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MARGARET PROUSE: Suppers suited for spooks and goblins

Take a few minutes to plan a make-ahead meal so that trick or treaters can enjoy some warm healthy food before heading into the cool night air on Oct. 31.
Take a few minutes to plan a make-ahead meal so that trick or treaters can enjoy some warm healthy food before heading into the cool night air on Oct. 31. - 123RF Stock Photo

We’re celebrating Halloween in P.E.I. this weekend, unlike the unfortunate souls living in some of the regions hit hardest by COVID-19. 

It is a fun time for children to imagine themselves as someone else, trying out several new identities before settling on the perfect one. Parents play a supporting role by arranging costumes for their own children, admiring mysterious strangers who arrive with treat bags extended and escorting younger children safely from door to door. 

My experience with getting children ready to go out on Halloween night was that there was a lot of hurrying involved: hurry and apply their make-up; hurry and put the costumes on; hurry and make sure treats are ready to pass to children at your own door; hurry and have dinner. The more children there are, the more time pressure there is. 

With Halloween being on Saturday this year, it will be easier for most parents (though not those working weekend shifts) to be ready to escort their children as they trick or treat. For once, they won’t have to experience the after-work sprint. There will, of course, still be time pressure, especially for parents of young children who want to take them out before darkness falls.

You can help avoid some of the pre-dusk frenzy by planning a supper meal that can be prepared in advance or pulled together in minutes. Halloween is not the day to be staring into the fridge, wondering what to have for dinner. Take a few minutes to plan today, preferably for a make-ahead meal so that trick or treaters can get some warm, healthy food into their tummies before heading into the cool night air. 

I wouldn’t suggest trying to persuade children to try new tastes on a day when the family is pressed for time. The best choice is a familiar meal that your children enjoy, maybe macaroni and cheese with carrot sticks, homemade veggie pizza, meat loaf with baked potato or curried chickpeas with rice. How about fish burgers made with frozen breaded fillets and a side of coleslaw or cold roast chicken with potato salad or chili with whole grain rolls or grilled cheese with wedges of fresh pear? 

Halloween would be a good day to serve your family’s favourite slow cooker meal. Tastes are as individual as personalities.  

Doing lots of pre-prep, cleaning up as you go and selecting one-dish meals make for streamlined clean-up on a busy night. 

This noodle dish may appeal to kids who enjoy Asian flavours. You can, of course, omit the chili flakes. 

It isn’t a make-ahead, but it cooks quickly, and you can prepare and measure ingredients in advance. The yield is 2 servings, but the recipe would feed more than two small appetites. 

Double it if desired. Kaffir lime leaves are not easily found in P.E.I., and I omit them. 

Spicy Pork Noodles

Adapted from Neal, Peter and Chris Neal: “Goodness: Recipes and Stories.”  Blakeman Books, Concord, ON, 2015.

15 mL (1 tbsp) vegetable oil
15-30 mL (1-2 tbsp) minced garlic
100 g (4 oz) ground pork
1 handful dried rice noodles (about ⅓ package) soaked in warm water until slightly softened, drained
30 mL (2 tbsp) white vinegar or to taste
15 mL (1 tbsp) fish sauce or to taste
15 mL (1 tbsp) soy sauce or to taste
15 mL (1 tbsp) hot water
15-30 mL (1-2 tbsp) granulated sugar to taste
500 mL (2 cups) coarsely chopped tomatoes, with juice
2 fresh double kaffir lime leaves, very finely chopped chopped fresh cilantro leaves
chopped green onion
chili flakes

In a wok over medium heat, heat oil. Add garlic and fry until golden, about 2 minutes.

Add pork and cook, stirring, until it browns, 7 to 10 minutes.

Push pork to one side of the wok. To the other side of the wok, add prepared rice noodles.

Add vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, water and sugar. Cook, stirring, adding hot water as required to prevent sticking, until noodles are softened.

Add tomatoes and cook, stirring, until noodles are tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add lime leaves, cilantro and green onion to taste and stir to combine. Add chili flakes to taste. Serve immediately. 

Margaret Prouse, a home economist, writes this column for The Guardian every Friday. She can be reached by email at [email protected].

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