Haunted hostess: Get into the spirit

October 24, 2012 10:30:49 AM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


It's that time of year again, when pumpkins, ghosties and bumps in the night provide that delicious tingle that makes Halloween a fun time to indulge. For kids, it's all about candy, costumes and spooky TV shows. For adults, parties with a more mature theme are entertaining. Today we share a few recipes and decor ideas that can add a light-hearted chill to your All Hallow's Eve.



A few edible ideas



Who said Halloween has to be all about sugar? Jack-o-lantern fruit salads will require a little bit of carving and scooping, but a few oranges filled with your favorite fruits and topped with mint leaves for stems add a nice balance and bring a smile to youngsters and adults alike.


When it comes to dinner, Martha Stewart suggests using a pastry bag and everyday mashed potatoes to add character to each guest's plate. Just pipe mashed potatoes into ghosts, adding sesame seeds for eyes. Use sweet potatoes and the bag to make pumpkins, adding a pecan half or quarter for the stem and bits of cilantro for leaves.


For an adult party, you may want to spice up deviled eggs by adding a dash of cayenne and a little hot sauce to your favorite stuffed egg recipe. Then add some facial features -- triangles of red bell pepper and dark green scallions for horns and a goatee and snipped chives for a skinny mustache -- to create a bedeviling appetizer.


Reinterpreting pumpkins is a favorite annual pastime for professional and occasional cooks alike. Two recipes suited to Halloween or a harvest-themed celebration are the savory pumpkin-shaped cheese ball and sweet mini spiced pumpkin bites in today's pages.



Dress it up


If you're hosting a soirée for grown-ups who have passed the punch-in-a-plastic-cauldron stage, why not conjure up a more sophisticated evening full of intrigue and mystery? Better Homes and Gardens recommends creating atmosphere with carnival masks and crescent moons. Go elegant with a black, white and silver (or black-and-bling) scheme. You might even go all Edgar Allen Poe, with a raven-themed gathering complete with a co-host dressed as Poe.


Decor ideas are as thick as witches on the Internet, and many are low-cost.


Here's one from Martha Stewart: Salvage old brass candlesticks and trays from thrift stores (or the scary nether regions of your cabinets) and coat them with glossy black spray paint, chalkboard paint or matte black primer for your buffet.


For a table centerpiece, a cynlindral glass vase filled with bare branches from your back yard, spray painted black and silver, does the job. Add clear glass craft "beads" for an elegant shimmer. For a more casual affair, spray paint branches black and orange and fill the vase with candy corn or autumn leaves. Or use Mason jars filled with an orange pillar candle, with an inch or so of candy corn or orange and black jelly beans in the bottom.



Kids' play


If little pirates and princesses are headed to your house for a fall party and you've already used up all your best ideas for keeping them busy, here are a couple of activities that may suit, depending on the ages of your guests.


Anyone who has ever played Pin the Tail on the Donkey will catch on quickly to Pin the Face on the Pumpkin. Get yourself a large pumpkin, then cut out several sets of jack-o-lantern eyes, noses and mouths from black construction paper. Stick a reusable adhesive, such as BluTack, on the back of each cutout. Blindfolded players will start from about 4-feet away and take their turn at adhering a face on the pumpkin. After each turn, take a picture of the player with his or her finished pumpkin face as a party souvenir.


If you're outdoors, kids will get a kick out of Doughnuts on a String. Tie a length of rope between two trees and tie doughnuts, with pieces of ribbon, to the rope, to hang slightly above mouth level. Then, it's a race to see who can eat their entire doughnut -- no hands allowed -- without letting it fall off the ribbon.


With Oct. 31 falling on a Wednesday this year, don't be surprised to see some partying going on this weekend, in advance of trick-or-treat night. And whether you go all out as a haunted hostess, or spend Halloween clutching the arm of your chair while watching scary movies, enjoy the autumnal celebration that kicks off the holiday season.





Makes 1 dozen cakes


Cook time: 30 minutes


Total time 1 hour, 15 minutes



For mini pumpkins:


1 cup all-purpose flour


1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice


1/2 teaspoon baking powder


1/4 teaspoon baking soda


1/4 teaspoon salt


1/3 cup unsalted butter


1/2 cup granulated sugar


1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1/2 cup sour cream



For the glaze:


1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar


2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


2 tablespoons water


Orange food coloring


12 pieces (3 inches each) brown or b lack licorice twists, twisted



  • Make the mini pumpkins: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat a 12-cup mini Bundt cake pan with vegetable cooking spray. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt.


  • In a large bowl, using a hand held mixer, beat the butter with the granulated sugar at medium speed until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and sour cream in two alternating batches. Spoon the batter into the prepared Bundt cups.


  • Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes, until the cakes are risen. Let cool slightly, then invert onto a rack to cool completely.


  • Make the glaze: In a bowl, whisk the sugar, butter and water. Stir in the food coloring until it's a pumpkin shade. Pour the glaze over the pumpkins, spreading it gently to cover them completely; let dry. Stick a licorice piece on top of each cake to make a stem.


    (Source: delish.com)





    Makes 2 1/2 cups



    1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened


    1 carton (8 ounces) spreadable chive and onion cream cheese


    2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese


    2 teaspoons paprika


    1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper


    1 celery rib or broccoli stalk


    Sliced apples and assorted crackers



  • In a small bowl, beat cream cheeses until smooth. Stir in the cheddar cheese, paprika and cayenne. Shape into a ball; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for four hours or until firm.


  • With a knife, add vertical lines to the cheese ball to resemble a pumpkin; insert a celery rib or broccoli stalk for the stem. Serve with apples and crackers.


    (Source: tasteofhome.com)






    Assorted fruit, such as melon, strawberries, apples, kiwi


    Oranges, 1 per person


    Mint leaves



  • Chop the assorted fruits and mix them in a large bowl. You will need about 1/2 cup per orange.


  • To carve a pumpkin cup, slice off the top of the orange. Using a knife to loosen the edges, scoop out the inside of the orange with a spoon. Toss the juice in with the fruit.


  • Carve a small jack-o-lantern face in each orange.


  • Fill each orange with fruit and replace its top, if desired.


  • As a finishing touch, garnish each top with mint leaves for stems.


    (Source: momswhothink.com)


    Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.