GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 24, 2012

Halloween fun for kids (of all ages)

Pat's Kitchen Patricia Altomare
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — If you have read any of my past Halloween columns, you already know how much I love Halloween. I always had a houseful of children for a spooky party and decorations galore, using the children as an excuse. But I loved the fun of it all; from helping to concoct that year’s costume, to setting out that candle-lit pumpkin on the front steps at twilight to welcome all the trick-or-treaters.

One year, our Halloween party was for about 20 12-year-old girls and boys. I received the biggest compliment when they told me I won the prize for the “scariest party ever,” because the girls screamed the loudest and were totally scared.

My message here is to have fun with it. If you are grandparents now, you will enjoy making the treats below with children of any age, and you will have a hard time to keep them from eating them. Getting their hands in buttery, gooey popcorn balls is a great thing to a 4-year-old, and you can always make it more festive with some “ghostly” music in the background.

Before you get into the kitchen, here is a fun idea for pumpkin carving:

Cozy, Critter-Filled Pumpkin

If you have boys, they are especially fond of this.

1. Using a marker, draw a circle on the pumplkin for several small holes, about 10 or 12.

2. Have an adult cut out holes. No scraping inside the pumpkin is needed.

3. Fill holes with rubber mice peeking out, and some with tails sticking out. (available at craft and party stores)

4. Listen for screaming neighbors.

The goodies

This spooky snack is a terrific finger-food that children will have fun making with you. Whether for a party or simply for the kids at home, they are as cute as can be and easy enough to make. If you do not have a pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter, use any round cutter.

Halloween Jiggly Pumpkins

Makes about 14 individual snacks.

Ingredients:

2 packages (6 ounces each) orange jello

21/2 cups boiling water

1 cup cold whole milk

1 package (3.4-ounce) instant vanilla pudding mix

Candy corn for eyes and black licorice or black gumdrops for candy mouths

Dissolve gelatin in water; set aside for 30 minutes. Whisk milk and pudding mix until smooth, about 1 minute. Quickly pour into gelatin; whisk until well blended. Pour into an oiled 13-x9-x2-inch pan. Chill until set. Cut into circles or use pumpkin cookie cutter, place on serving plate. Just before serving decorate with candy eyes and mouths.

Marshmallow-Popcorn Balls

Makes about 12.

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for hands

1 bag (10 ounces) white miniature marshmallows

1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar

3 quarts popped popcorn

1 cup chocolate candies (such as orange and brown M&Ms),optional

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper.

Melt butter in a large pot over low heat. Add brown sugar and marshmallows; stir until melted and combined. Remove from heat.

Add popcorn, and candies if desired; toss until well mixed.

With buttered hands, shape into 21/2-half inch balls.

Let harden slightly on lined baking sheet.

Note: To turn these popcorn balls into Halloween party gifts, wrap them in cellophane bags and tie them with orange and black ribbons. Or by changing the M&M colors and the ribbon colors, these would be nice for gift giving at Christmas, or for any special time.

---

Patricia Altomare invites feedback. Email her at patakitchen@yahoo.com, or write care of Gloucester Daily Times, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930.