I was working in my lab, late one night.
When my eyes beheld an eerie sight…
— “Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett
We all have fond memories of Halloween parties we attended or hosted as kids, getting dressed up and goofing off with friends before heading out to trick-or-treat. Sitting in a circle in a darkened room, we would pass around bowls of eyeballs (peeled grapes), intestines (spaghetti) and ears (dried apricots) lovingly prepared by the host’s mom.
Grade-school kids may be too savvy for such simple spooking nowadays, but they can still have a lot of fun pre-trick-or-treating with simple decorations and homemade treats they can help create.
Set the mood
You and your children can choose a decoration theme to create—some ideas can be fall festival, haunted house, candyland or vampires vs. zombies.
Fall festival decorations can include dried cornstalk bouquets, bundles of hay and scarecrows with jack-o-lantern heads (make baby scarecrows with old onesie PJs and gourd heads). Set up bobbing for apples in a portable tub and play square-dance music on the stereo. Your little monsters can decorate paper lunch bags to create homemade luminarias to light the path to your house—just add a bit of sand and tea lights.
For a spooky theme, an inexpensive roll of cotton can be pulled out super thin to create cobwebs festooned with black pipe-cleaner spiders. With some black permanent markers, your guests can decorate little ghosts made of white kitchen trash bags stuffed with fallen leaves and tied with pipe cleaners to hang from low tree branches. Create a playlist of fun spooky songs, including “Monster Mash,” “Werewolves of London” and “Flying Purple People Eaters.”
Let them eat brains!
The most important part of any party is the refreshments. Be sure to have plenty of tasty Halloween-themed goodies available—and don’t feel compelled to buy processed junk food (they’ll get plenty enough in their treat bags!).
Some spooky snack ideas include black linguine (worms) with red pepper puree (blood); sweet yogurt-coated pretzel sticks (skeleton bones); and misty blood punch, made with cranberry-raspberry juice, seltzer and raspberry sorbet—topped with a square of dry ice.
The day before the party starts, start the Brain Pudding and Monster Eyeballs recipes below with your kids. They’ll have tons of fun—especially with the finishing touch of drizzling the Raspberry Blood. The final presentation is a definite crowd-pleaser, if you can actually convince your young crowd to try a bloody bowlful of brains!
Brain Pudding with Raspberry Blood
Based on a recipe by Alton Brown
- Six-cup brain gelatin mold
- 3 12-ounce cans evaporated milk (not condensed milk), divided
- 4 packages unflavored powdered gelatin
- 1½ cups whipping cream
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Red, blue and greed food coloring
- 4 ounces seedless raspberry jam
- For the Brain Pudding, in a large bowl, pour 1 can evaporated milk. Sprinkle gelatin packets over and let soften for at least 5 minutes.
- While the gelatin softens, bring remaining evaporated milk and cream to a simmer. Stir in sugar and salt and stir until dissolved. Add vanilla and remove from heat. Strain into the gelatin mixture.
- Stir the pudding mixture until smooth. Let stand until room temperature.
- Add one to two drops of food coloring to create a grayish muddy hue. Pour mixture into brain mold, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. Unmold right before use.
- For the Raspberry Blood, melt seedless raspberry jam over low heat. Cool to room temperature. Drizzle glaze over unmolded pudding brain with a spoon or squeeze bottle. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
This tasty treat is fun (and gooey) for kids to help create—make sure the peanut butter and butter are very soft and use a large mixing spoon.
- 1½ cups natural creamy peanut butter (use almond butter if peanut allergies are a concern)
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 12-ounce package semisweet or dark chocolate chips
- 1 3-ounce package miniature M&Ms
- Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine peanut butter, butter and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the powdered sugar until well blended.
- Roll tablespoon-sized scoops into balls and place on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, 1-2 hours.
- Melt chocolate chips in the top of a double-boiler or in a glass in the microwave. Mix until smooth. Let cool slightly.
- Stick a toothpick (or use a fork) into the cold peanut butter balls and dip each one most of the way into the melted chocolate, leaving an oval or round opening of undipped peanut butter on top (this will be the cornea). Return each ball to the waxed paper covered baking sheet, opening side up.
- Place a miniature M&M in the center of the opening to make the iris. Refrigerate an hour before serving.