The anatomy of disgusting (yet fun) Halloween food

Halloween food is gross. Eyeballs in soup, spiders on cupcakes, bloody-looking soups and cocktails. Orange food and decorations are smack in your face for weeks during the run-up.

Canned Food Alliance
Eyeball Upside-Down Cupcakes. Recipe: Eyeball upside-down cupcakes see all.
Click photo for larger image.

Appetizing, isn't it?

But if the kids, even the "groan-ups," want to have some fun, we can help raise the bar on ghastly, ghostly food at the dinner table.

To stock your Halloween supplies, take a shopping trip to a variety or dollar store. Look for candy gummy worms, plastic eyeballs, fake teeth, claws and any ugly stuff you can find.

For seasonal accent, go all out and use orange foods to the max. To get into the spirit even more, when you make a normal dish, give it a goofy name. Anything that looks or sounds like a body part is fair game. Chicken fingers and ribs both can be dipped into ketchup "blood."

Here are some of our tricky treats:

Witches' Fingers. Plain vanilla sugar cookie dough is a good starting place for all kinds of possibilities. Make your own or buy ready-made in refrigerated tubes at the grocery. For the fingers, pull off pieces of vanilla cookie dough and hand-roll into finger shapes. (Not too fat, because the dough will puff in the oven.) For a fingernail, press a plain, blanched almond firmly into place on one end of each finger. You can "paint" the nails with diluted red food coloring. Drape them over a wad of aluminum foil twisted into a "snake" so the fingers will have a bit of curl. These look most repulsive when poking out of a napkin-lined basket.

Skeleton Bones. Roll out plain cookie dough on a floured surface or between sheets of wax paper. Cut with bone-shaped cutters. Glaze with confectioners sugar icing. Repeat with witch, ghost and bat shapes.

Witches Hair and Cat Eyeballs. Shred carrots or cabbage (or buy a bag of pre-shredded carrots or coleslaw) for the hair. Add green grapes for the eyeballs. Mix in a bowl and toss with salad dressing.

Simple Pimples. Scoop out the insides of cherry tomatoes and core them. Lightly salt the cavity and set to drain for 10 minutes. Pipe cream cheese into the center. Give a slight squeeze so the filling comes right to the top.

Pumpkin Seeds with Eyeballs. When you carve the pumpkin, scoop out the inner fiber and transfer the seedy goop to a colander. Rinse it under cool water to get rid of fibrous strings, and pat the seeds dry on paper towels. Transfer the seeds to a bowl and toss with a little oil and a sprinkle of salt.

Spread the seeds on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake until crisp and golden in a preheated 350-degree oven, about 12 to 15 minutes. To serve, put seeds in cereal bowls and bury a couple of plastic eyeballs in each bowl.

Wormy Pudding. Bury a few gummy worms in individual pudding cups and arrange a few on and spilling over the edge, as if they are trying to crawl over the rim.

Wormy Baked Apples. Core and bake apples. Arrange gummy worms in the cavity.

Floating Corpse Hand. Fill a clean rubber glove with Mountain Dew for a ghoulish-green color or with any colored juice. Fasten the end and freeze. Float in a punch bowl.

Buggy Ice Cubes. Fill ice cube trays half full of water. Drop a plastic ant or other insect into each section and freeze. Add water to the rim and freeze again. Show these off when you serve clear glasses of, say, iced tea.

Spiderweb Frosting. Spread vanilla frosting on any kind of cake or cupcake. Using soft chocolate icing or a glaze, make at least four circles on top of the icing. Start at the center and make the last circle on the outer rim of the cake. Drag a toothpick from the center to the edge, making about eight "spokes." If you can find a black plastic spider, plop it in the center of the web.

Spooked Cocoa. Using a rolling pin or soup can, roll out marshmallows as flat as possible. Using a ghost, witch hat or other mini-cookie cutter, stamp out shapes. Float in cups of hot cocoa. Eat the scraps.

Pumpkin, carrot or squash soup. Vibrantly colored and healthful, a cauldron of this soup on the table is a good start for the little goblins before they go out to trick-or-treat. An eyeball in the bottom of each bowl is a nice touch.

Baked sweet potatoes or yams. Wash, slit the top and bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes depending on size. Serve in the skin with a knob of butter, or mash in a bowl with butter, orange zest and a few drops of ginger juice. To make that, put thin slices of fresh ginger into a garlic press and press away. Garnish each with a spider.

Mac and Cheese. Make it with the most orangey cheddar you can find. Not to worry, the color comes from annato seeds, not dye.

Mini-Pumpkin Apples. Cut pumpkin face triangles into apples for the pre-school set.

Blackened Fingernails. Pass a bowl of seedless California black olives, and let the kids pop them onto their fingertips. Oldest trick in the book.

Kitty Litter Cake. Bake a crumb coffeecake and warm Tootsie Rolls in the microwave oven. Then, um, use your imagination.

Marlene Parrish can be reached at or 412-481-1620.


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