Easy dinners to get you ready for trick or treating

We’re nearing the main event of spooky season: HALLOWEEN! I’m a Halloween lover and while I will be sad to see the season come to an end, I’m so excited for harvest and Christmas to be here.

Chef Allie Lyttle

I thought it could be helpful to share some crowd pleasing recipes for the evening of the main event: TRICK OR TREATING! It’s always such a hurried night, especially in Michigan when we’re chasing the daylight and (normally) fighting off the biting winter that’s come too soon. I want to make it a breeze of an evening so you aren’t stressed and can enjoy running around with kiddos or passing out candy to the masses. 

Nacho Bar

This is our family’s absolute favorite way to do Halloween; everyone gets a little something they like, and it’s quick and easy. You can prep toppings the night ahead or the morning of (lettuce, salsa, tomatoes, olives, the world is your oyster!) and throw your nacho protein into the crockpot. An easy fave?

Salsa Chicken:

1 jar store bought salsa

1 pound chicken breasts or thighs – boneless & skinless 

2 tablespoons of taco seasoning

Throw it all in the crockpot until the chicken is shredding — 4 hours on high, 8-ish hours on low. Feeling fancy? Throw in a can of corn at the beginning or a brick of cream cheese 20 minutes before dinner. You can even use frozen chicken (you will have to adjust cooking time a little though).

We also love using ground beef, or, for a fancier take, barbecue pork. Don’t forget the tortilla chips. 

If you want to go the extra mile it’s SUPER easy to make your own delicious queso at home. Here’s how :

1 pound American cheese (from the deli)

1 cup half & half

1 jalapeño, seeded and diced 

1/2 teaspoon cumin 

Salt & pepper to taste

A dash chili powder

Set up a double boiler on your stove (a pan of simmering water with a glass or metal bowl over top of it — don’t let the water touch the bottom of the bowl). Place the cheese into the bowl and allow to start melting. Add in the remaining ingredients and cook over low heat until the cheese is fully melted.

Shepherds Pie

Shepherds pie can be as easy or as from scratch as you’d like it to be. Seriously, no one will know if you top that bad boy with instant mashed potatoes. They make some solid ones now and it makes this dish a breeze. If you want to go all out and make your own mashed potatoes, I say all the power to you, but remember: we have candy to get! 

1 onion, diced

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 tablespoons of butter 

5 cloves of garlic

1 pound ground beef (you could use ground turkey, but it will be a little drier)

1 bag mixed frozen veggies (if you’re feeling fancy, some sliced mushrooms added in are excellent as well)

3 tablespoons all purpose flour 

2 cups beef stock 

Mashed potatoes 

Place a saucepan on the stove and begin melting the butter and warming the oil; add your onion and cook until soft (6-7 minutes) and then add your garlic (cook 1 minute more). Add your beef and brown it; then add your veggies. Stir in the flour — you want the mixture to tighten up, so you may need more flour. Slowly add your beef stock while stirring so that you’ll make a delicious gravy.

Pour your meat mixture into a greased 9×13 pan and top with mashed potatoes. When you’re ready for dinner, place into a 350° preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes have browned and everything is warmed through. 

White Chicken Chili! 

Here’s another crock-pot classic with a little twist. It’s fancier than regular chili, and you can load her up with toppings! We love tortilla chips, avocado, fresh lime and shredded Monterey Jack cheese! 

1.5 pounds chicken thighs, boneless & skinless (could use breasts as well) 

45 ounces Cannellini Beans (three 15-oz. cans) drained

15-ounce can whole kernel corn (drained well), or two cups of frozen corn

1 quart chicken broth

4 ounce can fire roasted green chiles

1 sweet yellow onion, diced

2 teaspoons kosher salt 

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon oregano

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 cup sour cream 

4 ounces creamed cheese, cut into small pieces 

Add the chicken, beans, corn, chicken broth, green chiles, onion, and spices to the crockpot. WAIT TO ADD THE SOUR CREAM AND CILANTRO. Stir.

Place the lid on the slow cooker. Cook on HIGH for 4 hours, or LOW for 8 hours.

When the cooking time is done, shred the chicken with two forks.

Add the sour cream and cream cheese. Stir and put the lid back on for 15 minutes to allow everything to melt together.

Coney Dogs! 

Sure, you could just do hot dogs, but where’s the excitement in that?! My favorite coney in the world — Red Hot’s Coney Island — sells their chili retail now, and it makes it way too easy to enjoy a coney dog at home. 

Grab some Kogel’s, dice an onion, throw some fries in the oven, and you have a filling and very Michigander-approved meal! We love coneys so much we’ve had them for Christmas dinner before (seriously —  Red Hot’s chili is that good). 

Friends, I hope this helps you celebrate the end of spooky season and eases you from the stress of feeding your kiddos while trying to shove a costume over a winter coat.

Happy Halloween! 

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Allie Lyttle has been in the hospitality industry for the last 16 years working in every facet from bartender to restaurant manager to executive chef. She is currently building out her passion project: Ann Arbor-based restaurant, Lala's. When she isn't chasing around her 2-year-old daughter and pair of weenie dogs (Nathan & Vienna) she's trying to read the never-ending stack of cookbooks on her nightstand while her husband snores beside her.

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