Whip up a Jack-o’-Lantern Pizza before the kids make their trick-or-treating rounds on Halloween.

Whip up a Jack-o’-Lantern Pizza before the kids make their trick-or-treating rounds on Halloween.

Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Scare up some ghoulish treats

With Halloween approaching, it's time to get spookily creative in the kitchen

Halloween is fast approaching and with it  comes bonfires, jack-o’-lanterns, ghosts, goblins, witches and other supernatural beings.

Trick or treating didn’t start in Canada until after the Second World War and it has changed even since I was a kid. People trusted their neighbours back then; it was a time of homemade popcorn, popcorn balls, cookies, fudge, penny bubble gums, chicklets, suckers, molasses style Halloween candy in the orange wrappers, candied and regular apples, peanuts, and if we were really lucky we’d find a rare tiny chocolate bar or wagon wheel when we dumped out our bag of loot.

We were the first generation to carry a UNICEF box, collecting pennies for children in poor countries. We were trusted to head out with our friends and no adult which gave us the opportunity to play a few “tricks” before ending up at the fair grounds where the firemen always had a gigantic bon fire, free hot chocolate, and fire works.

Irish and Scottish immigrants brought this Festival of the Dead, also called All Hallows Eve, to North America back in the 19th century and although the word Halloween is Christian, the festival comes from Pagan roots where the festival had a relevance to a belief that on this day the veils between the living and the dead were very thin, allowing spirits to roam freely.

This Halloween you might like to try one of this week’s recipes for feeding the kids or the entire family.

Oreo Spider Web Cookie Pizza

25 Halloween Oreo Cookies, divided

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

1 ounce semi-sweet baking chocolate

2 cups thawed frozen whipped topping

1 (3.4 ounce) package vanilla instant pudding mix

1 cup cold milk

3 pieces black string licorice (10 inch), cut into 1-1/4-inch pieces

6 small round candies

1 tablespoon ready-to-spread frosting

2 tablespoons Halloween sprinkles

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Crush 22 cookies to form fine crumbs; mix with butter. Press onto bottom of 12-inch pizza pan sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 4 minutes; cool.

Meanwhile, microwave semi-sweet chocolate and 1/2 cup whipped topping in microwaveable bowl on high 30 to 40 seconds or until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is well-blended, stirring after 30 seconds. Cool slightly.

Beat pudding mix and milk in medium bowl with whisk 2 minutes (pudding will be thick). Stir in remaining whipped topping; spread onto crust to within 1/2 inch of edge.

Spoon chocolate mixture into resealable plastic bag; snip off small piece from one bottom corner of bag. Use to drizzle chocolate mixture in spiral motion over pizza. Gently drag toothpick through lines to resemble spider’s web. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Meanwhile, decorate remaining cookies with licorice pieces and candies, using frosting to secure pieces to cookies. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Eye Ball Tacos

1 pound ground beef

1 package (10-3/4 ounces) taco dinner kit

Shredded lettuce

Chopped tomatoes

Sour cream

Sliced, pitted black olives

Cheddar cheese, grated

Mix meat and seasoning mix. Shape into 36 1-inch balls; place in a 13×9 baking dish.   Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.

Fill each of 12 taco shells with one meatball, taco sauce, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese.   Top with 2 additional meatballs dipped in sour cream.

Garnish with olives to create the eyes.  Kids love them!

Jack-o’-Lantern Pizza

1 pound lean ground beef

1 cup Old El Paso® salsa (any variety)

3/4 cup Green Giant® Valley Fresh Steamers™ Niblets® frozen corn

1/4 cup water

2 cups Original Bisquick® mix

1/3 cup very hot water

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 cups shredded Colby-Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese (8 ounces)

Toppings, such as orange and green bell pepper strips, sliced ripe olives and cherry tomato wedges, if desired

Move oven rack to lowest position. Heat oven to 450 F. Grease 12-inch pizza pan.

Cook beef in 10-inch skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until brown; drain. Stir in salsa, corn and 1/4 cup water. Heat to boiling; remove from heat.

Mix Bisquick, 1/3 cup hot water and the oil until soft dough forms; beat vigorously 20 strokes. Let stand 5 minutes. Press dough in pizza pan, using fingers dipped in Bisquick; pinch edge to form 1/2-inch rim. Spread beef mixture over dough. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 11 to 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted.

Arrange toppings on pizza to form jack-o’-lanterns.

Note:  Pizza sauce can be used in place of the salsa if desired.

Caramel Apples

8 apples, any variety

1 cup chopped peanuts or other nut of your choice

1 cup heavy cream, divided

3/4 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wash and completely dry the apples.  Insert a stick into the stem end of each.

Line a 9-by-9-inch or 7-by-11-inch baking pan with foil. Place the chopped nuts into the lined pan.

Fit a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a candy thermometer. Over high heat, cook 3/4 cup of the cream, the corn syrup, butter, and sugar to 246 degrees F (firm ball); at this point the syrup will be golden. Remove from the heat and carefully swirl in the remaining 1/4 cup of cream and the vanilla.

Use caution; this is very hot and it may splatter. While the caramel is hot, dip and turn the apples into the caramel to coat and let the excess drip off. Dip the bottoms into the chopped nuts. Arrange the apples on a nonstick or waxed paper-lined cookie sheet and let cool.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.