October 27, 2010 12:33:00 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
No bones about it, for fun-minded cooks, Halloween is a great time to set the imagination free. Today''s food pages are designed to fuel ideas and help add some fiendish fun to your weekend, especially if you have little pirates and princesses to entertain. From "hair raising" strawberries to pizza mummies, these so-easy-to-do recipes can help add bite to your party.
Rebecca Jones is one of those cooks who can''t resist a holiday.
"I love fall, and I love to make cookies," says the Columbus woman who seems happiest when conjuring up something good to eat for friends and neighbors, church gatherings, the farmers'' market or her four grandchildren.
Two of her seasonal favorites are multi-colored autumn leaves and Peep treats on a stick.
Using 6- and 8-inch candy sticks found at stores like Hobby Lobby or Wal-Mart, Rebecca skewers marshmallows dipped in melted almond bark and dusted with sprinkles, and tops them with jack-o-lantern and ghost-shaped Peeps. Secured in a cellophane candy bag, these are ready to go, for parties or trick-or-treaters.
For her colorful leaf cookies, Rebecca uses food coloring to tint separate batches of dough orange, red and yellow; she leaves one batch its natural color. She adds cocoa powder to a fifth quantity, which adds chocolate flavor and a rich, umber hue.
"I lightly press the colored batches together and then roll them out flat, then just start cutting out the leaf shapes," states the baker who has worked at Southland Oil for 27 years. If desired, chocolate piping can be used for accents along the "stem" and "vein" lines of each leaf.
Although she''s collected more than 100 cookie cutters of every imaginable shape and theme, Rebecca knows man (and children) do not live by cookies alone. She''s known for her tea cakes, cheese straws, layer cakes and other specialties, like puff pastries stuffed with crabmeat, too.
"We all cook," she says of her family. Her adult son is the proud recipient of a grilling award; her daughter-in-law makes items for a restaurant in Tupelo and compiled a family cookbook. Her two daughters are savvy, too, specializing in decorating cakes and cupcakes and party planning. One is also an avid canner and makes jellies and relishes.
The two youngest grandchildren, ages 5 and 8, live in Tupelo, but enjoy helping out at every opportunity. "Oh, they love to make tea cakes, and they help with sprinkles," smiles Rebecca, who will soon be busy making goodies for the Hitching Lot Holiday Market in Columbus Nov. 20.
Rebecca favors the "Simple 1-2-3 Favorite Brand Name Cookies and Treats" cookbook (available at amazon.com), where she found the autumn leaves cookie recipe she uses. But the Internet is frightfully full of Halloween and fall-themed ideas.
One of our favorites is the strawberry ghost at www.tasteofhome.com. Juicy red berries dipped in white chocolate, with a lick of almond flavor, will surely put smiles on any goblin''s face. And mummies are all the rage for two other easy snacks, simple enough for kids to help with. A bit more involved is the spiderweb dip, with bat-shaped chips. The recipes are included.
Like Rebecca, most cooks love sharing a good idea. And there''s no better time than now, with the holiday season kicking off with Halloween. When summoning up your own spirited plans for this weekend, have fun in the kitchen. And remember to make plenty; the crowd is sure to scream for more.
30 fresh strawberries
8 ounces white baking chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon shortening
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
· Wash strawberries and gently pat with paper towels until completely dry. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt white chocolate and shortening at 50 percent power; stir until smooth. Stir in extract.
· Dip strawberries in chocolate mixture; place on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet, allowing excess chocolate to form the ghosts'' tails. Immediately press chocolate chips into coating for eyes. Freeze for five minutes.
· In a microwave-safe bowl, melt remaining chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Dip a toothpick into melted chocolate and draw a mouth on each face.
(Source: Nancy Mueller, Bloomington, Minn., www.tasteofhome.com)
Red or green pepper
Cheese sticks or slices
· Heat the oven to 350 degrees. For each mummy, spread a tablespoon of pizza sauce onto half of an English muffin (toast it first, if you like).
· Set olive slices in place for eyes, and add round slices of green onion or bits of red or green pepper for pupils.
· Lay strips of cheese (we used a pulled-apart cheese stick) across the muffin for the mummy''s wrappings.
· Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the muffin is toasty.
HOT DOG MUMMIES
One 11-ounce can of refrigerator breadsticks
One 10- or 12-pack of hot dogs
· For each mummy, separate one breadstick from the roll and use kitchen shears or a knife to slice it in half lengthwise to create two thinner strips.
· Wrap one strip at a time snugly around the hot dog. Depending on the size of the hot dog, you may not need all of both strips. Leave about 1/2 inch of hot dog exposed for the face area and continue wrapping the top of the hot dog.
· Bake the mummies on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the breadstick wrapping is golden brown.
· Remove the mummies from the oven and cool them for five minutes. Add yellow mustard eyes just before serving.
SPIDERWEB DIP WITH BAT TORTILLA CHIPS
Makes 12 servings
Prep/total time: 30 minutes
20 chipotle chili and pepper tortillas or flour tortillas (8 inches)
3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon paprika
3/8 teaspoon pepper
For the dip:
One package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup salsa
1/2 cup prepared guacamole
1 to 2 tablespoons sour cream
· Cut tortillas into bat shapes with a 3-3/4-inch cookie cutter. Place tortillas on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Spritz tortillas with cooking spray. Combine the garlic salt, coriander, paprika and pepper; sprinkle over tortillas.
· Bake at 350 degrees for five to eight minutes, or until edges just begin to brown.
· In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and salsa. Spread into a 9-in. pie plate. Carefully spread guacamole to within 1 inch of edges.
· Place sour cream in a small resealable plastic bag; cut a small hole in a corner of bag. Pipe thin concentric circles an inch apart over guacamole. Beginning with the center circle, gently pull a knife through circles toward center edge. Wipe knife clean. Repeat to complete spiderweb pattern. Serve with tortilla bats. (Yield: about 1-1/2 cups dip and about seven dozen chips.)
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.