Samhaim/All Hallow's Eve/Halloween

Celebrating the fruits of the final harvest and honoring the dead

Samhain is the final harvest of the year, and is usually represented by pumpkins and gourds. Samhain is the final spoke in the Wheel of the Year. It is at this time of the year that the harvests are finished, and everyone prepares of visits from dead ancestors, as the veil between the worlds thin. It is also known as the Witches New Year. Besides preparing offerings of the visiting dead, it is time to look toward the coming year, to make plans for things we need and want to do.


Pumpkin Spice French Toast
3 large eggs
2 tbs pure maple syrup
a pinch of kosher salt
½ cup pumpkin butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
a dash of ground cloves
¾ cup whole milk
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tbs bourbon (optional)
1 ½ tsp vanilla
8 slices of bread
6 tbs butter

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place a baking sheet in the oven.
In a large shallow bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Whisk in maple syrup and salt until well combined. Add pumpkin butter and spices; whisk until well blended. Gradually whisk in milk, cream, bourbon and vanilla until fully incorporated.
Dip bread slices in pumpkin egg mixture, coating each side until well soaked, at least 30 seconds to 1 minute per side.
In a large skillet or on a large griddle over medium-high heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter or shortening and 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat until the fats sizzle. Add half of the bread slices and cook until the bottoms are golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the slices over and continue to cook until the bottoms are golden brown, about 2 minutes.
Transfer French toast slices to the heated baking sheet in the oven to keep warm until serving time. Very carefully wipe out the skillet or griddle with paper toweling. Repeat the process by melting the remaining butter and oil, and heat to sizzling point. Cook remaining 4 slices of bread and carefully transfer to heated baking sheet in oven to keep warm until serving time.

Halloween Pumpkin Muffins
4 cups flour
3 cups sugar
1 ¾ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 tbs ground cloves
1 tbs ground cinnamon
1 tbs nutmeg
½ tbs ginger
1 ½ cups raisins
½ cup walnuts, chopped
4 eggs
2 ½ cups cooked pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients, the raisins, and the walnuts. Make a well n the middle of the mixture. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and add the pumpkin, vegetable oil, and water, and mix well. Place the egg mixture in the well, stir everything until just moistened. Do not overstir! Spoon the batter into paper-lined muffin pans, filling each about two-thirds. Bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven and immediately remove the muffins from the pans to prevent them from scorching or drying out.
Yields: 3 to 4 dozen muffins

Guinness Beef Stew
2 lbs beef stew meat, cut in 1” cubes
3 tbs olive oil
2 tbs all purpose flour
1 pinch salt & pepper
2 large onions
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbs tomato paste
1 or 2 bottle of Guinness Draught, or another dark beer
2 cups chopped carrots
1 sprig fresh thyme

Toss beef in 1 tbs of olive oil. In a separate bowl, stir together salt, pepper and flour. Dredge the beef in flour and seasonigns to coat. Heat remaining oil in a deep skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Add beef and brown on all sides. Add onions and garlic. Stir tomato paste into a small amount of water to dilute; pour into the pan and stir to blend. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Pour ½ cup of beer into the pan, and as it begins to boil, scrape bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. Pour the rest of the beer into the pan, add carrots and thyme. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning before serving. Serve over mashed potatoes.

Mrs. Renny Soda Bread (A true Irish soda bread recipe)
4 cups flour
2 cups sour milk or buttermilk
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking soda

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add sour milk and stir. Add flour as needed to form a moist dough. Knead dough gently for a few minutes, shape into a flat round disk about 3” thick. Cut a cross in the center of the dough. Bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees, then another 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Allow to cool.

Spice Harvest Soup
2 tbs butter
2 medium onions, sliced
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 tbs snipped fresh Italian parsley
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minces
½ tsp ground allspice
4 bouillon cubes
1 cup milk
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
8 oz. peeled and deveined shrimp

In a covered saucepan, saute in butter until limp: onions, carrots, celery, parsley, ginger, garlic, and allspice. Stir once or twice. Put mixture in a blender or food processor, add ½ cup of water, and puree. Return to sauce pan and add the bouillon cubes, 2 cups water, milk, and pumpkin. Stir well. When hot, add the shrimp. Serve with a spoonful of sour cream or plain yogurt and some snipped chives. Makes 3 hearty portions.

Oven-Roasted Vegetables with Herbs
3 large potatoes
3 sweet potatoes
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
2 onions, peeled and cut into wedges
6 carrots
¼ cup minced rosemary
¼ cup minced thyme
3 tbs olive oil

Cut all vegetables into bite sized chunks. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, toss all the ingredients together until the herbs are evenly spread. Place the mixture on a large baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, for one hour, or until golden brown. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Potato Cheese Patties
4 cups mashed potatoes
2 tbs butter, metled
1 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
1 clove of garlic, sliced (optional)
oil for frying

Mix the potatoes, butter, salt, and pepper in a medium-sized bowl. Sprinkle with a little of the cheese; stir. Repeat until all the cheese is added. Heat oil in a frying pan over a low flame; add garlic. Cook until the garlic is golden brown; remove garlic from oil. This provides a slightly richer flavor to the oil but does not overwhelm the potatoes. Form ½ cup portions of the potatoes into patties. Cook until golden brown on both sides.
Variation: This does well with ½ cup minced onion, ½ cup diced ham, and swiss cheese instead of cheddar cheese. This makes a tasty breakfast entree.
Yields: 4 servings

Pumpkin Cornbread
1 cup flour
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ brown sugar
1 cup corn meal
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup olive oil
1 tbs honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 8”x8” pan, and set aside. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and cornmeal. In another bowl, beat 2 eggs and add pumpkin puree, oil and honey. Mix until well combined, and slowly stir into dry mixture. Stir until well incorporated and pour into baking dish. Even out the surface of the cornbread mixture, and put into oven. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes before cutting into 9 squares.

Samhain Ancestral Cakes
1 ½ cups flour
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 pinch each: sage, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice
1 egg, at room temperature
½ cup unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
½ cup hazelnuts, finely chopped
¼ cup warm water
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 drops orange food coloring

Begin by sifting the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter together until fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, almond, and milk to the butter mixture. Stir the dry ingredients in portions into the butter and egg mixture, taking care not to overstir the batter. Finally, fold in the hazelnuts and drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. You can drop them into muffin tins instead; this will give you a more uniformly shaped cake. Bake in a preheated oven for 12-14 minutes. While baking, combine ingredients for glaze.

Fried Samhain Toads
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 tbs molasses
2 tbs honey
1 cup flour
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup stone-ground cornmeal

Beat the egg; add milk, molasses, and honey. Blend dry ingredients; stir into egg mixture. Batter should be soft, but firm enough to stay on spoon. In a deep pot, heat cooking oil to 375. Using a soup spoon, gather up a dollop of batter and, using another spoon to push it off, drop it carefully into hot fat. It will expand into outlandish forms when it hits the hot oil. Only cook a few at a time until golden brown. To make apple cider syrup, pour a quart of fresh apple cider into a pan that is wider than it is tall. Bring cider to a boil; let it simmer until it is thickened but still runny syrup (makes 1 ½ cups).

Meal Plan Suggestions

Pumpkin Spice French Toast
Halloween Pumpkin Muffins

Spicy Harvest Soup
Potato Cheese Patties

Guinness Beef Stew
Mrs. Renny’s Irish Soda Bread
Meat of your choice
Oven-roasted Vegetables with Herbs
Pumpkin Cornbread
Samhain Blessing

Samhain is here, cold is the earth,
as we celebrate the cycle of death and rebirth.
Tonight we speak to those through the veil,
the lines between worlds are thin and frail.

Ghosts and spirits in the night,
magical beings rising in flight,
owls hooting up in a moonlit tree,
I don't fear you and you don't fear me.

As the sun goes down, far to the west,
my ancestors watch over me as I rest.
They keep me safe and without fear,
on the night of Samhain, the Witches' New Year.
(Prayer by Patti Wigington on

Decoration and Tablescaping

It really depends on the atmosphere you want to display at this time of year. You can do anything from the truly gruesome to fun and festive. With Halloween being big in the retail industries, it easy to find all kinds of decorations for your house. You only need to decide on a theme, and buy it at your local big box store, or local arts and crafts stores. If you decide on a gruesome and ghoulie, you can pick up skulls, skeletons, blood dripping black candles, fake cobwebs and such. If you want something a bit more fun and festive, but still in the theme of death, you can do with a Dia de los Muertos theme, and maybe even make a few sugar skulls of your own to honor your dead. If you prefer something a bit more simple and humble, you can set up a simple altar with a few seasonal items such as tiny pumpkins and gourds, and then add framed photos of those departed loved ones that you wish to honor.

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