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TIP OF THE DAY: The History Of Halloween…And Fun Food Touches

Halloween Latte
Try your hand at latte art. Here’s a video showing how to create a jack o’ lantern in milk foam (photo Fig & Olive | Facebook). Or, make a latte ghost.

Bat Waffles
How can you make breakfast more Halloweeny? Turn toaster waffles into bats (photo Good Food Made Simple | Facebook).

Eyeball Mozzarella Balls
[3] Mozzarella eyeball snaks, made with bocconcini (bite-size balls) and olives (photo courtesy Bel Gioioso):.

Vampire Sundae

[4] Vampire ice cream sundae, with strawberry topping, mini marshmallows and chocolate chip eyes (photo Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog).



Halloween, short for All Hallows’ Evening, is celebrated on the evening of October 31st. It evolved from the festival of Samhain (sah-WEEN), celebrated by ancient Celts at the end of the harvest, a time to prepare for winter.

Samhain marked the end of the “lighter half” of the year and beginning of the “darker half.” The Halloween colors of orange and black represent the lighter side and the darker side.

The Celts believed that on October 31st, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc, including sickness and damaged crops.

To avoid the spirits and ghosts that roamed the countryside on October 31st, people began to wear masks and costumes—to mimic the spirits and avoid being recognized as human. To keep spirits and ghosts from their home, they placed candles in their windows, using hollowed-out turnips and other vegetables as the holder, or jack o’ lantern.

The festival of Samhain would frequently include celebratory bonfires. The fires attracted insects, which attracted bats. Thus, bats became integrated into the holiday.

Around 600 C.E., Christian missionaries replaced the pagan festival of Samhain with All Saints Day, also called All Hallows Even (even means evening).

The name Halloween (or Hallowe’en) first appears in 16th-century Scotland, evolving from All Hallows’ Eve.

Carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns, trick-or-treating, costume parties and visiting “haunted houses”—not to mention pranking—evolved in the U.S. Pumpkins, a hardier, new world fruit (yes, a fruit), replaced the smaller turnips used in the Old Country.

It began with 19th-century Irish and Scottish immigrants who brought the tradition over. In the late 20th century, the “holiday spirit” spread to other western countries, including Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Puerto Rico and the U.K.

No matter how you plan to celebrate Halloween, you can serve little touches of the holiday for the week prior to the event.

Halloween is too much fun to wait for one day of celebration. You don’t have to be a kid to want an entire Halloween Week.

  • Cut marshmallows into ghost shapes, or paint jack o’lantern faces on them, and float them on hot chocolate.
  • Use a squeeze bottle of ketchup to put pumpkin faces on fried eggs.
  • Make bat waffles (photo #2).
  • Try your hand at latte art. Check out these videos for jack o’lantern and ghost art.
  • Dribble strawberry dessert topping from the rim of a “bleeding” glass of milk or other beverage.
  • Turn deviled eggs into rotten deviled eggs, with some food coloring (recipe).
  • Put candy eyeballs on any dessert.
  • Wrap strips of refrigerator rolls around hot dogs and other foods to “mummify” them (recipe #1) and #2.
  • Coil dough into snakes (recipe)
  • Turn anything round into an eyeball (photo #3).
  • Put black olive spiders on mini pizzas, as sandwich garnish, etc.
    Simply look at everything you’re planning to serve, and see how you can tweak it for seasonal fun.

    If you need inspiration, check online sites like Pinterest or Google Images to see what others have done.





    Halloween Spider Cake
    [1] A hairy spider, ready to eat (photo courtesy Go Bold With Butter).

    Chocolate Sprinkles
    [2] Chocolate sprinkles make the spider “hairy” (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour).

    Candy Eyeballs Wilton

    [3] Wilton makes the smallest eyes we’ve found. These are from Target (photo courtesy Wilton).


    Along came a spider and sat down beside her—and she ate him!

    This eye-catching chocolate spider cake from Go Bold With Butter doubles as a table centerpiece and dessert.

    The ingredients are easy to find. Chocolate chocolate sticks for the spider legs and candy eyeballs can be found at kitchen specialty stores and online.

    You also use use Pocky, the Japanese chocolate-covered biscuit sticks that have good distribution at grocery stores and international markets.

    Prep time is 30 minutes, cook time is 50 minutes.

    Ingredients For 8-10 Servings

    For the Chocolate Frosting

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
    For the Spider Cake

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg

  • 8 small candy eyeballs
  • 1 cup chocolate sprinkles
  • 16 chocolate sticks or chocolate-covered biscuit sticks

    1. MAKE the frosting. Combine the heavy cream and chocolate in small microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 45 seconds and stir. Return to the microwave and heat again for 20 seconds. Let the mixture stand for 2 minutes; then whisk together until smooth. Place in refrigerator to firm to spreading consistency, about 1 hour.

    2. MAKE the cake. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine first six ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk together. Add the milk, melted butter and vanilla and beat on low until combined. Scrape down the bowl and add the egg; beat again until well incorporated.

    3. LINE one well of a cupcake tin with a paper liner and fill it 2/3 full with batter (this is the spider’s head). Grease and flour 2-1/2 quart ovenproof bowl for the body (you can use stainless steel) and pour in the remaining batter. Bake the cupcake for 12-15 minutes, or until the center springs back when pressed. Bake the cake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. Allow the cupcake and cake to cool on wire rack.

    NOTE: If you want to use the rest of the cupcake tin to bake more cupcakes, plan ahead for your batter of choice.

    4. PLACE the chocolate sprinkles in a bowl. Cut the cupcake in half and cover top portion with chocolate frosting (bonus: you get to eat the other half of the cupcake). Place 8 candy eyeballs on top of the frosting. Use a spoon to cover the cupcake with chocolate sprinkles. Gently shake off excess and set aside.

    5. PLACE the cake on a large serving platter. Cover the bowl-shaped cake with chocolate frosting, then cover frosting with chocolate sprinkles. Apply more frosting to the back side of the cupcake to attach the “head” to the “body.”

    6. GENTLY INSERT three chocolate sticks, standing upright on each side of spider body (do one side at a time). Use leftover frosting to attach a second chocolate stick, creating three sets of spider legs on each side. Insert two short chocolate stick “legs” on either side of spider head. Use frosting to attach two additional short chocolate sticks to legs, creating segmented front legs.

    7. SLICE and serve, but only once your guests have applauded the finished cake.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Halloween Cakes With Nordicware

    Add even more fun to Halloween festivities for family and friends…for party hosts…for your workplace:

    Make a Halloween cake with a NordicWare cake mold. It requires no more time and talent than pouring a cake mix batter into the mold.

    The molds are artfully embossed, creating “cake sculptures” that need no added decoration. Of course, you can add your own touches with icing, edible glitter, spider candies, etc.

    Beyond Halloween, the skull molds also work for El Dia De Los Muertos. In photo #4, one home baker created a classic decorated skull design.

    NordicWare’s Halloween cake pans include:

  • Ghost centerpiece (photo #3)
  • Haunted manor centerpiece (photo #2)
  • Skull cakelets and centerpiece (can be decorated for Dia De Los Muertos—photo #4)
  • Tombstone cakelets (photo #1)
    The pans have a nonstick finish that guarantees easy release, and a lifetime guarantee.

    There are also cookie stamps: a set that includes a black cat, pumpkin and spider.

    They’re available at many retailers including Williams-Sonoma, plus online at Amazon and

    You can use any cake recipe you like. Particularly seasonal:

  • Applesauce cake
  • Dark chocolate (for the black spooky effect—add some black food color)
  • Pumpkin Cake
  • Red velvet cake (for the “bloody” effect)
  • Spice cake
  • White cake for ghosts and skulls
    But sure, go for the brownie batter, the chocolate ghost with white icing, or other family favorite.

    You can add a sauce for a more elaborate dessert:

  • Bourbon or rum sauce
  • Caramel sauce with scotch
  • Crème anglaise
  • Hard sauce
  • Sabayon, the French version of zabaglione sauce
    The best approach is to put the sauce on the plate first, then set the cake on top of it. You won’t cover up the design elements.

    Have fun with it!

    Use the cake pans to mold other foods:

  • Custard
  • Dips and spreads
  • Gelatin
  • Ice cream
  • Pudding

    Tombstone Cake Nordicware Halloween
    [1] Tombstone cakelets, individual portions (photo courtesy NordicWare).

    Haunted House Cake - Nordicware
    [2] Haunted mamor centerpiece (photo courtesy NordicWare).

    Ghost Cake Nordicware
    [3] A ghost centerpiece (photo courtesy Nordicware).

    Skull Cakes Nordicware

    [4] Skull cakelets, decorated for El Dia De Los Muertos (photo by Nozomi | Williams-Sonoma upload.




    RECIPE: Coffee Cake Mug Cake & The History Of Mug Cakes

    Mug Cakes Cookbook
    [1] Get a book on mug cakes, and have an almost-instant cake fix whenever you need one (photo courtesy St. Martin’s Press).

    Coffeecake Mug Cake

    Coffee Cake Mug Cake
    [2] and [3] Coffeecake Mug Cake from Ava’s Bakery.

    Cup Of Coffee

    [4] While the cake bakes, make a cup of coffee (photo Sxpng | Canstock ).


    Mug cakes have been around for a while. They’re a handy solution when you’re jonesing for a piece of cake. Simply combine some basic ingredients in a coffee mug and microwave for 2 or 3 minutes.

    Yet, a survey among our cake-loving friends and colleagues indicates that few of us make mug cakes. So today, National Coffee Day, we’re encouraging the practice with the Mug Coffee Cake recipe below.

    If you like mug cakes as much as we do, there are several mug cake cookbooks. Start with Mug Cakes: 100 Speedy Microwave Treats to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth (photo #1).

    While unleavened cakes date back to ancient Egypt, most were savory cakes, some garnished with honey. Without leavening, they did not rise.

    It took another few millennia, until the 18th century, for bakers to discover the technique of whipping eggs to make cakes rise. While it required many hours of beating, the wealthy had enough labor in the kitchen. These unsung bakers heralded the dawn of modern baking.

    By the 1840s, baking soda had been invented, followed by baking powder in the 1860s (the difference). These chemical leavening agents meant that most cooks could make a cake rise.

    With cakes came cupcakes. The original cupcakes were baked in coffee cups; hence the name. They were actually mini “test cakes,” to test the heat of the oven.

    From the prehistoric dawn of the oven to the latter half of the 19th century, there were no thermostats to regulate the temperature of the oven, which was fueled by a wood or charcoal fire. Delicate cooking like baking required great technique (the history of ovens).

    In 1851, the Bower’s Registered Gas Stove debuted at the Great Exhibition in London, featuring a revolution: a thermostat. It became the basis for the modern gas oven.

    As ovens with regulated temperatures became available, and sugar became affordable to most people, more home cooks were able to bake to their hearts’ content. This resulted in more creativity in recipe development. The modern cake as we know it began to take shape in the mid-19th century.

    Finally, The Microwave!

    The next great leap forward, the consumer microwave oven, was launched in 1967. But it took another 50 years or so to popularize a microwaved cake-in-a-mug. Finally, in the Information Age, it quickly gained popularity via online cooking forums.

    The technique uses a mug as the cooking vessel and takes just a few minutes to toss the ingredients into the mug: flour, sugar, baking powder, seasonings and fats (butter, cream, oil). The mug goes into the microwave; as the fat in the mixture heats up, it creates air pockets that cause the cake to quickly rise.

    Here’s a fun idea for National Coffee Day: a coffee mug cake filled with coffee cake (photos #2 and #3).

    If that sounds like too much of a tongue twister, let us explain:

    Ava’s Cupcakes, a winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, has created a tongue-in-cheek cake for National Coffee Day. It’s a mug cake—made in a coffee mug. And that’s a streusel-topped coffee cake in that mug.

    You’ll also need a separate mug of coffee to drink with the mug cake (photo #4)…but what a memorable coffee break!

    If you’re in the neighborhood, Ava’s Bakery has a retail bakery in Rockaway, New Jersey. If not, there’s a large selection of products available online at

    Ingredients For The Cake

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • Dash of salt
    For The Crumb Topping

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Optional garnish: powdered sugar, ice cream or whipped cream

    1. SOFTEN the butter. Place the sugar in the mug, add the butter and combine. Add cream, vanilla and cinnamon, and stir.

    2. MIX the flour, salt and baking powder together in a separate bowl, and add to the cup. Blend.

    3. MAKE the topping: Soften the butter, add flour, cinnamon and brown sugar, and mix until crumbly. Crumble the top onto flour mixture, patting down gently.

    4. MICROWAVE for 2 minutes, let cool for 1 minute. Garnish as desired and consume!



    TIP OF THE DAY: An Edible Delicata Vase

    Delicata Squash
    [1] Turn a delicata squash into an edible vase (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

    Delicata Squash Bouquet
    [2] An edible delicata squash vase from Olmstead | Brooklyn.

    La Quercia Speck

    [3] Domestic speck from La Quercia in Iowa.

    La Quercia Prosciutto

    [4] Domestic prosciutto from La Quercia (photos #3 and #4 courtesy Murray’s Cheese). Prosciutto and speck look almost identical in photos. The difference is in the flavor and aroma. See why below.


    Olmstead, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, New York, is one of two New York City restaurants that was named to the list of James Beard Award-winning restaurants of 2017 (the other is Le Coucou).

    These delicata squash vases are one of chef Greg Baxtrom’s favorite seasonal dishes. Multiply this recipe by the number of servings you’d like.

    For a vegetarian course, substitute thin curls of a hard cheese like parmesan or aged gouda for the prosciutto/speck.

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 1 delicata squash
  • 2 ounces sliced prosciutto or speck
  • Cooking oil
  • 1 bunch sage
  • 3 tablespoons ricotta
  • 1 smallish green pear
  • 1 bunch mustard greens
  • 1 head lettuce (we used butter lettuce)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Sherry vinegar

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Cut the bottom off the squash so it has a level base, slice it in half and scoop out the seeds. Then slice it in half horizontally, to create two “vases” (you’ll have four pieces, and will use two pieces to make one vase). Season with salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes or until tender.

    2. REDUCE the heat to 325°F and bake the prosciutto/speck on a baking sheet until crispy.

    3. HEAT the cooking oil to 300°F and fry the sage for 20 seconds. Remove and set on paper towels to drain.

    4. SEASON the ricotta with olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Clean the lettuce and mustard greens. Slice the pear thinly on a mandoline. Dress the lettuce greens and pear with salt, pepper, olive oil and sherry vinegar

    5. ASSEMBLE: Stand up two halves of the squash and fill it halfway with ricotta. Build the vase, adding lettuces to make the bouquet. Decorate the lettuce bouquet with strips of crispy ham, pear slices and sage.

    The delicata is a winter squash, a cream-colored cylindrical shape with green stripes. It is a member of the genus/species Cucurbita pepo, which also includes pattypan squash, pumpkin, yellow crookneck squash, yellow summer squash and zucchini.

    Delicata refers to its delicate rind, which can be eaten. Along with its creamy texture, delicata makes a perfect edible vase. It is often stuffed with meat or vegetable mixtures.

    Delicata squash is most commonly baked, but can also be microwaved, sautéed and steamed. The seeds can be toasted and eaten.

    Indigenous to North and Central America, squash were introduced to early European settlers by Native Americans. References to the delicata date to 1856. While the standard delicata is grows on vines, sweeter bush varieties have been introduced and sold with proprietary names such as Honey Boat and Sugar Loaf [source].

    Delicata is not as rich in beta-carotene as other winter squashes, but is a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, with smaller amounts of vitamins B and C, magnesium and manganese.

    Delicata is also known as Bohemian squash, peanut squash and sweet potato squash. They are easy to grow, mature roughly 105 days after germinating. After harvested, you’ll need to cure them for approximately a week in a warm, dry place, protected from frost. A garage works.


    Prosciutto and speck are very similar hams, both made from the hind leg of the pig, rubbed with salt and spices.

  • Prosciutto is cured by air-drying.
  • Speck is air-dried, then smoked as a final step in the curing process.
  • The result: speck has a smoky flavor, prosciutto does not.


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