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ALL TRICKED OUT HALLOWEEN FUN IS EASY WITH THESE FESTIVE TREATS.

Byline: Natalie Haughton Food Editor

Host a spooky, fun, frightful Halloween for ghosts and goblins of all ages. Whip up just a few goodies to serve at a small, informal gathering of children or friends - or have a big party bash.

There are plenty of party options for delicious concoctions - ranging from a festively decorated jack-o'-lantern cake, cupcakes with goofy faces, Halloween-theme cut-out cookies, mini fluted pumpkin cakes, a mint chip ice cream monster made with chocolate snack cakes and candy, and much more. You can make the edible decorations as cute or scary as desired.

If you want to serve something more substantial, the editors of ``126 Halloween Tricks & Treats'' (Better Homes and Gardens Creative Collection Publications; $5.95) suggest corralling a bunch of friends for a Western gathering with a chuck wagon spread for nibbling. Offer mugs of chili, grilled burgers, confetti coleslaw, pumpkin bars and crispy rice cereal treats shaped into 2-inch balls (insert lollipop sticks) with faces made with M&M's (then wrapped in plastic wrap and tied with ribbons).

Serve drinks in a pumpkin (turned on its side with a third of the side cut off and seeds scraped out to allow allow room for ice cubes and bottled or canned drinks). Of course you'll want to decorate with carved pumpkins, some topped with Western hats, and have guests come in cowboy and cowgirl costumes.

``Halloween is one of the most fun times to put together a party because it lends itself to so much creativity - in both the food and decorating,'' says Karman Hotchkiss, executive editor of Creative Collection Publications produced by Meredith Corp.

You can make the costumes, activities, food and decorations goofy, scary or gruesome. ``I think that's what appeals to people - there are so many ways to express themselves.''

Her favorite ideas are what she refers to as treats incognito. These are everyday snacks decorated to use as goofy Halloween treats (an eyeball tart topped with a kiwi slice and then a cherry and finished off with a pull 'n' peel black lace candy for eyelashes; or angry eyebrows on cookies made by icing thin pretzel sticks, then rolling them in black-tinted coconut).

Let your imagination go wild. It's your chance to look at food in a different way (olives can be eyeballs; thin licorice pieces can be spider legs). Have gummy worm candy crawl out of the mouth of a pumpkin cake, or the top of frosted brownies or a square cake frosted with orange or green icing.

Don't overlook the array of Halloween-theme pans, baking items, frostings, sprinkles, candy and even pumpkin-shaped baking pieces available at places like Target, Wal-Mart, Cost Plus and cake decorating supply stores.

Americans spend some $2 billion dollars annually on Halloween decorations, making it second only to Christmas in terms of holiday decoration sales, notes Lori Hellander, author of ``Halloween Parties: How to Throw Spook-tacular Soirees & Frighteningly Festive Entertainments'' (Stewart, Tabori & Chang; $14.95).

So get going and wow your favorite little ghosts, goblins and witches.

Natalie Haughton, (818) 713-3692

natalie.haughton(at)dailynews.com

JACK-O'-LANTERN CAKE

(18.25-ounce) packages devil's food OR white cake mix (SuperMoist)

Water, vegetable oil, eggs OR egg whites

2 (16-ounce) containers rich and creamy vanilla ready-to-spread frosting

Yellow and red food coloring

1 green flat-bottom ice cream cone

Chewy fruit snack roll ups (any flavor)

Grease and flour a 2-quart round casserole or 2 1/2-quart ovenproof bowl. Prepare 1 package of cake mix as directed on package, using water, oil, eggs or egg whites. Pour batter into casserole.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven, 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 25 minutes for devil's food cake and about 1 hour 15 minutes for white cake or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes. Remove cake from casserole; place rounded side up on wire rack. Cool completely. Repeat with remaining package of cake mix.

Empty frosting into medium bowl; tint with 9 drops yellow and 6 drops red food coloring to make orange frosting. Place 1 cake, rounded side down, on plate. Spread with 2/3 cup orange frosting almost to edge. Place second cake, rounded side up, on frosted cake to make round shape. Frost with remaining orange frosting. Trim ice cream cone to desired height for stem; place upside down on top of cake. Cut out eyes, nose, mouth, vines and leaves from fruit snack rolls. Place on frosted cake to form face. Makes 1 cake.

MINT CHIP MONSTER

1 flat, round chocolate-covered cream-filled snack cake (use Hostess Ding Dongs snack cakes OR other little cakes)

1 small scoop mint chocolate chip ice cream

1 teaspoon marshmallow cream OR 2 miniature marshmallows

2 small candy-covered chocolate candies (M&Ms)

1 tablespoon light chocolate syrup in squirt bottle

Cut cream-filled cake in half crosswise. Place bottom half on desert plate. Center scoop of ice cream on cake half; top with second cake half, chocolate-frosting side up.

For eyes, spoon two small globs of marshmallow cream on top of cake; center candies in middle of cream. For legs, squirt chocolate sauce onto plate in squiggly lines from base of cake. Serve immediately. Makes 1 to 2 servings.

MINI-FLUTED PUMPKIN CAKES

1 (18.25-ounce) package yellow cake mix

Assorted colors (chocolate, orange, white) powdered sugar OR other frostings (homemade or store-bought)

Melted semisweet OR white chocolate for drizzling on top of frosted cakes

Assorted candies as desired

Prepare cake mix according to package directions. If desired, tint batter with orange food coloring. Fill each of 6 lightly greased mini-fluted pans with about 3/4 cup batter.

Bake in preheated 375-degree oven 20 to 25 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on cooling rack 10 minutes, then carefully unmold cakes and cool completely on rack.

Decorate as desired with assorted colored frostings, drizzles and candies. To make pumpkin stems, unwrap one Tootsie Roll candy chew; microwave on high power 5 seconds or just until softened. Twist and form into a stem; place one in center of cake. Repeat for remaining cakes. Makes 6 mini (individual) cakes.

PUMPKIN CUT-OUT COOKIES

Flour

2 (18-ounce) packages refrigerated sugar cookie dough (bar OR roll), well chilled

10 drops yellow liquid food coloring

3 drops red liquid food coloring

1 (16-ounce) container prepared cream cheese frosting

1 (10-ounce) package Halloween baking pieces and semisweet chocolate morsels (Nestle Toll House) OR candies for decoration

Fruit leather for leaves and vines (optional)

Sprinkle flour onto work surface. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness, using additional flour as needed to prevent sticking. Cut into pumpkins shapes with 2 1/2- to 3-inch cookie pumpkin cutter. Transfer cookies to ungreased baking sheets with spatula, placing about 2 inches apart.

Bake in preheated 325-degree oven 12 to 15 minutes or until light brown around edges (watch carefully). Cool on baking sheets 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Stir food colorings into frosting. Add additional drops to achieve desired orange color. Frost tops of cookies. Sprinkle with baking pieces and morsel or make faces with candies. If desired, cut fruit leather into leaves and vines; arrange on top of cookies. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

TOO GHOUL

Here are more ideas, many relying on convenience foods, for a Halloween bash or just for the family.

--Make hot chocolate in a mug and stand a white Peeps marshmallow ghost in it for a fun presentation.

--Make chocolate Halloween witches by dipping a pointed sugar cookie cone in melted semisweet chocolate. Quickly turn upside down (so pointed side is up) and place on a chocolate doughnut with sprinkles. Press assorted candies into the base of the cone. Serve ``as is'' or on orange-tinted coconut. Or, place the cone on top of a rounded ball of orange sherbet and serve immediately.

--Make one giant cheese ball in the shape of a pumpkin and top with a piece of green pepper for the stem. Design a jack-o'-lantern face using black and green olives, red and green pepper strips and other edibles you can scare up. You can turn out several smaller pumpkin-shape cheese balls, if desired. To make the cheese balls extra festive, frost with softened cream cheese whipped with a little whipping cream and tinted orange before adding the faces.

--Make quick pizzas with Boboli, prepared dough or English muffin halves. Top with pizza or tomato sauce and shredded cheese and make appealing faces with olives, green bell peppers, corn and such. Pop into the oven for a quick bake - and serve.

--For spider snacks, poke two thin pretzel sticks or skinny black licorice ropes on each side of a regular-size marshmallow. Poke two holes on top of marshmallow near one edge (with pretzel) and place a piece of candy (your choice) in each hole to make eyes.

--Make a pumpkin-face open cheese sandwich by cutting out a pumpkin shape from a cheese slice, placing on top of bread and decorating with olives, corn kernels, red pepper and green pepper for eyes, nose and mouth. Or cut bread slices into assorted shapes (a pumpkin, a ghost, etc.) with Halloween-theme cookie cutters, top with pimento-cheese spread and garnish with assorted faces - made from ripe olives, corn, roasted red pepper, etc.

--For an easy sweet, make a stylized ``pumpkin pizza'' by spreading out and baking sugar or chocolate chip or other cookie dough in a 12-ounce pizza pan, then decorating with orange frosting (canned or homemade) and a candy face.

Another option: Instead of making a pumpkin, top the baked round with white frosting and create a spider web by drizzling four or five circles of melted semisweet chocolate on top, then immediately drawing (with the tip of a knife or a wooden toothpick) eight to 10 lines from the center to edges at regular intervals to form a web. Garnish with edible spiders made from small cookies or regular marshmallows, candies and thin black licorice strips.

CAPTION(S):

5 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- cover -- color) Gobblin' up treats

No trick to these easy Halloween goodies

(2 -- color) MINT CHIP MONSTER

(3 -- color) Have some kooky fun decorating cupcakes as desired.

(4 -- color) MINI-FLUTED PUMPKIN CAKES

(5 -- color) PUMPKIN CUT-OUT COOKIES

Box:

TOO GHOUL (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Oct 27, 2004
Words:1704
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