Last week I wandered around the Internet and found all kinds of Halloween recipes and decorating ideas to help you throw the best party ever. I threw in some of my own favorites that have made my home festive for years. There are mischievous table and house embellishments, frightful appetizers, a spooky soup and a selection of ghostly desserts guaranteed to set a wicked buffet full of spirit and fun!
Without further ado, I give you Halloween 2011 …
Halloween and Harvest Decorating Ideas
Buy two very large pumpkins. Cut a small slice off bottoms if needed so that they sit flat without wobbling. Cut 1/3 off the top of each. Hollow them out and use as ice buckets to chill your drinks.
Cover your dinner or buffet table with a cloth in a seasonal color. Decorate with wheat sheaves, mini hay bales, black crows, owls, mice and cat silhouettes, a variety of chrysanthemums. Use old pitchers, tin cans, etc. for vases.
Buy several large zucchini or cucumbers, cut them crosswise in half, hollow out centers & make a family of ghosts; stand on heat-proof platters and set votives inside
Scatter your table with fallen leaves, acorns and red berries – use spray adhesive and matching glitter so they sparkle
Fill vases with candy corn to hold up fall flower arrangements
In addition to orange and black, consider adding other Fall colors such as gold, green, purple, brown and red – colors you would find in fall foliage
Set your table with candelabras with black candles and have creepy classical music playing
If you don’t want to deal with fresh pumpkins, buy good quality plastic ones from your local craft store and pain on the eyes, nose and mouth. You can use them year after year.
Cut out the word BOO! from black construction paper and tape onto mirrors, drape edges of mirrors with black material
Always decorate in sets of odd numbers – it is more pleasing to the eye
Make mini tombstone nametags or place cards for the table
Tape black mice silhouettes around the baseboards of your rooms, climbing the walls and stairs, hanging off the refrigerator, etc.
Cut leaves out of brightly colored construction paper and scatter on table, up the stairs, on the door. Add a touch of glitter if you want them to shine in the candlelight
Don’t forget to decorate in the kitchen and bathrooms too
Assemble a variety of squashes, gourds and pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. Pile a bunch of them to the side of your front door, up one side of your front steps or hallways stairs, along a railing or on windowsills.
Buy a dozen or so mini pumpkins and spray paint them with copper, gold and silver paint. Tuck them in among the natural squashes for a little light reflection shimmering next to candles.
Draw jack o’ lantern or ghost faces on brown paper bags and cut out the eyes and mouth; place votive candles in glass mason jars on a base of sand, kitty litter or water; place some in the paper bags to make safe luminarias and then plain jars in between bags for a little brighter (and safer) illumination.
For a ghostly take on the luminarias, paint the mason jars with white acrylic paint and let dry overnight. Use a thick black Sharpie marker to outline eyes and mouths and fill them in with black acrylic paint. Let them dry completely. Use battery powered lights, tea lights or votive candles to light them up.
You can make painted jar luminaries by following the directions from my friend Amanda of CraftsByAmanda.com
Make chocolate pudding and place it in individual glass serving dishes. Top with crumbled chocolate cookie “dirt” and top with a tombstone cookie labeled with RIP (see photo at bottom of post)
Paint small terra cotta pots with white, orange and yellow stripes to mimic candy corn. Line with foil and fill with candy corn. Set around your house or wrap in plastic and give out as trick or treat gifts. If you want you can also write guests names on the pots and use them as place cards on your table.
Paint mini terra cotta pots all black and line with foil. Place a small tea light candle in the bottom and they will glow eerily once lit.
White pumpkins make perfect ghosts with the help of a thick Sharpie marker and a little imagination!
Apple Bobbing Punch
Yield: 4 quarts
Try this fun and tasty take on the traditional Halloween game. Crabapples are served in a delicious blend of cranberry juice, orange juice, apple cider, and more.
1 (32-oz) bottle apple cider
1 (32-oz) bottle cranberry juice drink
1 (16-oz) jar whole crabapples, undrained
1 (6-oz) can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 (6-oz) can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 (1-liter) bottle ginger ale or lemon-lime soft drink, chilled
Stir together first 5 ingredients. Chill. Stir in ginger ale just before serving. Serve over ice.
Onion-Bacon Dip (serve with Bone Crackers)
Yield: 2-1/2 cups
1 large leek
6 bacon slices
1 large sweet onion, minced
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp salt
1 (2 lb) acorn squash, small pumpkin or bell pepper
Assorted multigrain and vegetable chips
Chopped fresh chives, for garnish
Remove and discard root ends and dark green top of leek. Cut in half lengthwise, and rinse thoroughly under cold running water to remove grit and sand; thinly slice leek.
Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat 6 to 8 minutes or until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 1 Tbsp. drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon.
Sauté onion and leek in hot drippings 15 minutes or until tender and golden.
Stir together onion mixture, bacon, cream cheese, sour cream, and salt. Cover and chill 1 hour.
Cut about 1/2 to 1 inch from top of squash; remove and discard seeds.
Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Place squash, cut side down, in skillet, and cook 3 to 5 minutes or until cut side is golden brown and caramelized. Serve dip in squash with assorted chips. Garnish, if desired with chives.
Yield: 60 crackers
2 (13.5 oz) packages of 9-inch flour tortillas
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/4 tsp garlic salt
Cut tortillas with a 3 1/2-inch bone-shaped cutter or kitchen shears, and place on baking sheets. Stir together butter and garlic salt; brush mixture on both sides of tortillas.
Bake at 250°F for 30 minutes or until crisp.
Pumpkin-Shaped Cheese Ball
Yield: 16 servings
Shape the Cheddar and cream cheese mixture into the shape of a small pumpkin and add a broccoli stem to serve as the stem. Serve with fresh apple wedges for an autumn appetizer.
2 (8-oz) blocks extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 (8-oz) container chive-and-onion cream cheese
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
1 broccoli stalk
Red and green apple wedges, for serving
Combine cheddar cheese and next 4 ingredients in a bowl until blended. Cover and chill 4 hours or until mixture is firm enough to be shaped.
Shape mixture into a ball to resemble a pumpkin. Smooth entire outer surface with a frosting spatula or table knife. Make vertical grooves in ball, if desired, using fingertips.
Cut florets from broccoli stalk, and reserve for another use. Cut stalk to resemble a pumpkin stem, and press into top of cheese ball. Serve cheese ball with apple wedges.
Note: To make ahead, wrap cheese ball in plastic wrap without stalk, and store in refrigerator up to 2 days. Attach stalk before serving.
Roasted Tomato and Onion Soup Topped with Spooky Webs
Jane Evans Bonacci – The Heritage Cook © 2001
Yield: 8 servings
For the Soup
2 sheet pans full of ripe fresh tomatoes or whole canned tomatoes, drained with the liquid reserved
2 large onions, peeled
1/2 cup or more of good quality olive oil
Fresh basil leaves or thyme sprigs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Tomato juice, vegetable stock, or chicken stock, if needed
Creme fraiche or sour cream, thinned if needed with 1 to 2 tsp milk
Non-reactive stainless steel roasting pans or baking sheets
Prepare the vegetables: Preheat oven to 425°F. Set one rack second to the bottom and one on the second to the top.
Remove the cores of the tomatoes, leave them whole or slice in half lengthwise. Place them in the roasting pans, packing them loosely.
Cut the root ends off the onions and quarter them. Add them to the tomatoes. Tuck the herbs throughout, saving some for a garnish if you want. Pour the olive oil liberally over the top and season well with salt and pepper.
Roast vegetables in the lower part of the hot oven until they soften and just start to brown, 30 to 45 minutes depending on the size of the tomatoes you’re using. Stir them occasionally so they don’t stick to the pan.
Meanwhile, set up your food mill, using the plate with the largest holes. It will help remove nearly all of the seeds from the tomatoes as well as the skins. Set it over a large, deep bowl.
Make the soup: Remove the pans from the oven and working in batches, carefully transfer the vegetables to the food mill. Turn the handle clockwise to force the vegetables under the angled blade and through the plate. The juices and some of the pulp will fall into the bowl below while the skins and seeds will be left behind. If you prefer, after you’ve pureed the vegetables in the food mill you can then transfer to a blender or food processor or use an immersion/stick blender for a smoother texture.
Add some of the tomato juice, vegetable or chicken stock if needed to increase the amount of liquid. It is hard to say how much you will need, if any, because it depends on the type and juiciness of the tomatoes. Sometimes you will get a lot, and sometimes less. Taste and use your best judgment.
Reheat if needed. Taste and adjust seasonings, ladle into warmed bowls.
Create Web Design: Using a squeeze bottle or a plastic bag with a small hole cut in one corner, squeeze the creme fraiche or sour cream in concentric circles on the surface of the soup. Use a toothpick to drag lines from the center out to the edges and in between those lines, drag the toothpick the opposite direction toward the center.
Yummy Mummy Cupcakes
Better Homes and Gardens (bhg.com)
Yield: enough frosting for 1 (two-layer) 8 or 9-inch round cake or 2 (9×13-inch) cakes
Start with store-bought or homemade chocolate cupcakes for this quick and haunting Halloween cupcake. You can use the following frosting to top them or buy white fondant and use that instead, which ever is easier for you.
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2 lb sifted powdered sugar (about 8 cups)
1/3 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
Food coloring (optional)
In a large mixing bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, beating well. Slowly beat in 1/3 cup milk and the vanilla. Gradually beat in remaining powdered sugar.
Beat in additional milk, little by little, to reach spreading consistency.
You want frosting that spreads effortlessly. If your frosting is too thick, beat in additional milk, 1 tsp at a time. Make sure the milk is fully incorporated before adding the next tsp — just a tsp or two is sometimes all you need to go from too stiff to perfect.
To decorate the cupcakes: Frost the top of the cupcakes with a thin layer of the white frosting. Use a pastry bag with a basket-weave tip to pipe on white frosting using the photo above as a guide.
Use red frosting to pipe the mummy’s eyes or use cinnamon red hot candies; press into frosting gently. Make two dots using black frosting for the pupils.
Flying Bat Cupcakes
Better Homes and Gardens (bhg.com)
Everyone will go batty for these chocolaty Halloween cupcakes. A cookie, candy, and some creativity are all it takes to make these tasty treats.
To make the cupcake, follow these steps:
Cover the cupcake with white frosting and sprinkle on chocolate or colored sprinkles.
Break a chocolate wafer cookie in half; use purchased green icing to create wings on each piece of the cookie wafer.
Place a candy-coated chocolate in the middle of the cupcake for the head.
Make two dots for eyes using green icing.
Stick the decorated chocolate wafer halves on each side of the head for the bat’s wings.
Bat Wings and Cobweb Spice Cookies
Martha Stewart Recipes
Yield: Makes about 30
Just as setting out milk and cookies will appease a jolly elf, these gingerbread critters are sure to tame ornery beasts. Lemony royal icing cloaks the cookies with spider web and bat disguises. Use extra icing to give the bats staring eyes and to make chubby spiders.
6 cups all-purpose flour (sifted, then measured), plus more for dusting
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
4 tsp ground ginger
4 tsp ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp ground cloves
1-1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups unsulfured molasses
2 large egg whites, or more to thin icing; OR 5 tbsp meringue powder and 1/3 cup water
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, or more to thicken icing
1 lemon, juiced
Make Cookies: Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder together into a large bowl; set aside.
Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat on medium-high speed until fluffy. Beat in ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Beat in eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour mixture.
Divide dough into three equal pieces, and flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Print out the bat and cobweb templates found here, and cut them out.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Using templates and a paring knife, cut dough into shapes. Transfer shapes to baking sheets and refrigerate 15 minutes.
Bake until crisp but not darkened, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely on wire racks. Decorate with royal icing.
Make Royal Icing (about 2-1/2 cups): Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Alternately beat meringue powder and water until combined. Add sugar and lemon juice; beat for 1 minute more. If icing is too thick, add more egg whites (or water); if it is too thin, add more sugar. The icing may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Pumpkin Drop Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield: about 3 dozen cookies
1 cup sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp Maple syrup
1 cup canned pumpkin
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground all spice
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
2-1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Zest of one lemon
Food coloring, optional
Whole pecans, optional
For the Cookies: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a mixer, fitted with a paddle, cream the sugar and the butter until light and fluffy. Add the maple syrup and eggs. Mix to incorporate. Add the pumpkin and mix to incorporate. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix well. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown around the edges. Cool on racks. When cool, ice with the cream cheese frosting.
For the Frosting: In a mixer, fitted with a paddle, add the cream cheese. Beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the powdered sugar until smooth. Add milk and vanilla. Beat until smooth. If frosting is too thick, thin with a little more milk. Fold in the lemon zest. When cookies are cool spread with some of the frosting. Garnish with a whole pecan.
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