Scare fare

Halloween falls on a Friday this year, which means kids can go trick-or-treating without worrying about getting up early for school the next morning. I have so many fun memories of going through West Philly when I was a girl, armed with several bags of candy that would last way into the new year.

Halloween has become the kickoff to the holiday season. Department stores are decked out with decorations several weeks before ghosts and goblins make their yearly appearance. Still, the orange and black of pumpkins and cats, along with delicious treats, keep kids and grownups grinning like a jack-o’-lantern.

Although children must have a nourishing, balanced diet, Halloween means candy. I know some moms and dads who bring carrot and celery sticks to a party. I say, Halloween comes once a year. Let the kids have a good time, but keep an eye on the candy and ration it each day.

Aromatic spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and allspice are the most popular flavors of autumn. They find their way into drinks and all sorts of treats. Now is the time for apple cider, gingersnaps and spice cakes. Making a special cake for Halloween is easy with the availability of cake pans shaped like pumpkins, ghosts or witches. Once the cake is frosted, it can be decorated with candy corn or small spooky items purchased at novelty stores, gift shops and dollar stores.

Since Halloween falls on a weekend, adults may want to toss a party or, if they are lucky, already have an invitation for one. If it’s a cool night, spiked cider, hot toddies or mulled wine are a sure way to ward off a pre-winter chill.

Here are recipes for kids and grownups for a happy Halloween.

Spiced Cider
From Hot Toddies by Christopher B. O’Hara


5 allspice berries
2 cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 orange peel (whole peel)
1 lemon peel (whole peel)
2 quarts apple cider
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
Ground nutmeg, to taste
10 cinnamon sticks, for garnish
Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum, optional


Place the spices, salt and fruit peels in the center of a 12-inch square of cheesecloth. Gather up the corners and tie with butcher’s twine to create a small packet. In a large pot over medium heat, heat the cider until steam begins to rise from the surface. Add the brown sugar and stir until melted. Add the spice packet to the pot and steep for 10 minutes or until the cider is infused with spice. Serve in mugs with a sprinkling of nutmeg and a cinnamon stick stirrer. If you prefer spiked cider, add 3/4 ounce of spiced rum to each serving or use 1 cup of rum for the full recipe.

Serves 10.

Mulled Wine
From Hot Toddies by Christopher B. O’Hara


2 (750 ml bottles) full-bodied dry red wine
1 cup packed brown sugar
6 ounces orange juice, no pulp
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
12 whole cloves
10 cardamom seeds


In a large saucepan, warm the wine over medium heat until steam begins to rise from the surface, about seven minutes. Add the brown sugar, orange juice and spices. Reduce to lowest possible flame and, stirring frequently, keep the mixture warm for 20-30 minutes, or until the sugar is completely melted and the spices fully integrated. Do not let the mixture boil — this will give the juice a "cooked" flavor. Strain and serve immediately.

Serves 10.

Note from Phyllis: O’Hara suggests you prepare the mulled wine and refrigerate it for 24 hours to really let the flavors meld. Before serving, warm it on the stove for about 10 minutes. I think any hearty red wine, such as a Rioja, Cabernet Sauvignon or Chianti, would do nicely in this recipe.

Applesauce Spice Cake
From The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn


Vegetable spray for misting the pan
Flour for dusting the pan
1 package (18.25 ounces) plain spice cake mix
1 cup sweetened applesauce
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
2 large eggs
1 cup chopped peeled apple
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons sifted confectioners’ sugar for dusting the cake


Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly mist a 12-cup bundt pan with vegetable spray, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour. Set the pan aside.

Place the cake mix, applesauce, buttermilk, butter, shortening, vanilla, lemon zest and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for one minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for two minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed.

The batter should look well blended. Fold in the apple and pecans. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula. Place the pan in the oven.

Bake the cake until it is golden brown and springs back when lightly pressed with your finger, 50-55 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Run a long sharp knife around the edge of the cake and invert it onto the rack so that the cake is right side up. Allow it to cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Place the cake on a serving platter and dust it with confectioners’ sugar.

Serves 16.

Baked Apples


6 large Rome apples
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup maple syrup
Candy corn, for decoration


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Core the apples. Remove about 2 inches of peel from the top of each apple. Butter a baking dish and put the apples in the dish. Make sure they do not touch each other or the sides of the pan. Pour in the orange juice, lemon juice and maple syrup.

Bake in the oven for about one hour or until the apples are soft. Place candy corn around the apples and place one in the cored-out cavity.

Serves six.

Note from Phyllis: You can make baked apples in the microwave. Microwave on high for about 15 minutes. Check to see if they are soft. If not, microwave for about 10 more minutes.