I LOVE HALLOWEEN! It's my favorite holiday!!!

Every year our dear friends Jackie and Ted host the most FABULOUS Halloween party! I look forward to it all year!!!

Each October Ted outdoes himself decorating their yard with ghouls, ghosts, body parts, and every scary object imaginable! Jackie, meanwhile, is decorating the inside of their home with the most adorable Halloween decorations ever!

Jackie spends the week before the party concocting the yummiest of treats, and proceeds to load up the party table so it's magical to behold!

Those of us who love dressing up in costume, sometimes spend months deciding what or who we will be, and then gathering items that will look just right for our outfit.

On Halloween night, Ted sits on the porch "deathly still" wearing his Grim Reaper costume - smoke from his fog machine billowing about him. He patiently waits for unsuspecting boys and girls to climb the porch steps and advance into his lair. As the poor child reaches the top step, Ted rises and scares them practically to death! Their reward for all the terror they had to endure is a full size candy bar! And oh how they love it!!!

Most of "us party guests" bring Halloween goodies too, to add to the mix. (Jackie usually requests my Great Pumpkin Cookies with Penuche Icing.) I'd love to share some of our Halloween recipes with you, so here they are!


Caramel Apple Bars

These Autumn treats taste like eating a caramel apple, only much less messy! Just picture the sweet gooey flavors of melted caramel and tart apples nestled between the crunchy crust and topping made with oats, butter, brown sugar and nuts and baked to golden perfection. These are doubly delicious served warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Ingredients for crust and topping: 1 cup packed brown sugar 3/4 cup butter, softened 1 3/4 cups flour 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Ingredients for filling: 5 to 6 cups peeled and sliced tart apples (like Granny Smith) 1 tablespoon lemon juice 3 tablespoons flour 1 (12 or 14 ounce) package caramels, melted


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Unwrap caramels and place them in a saucepan over low heat to melt while preparing rest of bars. Stir caramels often as they melt.

In large bowl, beat brown sugar and butter together until creamy. Beat in flour, oats, salt and baking soda till well mixed. (Mixture will resemble tiny crumbs.) Set aside 2 cups of this mixture for the topping and pat the rest of the mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9 by 13 inch baking pan.

Place sliced apples into a separate bowl and toss them with the 1 tablespoon lemon juice and then with the 3 tablespoons flour. Arrange apple mixture on top of the crust. Drizzle the melted caramels over the apples and then sprinkle on remaining oat mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until the dessert is bubbly and dark golden brown.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Frosted Great Pumpkin Cookies

This is my very favorite cookie in the whole world! The first time I took a plateful to my friend Jackie, she said she ate every one before her family even saw them. I usually bring these cookies to Halloween parties and Harvest Season get-togethers. The flavor combination of the moist cake-like cookies and the Penuche Glaze is "to die for"! To make Halloween jack-o'-lanterns, pipe face on with icing, or decorate with candy corn and other Halloween candies.

Ingredients: 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar 1 cup canned pumpkin 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 cups all purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon cloves 1/4 teaspoon ginger 1/4 teaspoon allspice 1 cup chopped walnuts Penuche Glaze (recipe follows)

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices until well combined. Stir in walnuts with a spoon.

Using a large tablespoon, drop dough about 2" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until golden around the edges. With spatula, lift warm cookies from baking sheet onto counter or plates to cool. Cool about 30 minutes before spreading on the Penuche Glaze.

Penuche Glaze 3 tablespoons butter 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar 1/4 cup milk (preferably whole milk) Powdered sugar Melt butter in medium saucepan. Stir in brown sugar and heat till bubbly. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Take off heat and blend in milk. Beat in enough powdered sugar to make a smooth, spreadable glaze. Spread thickly on cookies.

Caramel Popcorn

This is the best! Every year one of my best friends, Jackie, and her husband Ted host a fantastic Halloween party in their home. I look forward to it all year, and am constantly trying to figure out what (or who) I am going to dress up as! I've already decided who I 'm going to be this year, but I can't tell you because Jackie may read this and then the cat will be out of the bag!

Anyway, this is Jackie's recipe and she always makes it for her Halloween party and I never can stop eating it - it's my favorite thing there! She always lets me take a bag home!

Ingredients: 10 cups popped popcorn (unsalted & unbuttered) 2 cups brown sugar 1 cup butter (2 sticks), melted 1/2 cup dark Karo syrup 1 teaspoon butter (to add after caramel sauce is cooked) 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Instructions: Put popped popcorn in whatever vessel you have that will hold it all plus enough room to add the caramel sauce and toss.

Preheat oven to 225 degrees.

In a medium-sized pot, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar and Karo syrup. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Cook at a full rolling boil for 5 minutes. (Keep stirring!)

Remove from heat and stir in the teaspoon of butter and the baking soda. Blend well and pour over popcorn. Stir until all the popcorn is coated.

Pour popcorn into a very large baking dish (or a couple of dishes). Bake at 225 degrees for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Pour caramel corn out onto a very large sheet of waxed paper or a cookie sheet to cool.

When cool, break up those kernels sticking together and store in an airtight container.

BUT BE WARNED...............

You won't be able to stop eating it!!!

Popcorn Balls

I absolutely LOVE popcorn balls, but I can't eat them anymore now that I have crowns on my teeth! And, to make it worse, I have one on each side of my mouth so I can't even chew it on one side. I was eating one of these popcorn balls quite a few years ago and it was so sticky that it sucked my crown right out of my mouth. So, needless to say, NO MORE POPCORN BALLS FOR ME! Sniff!!!

But, hopefully, you don't have any crowns, and can eat them all you want!

I've made these ever since my kids were little, and that's a long time ago. You can use any color of food coloring you want, but of course orange would be the perfect color for this time of year!

Ingredients: 5 1/2 cups popped popcorn 1/2 cup Karo corn syrup 1/2 cup water 3/4 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons butter food coloring, if desired

Instructions: Mix together corn syrup, sugar and water in a medium-sized saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture enters the "soft ball stage". What does that mean? It means that when you drop a small amount of the mixture in a cup of cold water, you can form a very soft ball with your fingers.

As soon as syrup reaches the "soft ball stage", take mixture off heat and stir in butter. Put saucepan back on the heat and continue cooking to "hard ball stage". This means that the ball formed in the cold water is a little bit firmer (but not really hard). If you cook it too much, your popcorn balls will be too hard and not chewy. Note: After you add the butter, only cook for another 30 seconds before you check it again. It doesn't take very long to get to the "hard ball stage" from the "soft ball stage"!

After the syrup reaches the "hard ball stage", take it off the heat and add salt and a few drops of food coloring to achieve the desired shade of color.

Place popcorn in a very large pot or container. Pour hot syrup over the popcorn and toss with a large spoon until all kernels are coated. The popcorn will be very hot from the syrup, so be careful to wait a minute or two until popcorn is cool enough to handle without burning your hands. But only wait until it's "just cool enough", because if you let the popcorn get too cool it will not stick together in balls.

These popcorn balls would be great wrapped individually and given out as favors to your guests as they leave your Halloween party!

Spicy Pumpkin Bread

I am absolutely crazy about the moist and flavorful pumpkin bread found at Starbuck's and stop for a slice whenever I get a chance! I had a feeling that Starbuck's would not be sharing their recipe with me anytime soon, so thought I would do my best to replicate it myself. This is the recipe I came up with. Don't tell Starbuck's, but I think I like mine better!

Ingredients: 2 eggs 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1 1/2 cups canned cooked pumpkin 1 2/3 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon cloves 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon ginger 1/4 teaspoon allspice Note: If you wish, you could use 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice in place of all the spices. 1 cup chopped walnuts 1/2 cup raisins

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

In large bowl, beat eggs till frothy. Add sugar and vegetable oil and beat well. Beat in pumpkin.

Add all dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and beat on low speed of electric mixer till throughly combined.

With spoon, stir in nuts and raisins

Pour batter into loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour and 5 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out "almost" clean when stuck into the center. Note: If bread begins to get a little too dark on the top, cover loosely with aluminum foil for rest of baking time.

Cool for at least 1/2 hour before slicing.