate your little monsters before and after their adventures this evening? Let us offer some spooky ideas:

Tomato soup with ghost toasts: Serve the little monsters this creamy tomato soup with cheesy ghost-shaped toasts before they go out into the night.

Pumpkin quesadillas: Get creative with your quesadillas, shaping them into fun jack-o-lanterns or other spooky shapes and filling them with beans and cheese.

RECIPES: 99 easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less

Spiced hot chocolate: Warm your little ghouls up after their adventures with rich hot chocolate, or champurrado, lightly spiced with fragrant cinnamon and thickened with masa. Simple to make, be sure to whip up a big caldron -- er, pot -- you'd be amazed how quickly it magically disappears.

You can find all of the recipes below, and more ideas in the photos above.

And for more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

MORE RECIPES: 99 ADDITIONAL easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less


Total time: 50 minutes

Servings: 4

Note: Use bread slices large enough to give you 8 (2-inch) croutons.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, diced small

2 carrots, diced small

2 stalks celery, diced small

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

3 cups chicken stock

2 slices white bread

3 ounces white cheese, such as Gruyere, Cheddar, Jack or Swiss, cut in 4 slices

12 whole peppercorns, optional

1/2 cup whipping cream

Salt, pepper

1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, using a cookie cutter or scissors, cut the bread slices into ghost shapes. Cut the cheese slices into the same shape. Toast the ghosts in a toaster oven. Place them on an oven-safe tray, then place the cheese on top. Use 3 peppercorns to make eyes and a mouth for each ghost. Put them back into the toaster oven and toast again to melt the cheese. (If you don't have a toaster oven, you can broil the cheese toasts about 4 inches beneath the broiler element until the cheese is bubbly, 2 minutes.)

3. Puree the soup in a blender in two batches. Return it to the pot. Add the cream and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Heat, then serve in bowls with the ghost toasts on top.

Each serving: 364 calories; 1,198 mg sodium; 44 mg cholesterol; 21 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 32 grams carbohydrates; 15 grams protein; 4.35 grams fiber.


Total time: 15 minutes

Servings: 4 quesadillas

8 flour tortillas

1/2 cup canned refried black beans

2 cups grated Cheddar cheese

1. Cut pumpkin shape out of each tortilla with 6-inch pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter.

2. Place 4 pumpkin-shaped tortillas on baking sheet. Spread 2 tablespoons refried beans on each cutout. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Top each with remaining pumpkin cutouts to make sandwich.

4. Using butter knife or bottle caps (if kids are helping), cut pumpkin eyes and mouth out of top of each quesadilla.

5. Bake at 300 degrees until cheese melts, 3 to 4 minutes.

Each serving: 526 calories; 725 mg sodium; 69 mg cholesterol; 25 grams fat; 52 grams carbohydrates; 22 grams protein; 4.44 grams fiber.


Total time: 40 minutes

Servings: Makes about 5 quarts (20 1-cup servings)

Note: Adapted from Patricia Rubalcava. Abuelita and Ibarra Mexican chocolate tablets are available at most grocery stores. Champurrado can be garnished with cinnamon sticks, if desired.

2 (4-inch) cinnamon sticks

1/2 pound fresh masa (1 heaping cup), divided

4 (3.15-ounce) Mexican chocolate tablets, broken into small pieces

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk

1 (15-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 quart milk

Sugar, if desired, to taste

1. In a 2-gallon stock pot, bring 2 quarts of water and the cinnamon sticks to a boil over high heat.

2. Meanwhile, in a blender, combine half of the masa with 1 quart water to form a slurry (the blender should be three-fourths full). Add the rest of the masa to the slurry and blend to combine. Add the masa slurry in a thin, steady stream to the cinnamon water and stir to combine, still over high heat.

3. Add the chocolate pieces to the blender, along with the evaporated and condensed milks. Blend the chocolate mixture completely, then slowly stir it into the stock pot. Stir in the milk.

4. Continue to cook until the mixture comes to a gentle boil, stirring constantly. Adjust the consistency by whisking in additional masa as desired, gently boiling the mixture a few minutes to allow the masa to cook and thicken. Adjust sweetness as desired with sugar.

5. Remove the champurrado from the heat and strain to remove the cinnamon sticks. Serve immediately, or cool and refrigerate until needed. It will keep for 3 days refrigerated.

Each serving: 210 calories; 5 grams protein; 31 grams carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 8 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 17 mg. cholesterol; 88 mg. sodium.

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