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WEB OF INTRIGUE WEAVE AN ORB OF SPOOKY, SPIRITED HALLOWEEN PARTY SNACKS.

Byline: Natalie Haughton Food Editor

Gather ghosts, goblins, family, friends and the kids in costumes for a spooktacular Halloween party this weekend. Then scare up some fun and bewitching foods to celebrate in style.

To get everyone in a good mood, present a simple buffet spread of tempting offerings -- or let guests get into the act and help cook part of the meal.

Set up a make-your-own pizza bar so partygoers can top prepared pizza dough rounds or store-

bought Boboli rounds with a selection of favorite toppings.

If you want to keep things simpler, offer a chili or stew bar and set out lots of toppings like chopped tomatoes, green onions, olives and sour cream, along with cheese slice cutouts in Halloween themes. Or cut out and bake an assortment of Halloween shapes in pie or puff pastry dough.

Another fun idea that easily goes together is a spider web appetizer. Once you buy the black bean salsa and prepared guacamole, it's just a matter of assembly. Make the web on top by dragging a knife through piped-on sour cream circles. Shredded lettuce and cheese along with chopped tomatoes around the edges of the platter complete the look. Serve with tortilla chips.

Cookie monsters

Let the kids make cookies at the party. Prepare the cookie dough a day in advance and keep refrigerated until an hour before the guests arrive. Set out some rolling pins, a bowl of flour and an array of Halloween-shaped cookie cutters. After making favorite designs, bake the cookies.

To simplify the tasks, you might opt for baking the Halloween cookies a day or two in advance, if desired. Or you can bake and freeze them undecorated.

With ready-to-decorate cookies at hand, let everyone get into the act. Provide premade orange, black (or chocolate) and white icings, bowls of assorted Halloween-colored candies and Halloween-themed sprinkles and colored sugars. Participants can let their imaginations go wild.

Vote for ``scariest,'' ``fanciest'' and ``most creative.''

Provide hot apple cider to keep the decorating teams fueled. Using a disposable or digital camera, take photos of the cookies with the creator before they are devoured.

Anything that looks like a cheerful jack-o'-lantern is always fun -- and hollowed-out oranges with cutout faces on one side filled with chocolate ice cream or yogurt, then frozen -- are no exception. Make the stems on top with green gumdrops.

A giant cookie designed to simulate a pumpkin is another quick-fix sweet. Bake prepared cookie dough in a large round shape on a cookie sheet, then frost with orange-colored icing and pipe on designs to simulate a pumpkin face with chocolate icing -- or create it out of assorted candies. < You can also scare up Cheddar-cheese balls, shaped in 2- to 3-inch rounds. Frost with colored cream cheese mixed with whipping cream or milk for easy spreading -- and garnish with cut-up black olives and red pepper pieces to make funny faces.

Pop secret

Treat guests to bewitching marshmallow pops. They make a colorful, attractive centerpiece for a sweets table or a goblin' good gift for the host of your neighborhood costume party. Insert lollipop sticks into the marshmallows first, then dip in melted coating chocolate and decorate with a sprinkling of colored sugars and a cute icing decoration before the coating sets.

If you don't have a spare witch's cauldron handy, fill a bucket or vase with small Halloween candies and stand the pops upright to display them.

Another route to take for a neighborhood party is to organize teams. One can be responsible for the food, another for the decorations and yet another for activities. Involve the kids -- and let them make the decorations.

For entrees, whip up open-face barbecued beef or chicken sandwiches, topping with a slice of cheese cut into a ghost shape with a cookie cutter.

On Halloween morning, consider making the kids cute pancakes using metal Halloween cookie cutters (not plastic, as they'll melt) as baking molds on a griddle. Once you flip the pancakes, they'll hold their shape. Or make fun Halloween-shaped pancakes and simply use one atop a stack of regular round pancakes.

Whatever you decide, there's no trick to making Halloween treats.

Natalie Haughton, (818) 713-3692

natalie.haughton@dailynews.com

HALLOWEEN MOLASSES CUTOUTS

COOKIE DOUGH:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1 egg

1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

FROSTING:

4 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 to 4 tablespoons milk

Decorator sugars

To make Cookie Dough, combine butter, sugar, molasses, egg and vinegar in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Reduce speed to low. Add all remaining cookie dough ingredients; beat, scraping bowl often, until well mixed.

Divide dough into thirds; wrap in plastic food wrap. Refrigerate until firm (2 hours or overnight).

To bake cookies, roll out dough, one-third at a time (keeping remaining dough refrigerated), on surface covered with an equal mixture of flour and sugar, to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut with assorted 2- to 3-inch Halloween cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven 8 to 10 minutes, or until no indentation remains when touched. Let stand 1 minute. Cool completely.

To make Frosting, in a small bowl, combine all frosting ingredients except milk and decorator sugars. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often and gradually adding enough milk for desired spreading consistency. Decorate cooled cookies with frosting and decorator sugars as desired.

Makes 4 dozen cookies

FROSTED JACK-O'-LANTERNS

(on the cover)

Serve ice cream in these special Halloween orange jack-o'-lanterns.

4 large oranges

2 to 3 cups chocolate ice cream

4 green gumdrops

Cut slice off top of each orange; reserve slices. Cut around top edge of each orange and membrane, keeping shell intact. Remove orange sections (save and use for juice).

Cut out eyes, nose and mouth from one side of each orange shell, starting 1/4-inch below top cut edge. Fill each orange shell with chocolate ice cream, mounding slightly. Replace tops of oranges. Use green gumdrop for stems. Freeze until serving time (at least 2 hours).

Makes 4 servings

TIP: Cut off thin slice of peel from bottom of oranges, if necessary, so oranges will sit flat.

SCARY GHOST COOKIES

10 graham crackers

1 (11.4-ounce) bag Fun Size Twix caramel cookie bars

1 (9.5-ounce) bag M&M's Minis milk chocolate candies Halloween Mini Packs

3/4 cup peanut butter

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 (16-ounce) container vanilla frosting

1 cup ground chocolate cookie wafers (approximately 20 thin cookies)

In food processor or blender, pulse graham crackers and Twix until fine. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Add peanut butter and powdered sugar to bowl and blend. Divide mixture into 16 parts. Shape each into a ghost shape. If too sticky, add additional powdered sugar as necessary. Place ghosts on waxed paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate 30 minutes. Transfer frosting to a glass bowl and heat in a microwave oven on high power about 10 to 20 seconds, until thinned and looking slightly like whipped cream. Place ghosts on wire rack over sheet pan lined with waxed paper. Spoon heated frosting over ghosts until completely coated. If unused frosting begins firming up, reheat in microwave 5 to 10 seconds.

Place 2 black M&M's on each ghost for eyes. Sprinkle ground chocolate cookies on serving plate like ``dirt.'' Nestle ghosts in ``dirt.''

Makes 16 ghost treats

SPIDER WEB DIP

1 (16-ounce) jar black bean dip (1 3/4 cups)

1 (12-ounce) container guacamole

1/4 cup sour cream

1 cup shredded lettuce

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup chopped tomato

Tortilla chips

Spread bean dip onto center of large platter, leaving 1 to 2 inches around edge of platter. Carefully spread guacamole over bean dip. Spoon sour cream into a resealable plastic food bag. Snip off corner. Pipe sour cream in 4 concentric circles onto guacamole. Drag a toothpick or knife through sour cream from center outward to make spider web design. Layer lettuce, cheese and tomatoes on edge of platter. Serve with tortilla chips.

Makes 15 servings

SOUTHWESTERN-STYLE PORK STEW

Top bowls of hot stew with a bat- or other-shaped Halloween pastry cutout.

STEW:

2 tablespoons butter

1 1/4 pounds lean pork stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 medium onion, sliced

2 cups baby-cut carrots

1 cup frozen whole kernel corn

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with chile peppers, undrained

PASTRY:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1/3 cup butter

3 tablespoons cold water

Chili powder, if desired

To make Stew, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch skillet until sizzling; add pork and onion. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned (4 to 5 minutes). Place in a slow cooker.

Add carrots and corn to slow cooker. Sprinkle chili powder, cumin and garlic powder over all ingredients in cooker. Add diced tomatoes; mix well. Cover. Cook on the low heat setting 7 to 9 hours, or on high heat setting 3 to 4 hours or until pork is fork tender.

Meanwhile, make Pastry. Combine flour and cheese in a large bowl; cut in 1/3 cup butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water with a fork just until flour is moistened. Shape into ball; flatten slightly.

Roll out ball of dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle. Cut out shapes using 4- to 5-inch bat (or other shapes) cookie cutter. Sprinkle with chili powder, if desired. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 450-degree oven 5 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned.

To serve, spoon stew into individual serving bowls; top with pastry bat.

Makes 6 (1-cup) servings

WACKY WEB CUPS

4 cups prepared vanilla pudding

Orange food coloring (OR mix red and yellow food coloring to desired hue)

1 (11.4-ounce) bag Fun Size Twix caramel cookie bars OR 1 (11.18-ounce) Fun Size bag Snickers bars

1 (10.5-ounce) bag Dove milk chocolate miniatures

1 (14-ounce) bag M&M's milk chocolate candies for Halloween

Orange food coloring (OR mix red and yellow food coloring to desired hue)

4 cups prepared vanilla pudding

6 (10-ounce) clear plastic goblets or cups

Brightly tint pudding with orange food coloring. Set aside. Unwrap and chop Twix or Snickers bars. Beginning with Twix or Snickers, alternate layers of pudding and candy in plastic goblets. Unwrap 12 Dove chocolates and put in a resealable plastic bag. Microwave about 1 minute, until soft. Snip small hole in one lower corner of bag. Then, squeeze chocolate on top of pudding in each glass to make a spider web shape design. To simulate spiders: Pipe short line of chocolate onto each goblet and use to attach 1 brown M&M peanut butter chocolate candy at each end. Pipe ``legs'' onto M&M's.

Makes 6 cups

CAPTION(S):

6 photos

Photo:

(1 -- cover -- color) Ghoulish-ious

No trick to making fun Halloween treats

(2 -- color) HALLOWEEN MOLASSES CUTOUTS

(3 -- 4 -- color) TOP, SOUTHWESTERN STYLE PORK STEW; ABOVE, SPIDER WEB DIP

(5 -- color) WACKY WEB CUPS

(6 -- color) SCARY GHOST COOKIES
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Oct 24, 2006
Words:1901
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