Tonawanda News

October 27, 2013

Try these creative, albeit gross-looking, recipes for Halloween

Staff Reports
The Tonawanda News

— interest is nothing if not gross when it comes to Halloween.

A quick “Halloween” search on the website brings out a variety of recipes meant to delight the taste buds and disturb the eyes. Cookies made to look like witches’ fingers, Shirley Temples made with what looks like bloody hypodermic needles and a cheeseball made to look like “braaaiiinnnss” are some of the more visually striking projects we came across.

We decided to tackle a few for you here in case you’re still looking for the perfect spread for a Halloween party come Thursday. 

Halloween must be our lucky holiday, because we managed to knock them all out of the park, if we do say so ourselves.

Apple chompers

I initially found a less healthy version of this recipe made with chocolate chip cookies and red icing, but figured we had to have at least one semi-healthy snack in here. 

I imagine the cookie version would be easier to assemble and could be made much further in advance than this apple version, so feel free to make whichever fits your plans best.

The best part of this project is that you can easily make only as many as you need. Each apple, depending on its size and how thick you make the slices, can make somewhere around 10 sets of chompers. 

I’d keep the slices relatively thin; the thicker they are, the more difficult it is for the fully constructed mouth to stay together. You could alway try securing them with toothpicks, but doing so won’t guarantee the marshmallows will stay in place.

To construct, take two slices of apple and smooth a thin layer of peanut butter on each one. Spread the peanut butter just shy of the peel edge; the more peanut butter that shows through the marshmallow teeth, the worse it looks. 

Line up between four or five mini marshmallows along that peel edge of one apple slice and place the second slice on top, peanut butter side down. 

Make sure to use creamy peanut butter because the crunchy stuff doesn’t spread as thinly as you need. Also, stick with the processed peanut butter. It’s stickier and tends to hold its form a little better than natural peanut butter, which is more oily and lends itself to slipping and sliding.

Keep in mind your apple slices will start to brown the longer they sit out, so you might want to coat them with a little bit of lemon juice before construction.

• WHAT: Apple chompers

• DIFFICULTY: Easy, but not sturdy

• TIME: 10-15 minutes to assemble an entire apple's worth

• RESULT: Pin it, but not great if they're going to sit out for a while

— Danielle Haynes

Gelatin worms

The gelatin worms recipe is one I see floating around Pinterest every Halloween season. It’s eye-catching — the darned things look disgustingly real — and purports to be quite easy. Somehow, I doubted that the finished product would be quite so eerily real-looking or anywhere near that easy.

I was a little bit right, little bit wrong on the latter, but turns out the former is quite valid. These things are disgusting. And this time of year. that’s a good thing. They actually taste pretty good.

To make gelatin worms, you need two 3-ounce packages of raspberry gelatin (such as Jell-O), a package of unflavored gelatin (such as Knox), 3 cups boiling water, 3/4 cup whipping cream, green food coloring, 100 flexible straws or so and a tall container. Extend all the straws, then gather them close together with a rubber band. Get them as close as possible. Actually, I used duct tape for mine, which worked admirably as a straw adhesive, but was a pain to remove after the fact. I also put a few pieces of duct tape across the bottom of my straws, something most recipes for these things don’t mention. I think it helped, but who knows?

Stand this tower of straws in your container, with the flexible end of the straws toward the bottom. It needs to stand upright securely, but you also need enough volume. 

Combine the raspberry gelatin mix and the unflavored gelatin in a heatproof bowl, with a pouring lip, if possible. Most of the recipes I’ve seen aren’t clear on how much unflavored to use; I went with all four envelopes, figuring the firmer, the better. Bring the water to a boil, pour into the gelatin, mix well. Allow to cool until lukewarm. I let mine stand about 45 minutes or so.

Once lukewarm, add the cream and the food coloring. Start with just a drop and continue to add until you like the color. Mix well. 

Pour the mixture into the straws. It will rush out the bottom —duct tape or not — so you must be sure there’s enough volume in your container to take the overflow. I actually had to stand the cup I was using in another shallow container to catch it. This got extremely messy. Once all the mixture is in there, put the whole thing in the fridge and chill at least eight hours.

I was expecting trouble getting the “worms” out of the straws and I got it, but not in the way I had envisioned. The trouble came in when I tried to pry my tower of straws out of the cup — itself full of solidified gelatin worm material — in which they’d chilled. I eventually had to break the cup — fortunately, a cheap plastic one — to remove them. Then they stuck to the duct tape and the whole process became even more messy.

Once your worm-filled straws are free, however, run them a few at a time under warm water — protecting the ends with a hand — dry and, holding the top end of the straw, pinch and slide your fingers down the length of the straw so the “worm” slides out. This will take a while, especially if you used all 100 straws, so be sure you’re not doing this 10 minutes before your Halloween party.

• WHAT: Gelatin worms

• DIFFICULTY: A little tricky

• TIME: 20 minutes to assemble, plus cooling time; at least eight hours to set; 30 minutes to an hour to remove

• RESULT: Pin it if you have the time (and don't mind a mess).

— Jill Keppeler

Mummy dogs

They don’t come much easier than this.

Take one package of eight hot dogs. Take one 8-ounce can of refrigerated crescent rolls. Remove the rolls from the can and separate into four roughly rectangular sections. Pinch the two crescents in each rectangle together to seal.

Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut each rectangle into 10 strips. Using five strips for each hot dog, wind them around it, well, mummy-like. Place on a cookie sheet. Bake in an oven preheated to 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

I used a food-coloring pen to make mummy eyes on my hot dogs because I had one in my cake-decorating supplies, but mustard would work just fine.

• WHAT: Mummy dogs

• DIFFICULTY: Easy

• TIME: 10-15 minutes to assemble, 10-15 minutes to cook

• RESULT: Pin it!

— Jill Keppeler

Pumpkin-shaped rice cereal treats

The first thing I do when I see a project on Pinterest is predict which step will prove to be my undoing. 

When it came to these pumpkin-shaped rice cereal treats, I just knew there was no way I could get that perfect orange coloring just right. 

While this wasn’t my biggest Pinterest disaster — and it was by no means a failure — it turns out the orange color was the least of my problems.

It all boils down to just how sticky and unmalleable candy and sugary things can be. Also, you apparently can’t use your microwave for everything.

To make these adorable little treats, whip up a batch of rice cereal treats. Melt three tablespoons of butter in a microwave-safe dish, then add a bag of mini marshmallows, coating them thoroughly. Then melt the marshmallows, which takes about 1 minute and 45 seconds. Stir about halfway through.

Once the marshmallow concoction is completely melted, add in some red and yellow food coloring until you get a nice, bold orange color. Once you have the color you want, mix in six cups of rice cereal and stir until completely mixed.

Wait a few minutes to allow the mixture to cool down enough to handle, but don’t allow it to harden.

Coat your hands in some sort of cooking oil, or cooking spray. This is key, otherwise you’ll end up with a sticky, unworkable mess on your hands. 

Grab a small handful of the mixture and form it into a ball about the size of a clementine orange. Place the orange ball on some parchment paper, watch it fall apart and pick it up and continue forming into a ball once or twice more. OK, more like six more times.

For whatever reason, these bad boys don’t want to stay together, so you just have to keep at it. Get them as compact as possible without crushing all the bits of cereal and eventually they’ll hold firm. Because the balls don’t want to keep their shape, it makes it especially hard to form them into a true pumpkin shape, so just don’t worry about it.

Before the pumpkins completely harden into their final form, you’ll want to attach the Tootsie Roll stems.

The biggest lesson I learned from this project was that your microwave will spark if you try to soften Tootsie Rolls in it. Why? What’s in these little candies that could cause a microwave to shoot sparks? As if I needed another reason not to eat these things.

Without the benefit of being to warm up the Tootsie Rolls beforehand, it’s a little difficult to work them into shape. Just try rolling them a bit between the palms of your hands to warm them up and gradually pull them into the shape of a pumpkin stem. Gently press into the top of the crisped rice treat and if they’re both still warm enough, they should stick together just fine. Otherwise, feel free to use melted chocolate as an adhesive.

If you really want to get creative, draw on little vines with green icing. 

• WHAT: Pumpkin-shaped rice cereal treats

• DIFFICULTY: Moderately

• TIME: 30 minutes or so

• RESULT: Pin it!

— Danielle Haynes

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