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Spooky treats

Mindmatrix, Wikimedia Commons

What other time of year would you approve of spiders on cupcakes?


Everyone has a holiday they consider their favorite, and while I try to focus on the good things every holiday has to offer, I must admit I have the most fun with Halloween.

Last year, my son set up a big display in his grandma’s front yard over in Gilroy, mostly using large animated scary creatures. There was one he designed and made himself. He also had a fog machine, black lights and sound effects.

Local media joined in to alert townspeople of the display, as many families enjoyed an evening of driving around town admiring various displays that could be found. It was a lot of fun and a good alternative to trick or treating, even though we still got several kids out in costumes hoping for candy. I can remember that as a kid, my family enjoyed driving around looking at Christmas displays, trees and lights.

For those who do not celebrate Halloween, perhaps you will consider adapting some of the recipes so you can enjoy the treats just for their flavor. Time to get into the kitchen and make some goodies.

Dracula dentures

If you fill the whole bottom half with mini marshmallows, instead of just lining the edges, it will work out much better when you pick the cookie up. Also, you may want to work with smaller batches of frosting, if you are worried about having too much left over. You may have some other use for red frosting, but if you don’t just try mixing it with food coloring in portions.

1 tube chocolate chip cookie dough

1 can vanilla frosting

Red food coloring

Mini marshmallows

Slivered almonds

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll cookie dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and place on baking sheets. Bake until golden, about 12 minutes. Let cool completely then cut in half.

2. Add a few drops of red food coloring into vanilla frosting and stir until smooth and the color is even. Spread a thin layer of red frosting onto each cookie half.

3. Place mini marshmallows around the round edges of half of the halves. Place the remaining halves on top, then stick a slivered almond on each side to create fangs. Makes 1 dozen.

Spider cupcakes

There are some options you can use to make the spiders. You can use black gumdrops for the body and head, black-tinted frosting for the body and head and in both cases, thin black licorice for the legs. You can also form spiders using melted chocolate or use gummy spiders. Or top the cupcakes with plastic spider party favors and be prepared for the kids to hide them all over to try and scare you. It always works on me.

1 box chocolate cake mix, prepared according to package directions

For frosting:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 drops orange food coloring (or more, if you wish)

Orange sugar crystals, optional

Spider decorations of your choice

1. Prepare cake mix according to package instructions and bake 12 cupcakes using cupcake liners. Follow baking time chart on cake mix box. Allow to cool.

2. In a large bowl, beat softened butter with an electric mixer until creamy, about 3 minutes. With mixer on low, alternate adding the sugar and cream gradually. Once combined, turn mixer up to medium and beat for about 3 minutes. Add orange food coloring to achieve desired color.

3. Pour orange frosting into a large pastry bag fitted with a 1M tip and pipe swirls of frosting onto cooled cupcakes. Or you can spread it on with a butter knife or offset spatula. Add orange sugar sprinkles, if desired. Top each cupcake with a spider. Makes 12 servings.

Marshmallow treats pumpkins

If you don’t have mini Bundt pans, you can form the pumpkin shapes with your hands, using about 1/2 cup of the prepared mixture.

3 tablespoons butter

5 cups mini marshmallows

1/4 teaspoon orange gel food coloring

1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, optional

6 cups puffed rice cereal

Green “licorice,” cut into 1-inch-long strips

1. Spray 2 1/2-cup mini Bundt pans with cooking spray. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Heat a large non-stick pot over medium-low. Add butter, marshmallows, food coloring and pumpkin pie spice, if using. Stir until marshmallows are melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cereal until it is evenly coated.

3. When mixture is warm enough to handle, spray your hands lightly with oil, then working quickly, press 1/4 cup of mixture into Bundt wells. Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from pan and gently press the flat sides of 2 halves together to form a pumpkin. Add licorice stems. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Candy corn swirl cookies

You don’t use real candy corn, just sugar cookie dough in the same colors.

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour

Yellow and orange food coloring

1. In the bowl of a kitchen mixer, cream the butter. Gradually add sugar and mix until well blended.

2. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla, and again mix until combined.

3. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, beating between each new addition. The dough should be pliable but not sticky once you’ve added all the flour. If the dough is still sticky, add more flour (about 1/4 cup at a time) until the dough is no longer sticky.

4. Separate the dough into 3 equal parts and tint one yellow, one orange and leave the other plain. Flatten the dough into discs, wrap and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes. Once the dough is firm, roll each color out into a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle.

5. Stack the dough one on top of the other with yellow on the bottom, orange in the middle and the plain dough on top.

6. Starting on the long side of the rectangle, roll the dough into a log. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 40 minutes.

7. Once the dough is firm, cut the cookies into 1/2-inch-thick discs and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

8. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 9 minutes, or until no longer shiny on top. Makes about 24 cookies.

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