I have not been Mo Fo’ing as much as I would like, but I couldn’t resist today’s prompt – What is your favorite holiday – and what is your favorite recipe to make?
I’ve always loved Halloween – and here is one of my favorite Halloween recipes.
If you grew up in the 70’s or 80’s (before the popularity of microwaves and pizza delivery), you probably remember “English Muffin Pizzas.” Quite simply, you toasted an English muffin, added a little Ragu Pizza Sauce, and topped with a slice of cheese. Voila!
At Halloween moms would get a little more creative and you’d often get an “English Muffin Pizza Mummy,” with strips of cheese and green olive eyes. No doubt my mom found the idea in an issue of Woman’s Day or Family Circle. Years later, you can still find “Pizza Mummies” in these magazines and all over Pinterest.
I decided to take this classic idea and change it up a bit. I used polenta instead of English muffin halves. And instead of pizza, I decided to take it in a Mexican direction.
The resulting “Scary Polenta” was not only tasty but lots of fun to make. It can be a fun “craft” project to do with the kids, or a really cute appetizer for a Halloween party.
Plus, it’s really easy! All the ingredients can be bought pre-made or jarred. And you can use whatever leftovers you have for nachos or Scary Tacos. Of course, you can always make your own salsa, guacamole, refried beans – but think of this more like a savory Halloween cookie decorating event. You want to have fun!
16 oz. Tube of Polenta (I like refrigerated polenta better than shelf-stable tubes)
Refried Beans or Bean Dip (either Black Beans or Pinto Beans)
Large or Jumbo Whole Black Olives (1-2 per spider)
Whole Stuffed Green Olives (sliced, for eyes)
Pickled Jalapeno Slices or Baby Sweet Bell Peppers, sliced, for mouths
Vegan Cheese Slices (I used Follow Your Heart Pepperjack; Provolone or Smoked Gouda also works – 1/2 slice per polenta round)
To Bake The Polenta:
Slice the polenta into roughly 1/2 inch thick slices. Spray a baking sheet with a little oil, or use a sheet of parchment paper. Bake according to package directions – or, roughly, about 30 minutes at 425 degrees, flipping at the 15 minute mark. You want the polenta to be a little firm for these scary snacks! Cook a little longer if you need to, but check at intervals to make sure it doesn’t get too firm/burned/dried out.
While polenta is baking, prep your other ingredients (open up the jars, scoop a few olives out into bowls, slice a baby bell pepper). Set up an assembly line.
The polenta take on the classic English Muffin Pizza Mummy!
Spread baked polenta with a spoonful of salsa.
Slice white non-dairy cheese into strips and layer in a criss-cross pattern.
Add green olive slices for eyes.
Place in oven again for 5 minutes, long enough for cheese to get melty.
Spread baked polenta with guacamole.
Add slices of stuffed green olives for “eyes.”
For mouths, add slices of pickled jalapeno (for adults) or baby bell peppers (for kids).
I personally love the round mouth and look of horror, but be creative! You could also use a squiggle of red bell pepper for a smile, and a small piece of green olive (or a black bean) for a nose. Remove the pimento from an as-yet-unsliced olive for a tongue. Have fun with this!
Spread baked polenta with refried beans or bean dip.
With a small cookie cutter, cut bat shapes out of the white cheese. (You could also use any other Halloween shape – white ghosts would look cute, or pumpkins cut from yellow or orange non-dairy cheese. I made bats because that’s the cookie cutter I had.) Place in oven again until cheese gets melty.
Slice your leftover cheese remnants into small strips and use for Polenta Mummies. Or save the scraps for nachos or tacos later.
Spread baked polenta with refried beans or bean dip. (Pinto beans work best with spiders, because of the contrast.)
Cut a large or jumbo black olive in half lengthwise. Place in middle of polenta round for the body. Then, take the other half (or the largest olives you can find, cut lengthwise) and slice into “legs” – the longer, the better.
You could also place spiders on top of salsa or guac, but they tend to stay put better in bean dip. Who wants spider legs flying all over the place?
A few final tips:
Polenta tastes better warm, so warm these up slightly in the oven or a toaster oven before serving.
Often, vegan cheeses don’t get super-melty – and that’s ok, you just want the cheese to become one with the polenta and not be a separate entity sliding off onto the floor. In fact, if you are using cheese shapes (bats, ghosts, etc.) it’s better the cheese doesn’t get too melty and keeps a defined shape. Much better for your party guests to say, “Oh, hey, a bat!” and not, “Oh, is this white blob cheese or did one of her cats barf on this?” (Mummies can get meltier, however.)
Be careful if reheating in a microwave – the polenta will get soft! It will become fork food, not finger food (and your cheese could become just a big puddle). It can be done, but do it carefully.
Set out extra bowls of salsa (“blood”) and guacamole (“slime”) for extra dipping.