You need a variety of treats to satisfy the masked monsters who come hungrily creeping 'round your door on Halloween. Include healthy-eating options for the portlier poltergeists who are watching their weight and the sugar-stuffed spirits who can't face yet another candy bar. With Halloween party treats, it's all about the presentation. It needn't be a nightmare. You can quickly and easily whip up a range of demonic dishes using the simplest of ingredients.
Wash young carrots. Arrange them upright in tumblers in groups of five so they resemble orange fingers, with a shorter carrot as the thumb. Spread peanut butter on the tip of each digit and stick a corn-chip "fingernail" to it. Serve with guacamole, made by mixing mashed avocado with diced tomatoes, minced onions, seasonings and a squirt of lemon juice.
Cut slits in eight apples and push a wooden stick into each slit. Put 28 ounces of caramel candy and 1/4 cup of water into a saucepan. Stir over low heat until the caramel melts. Add two drops of red food coloring. Dip apples in the caramel and serve them dripping sweet, red "blood."
Boil salad potatoes whole, with their skins on. Let them cool. Carve a frightful face into each potato with a sharp knife. Gouge out eyeholes and fill them with slivers of olive. Press pumpkin seed "teeth" into the mouth. Hide the shrunken heads under salad leaves in a bowl. Add a dash of salad dressing so they gleam wickedly.
Slice a French baguette into thin rounds. Using scissors, cut ghost shapes -- small enough to fit on each bread slice -- from cooking foil. Place the foil on the slices and toast them. Remove the foil to leave a stenciled ghost on each piece of toast. Serve rounds of ghost toast with pate for older apparitions, with peanut butter for younger wraiths.
Melt dark chocolate in a double boiler. Dip the tip of a teaspoon into the melted chocolate. Use it to draw a spider body on a plain cookie: a small blob for the head and a large blob for the abdomen. Draw eight chocolate legs with the edge of the teaspoon.
In a large, heatproof pitcher, make a fruit gelatin dessert according to the instructions on the pack. Green or yellow gelatin is best for blob monsters. Pour the hot gelatin into muffin molds to set. Turn out each blob from its mold. Add marshmallows and raisins for eyes. Add feelers and fangs cut from citrus peel.
Sift 7 ounces of icing sugar into a bowl. Add 3 ounces of unsalted butter, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon of milk and the food coloring of your choice. Work the ingredients together with the back of a spoon. Make monster faces on plain cupcakes with your mixture. Add sprinkles, nuts and candied peel for horns, eyeballs and gnashing teeth.
Open a can of lychees. Stuff each lychee with a green or purple grape to make a fruity eyeball, complete with colored iris. Serve on a bed of chopped, red melon flesh or sliced strawberries so the eyeballs really glare out at your guests.