Don't let Halloween creep up before cooking up some ghostly fun with your little ghouls and goblins.
Go all out at every meal for a monster mash of wicked fun.
Start with ghost-shaped pancakes with raisin eyes and a big chocolate chip smile. Or pour the pancake batter into long, thin lines and form the strips into a spider web.
A little imagination can transform ordinary foodstuff into wacky faces or scary bugs.
Slice a bell pepper lengthwise to form the outline of a face. Sliced black olives double as eyes and a tomato wedge becomes a mouth. Give the face a good shock of lettuce hair and a drizzle of dressing, and this salad is sure to elicit shrieks of delight.
Or turn those black olives into terrifying spiders. A jumbo olive sliced lengthwise and placed cut side down becomes the body, with eight thin slices serving as legs.
Place sliced green olives with pimentos atop deviled eggs. They'll look like eyes, giving the hard-cooked eggs added personality.
Turn mounds of mashed potatoes into ghosts. All they need are black pepper eyes.
Baby carrots become severed fingers with the addition of slivered almonds.
Pigs in a blanket can easily be mummy-fied by rolling biscuits or crescents rolls into a long thin strip before wrapping the hot dogs or sausages. Two dots of mustard serve as eyes and a sliver of ketchup the mouth.
It doesn't take much to turn Halloween into a sweet treat. Kids can dress up cookies and cupcakes with colored icing and use jelly beans, candy corn, black licorice, M&M's and peanuts and raisins to create their own creatures.
And ice cream cones are perfect as hats for popcorn balls or rice cereal treats. After that, they'll just need chocolate chips eyes and licorice mouths.
Ghosts in the Graveyard Cupcakes
1 package (18¼ ounces) white cake mix
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ teaspoons black food color
2 containers (16 ounces each) vanilla frosting
24 oval-shaped cookies
Prepare cake mix as directed on package, adding vanilla. Tint cake batter grey with ¼ teaspoon black food color.
Bake as directed on package for cupcakes. Cool cupcakes on wire rack.
Tint 1 container frosting black with 1 teaspoon black food color. Frost cupcakes, reserving ¼ cup of frosting. Spoon reserved frosting into small resealable plastic bag. Snip a small corner from bag. Pipe "RIP" onto top half of each cookie. Push tombstone cookies gently into cupcakes.
For the ghost, spoon remaining container of white frosting into large resealable plastic bag. Snip a corner from bag.
For the body of the ghost, pipe ½-inch dollop next to tombstone. Pipe a smaller dollop on top, lifting while squeezing bag so that top of dollop is pointed. This is the head of the ghost.
Use chocolate sprinkles and chocolate chips to decorate the ghost's face.
Yield: 24 cupcakes
Pumpkin Party Mix
2 cups Kix cereal
2 cups small square pretzels
2 cups teddy bear-shaped chocolate graham snacks
1 cup freeze-dried cinnamon apples
1 cup candy-coated peanut butter pieces
1 box (7.5 ounces) crunchy caramel-coated popcorn with peanuts
In large bowl, mix all ingredients. Store in airtight container.
Yield: 24 servings
Witches' Broom Snacks
12 thin pretzel sticks (2¼ inch)
¼ cup sharp process cheddar cheese spread
12 whole-grain wheat crackers (such as Triscuits)
On end of each pretzel stick, shape 1 teaspoon cheese spread into 1-inch ball.
With sharp knife, cut each cracker into long pieces. Press cracker pieces into cheese to resemble broom.
Serve immediately, or refrigerate up to 3 hours before serving.
Yield: 6 servings
Taco Monster Mouths
2 plum tomatoes, cut length-wise into 3 pieces
12 large pimiento-stuffed green olives
3 slices (½ ounce each) American cheese
6 taco shells
½ pound lean ground beef
2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix
Shredded lettuce, if desired
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cut slice into 1 side of each olive to make a flat side. Cut each of the slices of cheese in half vertically in a zigzag line to look like teeth.
Arrange taco shells on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 5 to 7 minutes or until hot. Meanwhile, in 10-inch skillet, cook ground beef over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until thoroughly cooked; drain. Stir in taco seasoning mix and water. Reduce heat to medium; cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently until water has evaporated.
To assemble, fill tacos with desired fillings so that meat is on the top. Placing each taco on its side on serving plate, insert 1 tomato slice into meat filling to look like tongue. Place 1 cheese slice with zigzag edge toward meat along top side of taco between the shell and the filling. Place 2 olives, flat sides down, to look like eyes on top of shell.
Yield: 6 servings
Severed Finger Sugar Cookies
1 pouch (17.5-ounce) sugar cookie mix
¼ cup raw slivered almonds
¼ cup seedless strawberry jam
7 drops red food color
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In medium bowl, mix cookie mix and egg, using fork or spatula, until well mixed and texture of sand or bread crumbs. Squeeze handful of dough crumbs together tightly to form small log or "finger." Score top of log with butter knife to shape the knuckle, then press 1 slivered almond at one end to make the fingernail. Repeat to use up dough. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Bake 15 minutes. Cool completely. In small bowl, mix jam and food color. Trim base of "finger" with fork to give it a severed look. Dip base of finger into jam.
Yield: About 24 cookies