In his stand-up comedy, Bill Cosby does a bit about the morning that his wife tasked him with feeding the children breakfast. His brood, seeing this changing of the guard as an opportunity, asks Dad for chocolate cake. Considering the request, Cosby ticks off the ingredients in chocolate cake…eggs, milk, wheat… “That’s nutrition!” he concludes.
And so, the giddy children sit down to a breakfast of chocolate cake. “And then,” says Cosby in his best ghost story voice, “she came downstairs.” You can guess who that she might be, and how thrilled she was to discover her little hens shoveling down dessert at 7 a.m.
Similarly, I imagine that the idea of candy for dinner will create two camps among eaters: wide-eyed wonder vs. horror and disgust. For those who fall into the former category the appeal of dinner candy is self-evident.
For those others, let me reassure you that sugary sweet is not the flavor profile of these dishes. Think of the following recipes as a clever way to siphon some of that Halloween surplus into real food, so that you won’t have to spend effort between now and Thanksgiving rationing the stuff. Plus, if there’s one sure-fire way to get kids to eat their vegetables, it’s to toss those veggies with some candy.
No matter where you stand on the subject, I guarantee that these candy-coated meals are far more nutritious than a slice of chocolate cake.
Caramelized Squash Soup with Ancho Chile
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup Sugar Babies or caramels (like Kraft)
1/2 cup buttermilk or ¼ cup half and half
- In a large saucepot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add ancho chile powder and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Stir in squash pieces, broth, salt and Sugar Babies or caramels; bring to boil over high heat, then reduce to low, cover, and simmer until squash is tender and candies are melted, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Working in batches, puree soup in the food processor or blender until smooth. Return soup to pot, stir in buttermilk or half and half, and heat through.
Note: be very careful when pureeing hot soup. Do not overfill blender or food processor. Follow manufacturer’s instructions.
Sweet and Sour Patch Pork
1/2 cup Sour Patch Kids
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes
1 quart, plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 pounds pork loin, trimmed and cut into ¾-inch cubes
3 small bell peppers (orange, yellow and red), cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch scallions, sliced, whites and green separated
1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained and rinsed
- In a small saucepan over medium heat combine 11/2 cups water with Sour Patch Kids and simmer, whisking occasionally, until candies are dissolved and mixture is syrupy, about 30 minutes. Whisk in soy sauce, pineapple juice and chili pepper flakes. Remove from heat and reserve.
- Preheat the oven to 200°F and set out a baking sheet lined with a cooling rack. Heat 1 quart oil in a large saucepan (oil should be about 2-inches deep) over medium-high heat until it registers 375°F on a deep fry thermometer.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, pepper and 1 cup water. Add the pork cubes to the batter and, working in batches, use tongs to transfer pieces, one at a time, to the hot oil. Fry until light golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer fried pork to the cooling rack and keep warm in oven, while frying the remaining pork.
- Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the bell peppers and cook until blistered, about 2 minutes; add scallion whites and cook 1 minute more. Add sauce, stir, and remove from heat. Toss in pork and water chestnuts, briefly returning to heat to thicken sauce if necessary. Top with scallion greens and serve with rice.
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