Gulf Coast Cooking

Don't be scared to try baking up these scary treats

Halloween is a candy-lover's delight, and store-bought treats rule the day for excited trick-or-treaters going door-to-door begging for goodies, but why not consider making up some of your own treats? If not to bestow on the young goblins at your door, then at least for your own Halloween get-togethers.

That can be a daunting task, however, for people who don't bake.

Google Halloween treats and you will be blasted with chopped off fingers, eye balls and every sort of morbid baked good you can imagine that are prefect for the season.

So what are you supposed to do if you want to have a Halloween party and your baking skills are lacking?

Chef Cheri Hiers, an avid baker, and has some simple ideas that will help you out.

These recipes do not require a culinary degree, and if you measure carefully, you should be able to surprise your family with some pretty gruesome treats.

Since this is a kid-heavy holiday you also will find a recipe at the end that is kid friendly, so you can get your entire family into the fun. The kitchen should be a happy place where everyone is welcomed and your kids will thank you in years to come if you teach them the basic skills they will one day need.

Next week we will in

clude some side dishes for the kids to try.

STUFFED PEPPER LANTERNS

4 large orange bell peppers

1 pound lean ground beef or turkey

2 tablespoons chopped onion

1 cup cooked rice

1 teaspoon salt

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 can (15-ounces) tomato puree

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With a sharp knife remove the top of each pepper. Remove seeds and membranes and then rinse the peppers. Carve a jack-o-lantern face into one side of each pepper. If necessary, cut a thin slice from bottom of each pepper so they stand up straight. In a 4-quart Dutch oven, add enough water to cover the peppers. Heat to boiling; add the peppers and cook about 2 minutes, then drain. In a sauté pan cook the beef and onions over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until the beef is browned, then carefully drain. Stir in rice, salt, garlic and tomato sauce and continue cooking until warm. Stuff the peppers with the beef mixture. Stand the peppers upright in an un-greased 8-inch square glass baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Uncover and bake about 15 minutes longer or until peppers are tender. Sprinkle with cheese and serve at once.

FRUITY EYEBALLS

1 can Grade AA lychees in syrup

3 tablespoons strawberry jam

25 large blueberries

Drain the lychees and pat dry. Gently toss blueberries in the jam and then stuff each lychee with a jam coated blueberry.

MERINGUE GHOSTS

4 Egg Whites

1/2 teaspoon Cream of Tartar

1 cup of Sugar

2 ounces of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites for a few minutes on high speed until they become frothy. Then add the sugar a little at a time and mix in the cream of tartar and vanilla. Continue to whip the mixture until it gets stiff. Prepare your baking sheet with a layer of foil covered with non-stick spray. Place the meringue mixture into an icing bag, after attaching a large round icing tip, continually press the meringue mixture directly down onto the foil. Press down and lift up to create layered stacks for each ghost (release the pressure just a tiny bit, pulling up on your frosting bag at the same time in between each layer). Bake them for about 45 minutes or until the tops become brown. Once they are completely cooled, they will harden. While they cool melt chocolate chips in microwave, stir after 30 seconds. Add eyes and mouths with chocolate. Store in an air tight container.

TURKEY MEATLOAF

1 tablespoon good olive oil

1 chopped yellow onion

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1/3 cup canned chicken stock or broth

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 pounds ground turkey

1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs (use Panko if you like)

2 extra-large eggs, beaten

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup grape or strawberry jelly

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan, then add the onions, thyme, salt and pepper and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not brown. Turn off the heat, add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock and tomato paste and then allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, onion mixture, bread crumbs and eggs, and mix lightly with a fork. Don't mash or the meat loaf will be dense. Shape the mixture into a rectangular loaf on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Spread the ketchup evenly on top. Bake for 1 to 1-1/4 hours, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees and the meat loaf is cooked through. (A pan of hot water in the oven, under the meat loaf, will keep the top from cracking.) Serve hot.

-- Chef Cheri Hiers contributed to this report

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