Here's the Food for Your Perfect Halloween Party

If your first reaction to this post is "Whoa! It is way too early to be thinking of Halloween," then 1) you are not my friend, 2) stop reading and 3) be grateful my editor at the Houston Press prevented me from publishing it in August, which is approximately when I started planning my Halloween festivities. Yes, indeed, I do love Halloween that much. It is my favorite holiday for a number of reasons, but mostly because it centers around chocolate, ghosts, pumpkins and the color orange. This October, I'm happy to guide you in planning your own All Hallow's Eve celebrations. Here, seven spooky foodstuffs I recommend having at your bash:

7. Ghostly Pretzel Sticks. There are many recipes for this treat on the interwebs, but all exploit that delicious medley of salt, starch and cocoa that is the chocolate-covered pretzel. Ghostly pretzel sticks are not only amusing treats for kids' parties, but they also can serve as stirrers for Halloween highballs at adult fêtes.

6. Candy Corn Cupcakes. Visually impressive yet shockingly easy to make, candy corn cupcakes double as decoration and dessert. Plus, the garnish provides a great opportunity to get rid of some extra candy corn (turns out you didn't devour those three bags you bought at CVS).

5. Mummy Meatloaf. One of the more inventive Halloween entrées I've seen in a long time, Mummy Meatloaf solves the problem of what to serve that's more "substantial" at an evening Halloween party by combining ground hamburger, thick pasta noodles, cheese and cream of mushroom soup. Like some ketchup with your meatloaf? Perfect: Now you have a bloody mummy loaf.

4. Jack-O-Lantern Cheese Ball. Take a picture of this snack early in the party, because the cheese pumpkin quickly loses face as guests arrive. If you enjoy mild Midwestern-style cheddar cheese balls, go with the standard recipes; those in search of more kick should add cayenne pepper or hot sauce and try jalapeño-flavored cream cheese.

3. Mummy Dogs. A perennial favorite since Pillsbury first introduced them a few years ago, Mummy Dogs are essentially larger versions of pigs in a blanket dressed up for Hallow's Eve. Hot dogs are the most popular filler, but if you're in the mood for a classier, less processed Halloween, I suggest using organic pork or chicken sausages.

2. Brownie Pumpkin Patch/Graveyard Cake. Having made this cake every year for the past decade or so, I can say it is not for people who don't like sweets. Okay, it's rather cloying, but if there's one time of the year people are in the mood to eat a dense brownie covered in icing covered in candy, well, it's Halloween. The newest "pumpkin patch" version of the cake (see previous link) is fine and dandy, but I prefer the retro "cemetery" version because it cleverly uses dyed coconut for the "grass" surrounding the tombstones.

1. A Dip-Barfing Pumpkin. Many nauseated pumpkins seem prone to spewing guacamole, a popular choice, no doubt, for its color and ability to pair well with purple corn chips. Don't underestimate the deliciousness/grossness factor of a squash spewing veggie dip (gotta love those chunks!).

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