Halloween is a candy-lover’s dream. And while it’s true that the promise of all those sweets can be pretty exciting, it’s also true that Halloween can be a pretty hectic holiday as well. Just getting the kids in their costumes and ready to go is a challenge, not to mention answering the door for early trick-or-treaters. It’s no wonder that the thought of planning and preparing dinner in the midst of all that chaos is enough to send most folks to the closest drive-thru.

However, with a little help from your slow cooker and some easy recipes, it is possible to prepare a delicious, kid-friendly Halloween meal that’s guaranteed to fuel up your kids for a long night of trick-or-treating. After all, a good meal before heading out to trick-or-treat will help ensure that your kids have the energy to do all that walking, and if their tummies are full, it (hopefully) means that they’re less likely to sneak candy before it can be checked by an adult.


Chicken and sweet potato chili

• 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 6 cups)

• 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained

• 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cubed

• 2 cups chicken broth

• 1 16-ounce jar salsa

• 1 14 ½-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

• 1 10-ounce package frozen corn, thawed

• 1 medium onion, chopped

• 1 tablespoon chili powder

• 3 garlic cloves, minced

• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• Shredded Cheddar cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips

In a greased 6-quart slow cooker, combine the first 12 ingredients. Cook, covered, on low 5 to 6 hours or until chicken and sweet potatoes are tender. Serve with cheese, sour cream and chips. Serves eight at about $2 per serving.


Hamburger veggie soup

• 1 46-ounce can V8 juice

• 2 16-ounce packages frozen mixed vegetables

• 1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained

• 1 10 ¾-ounce can condensed cream of celery soup, undiluted

• 2 teaspoons dried minced onion

• Salt and pepper, to taste

In a 5-quart slow cooker, combine the first five ingredients. Cover and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or until heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 12 at about $1.35 per serving.


Ranch pork chops and potatoes

• 2 pounds red potatoes (about 6 medium), cut into 3/4-inch cubes

• 1/4 cup water

• 6 boneless pork loin chops (6 ounces each)

• 2 10 ¾-ounce cans condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted

• 1 cup milk

• 1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix

• Minced fresh parsley, optional

Place potatoes and water in a large microwave-safe dish. Microwave, covered, on high for 3 to 5 minutes or until potatoes are almost tender; drain. Transfer potatoes and pork chops to a 4- or 5-qt. slow cooker. In a bowl, mix condensed soup, milk and salad dressing mix; pour over pork chops. Cook, covered, on low 4 to 5 hours or until pork and potatoes are tender (a thermometer inserted in pork should read at least 145 degrees F.). If desired, sprinkle with parsley. Serves six at about $2 per serving.


Root beer pulled pork sandwiches 

• 1 boneless pork shoulder butt roast (3 to 4 pounds)

• 1 12-ounce can root beer or cola

• 1 18-ounce bottle barbecue sauce

• 12 Kaiser rolls, split

Place roast in a 4- or 5-quart slow cooker. Add root beer; cook, covered, on low until meat is tender, 8 to 10 hours. Remove roast; cool slightly. Discard cooking juices. Shred pork with two forks; return to slow cooker. Stir in barbecue sauce. Cook, covered, until heated through, about 30 minutes. Serve on rolls.

Freeze option: Freeze cooled meat mixture in freezer containers. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Heat through in a saucepan, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if necessary. Serves 12 at about $1.50 per serving.

Penny Hawkins is a former Times-News Cook of the Month. Contact her at twodollardinners@yahoo.com or visit her blog at twodollardinners.blogspot.com. Her “$2 Dinners Cook Book: Easy Delicious Meals for $2 or Less Per Serving” is available for $14.99 at www.tatepublishing.com.