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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Make it “Spooktacular,” Anyway

By Sherrie Norris

Halloween is just a few days away and will be here before we know it. Many regular festivities have been cancelled, moved to outdoor areas or significantly down-sized. There will also likely be less door-to-door/trick-or-treating options this year, so we need to do all we can to make our homes a fun place for the kids.

A few easy ideas are listed below to insure that the entire family can participate in preparation, and of course, the main event — whatever that might look like for 2020. Make it happen and keep it safe.


Swamp Sticks

1 pkg. fresh carrots

1 container vegetable dip

4 drops green food coloring

Cut carrots lengthwise into thin strips. Gather carrot strips into a bundle; secure with a rubber band. Tie raffia around bundle to conceal rubber band. Set aside.

Combine vegetable dip and food coloring; stir well and spoon onto a plate or bowl. Place carrot strip bundle upright in the middle of the dip.

Makes about 18 servings.


Frightfully Easy Ghost Cookies

12 oz. vanilla-flavored candy coating (white chocolate chips will also work well, melted with 1 Tbs. shortening)

1 (lb.) pkg. Nutter-Butter cookies

4 tsp. mini chocolate chips

In small saucepan, melt candy coating (or white chocolate chips and shortening) over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth.

Line cookie sheets with waxed paper. Holding cookie with tongs, dip entire top and side of each cookie into melted coating, letting excess drop off. Lay flat, coated side up, on waxed paper-lined cookie sheets. Place 2 chocolate chips onto coated cookie (ghost) to form eyes. Let stand about 10 minutes until set. Makes about 32 cookies.


Monster Eyes

1 8-oz. container plain soft cream cheese

6 mini bagels, split and toasted

6 midget sweet pickles (or pimento stuffed olives)

Red decorating icing

Spread cream cheese evenly onto toasted bagels, leaving center holes in bagels unfrosted.

Cut pickles crosswise in half; insert (cut sides up), into bagel holes, using icing to add “veins” and pupils to eyes.


Leggy Spiders

Black string licorice, cut into 1-inch lengths

Oreo Cakesters Soft Snack Cakes

Red decorating gel

Insert four one-inch licorice pieces into opposite sides of each snack cake for the spider’s legs.

Use red decorating gel to make the eyes.


Celebration Cupcakes

1 box yellow cake mix with pudding

½ tsp. vanilla and/or butter flavor

Orange and black food color (or other colors as desired, depending on holiday or occasion)

White icing

Holiday specific candies or sprinkles

Hershey’s kisses

Combine cake mix according to box directions; add flavorings.

Line a mini-cupcake pan with holiday decorative liners. Add cake mix and push a Hershey kiss in the center of mix. Bake according to box directions.

Divide frosting evenly in two small bowls; tint with food coloring. Spoon into piping bags and then pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Decorate with candies or sprinkles. Can be used for any holiday by changing the food coloring.


Cheesy Jack-o’-Lantern

3 green onions, divided

2 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened

1 pkg. shredded Cheddar cheese, divided

¼ cup finely chopped red peppers

2 slices pepperoni

Ritz crackers

Cut four-inch length from green end of 1 onion; slice remaining onions. Beat cream cheese and 1¼ cups Cheddar with mixer until well blended. Stir in sliced onions and peppers. Refrigerate one hour.

Shape into ball; roll in remaining cheddar. Cut pepperoni into shapes for the jack-o’-lantern’s eyes, nose and mouth; press into cheese ball to make face. Insert green onion piece into top for stem. Serve with crackers.


Easy Party Mix

10 cups prepared popcorn

1 pound plain M&Ms (specific colors as needed for occasion)

1 (14 oz.) jar dry-roasted peanuts

1 cup raisins

1 cup miniature chocolate-covered peanut butter cups

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Makes about 15 cups.


Orange or Green Punch

46 oz. pineapple juice divided

3 oz. pkg. orange or lime Jell-O

64 oz. orange juice

32 oz. (4 cups) Sprite or Ginger Ale

1 qt. orange or lime sherbet

In small pot, bring 1 cup pineapple juice to a boil. Stir in gelatin until dissolved. Let cool and transfer to a large container. Add orange juice and remaining pineapple juice. Chill.

Just before serving, pour into a punch bowl, add beverage and mix well. Top with scoops of sherbet.

Note: A quicker version that I’ve used for years is simply a mixture of pineapple juice and ginger ale poured over your choice of sherbet.