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    Tuesday, 29 September 2009
    Homemade Halloween Treats: Funny Bones, Glowing Jack-O'Lantern Cookies, Monster Eyeballs

    D esigning costumes, carving pumpkins, making haunted houses: Halloween offers so many opportunities for creative, kid-friendly activities. But this year, why not bring the fun into the kitchen with some easy, slightly spooky Halloween treats?

    Sharon Bowers, cookbook author and mother of two, finds baking a great way to spend quality time with children. In fact, she says that when her six-year-old son is working with dough, "he's much more inclined to tell me what's going on in kindergarten than if I sit him down and ask, 'What exactly did you do all day?'" This, combined with a lifelong love of Halloween, led Bowers to write Ghoulish Goodies, a collection of simple yet creative Halloween-themed recipes. The goal, says Bowers, was to create fun holiday projects that aren't too difficult and don't require any special ingredients or equipment. Most of the recipes can be made on a whim without a special trip to the grocery or craft store. And, because she knows that parents don't have hours to spend in the kitchen, most of Bowers' projects can be completed in under an hour.

    Here, Bowers shares three recipes from the book—Monster Eyeballs, Funny Bones, and Glowing Jack-o'-Lantern Cookies—and offers tips for safe and stress-free baking with kids, plus creative ways to display your creations.


    tips for baking with kids:

    • Play It Safe

    Cooking with children inevitably raises safety questions. In addition to the obvious—keep little ones away from anything hot or sharp—Bowers stresses the need to make sure everything is edible. Rather than reaching for a toothpick to secure a marshmallow, use a pretzel rod or a dab of icing.

    • Lower Your Standards

    Some of your finished products will be less than perfect. Don't despair. Bowers uses the "50/50 rule": She's happy if half of the cookies or candies look nice enough to share. Let kids get creative (and even messy) with the other half. After all, the point is to have some fun with your children, not to turn them into professional food stylists.

    • Embrace the Mess

    While she sympathizes with parents worried about kids making a mess of the kitchen, Bowers finds that children are actually less sloppy when you back off and let them do things on their own. She encourages you to be there to assist your son or daughter but also to limit how much you fuss over their work.

    • Make a Plan

    The best way to ensure that kids have a good time in the kitchen is to look at each recipe and determine what they will enjoy, what will bore them, and which steps you should do on your own. Here are Bowers's suggestions for each project:

    Monster Eyeballs: Children will love using their hands to mix this dough—though bear in mind that they may make a bit of a mess. Short on time? Pop the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes rather than refrigerating it for an hour. Bowers recommends giving younger kids a fork rather than a skewer to dip the eyeballs in chocolate—just be sure to push in the holes left by the fork tines afterwards. And if little ones have trouble leaving an opening for the cornea, Bowers says it works just as well to cover the entire ball in chocolate then finish it with an M&M iris.

    Funny Bones: Buy different-sized marshmallows and pretzels so kids can create giant femurs, skinny phalanges, and other assorted bones. Another trick is to snip the end of each marshmallow with scissors—"it makes it divide like the end of a bone," Bowers explains. Keep in mind that pretzels break easily (even in adult hands), so you'll want plenty of extras on hand. Dipping the bones in chocolate isn't difficult, says Bowers, but it requires a gentle hand and some patience, so don't be surprised if younger kids have trouble with this or get bored.

    Glowing Jack-o'-Lantern Cookies: Kids will get excited to crush the candy for these cookies because, as Bowers explains, "when do parents ever hand kids a hammer and say break this?" If you prefer, the candy can be crushed in the food processor. Bowers recommends rolling out the dough on your own and bringing the kids in when it's time to cut out the pumpkins. While you can use a cookie cutter, she prefers to give kids a butter knife and let them cut the shapes free-form. It's a great opportunity for creativity—pumpkins can be tall and skinny, short and fat, or any shape your child can imagine. The key, Bowers points out, is to exaggerate the cut-outs for the eyes, nose, and mouth, because as the cookies puff up in the oven, these holes will shrink.

    • Display Your Work

    Such creative treats deserve to be shown off. Here are Bowers's ideas for each recipe:

    Monster Eyeballs: These creepy globes look terrific mounded in a bowl or arranged in long, even rows on a square or rectangular white plate.

    Funny Bones: The best way to display these is in a jumble. It's cute to see a "mountain of bones," says Bowers, and mistakes are less noticeable when your creations are piled on top of one another. If you made any larger bones, use a few to frame the pile.

    Glowing Jack-o'-Lantern Cookies: Bowers recommends taking advantage of the "beautiful stained-glass quality" of these cookies by displaying them on a plain white plate or platter.

    Sharon Bowers, Author of Ghoulish Goodies

    New York City–based food writer Sharon Bowers is the author of Ghoulish Goodies and the upcoming Candy Construction Company. She has worked as a senior producer for Foodnetwork.com and as a cookbook editor at HarperCollins.


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    Posted by: Gourmet Grocery Online AT 09:01 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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