Happy Halloween

Winter is fast approaching, and now is the time that little ghouls and goblins are getting ready for that parade through the streets, during the celebration of All Hallow's Eve. Traditionally, Halloween is believed to be the day when the dead spirits rise from their graves and come back to inhabit bodies of the living for the next year. To discourage the spirits, the living would dress up in ghoulish costumes and run around the town creating havoc to drive the spirits away.

The tradition of pumpkin carving is said to have come from the Irish folklore. A man named Jack is said to have trapped the devil up a tree by carving a cross into it. Jack then made a deal with the devil to never tempt him again, and he would let him go. When Jack died he was denied access to heaven and hell, but he was given an ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. It was placed in a carved out turnip to keep it burning longer. Thus, the Jack-o-lantern was born. When the Irish moved to America they discovered that pumpkins were more plentiful than turnips and easier to carve. This evolved into the tradition we have today. When the pumpkin-carving is done, save the seeds to make a Halloween favorite, toasted pumpkinseeds, or cockroach shells. You could have cookies baking in the oven while you are carving pumpkins or, for the younger children, have them help you make some of the cookies suggested below while the older kids do the carving.

Litterbox Cookies

There are two flavored cookies in this recipe: chocolate and gingerbread. The cookies are dense and not very sweet, but this is necessary for keeping their

shapes during baking. If you use white flour or sugar they may be tastier but they won't look like...umm...the "contents" of a litterbox!
Chocolate ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2/3 cup (1 and 1/3 stick) butter or margarine
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla or peppermint extract
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • Grape-Nuts cereal
Gingerbread ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2/3 cup(1 and 1/3 stick) butter or margarine
  • 1 egg
  • 2 and 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • spices--ginger, cinnamon, and cloves to taste (1/2 tsp each)
  • Grape-Nuts cereal
  • coconut
  • chocolate chips
  • butterscotch chips
  • peanut butter chips

Microwave the honey until it bubbles (about 1 minute). Add the butter and the molasses, if any. Add the egg, mix well, then mix in all of the other ingredients. Add mix-ins of your choice to some or all of the batter.

Chill 1 hour in the freezer or several hours in the fridge. Roll dough logs of random length and the diameter of cat "poops". Roll logs in grape-nuts and bake at 350 degrees till done (10 to 15 minutes).

Serve in a disposable cat litter box on a bed of grapenuts, with a cat litter scoop. I hear you get lovely effects by decorating the box and scoop with melted chocolate or pudding!

NOTE: This recipe worked especially well at my Halloween party where the table was already decorated with plastic flies!

  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Skeleton Bone Cookies

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspon baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups salted almonds

With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat egg whites and sugar with orange peel and baking powder until blended. Gradually add nuts and flour, beating until mixture is thoroughly mixed. Cover and chill until firm enough to handle, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Lightly flour your hands and pinch off a 3 tb size piece of dough. On a lightly floured board, use the palms of both hands to evenly roll an 8 inch long rope. Cut rope in half; roll each half out again to 8 inches. Fold 1 inch of each end back onto rope; pinch ends to make bone-end shapes. Repeat to shape all the dough. Place bones 1 inch apart on buttered and flour-dusted 12 x 15 inch baking sheets. Bake in a 325F oven until cookies are lightly browned on bottoms, about 20 minutes.

  • Preparation Time: 40 minutes, plus chilling time
Here are some useful tips for decorating cakes and cookies for Halloween:
  • To make Black Cake Frosting, add blue food coloring to chocolate frosting to get black frosting. You can also buy black food coloring from a craft store that carries a wide selection of Wilton Cake Decorating supplies.
  • I have never tried coloring confectioner’s sugar but do color regular sugar by

    mixing it half and half with flavored gelatin powder (Jell-O). I use this to sprinkle on the top of sugar cookies. The color seems very pale but intensifies as the cookie bakes. It also adds a different flavor than you would get with sugar alone. Depending on what you plan to do with the confectioners sugar, this might be a way to color it.

Another treat that is easy to make and good for the little ones to help with would be ghosts on broomsticks. The little people can place the eyes and the wooden sticks into the chocolate. They could also add some sugar sprinkles for decorations and to make the ghosts sparkle.

Ghosts on Broomsticks

Recipe by: Lucy Munroe
  • 1 lb. white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c tiny red cinnamon candies
  • 12 wooden sticks

Heat 2 inches of water to simmering, not boiling, in the bottom of a double boiler. Place the white chocolate chips in the smaller pot and set it over the pot of simmering water. Cook on low heat, stirring constantly until the chocolate is fully melted. Remove from the heat. Cover 2 cookie sheets with waxed paper. Arrange the wooden sticks on the waxed paper, 6 to a sheet. Spoon ghost-shaped blobs of chocolate onto the paper, partially covering each stick. Press 2 candies into each ghost for eyes. Freeze ghosts for 15 minutes, or until hard.

  • Yields: 12 ghosts
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Witches hats are good for little people because of the simplicity in making them. Place a small amount of frosting or chocolate on the all chocolate side of a fudge striped cookie, then place a Hershey’s chocolate kiss or hug on top of the frosting. Then you can pipe a bow around the base of the kiss.

Rice krispie treats can be molded into pumpkins or ghosts, with cookie cutters. Then pipe some icing along the edges to ad some color and some eyes to the shapes, or even a green stem on pumpkin shapes. Peanut shaped cookies can be used to make another quick and easy treat, by coating peanut shaped cookies with white chocolate and 2 chocolate chips for eyes to make ghosts.

Kids love Jell-O! Another fun treat to make is green slime, or bog Jell-O. Green slime can be made from gelatin and gummy worms or bugs, or even raisins. Coconut can be added for grass; peeled grapes or marshmallows for eyeballs. Bogs can be made by combining, a box of Jell-O with a box of pudding to make it opaque, then you can hide all sorts of goodies in the bog. Kids love anything that is gross and slimy ... well, usually!

One of my all-time favorite Halloween treats is the Kitty Litter Cake, guaranteed to gross out your guests when they see that this cake served in a new litter pan with a new kitty litter scoop. Dirt Cake is another favorite. It’s made from chocolate pudding, crushed Oreo’s, and gummy worms and bugs.

Kitty Litter Cake

  • 1 spice or German chocolate cake mix
  • 1 white cake mix
  • 1 large package vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 1 package white sandwich cookies
  • Green food coloring
  • 1 litter box (a NEW one!)
  • 12 small tootsie rolls
  • 1 plastic scoop (a NEW one!)

Prepare cake mixes and bake according to directions (any size pans). Prepare Pudding mix and chill until ready to assemble. Crumble white sandwich cookies in small batches in blender, they tend to stick, so scrape often. Set aside all but about 1/4 cup. To the 1/4-cup cookie crumbs, add a few drops green food coloring and mix using a fork or shake in a jar.

When cakes are cooled to room temperature, crumble into a large bowl. Toss with half the remaining white cookie crumbs and the chilled pudding. You probably won't need all of the pudding, mix with the cake and "feel" it, you don't want it soggy, just moist; gently combine. Put mixture into clean litter box.

Put three unwrapped Tootsie rolls in a microwave safe dish and heat until soft and pliable. Shape ends so they are no longer blunt, curving slightly. Repeat with 3 more Tootsie rolls and bury in mixture. Sprinkle the other half of cookie crumbs over top. Scatter the green cookie crumbs lightly over the top, this is supposed to look like the chlorophyll in kitty litter. Heat remaining Tootsie Rolls, three at a time in the microwave until almost melted. Scrape them on top of the cake and sprinkle with cookie crumbs. Place the box on a newspaper and sprinkle a few of the cookie crumbs around. Serve with a new plastic scoop.

  • Yields: 8-10 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Dirt Cake

  • 1 16-oz package Oreo cookies
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 8-oz block cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 4-serving-size boxes chocolate fudge pudding, instant-type
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 12-oz tub whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 flower pot (about 8" in diameter or use 2 6" pots)
  • 3 large gummy (or plastic) worms
  • plastic flowers
  • 1 garden trowel (or plastic shovel)

Crush the cookies until they resemble potting soil. Set aside. Cream butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth and fluffy; set aside. Combine the pudding mix and milk until well blended, then fold in the whipped topping. Gently fold the cream cheese and pudding mixtures together.

To put the cake together, layer flower pot with 1/3 of the cookie crumbs followed by 1/2 the pudding mixture, 1/3 of the crumbs, the rest of the pudding mixture and topping with the remaining cookie crumbs. Refrigerate 10 to 12 hours. About 1/2 hour before serving, remove from refrigerator and decorate with flowers and gummy worms. Serve by digging out portions with the trowel.

Variation: Dirt Cake would be great by itself, but someone on the net came up with a nifty variation. Unfortunately I don't know who, but I wish I had kept the

attribution on this one, cause it's a neat idea. What you do is take your basic dirt cake recipe and modify it in this way: Take another latex glove, fill it up with mashed potatoes and anchor it at the bottom of your flower pot. Fill the dirt cake around it up until just the finger tips are sticking out of the dirt. If you like, you can plunge a knife in the "hand" and add fake blood. I don't know if this one was ever made, so try at your own risk.

  • Yields: 10-12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes, plus chilling time

If you are hosting an adult party, a spider bread bowl for dips will get rave reviews. This one is made from frozen bread dough, or even bread machine dough. Once the bread has thawed, form one loaf into two circles one smaller than the other, the smaller one is for the head of the spider. Then, using another loaf, form eight legs by rolling them out into leg shapes and attaching them to the body of the spider. Let this rise until its doubled in size and then bake, as you would bread. If you prefer a shiny spider, brush with some egg whites before baking. Cutting the top off of the head forms the bowl for dip and body and scooping out the insides. Be careful not to get too close to the crust or it will become weak. Save the bread you scooped out to spread the dip on. Spinach dip would make a good filling for this, add a couple of drops of food coloring for a gooey inside surprise!

Spider Bread

  • 2 loaves of frozen bread, thawed
  • Egg whites

Divide one loaf into two balls, one twice the size of the other. Divide other loaf into 8 sections and roll out into legs then attach to the body. Coat with egg whites for a shiny surface. Bake as you would bread.

  • Yields: one spider loaf
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour, plus rising time

Spinach Dip

  • 10 oz frozen spinach, blotted dry
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup mayo
  • ½ cup chopped green onions
  • 1 tsp. parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • ½ tsp. seasoned salt

Chop spinach into little pieces and blot dry. Cream other ingredients together in a large bowl. Once creamy, then add spinach and mix well. For a Halloween treat, add a few drops of blue red or green food coloring. Spoon into bread and refrigerate until party time.

  • Yields: about 4 cups
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Kids love making tootsie pop ghosts for party favors, or you can even hang them on a giant spider web, and let each child choose his/her treat. You can make a party game out of it and have each child decorate his/her ghost with markers. If you want to hang them outside, I recommend using pieces of white plastic (like cutouts from a white garbage bag). Children can also help make tootsie roll spiders. Take a tootsie roll, wrap in black paper, and then twist pipe cleaner legs around the body. You can hang these on the spider web as well as the ghosts.

Decorating your yard could be a family project. You can make a ghost dance, by simply placing wooden dowels in the yard and then use, either white trash bags, or old sheets to form the ghosts. Wad up some newspaper in a ball shape and tie to form the head then place over the dowels and secure. Then tape or tie two of the pointed ends, one on each side to another ghost to form a ring, either around a tree or another ghost in the center.

You can also use this method to string ghosts from tree limbs. You can make a giant spider in a similar manner, using black trash bags and leaves or wadded up newspaper. Fill two trash bags one for the body and a smaller one for the head and attach it to the larger back with duct tape or string. Roll up 8 trash bags for legs and attach them to the body forming your spider. You can anchor them to the ground using dowels and then rake up a pile of leaves around the spider to look like it’s made a nest. Get a rope spider web and place in a corner behind it and hang rubber flies from it.

A witch crashed into a tree could be a funny sight for people passing by your house. All you need for this is a pair of sweat pants, a long sleeve shirt, a piece of fabric for a cape, a witch's hat, an old wig or some string for hair, and a couple dowel rods or 2x4’s -- although you may also want some old gloves, socks and shoes. Place the dowel rods or 2x4’s into the legs of the pants and then nail them to a tree or post. Make sure to leave about 6 inches of the board sticking out to form hips and give your legs a little bit of form. Nail the hair to the tree and then the hat over it, then stuff the pants and shirt with some news paper to form a legs, arms and a torso. Nail the shirt to the tree, using dowel rods to form the arms. Tie the cape to the neck of the shirt and cover with some of the hair. Place some old gloves over the end of the dowel rods for the arms and stuff, then tie closed at the wrist to keep them in place. Place some old shoes or boots and socks over the pants to form feet. A monster or scarecrow can be formed in a similar manner.

Everyone can enjoy making some Styrofoam tombstones and placing them around the yard. You can make these from those giant sheets of Styrofoam from a hardware store. Draw tombstone shapes on your foam -- do the larger sizes first -- and then have adults cut them out with a sharp knife. Once you have your larger tombstones cut out, you can form smaller “pet” headstones to make your very own pet cemetery.

You can find all sorts of fun and inventive Halloween treats, and crafts if you do a search on the Internet. Sit down with your kids and have a fun time, some websites even have games kids can play. Research the history of trick-or-treating, and how Halloween started. But most of all, remember Halloween can be fun for everyone! But, before you start all of these neat projects, you'll want a good meal. Might I suggest this one?

Cat Litter Casserole

This one's compliments of my good friend Elaine.
To make dumps:
  • 1 cup Bisquick
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 lb. ground beef, turkey or pork sausage
To make litter:
  • 2 cups long grain rice
  • 3-3/4 cups water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. butter or margarine
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Rectangular baking pan
  • Deep saucepan with lid
  • Fork
  • Paper towels
  • Large spoon
  • New stainless steel "pooper scooper"

With an adult's help, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using clean hands, mix together the dump ingredients in a large bowl. Mold pieces of this mixture into various size/shape "dumps".

Place so they don't touch each other in an ungreased baking pan. Use two if they don't all fit. With an adult's help, bake the dumps for about 20 minutes or until they are all brown, firm and slightly rusty-colored.

While the meat cooks, put all four litter ingredients into a large saucepan. Then with an adult's help, heat on high until the water comes to a boil. Stir, turn heat to low and cover the pan. Simmer without lifting the cover for fourteen minutes.

With an adult's help, remove the saucepan from the stove and carefully (to avoid having your face melted away by the steam), lift off the cover. Break apart, or "fluff" the rice with a fork and set pan aside.

When "dumps" are done, carefully transfer them onto paper towels to drain.

Spoon the rice and "dumps" into the now empty baking pan, leaving some "dumps" partially uncovered, the way Kitty does when he/she is in a hurry! Use pooper-scooper to serve.

  • Yields: 8-10 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Happy Halloween!