Halloween Fun for the Home and Hearth - By ARA Content

(ARA) - For little kids, Halloween is about one thing -- candy. But for young-at-heart grown-ups, All Hallows’ Eve is more about drama and food than about headless horsemen. And because Halloween falls smack in the middle of fall, the harvest season provides plenty of design inspiration for both the home and hearth.

According to Majorie Marcellus, an interior design instructor at The Art Institute of California – San Francisco, “Halloween is about change, not fear. It’s the season of heightened awareness. Things are prickly and lush, unsettling and seductive. Think beyond the visuals when decorating and cater to your edgy sixth sense,” she says.

To create a Halloween feel around her home even before the door bell rings, Marcellus buys or makes costumes early and then hangs them over kitchen chairs like slip covers. Taking inspiration from fall colors, she likes chocolate and butterscotch for towels to hang in baths or solid black or crimson material to cover a dining room table. Top this with random caramels, tiny pumpkins, gourds or leaves.

Some of the best decorations come from your own backyard. Marcellus suggests taking a small, rusty pail and filling it with cinnamon potpourri, or taking old mason jars and filling them with black licorice bits and twigs. Lean old brooms, rakes or scythes in a porch corner. Scatter leaves all around them.

If you want to create a spookier mood, Jack Beduhn, Interior Design faculty member at The Art Institute of California - San Diego, recommends using the common technique of “up-lighting” around your house to welcome the little ghosts and goblins.

"A simple lighting scheme should only take a few hours to position. Inexpensive, low-voltage spot lighting is available at most hardware stores," says Beduhn. "Adding some simple lighting can add eye-catching glows and eerie shadows around decorations you already have out."

Now that you’ve set the mood, add to the fun with a few tasty (despite the scary names) dishes that will please everybody. Chef Joe LaVilla, assistant director of culinary arts for The Art Institute of Phoenix sets a scary mood with Jell-O Brains and Finger Eclairs. “Half the fun is in the name, but these treats are delcious too,” says LaVilla. “Lay these out on a platter with pools of raspberry sauce for a little extra drama,” he suggests.

All recipes courtesy of Chef Joe LaVilla -- The Art Institute of Phoenix

White Chocolate Truffle Eyeballs (Makes 50)
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound liquid white chocolate for dipping
1 cup red-hot candies

Place heavy cream in a large pot and bring slowly to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes then stir well until smooth. Stir in the butter. Pour into the bowl of an electric mixer, and let cool until set. Fit mixer with a paddle and beat the chocolate mixture on medium speed until aerated and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Line several baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Using a small scoop or melon baler, scoop the truffle mixture out to form 1/2-inch balls. Place pans in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly. To coat the truffles, set up your counter like this: tray of chilled centers on your left, bowl of melted tempered chocolate in the middle, Sheetpan with parchment on right. Pick up a truffle with your left hand. Touch the palm of your right hand lightly onto surface of tempered chocolate. Drop the truffle into your chocolaty right hand and roll it around to coat. Place finished truffles on paperlined pan to set completely. Before totally set, place one red hot candy on each eyeball. Truffles do not need to be refrigerated.

Jell-O Brains
For this recipe choose your favorite Jell-o flavor (for brains I like lime, then I can say its radioactive). Make a recipe with 3/4 the amount of water called for on the package. Place into a brain mold (many different sizes of brain molds are available online or in candy supply stores). Chill well and unmold onto a plate. Decorate the plate with strawberry flavored Cool Whip or cinnamon flavored whipped cream.

Finger Eclairs (Makes 40)
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a heavy bottomed 1-quart saucepan, combine the water, butter, sugar and salt. Bring to a rolling boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour, all at once, to the pan and quickly stir vigorously to incorporate the flour into the liquid.

Return the pan to the stove, and over a medium-low heat, continue to cook and stir the dough over the fire. Do this until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Remove the dough from the saucepan, and place in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix the dough on low speed for about 2 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time to the dough and mix until completely incorporated before the next addition.

Immediately transfer the dough to a piping bag with a small, round tip.
Pipe short strips of choux pastry that are 1/2-inch thick, and 2 inches long. You do not need to be very delicate in piping. If your tip is too small, move the piping so the final éclair is about the correct size. The more wrinkled and bumpy it is, the more it will look like a gnarled finger. Do not pipe them too closely together as they will need space to expand as they bake. Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake the éclairs for 12 minutes, or until golden brown.

There is only a little space to fill the éclairs, but you can use whipped cream, vanilla pudding or for a more creepy filling, pistachio pudding. Top with white chocolate glaze and put a touch of red cake decorating gel on the tip, like nail polish.

White Chocolate Glaze:
1/4 pound white chocolate
1 1/4 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature, 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon
1/4 cup light corn syrup Directions:
To make the chocolate glaze, cut the chocolate into small pieces and place in a medium-sized mixing bowl along with the butter and corn syrup. Place the bowl over a saucepan with 2-inches of water in it, set over a low simmer. Melt the chocolate over the saucepan, and once melted, remove from the heat and stir until all the ingredients are combined. Keep slightly warm when dipping the éclairs into the glaze.

Chocolate Tomb stones
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 lb semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup frosted flakes
1/2 lb dark chocolate, cut into chunks
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup cocoa powder
White decorator icing

Line a jelly roll pan (or a cookie sheet with sides) with plastic wrap. In a small bowl, place the butter and chocolate chips. Bring a pot of water to a boil and turn off the heat. Place the bowl of chocolate over the water and allow to melt. When the chocolate and butter begin to melt, stir occasionally until a smooth mixture is formed. Remove from the water and add the frosted flakes. Immediately pour into the jelly roll pan and smooth out so the chocolate is even. Allow to harden. Once hard, cut into 2 inch by 4 inch rectangles.

In another bowl, melt the dark chocolate and cream as above. Dip 3/4 of the chocolate square into the melted chocolate and allow to cool. Dip the remaining 1/4 into cocoa powder, to look like dirt. Once the blocks are cool, let the kids decorate them like real tombstones. Then lay them out around the table or stand them up in a cake or ice cream.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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