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Halloween can be scary but not if you use these recipes for some fun and tasty treats

Healthy Halloween treats don’t have to be boring. Ghostly bananas taste great with chocolate chip faces and pumpkins made from clementine tangerines with celery stick stems are easy to make with kids.
Healthy Halloween treats don’t have to be boring. Ghostly bananas taste great with chocolate chip faces and pumpkins made from clementine tangerines with celery stick stems are easy to make with kids. MCT

Halloween happenings and fall festivals are in full swing.

Friday through Sunday there are trunk-or-treats taking place across the six counties of South Mississippi.

The folks who give freely of their time and trunk loads of candy deserve a round of applause. These events are a great way for youngsters to experience Halloween without hitting the streets, going door-to-door.

Schools are hosting carnivals, and classrooms are having pumpkin or Halloween parties.

Years ago, my friends and I loved to trick or treat and went door-to-door. Sometimes we received popcorn balls, candied apples and sometimes entertained with a spookhouse or apple-bobbing. It was a less-threatening time than today with the potential of candy tampering.

Friday, my granddaughter’s class at Christian Collegiate Academy is having a pumpkin party, and everything is coming up pumpkins — pumpkin centerpieces and decorations, mini cakes or cupcakes, toasted pumpkin seeds and more.

At the last class meeting, my daughter had to work, so I subbed for her. Guess who is toasting pumpkin seeds and making some four dozen cupcakes or mini-Bundt cakes? I can’t decide which. It’s hard to find food coloring and sprinkles that do not contain red dye 40, which increases hyperactivity or allergic reactions in some children. This requires extreme label-reading because it is often found in the smallest print on the bottle.

If you are doing special treats for festivals or Halloween, I offer these pumpkin mini-bundt cakes that are perfect pumpkin shapes frosted with orange icing, green frosting for leaves and a Tootsie Roll for a stem. They not only are cute, but taste great.

I also offer a healthy Halloween banana snack and a non-alcoholic orange punch, perfect for any fall event.

Is it gumbo or stew to you?

Leslie Sivak asked for a gumbo recipe that doesn’t contain okra and is not spicy.

Fellow reader Cheryl Bradley takes exception to the no okra in gumbo.

“I hope you will inform your reader that you cannot make gumbo without okra,” Bradley e-mailed. “The word gumbo means okra. I lived most of my life in New Orleans and south Louisiana, where just about everyone cooks gumbo. If it does not contain okra, it is just stew or meat and gravy.

“Okra was brought to this country from Africa, most likely by the people brought here as slaves. That is a sad story, but those people eventually added wonderful foods to our heritage,” Bradley said.

Now, reader Sharon Waller of Bradenton, Florida, says she makes a gumbo that she thinks Leslie Sivak will like. It is not too spicy.

“This is an okra-free, easy, delicious gumbo,” says Waller. “I have made it many times to rave reviews. This is not too spicy for me, but my husband adds his favorite hot sauce at the table. I serve it with cornbread.”

MINI-PUMPKIN CAKES

1 package spice cake mix, regular size

1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 large eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 cup milk

1/2 canola oil

3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional for those allergic to nuts and those that just don’t like them

ORANGE GLAZE:

7 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon maple flavoring (I use vanilla; I’m not big on maple flavoring.)

Red and yellow food coloring (To avoid Red 40, use natural foods to color the icing, such as cherry, pomegranate or beet powder)

GARNISH:

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons water

Green food coloring

4 Tootsie Rolls (2 1/4 ounces and 6 inches each); cut into 2-inch pieces

In large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds; beat on medium for 2 minutes. Fold in walnuts, if using. Spoon 1/2 cupfuls into 12 greased miniature fluted tube pans or Bundt pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

In large bowl, beat confectioners’ sugar, water and maple or vanilla flavoring until smooth. Tint orange with red and yellow food coloring or use natural fruit or vegetable juices. Place wire racks with cake over waxed paper. Spoon half of the glaze evenly over tops and sides of cakes, letting excess drip off. Let stand until glaze is set. Repeat with remaining glaze.

In small bowl, beat confectioners’ sugar and water until smooth; tint green. Cut a small hole in the corner of a pastry or plastic bag; insert a No. 4 round pastry tip. Fill bag with green frosting. Pipe vines on the pumpkins. For stem, insert a Tootsie Roll piece in the center of each pumpkin. Yield: 1 dozen.

From Taste of Home magazine

BANANA GHOULS AND TANGERINE PUMKINS

3 bananas

1 package fudge frosting

Cut bananas in half.

Place the cut side of the banana down, so the banana halves stand up.

With fudge frosting, draw ghost mouths.

Serve as a healthier after-school snack near Halloween time or for school parties.

Recipe from Save-A-Lot

TANGERINE PUMKINS

8 clementines or mandarin oranges

1 rib celery

Peel the clementines or mandarins.

Cut the celery lengthwise into thirds and then across into 1/2-inch pieces. Insert the celery pieces in the tops of the peeled clementines to resemble pumpkins.

Via TNS/Adapted from weelicious.com.

NON-ALCOHOLIC HALLOWEEN PUNCH

3 cups orange drink

3 cups lemon lime soda

2 liters ginger ale

1 can pineapple juice

In a punch bowl, combine the juice, soda and orange drink. Stir in ginger ale. Serve immediately.

Recipe from Save-A-Lot

TOASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

Seeds from 1 large pumpkin, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Scatter pumpkin seeds onto a sheet pan in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Bake for about 7 minutes, until light brown and crispy.

From Food Network’s Michael Chiarello

OKRA-FREE GUMBO

1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil

1/4 cup flour

2 cups cooked, diced chicken

1 medium onion, diced

1 cup celery, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 cans (15 ounces each) diced tomatoes

1/2 pound smoked kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/2-inch rings (coin size)

1 can crab meat

1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning, adjust to taste

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 bag frozen, peeled medium shrimp, tails removed

In a large heavy pot, mix together the flour and oil. Cook and stir over medium heat until a golden-brown roux develops. Add the vegetables and simmer until the veggies are tender. Add the spices, shrimp, chicken, crabmeat and sausage. Simmer 30 minutes.

Submitted by Sharon Waller

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