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Spooky Snacks

"Don't play with your food" is one admonishment that falls by the wayside during Halloween. Adults and kids alike have fun with theme-related foods during the spooky season, whether it's spider cupcakes for a school party, cauldron cider for chilly trick-or-treaters, or roasted pumpkin seeds for a ghost-telling soirée.

The visual appeal of Halloween snacks is first and foremost, of course. Treats should be clever,or even suitably repugnant! But why not make them delicious as well? Start with a good recipe, then transform it to delight the funny bone as well as the taste buds.

Here are some tricks for treats:

Skeleton Parts
Flavor a favorite snack mix with an array of favorite spices — or a spice mix like All-Seasons Salt or Garlic 'N Herb.

Sometimes all you need is a good name to transform a snack into a wicked treat. Make Witches Knuckles and Ghostly Fingernails by using walnuts and pecans in this recipe for Garlic Snack Mix, for example. Or make Dirty Squashed Spiderwebs with this recipe for Peanut Butter Cocoa Cereal Snack!

While you're carving those Jack-o'-Lanterns, use pumpkin seeds to make Witches Warts and Teeth.

Spiderweb Cakes
Take any favorite cake recipe. Good choices include Honey Spice Cake, Spicy Apple Raisin Cake, or Pumpkin Cake, and decorate with a spider theme: After frosting with a light-colored frosting (white or orange is perfect), draw concentric circles on the top of the cake, using a dark chocolate frosting. (You can do this with any shape, but it's most effective with a circular cake.) Take a toothpick and drag it from the center through the lines of frosting to the edge of the cake. Repeat at intervals around the cake. The toothpick will pull the icing making a spiderweb design.

Eyeball Dip
Olives make good eyeballs in a variety of spooky fare, but you could also use grapes.

Acorn Squash Dip, Avocado Bean Dip, or Tofu Dip — with added olives — would also work well for this recipe.

Tasty Tombstone
Mix cheese ball according to directions for All-American Cheese Ball, then form into a tombstone shape before wrapping and refrigerating. Use finely chopped nuts or roasted sesame seeds to spell out "Eat in Peace" or some other fun message on the tombstone before serving.

Gingerbread Goblins
Using a recipe for gingerbread men (like this Gingerbread Family recipe), cut out spooky or fun shapes — ghosts, skeleton heads, candy corn — instead of traditional gingerbread shapes. Bake as directed. Frost when cooled. (Use white frosting across the top and brown frosting across the bottom of the candy corn shape, for example.)

Crooked Finger Cookies
Make Almond Cookies, but shape the cookie dough into finger shapes. Make a nailbed indentation in the end of each "finger" and place an almond in the end of each cookie before baking, so that it looks like a fingernail. Bake as directed.

Mouse Brains and Droppings
Prepare one quart of popcorn and combine with 2 tablespoons Frontier Cheddar Cheese Popcorn Seasoning. When completely cooled, toss together with 1 cup chocolate chips.

Double, Double No Toil or Trouble Cauldron Cider

2 cups apple juice
2 cups orange juice
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
1 tablespoon honey
4 cinnamon sticks

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Boil, then reduce to a simmer. Strain (but include a few ginger pieces in each cup, if you like).

Place in a cauldron-shaped pot or heat-proof bowl and surround with dry ice. Ladle into cups and serve with Cat Bone Stirrers (cinnamon sticks). Important: Do not touch — or let children touch — the dry ice. Ladle the cider for children and use tongs to arrange the ice.

Makes 4 servings.

Other good Halloween beverages include Bloody Mary Mix, Hot Mulled Cider (serve as above), and Winter Warm-Up.

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