Thriller, home edition: Create a hauntingly great party with mozzarella ‘eyes’ and candy corn cordials

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Monsters. Jack-o-lanterns. Candy. It’s easy to see why kids love Halloween, but the truth is many adults can’t wait to celebrate the spookiest night of year themselves. While the little ones are running around the neighborhood collecting candy, why not host a Halloween party for grown-ups? Fun decorations, the right music, a few cocktails and — of course — some munchies will make your Halloween party a hit with friends and neighbors.

SETTING THE ATMOSPHERE

Score creepy —but cheap— items and decorations from dollar stores and from places like Target, CVS and Walgreens. Halloween items have been on sale already for a while and, the longer you wait, the cheaper it gets — they have to make room for Christmas stuff, right? To dress up a table or a buffet, stop by your local fabric store and buy a few yards of simple black fabric. Use it to drape the table, buy orange paper napkins for contrast, scatter bright candy corn on the table and use a carved pumpkin as your centerpiece and ... voilá! Your table is ready

Don’t be shy with candles, because flickering light adds a spooky vibe to a dimmed room. But seriously consider those battery-powered flickering models available at most drugstores if you have paper decorations or giddy guests.

Make sure to have on hand some good Halloween party songs. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and “Time Warp” from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” are good candidates. You can even ask your friends to bring their own to add to the mix.

FEEDING THE UNDEAD

When one thinks of Halloween the first food that comes to mind it’s candy, but there are other more original — and more nutritious — dishes you can serve to your guests. The marinated mozzarella eyes appetizer will make everyone smile, while a cup of rich and fragrant pumpkin soup will make them coming back for more. And of course, don’t forget dessert. After all, this is the one night we are all allowed to eat too many sweets.

Marinated Mozzarella Eyes

Ingredients

For the “eyeball” mix

2 (8 oz. each) packages mini mozzarella di bufala balls, drained

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 sundried tomatoes, chopped

1½ tsp. dried thyme

2 tsp. dried oregano

2 tsp. dried basil

2-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

Crushed red pepper, to taste

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Irises and Pupils

Unpitted green olives, as needed (about 20)

Black olives, as needed (about 10)

1 disposable plastic straw

Preparation

* To make the marinated mozzarella balls, combine the drained mozzarella, oil, sun-dried tomatoes, herbs, garlic, red pepper, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Stir gently to mix. Marinate a few hours, up to 24.

* To create the “iris,” cut the top away from one green olive with a sharp knife. Using the end of a straw, poke a hole through the middle of your iris and remove the bit of olive. This is where you will place the pupil.

* To create “pupils,” stick the end of a straw into a black olive and pull out a straw-hole-shaped piece. This little round piece of olive is your pupil. Place a “pupil” in the middle of each “iris.” Repeat process until you have enough pupils and irises for all of your mozzarella balls.

* To assemble eyeballs, drain the marinade away (I re-use mine for pasta or salads) and place your mozzarella balls on a serving platter. I sometimes line my trays with lettuce or cabbage for effect, and to keep the eyeballs from sliding around too much.

* Place one set of iris and pupil on top of each eyeball. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

From http://www.divinedinnerparty.com

Roasted pumpkin and squash soup

Ingredients

2 cups (½-inch) cubed peeled fresh pumpkin (about 2 pounds)

2 cups (½-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Cooking spray

3 cups sliced yellow onion (about 2)

2 teaspoons minced garlic

4 cups water

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Dash of ground allspice

Preparation

* Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine first three ingredients in a large bowl; toss well. Place pumpkin mixture on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes or until tender.

* Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion; sauté 8 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add pumpkin mixture, 4 cups water, and remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

* Place half of pumpkin mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with the remaining pumpkin mixture.

From Cooking Light, November 2007

Pumpkin streusel pie

Ingredients

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

1 can (15 ounces.) pumpkin

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk

2 large eggs, beaten to blend

10-inch pie pastry for a single-crust pie (for leaves, see notes above)

Walnut streusel

Preparation

* Preheat oven to 375°. In a bowl, mix granulated sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and ginger. Add pumpkin, milk, and eggs; whisk until well blended.

* Pour mixture into unbaked 10-inch pie pastry in pan. Sprinkle walnut streusel evenly over filling.

* Bake on the bottom rack until a knife inserted in center comes out clean, 60 to 65 minutes.

* Set on a rack until cool to touch, about 2 hours. Cut into wedges.

— From Sunset, November 2008

COCKTAILS TO DIE FOR

Sure, beer and wine are always welcome, but why not kicking your party up a notch with some special Halloween cocktails? Dust off your shaker and your martini glasses and serve your guests some cocktails that will surely put them in a party mood. For a fun alternative to regular ice cubes, buy some plastic spiders and eyeballs at the dollar store, place one in each cube of an ice tray, fill tray with water and freeze. Your ice cubes will look great in sodas and mixed drinks.

Pumpkin Martini

Ingredients

1 tablespoon canned pumpkin

½ ounce triple sec

2 ounces vodka

A dash each ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg

Preparation

n Fill shaker with ice. Pour in vodka, triple sec, cinnamon, nutmeg and canned pumpkin.

n Shake for about 20 seconds, strain and serve in chilled martini glass.

Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon if you like. Makes 1.

Blood Orange Martini

Ingredients

2 ounces vodka

2 ounces blood orange juice (make your own, or check ethnic stores for this)

1 teaspoon simple syrup

Orange rind to garnish

Preparation

* To make simple syrup, heat up equal quantities of sugar and water in a small pan and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Pour in a bottle and keep in the fridge to sweeten your cocktails.

* Fill shaker with ice. Pour vodka, blood orange juice and simple syrup in shaker and shake for about 20 seconds.

* Strain in a martini glass and garnish with a twist of orange rind. Makes 1.

Food Network Magazine, October 2009

Candy Corn Cordials

Ingredients

½ cup candy corn, plus extra for garnish

1½ cups vodka

Ice

2 ounces orange liqueur

Juice of ½ lemon

1 large egg white

Preparation

* In a jar with an airtight lid, combine the ½ cup of candy corn and the vodka. Cover and set aside for at least 3 hours. When ready, strain out and discard the solids.

* To prepare the drinks, in a cocktail shaker filled with ice combine 4 ounces (½ cup) of the candy corn vodka, the orange liqueur, lemon juice and egg white.

* Shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds, then strain into 2 chilled martini glasses. Garnish with candy corn.

Food Network Magazine, October 2009

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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