Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Mac O’Lanterns #Halloween recipe by @LeslieBudewitz

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: "Trick or treat! Smell my feet! Give me something good to eat!"

As our conversation on Sunday made clear, Halloween is a time for fun, for kids and adults, so I always like to share something fun here. Like these Mummy Pizza Puffs, my Veggie Skeleton with Brain Dip, or Puff Pastry Rattlers

When I saw this recipe for bell peppers stuffed with an easy Mac ’n Cheese, it went straight to the top of the list of this year’s options. Turns out to have been a great choice—they’re cute as can be, easy, and totally in keeping with the season.

The recipe calls for 6 bell peppers. We stuffed two, then loaded the rest of the mac ’n cheese in a pair of LeCreuset dishes I found at TJ Maxx a few years ago that are the perfect size for dinner for two and go from freezer oven with only a brief pause for thawing. We’ll broil them for a few minutes, maybe with a dusting of seasoned bread crumbs on top, to heat them up and get two more main dishes out of the recipe.

Trick or Treat!

Mac O’Lanterns

adapted from the Food Network website

6 medium orange bell peppers

8 ounces elbow macaroni

1 1/4 cups half-and-half

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1-1/2 cups mild Cheddar, shredded 

salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water.

Slice the tops off the peppers and reserve tops, with stems. Use a paring knife or sharp spoon to remove the seeds and membranes. When the water boils, slide in the peppers and tops and cook until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a pair of tongs and plunge into the ice bath. When the peppers are cool, remove from water and drain, then use a sharp knife to carve a jack-o-lantern face into one side of each pepper.

Meanwhile, bring the water back to a boil. Cook macaroni until al dente, about 6-7 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. 

Add the half-and-half to the pot and cook, stirring regularly, over medium heat until it reaches a simmer. Continue simmering until reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 10 minutes. Add the cream cheese and stir until melted. Stir in the Cheddar until melted. 

Turn off the heat, add the pasta to the pot, and stir to combine. Add some of the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce if needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spoon the mixture into the peppers, cap each with a jaunty pepper top, and serve.

Serves 6. 

Happy Halloween!

From the cover of BITTERROOT LAKE, written as Alicia Beckman (Crooked Lane Books; available in hardcover, ebook, and audio): 

When four women separated by tragedy reunite at a lakeside Montana lodge, murder forces them to confront everything they thought they knew about the terrifying accident that tore them apart, in Agatha Award-winning author Alicia Beckman's suspense debut.

Twenty-five years ago, during a celebratory weekend at historic Whitetail Lodge, Sarah McCaskill had a vision. A dream. A nightmare. When a young man was killed, Sarah's guilt over having ignored the warning in her dreams devastated her. Her friendships with her closest friends, and her sister, fell apart as she worked to build a new life in a new city. But she never stopped loving Whitetail Lodge on the shores of Bitterroot Lake.

Now that she's a young widow, her mother urges her to return to the lodge for healing. But when she arrives, she's greeted by an old friend--and by news of a murder that's clearly tied to that tragic day she'll never forget.

And the dreams are back, too. What dangers are they warning of this time? As Sarah and her friends dig into the history of the lodge and the McCaskill family, they uncover a legacy of secrets and make a discovery that gives a chilling new meaning to the dreams. Now, they can no longer ignore the ominous portents from the past that point to a danger more present than any of them could know.

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries, and the winner of Agatha Awards in three categories. Death al Dente, the first Food Lovers' Village Mystery, won Best First Novel in 2013, following her 2011 win in Best Nonfiction. Her first historical short story, "All God's Sparrows," won the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Short Story. Watch for her first standalone suspense novel, Bitterroot Lake (written as Alicia Beckman) in April 2021 from Crooked Lane Books.

A past president of Sisters in Crime and a current board member of Mystery Writers of America, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

Swing by her website and subscribe to her seasonal newsletter, for a chat about the writing life, what she's working on, and  what she's reading -- and a free short story. And join her on Facebook where she shares book news and giveaways from her writer friends, and talks about food, mysteries, and the things that inspire her.


  1. What an adorable and tasty sounding dish! Thanks for the recipe.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  2. Those are great! I would probably try it without cooking the peppers. What do you think?

    1. Edith, I love raw veggies, too, but for this recipe, I think the slightly-cooked peppers are the better choice. 2-3 minutes then a plunge in cold water leaves them at the tender-crisp state, which cuts easily and is a good match for the cheesy macaroni.

  3. That is sooo cute! And it sounds yummy.

  4. Sorry that last picture didn't turn out as well as I thought it had when I snapped it! Love the little elbow sticking out of the mac o'lantern's mouth!

  5. What fun! Thanks for a great idea.

  6. Such a clever idea! I love it. Hugs.

  7. A cute idea.
    Did you choose mild cheddar because it melts better than sharp?