Sunday, October 30, 2016

Veggie Skeleton and Brain Dip #halloween food fun

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: I’ll confess, Halloween is not a major moo-ha-ha here in our little house in the big woods. (We've just got the one decoration, picked up years ago at a craft fair, but it's a good one!) No kidlets clamoring for costumes and candy. No Trick-or-Treaters—our community is far-flung and semi-rural, so roaming the roads is unsafe, especially as darkness falls.

But in true community fashion, the Village has a solution: for two hours on Halloween afternoon, the downtown merchants dress up, open their doors, and provide treats for big and little ones. (Needless to say, no business gets done in those hours!) Mr. Right and I occasionally make the trek into town to watch the fun—no heart can be less than glad at the sight of a three-year-old in a pink tutu and fairy wings, especially if she’s also wearing pink plaid Wellies.

My favorite Halloween treat is probably Jewel Bay Critter Crunch, my version of Harry & David’s Moose Munch, which I created for my third Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, BUTTER OFF DEAD. I've shared it here before---link above. I think I'll pop up a batch this afternoon.

But when I saw this Veggie Skeleton and Brain Dip recipe in a magazine, I knew I had to make it. A great centerpiece—and too much fun. Which is, after all, what Halloween is really about, right?

You certainly can substitute other vegetables: grape tomatoes might make nice feet, and broccoli flowerets decent toes. Try cauliflowerets for hands. I used parsley for hair, but you could also use ruffled kale or the curly ends of leaf lettuce. The dip can be made with a standard blender or food processor---we use our immersion blender, fondly known as the whizzy-uppie thing.

Be sure to set out a bowl or plate of crackers and other veggies (spare ribs, anyone?), so you and your guests can nibble without destroying the table decor!

Veggie Skeleton and Brain Dip

For the skeleton:
one cucumber
one or two stalks celery
one carrot or several baby carrots
3 small to medium mushrooms
one red bell pepper
several stalks of parsley
two black olives

For the dip:
You can use any homemade or commercial dip, even plain yogurt. We used our Creamy Parmesan Salad Dressing (a variation was published in ASSAULT & PEPPER), which is thick enough for a dip. And the shredded cheese and herb bits make it deliciously gruesome!

Creamy Parmesan Salad Dressing

1 medium shallot, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced or roughly chopped
1 cup nonfat or lowfat plain yogurt
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan or Asiago
2 tablespoons olive oil, scant
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped (or ½ teaspoon dried leaves)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

Makes about 1-1/4 cups

Mix all ingredients in a small food processor or blender until thoroughly combined. Chill at least one hour, to let flavors meld. Adjust seasonings to your taste.

To assemble: 

Slice the cucumber and lay 6-8 rounds down the middle of your cutting board. Make sure to leave enough room for the pelvis and legs. Cut two 3-4" lengths of celery for the shoulders. Cut celery or a celery-carrot combination for the legs. Slice carrots, or use baby carrots, for the arms and feet. Add parsley for the hands and toes. Slice the mushrooms, with the stem intact, and lay them out for the pelvis. Core the pepper and slice thinly lengthwise; you may have to cut one end off your “ribs” to fit them in to the available space. Pour the dip into a small clear glass bowl and place at the head; garnish with olives for eyes and parsley hair.


From the cover of KILLING THYME (October 2016, in paperback, e-book, and audio---large print coming soon!): 

At Seattle Spice in the Pike Place Market, owner Pepper Reece is savoring her business success, but soon finds her plans disrupted by a killer…

Pepper Reece’s to-do list is longer than the shopping list for a five-course dinner, as she conjures up spice blends bursting with seasonal flavor, soothes nervous brides fretting over the gift registry, and crosses her fingers for a rave review from a sharp-tongued food critic. Add to the mix a welcome visit from her mother, Lena, and she’s got the perfect recipe for a busy summer garnished with a dash of fun. 

While browsing in the artists’ stalls, Pepper and Lena drool over stunning pottery made by a Market newcomer. But when Lena recognizes the potter, Bonnie Clay, as an old friend who disappeared years ago, the afternoon turns sour. To Pepper’s surprise, Bonnie seems intimately connected to her family’s past. after Bonnie is murdered only days later, Pepper is determined to uncover the truth. 

But as Pepper roots out long-buried secrets, will she be digging her own grave?

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The 2015-16 president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website  and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebookwhere I often share news of new books and giveaways from my cozy writer friends.


  1. That is so cute -- what a great idea! Guests would probably have fun replenishing the veggies back into the skeleton shape -- sort of like a reverse Operation game ~

  2. I love this! Even kids will eat these veggies. Soooo clever!

  3. BTW, the two of us pretty much demolished the skeleton as an appetizer -- though to be fair, we had skipped lunch -- so keep that in mind in chopping your extra veggies. You'll want plenty of extra bones and spare ribs!

  4. Brain Dip! sounds deliciously gruesome!

  5. LOL! I want to go to YOUR house, although it is a long walk. Hugs. MJ

  6. Love all the recipes and ideas for Hallowe'en this week, especially the "skeleton" of veggies.
    Nancy R, Ottawa, Canada

  7. Love this idea. And the dressing, brain dip sounds amazing. I have to move out there soon. It sounds like paradise truly. This book is another amazing read!!

  8. Happy Halloween, my friends! (And thanks for all the kind words.)

  9. I love Halloween and for years did all the food for my sisters annual Halloween party. A couple of favorites were the mummy dog which is basically pigs in the blanket but you use strips of dough to wrap it instead of a large sheet of dough. Mustard and ketchup dipping sauces and use either for the eyes of the mummy. Another favorite were the witch hats I made with crescent rolls. You take the triangle and roll the bottom up and curve the top down into the shape of a witch hat. In the bottom you put pepperoni in the part that you roll up. Sprinkle the hat with Italian seasoning and I also cut out pepperoni into the shape of the moon and placed one on the hat. The scrap pepperoni from this is what I rolled up into the bottom. Bake until golden brown and dip in marinara sauce.