Sunday, November 3, 2013

Halloween Party - Recipe Reviews, Successes and Failures

My husband and I threw our first Halloween Party (aka Harvest Party, Reformation Day Party, All Saints Day Party, Fall Festival Party, etc.) this year.  We had a great time and it was fun to dress up in costumes as grown-ups.  I got most of my party ideas from Pinterest so I thought I'd share my results for future reference.

Invitations

As you can see, I handmade my invitations.  From the beginning I had the idea that I wanted to have a "pick a holiday" gimmick, to accommodate people who may not like Halloween, to make light of the controversy surrounding Halloween, and to point out that no matter what you call it, the end of October is a good time to dress up in a costume and eat candy.  This invitation is unfinished - I glittered both sides.  It was fun to make them, but next time I'll print the letters.  I don't have time to make them look cute doing them by hand.

Food

The food is the most important part of the party, for me.   I chose recipes that had either autumn flavors like cinnamon, apple, and pumpkin, or some kind of Halloween/fall look.

John Thomas photo Spider Web Molten Pie is indulgent with hot fudge.

Left: original; right: mine (obviously)

This was quick and easy to make because it used two mix recipes.  I tend to like to make things from scratch, so I wasn't sure about it at first, but on the other hand I've also made Oreo truffles so this isn't much different.  I wish I had baked it just one or two minutes less than the instructions said - it wasn't quite as "molten" as it looked in the picture - but on the other hand I made it a day in advance so it wasn't hot either.  Really moist, rich texture, very yummy, and the spiderweb look (although mine wasn't as picture-perfect) adds to the seasonal aspect. A great choice if you want something easy.





Left: original; Right: my less beautiful result

I looked at several different candy corn-themed parfaits and this was the prettiest (in the picture).  Mine didn't turn out so great, but I think that's because I tried to put them in too many bowls.  This recipe does not yield a large batch.  It says "4 moderate servings or 6-8 mini servings" and that is the truth.  I tried making 8 because I had these cute little tiny glasses I found at Walmart ($1.98 for a set of 4!) but I didn't have enough to make the layers really clear.  Also, I skipped the part about putting the mousse into a ziploc bag and piping it into the bowls - big mistake.  It's really hard to spoon the stuff into the bowls neatly.  Finally, I thought the taste was kind of underwhelming - maybe that's because I expected the texture to be more like either cheesecake or mousse and this was more like pudding.  My husband, who doesn't like cheesecake but does like pudding, liked them more than I did.  Try them if you want, but follow the instructions carefully and if you want to serve a lot of people, double the recipe.

Slow Cooker Caramel Apple Cider
Original (I didn't take a picture of mine)

This was easy in that you just put the stuff in the crock pot and let it simmer for a few hours.  It was also easy in that there are only three ingredients: apple juice, cinnamon sticks (use actual sticks, not ground peppermint), and caramel (I used homemade caramel, the recipe for which is below).  I only made half a batch because I didn't have a whole gallon of apple juice.  This stuff was good - very sweet though, so if you're not a fan of that you'll probably want to leave the caramel out and stick to regular cider.

 
Left: original; Right: mine (not as pretty in plastic wrap)

For me, this is the main attraction.  In my opinion, gourmet caramel apples are the reason fall was created.  Last year I tried making some using a recipe I found on Pinterest, and the caramel came out very stiff and the overall result was really not beautiful.  So I found this recipe that gives very specific instructions but also has tips on how to decorate more neatly, and it helped a ton.  First of all, this caramel is awesome.  I don't think I will ever look for another caramel recipe again - the use of "dark" sugars really adds more depth of flavor, and the caramel is nice and soft - not chewy at all. Also, and I can't stress this enough, use a candy thermometer.  Unless you are a candy-making expert, it's tough to judge when the caramel has reached "soft ball stage" by just eyeballing and testing it.  Also, my caramel was ready in a shorter amount of time than the recipe indicated (which is probably the reason my last year's caramel failed so miserably - I just have a hot stove) - and cooled the necessary amount far more rapidly than I anticipated (like within two minutes).  If you want to try your hand at caramel apples, use this recipe/tutorial.  Read all the instructions and follow them as closely as possible, and the end result is totally worth it.

Pumpkin Fluff Dip  Recipe
Left: original; Right: mine doesn't look pretty because of the lighting but it looked better in person, I promise.  It just wasn't as "fluffy" because I used less cool whip.

This is a more generic recipe you can find anywhere online.  I just happened to save this particular one.  They're all pretty much the same except that some recipes only called for 8 ounces of frozen whipped topping.  I'm not sure if the other amounts are proportionately smaller - it seems to me they weren't - I used just the 8 ounces and I'm glad I did, because I like my dips nice and thick, and plus with a white pumpkin it was nice to have dip that was more orange in color.  Also, I made my own "pumpkin pie spice" mix so if you don't have that particular blend it's no big deal.  This dip was really good with cinnamon graham crackers - I'm not sure I liked it so much with pretzels (normally the combination of sweet and salty appeals to me, but it didn't work as well in this case).  Nilla wafers would probably taste good too, or just apple slices.

I'm sure you can put the dip directly into a pumpkin (I washed mine out with vinegar), but I had to make it several hours in advance so I thought I'd put it in plastic wrap.  Not as pretty, but it worked.

Original (again, I didn't take a picture of mine)

I was dying to try this recipe because I'm not a big coffee drinker but I love the pumpkin spice flavored beverages.  I'm sad to say, this was not as great as I had hoped.  The problem is, if you make it, you have to serve it right away and drink it right away because otherwise the pumpkin will separate and form a film on top of the rest of the liquid.  That is not fun to drink.  If you're hosting an occasion where you can serve this drink right away, go for it, but if not, try something different.


Oh, and on a whim I made some banana bread.  We just had a bunch of bananas that didn't get eaten and I thought some people might like something that's not so much like candy.  I just used Betty Crocker's recipe - always a classic.  (I topped it with powdered sugar on a whim).


Decor

I love fall decor.  Love, love, love.  I've already mentioned some of the things I did to decorate in a previous post.  Here are some other things I did and their inspiration.

White Hutch

I saw this great monochromatic decor for Halloween and though, with all the white in my house, I can do something similar (this was, of course, just after I repainted my hutch).  I knew someone who had a pumpkin patch with white pumpkins, so she gave me several.  I turned my white canisters around and printed jack-o-lantern faces, which I cut out and glued to the backs to look like little ghosties.  The candles are from different places around town - anywhere you can get candles cheap (unscented cost less), but we have the world's most sensitive smoke detector about fifteen feet away from where these are set up, so they only stayed lit for a short while. :(

The glitter spiderwebs were tricky.  I found that Tacky glue was much easier to pipe in a continuous line, and was more flexible when it dried than Elmer's.  I only made one Elmer's glue web and it seemed very brittle - some of the spokes (is that what they're called?) broke and I had to tape them back together.  I'm not really sure what I was supposed to use to put them on my hutch though.  I used Scotch tape, which was fine, but very visible.

Book Hutch
My little block letters spelling "trick or treat" made a nice touch on my other hutch.  I picked up the angel statuette at a yard sale for maybe 50 cents.  I made the little flower arrangements and printed out the subway art, and everything else I've had for at least a year.

Printables

I wanted to see decorations on all the walls in the living room, so I just printed out some more free stuff - Happy Halloween banner letters and a few pictures to frame.  The plaque in the middle is also from a yard sale.

Costume

I saw this cute scarecrow makeup on Pinterest and thought, I actually have a scarecrow costume (well, it's my mom's, but I've worn it before) - I can do that.  So I did (not exactly the same).  I used eyeliner and cheap Halloween makeup crayons from Walmart.  I think it turned out pretty well.

My husband was Jason Voorhees.  Nuff said.







 Happy Halloween!