Spooky eats and drinks for a festive party


Published: Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 12, 2012 at 10:28 a.m.

It's not enough for Halloween drinks to be delicious. They also have to be creepy.

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Creamy Swamp Dip is shown. (The Associated Press)

And that's where we drew our inspiration for these beverages — a kid-friendly, delightfully slimy grape “eyeball” punch and a not-so-kid-friendly murky and thick “orange haze.” that blends orange liqueur, chocolate liqueur and honey.

To up the creep factor of the eyeball punch, you can peel the grapes before adding them to the other ingredients. There are two ways to do this. You can freeze the grapes (wash them, then arrange them on a rimmed baking sheet keeping them apart, then freeze), then run them under warm water to loosen the skins. Alternatively, you can plunge fresh grapes first into boiling water, then into ice water to loosen the skins.

GRAPE EYEBALL PUNCH

Start to finish: 2 hours (15 minutes active)

Servings: 12

8 cups grape juice

2 cinnamon sticks

1 tablespoon whole cloves

1 tablespoon whole allspice

Three 1-inch slices fresh ginger

3 cups green grapes, peeled or not

3 12-ounce bottles ginger beer or ale, chilled

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the grape juice, cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice and ginger. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat. Allow to cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour. Strain out and discard the seasonings, then transfer to a large pitcher or punch bowl and chill until cold. Once chilled, add the grapes and ginger beer or ale.

ORANGE HAZE

Start to finish: 10 minutes

Servings: 1

ounce orange liqueur

ounce milk chocolate cream liqueur

teaspoon honey

Orange zest, to garnish

Pour the orange liqueur into a shot glass. Very slowly pour the chocolate liqueur down the side of the glass, then drizzle the honey over the top. Garnish with orange zest.

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Party food is supposed to be easy. You are, after all, having a party to have a good time, right?

That's why we assembled these easy Halloween party dishes. Not only are they simple to assemble, they also require little planning and help keep the mood light and festive.

We started off with the dip. It's nice if not everything on Halloween revolves around sugar. Equally at home with a platter of vegetables or chips and pretzels, this avocado and cream cheese-based dip will appeal to kids and adults. Plus, Halloween is one of the few times of the year where food doesn't need to look pretty.

For something bready, we went with frozen puff pastry formed into “bones.” Puff pastry is a cinch to work with. You'll find it in the grocer's freezer section. Each package contains two sheets. Simply thaw according to package directions, then unfold, slice, season and bake. And feel free to play around with the spices we suggest, swapping in Italian seasoning, chili powder or even curry powder for the Old Bay seasoning.

For a sweet touch, we went with pots of mud. Or rather, peanut butter and hot fudge blended with a few other tasty ingredients to resemble wet dirt.

CREAMY SWAMP DIP

Start to finish: 10 minutes

Servings: 16

3 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

cup chopped black olives

cup chopped Peppadew peppers

cup chopped marinated mushrooms

Salt and ground black pepper

In a food processor, combine the avocados, cream cheese and balsamic vinegar. Process until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl, then mix in the olives, Pappadews and marinated mushrooms. Season with salt and black pepper. If not serving immediately, cover with plastic wrap, pressing it onto the surface of the dip.

Nutrition information per serving: 120 calories; 100 calories from fat (83 percent of total calories); 11 g fat (4 g saturated;0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 4 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 2 g protein; 85 mg sodium.

BAY BONES

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 12

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning

17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry, thawed

Heat the oven to 400 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or spritz lightly with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine the Parmesan with the Old Bay seasoning.

On a lightly floured surface, unfold 1 sheet of the puff pastry. Very lightly moisten the surface of the pastry with water. Sprinkle half the Parmesan mixture over it. Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut the dough into -inch strips. One at a time, grab each strip by its ends and twist once or twice to create a spiral. Arrange the strips on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about inch between them.

Repeat the process with the second sheet of pastry and remaining Parmesan mixture.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Nutrition information per serving: 180 calories; 110 calories from fat (61 percent of total calories); 12 g fat (3.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 4 g protein; 410 mg sodium.

POTS OF MUD

Start to finish: 10 minutes

Servings: 12

1 cup chunky peanut butter

cup hot fudge sauce

4 to 6 tablespoons half-and-half

cup graham cracker crumbs

Pretzels, crisp bread sticks and cookie sticks

In a medium bowl, stir together the peanut butter, hot fudge sauce, half-and-half (more or less depending on desired consistency), and graham cracker crumbs. Spoon into small cups, such as shot glasses, and serve with pretzels, bread sticks and cookie sticks for dipping.

Nutrition information per serving: 180 calories; 110 calories from fat (61 percent of total calories); 12 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 16 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 6 g protein; 135 mg sodium.

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