Halloween . . .  A holiday or a season?

I say, it’s a season for savoring warm days and cool nights . . . Fall foliage and bright skies . . . The crunch of leaves underfoot and a hint of woods in the air . . .

It’s a season for heading out of town to a farm for some good old-time fun of picking the perfect pumpkin and getting lost in a corn maze, eating mostly caramel off a caramel apple and jumping into a pile of hay on the back of the tractor.

farms in Reno, NV

cornfields

pumpkin patch

Andelin Family Farm where we went this year among some other places offers all of the above and more. Kids can also pet and feed farm animals and try a hand at such fun barnyard activities as lassoing, shooting at pumpkins with a slingshot, and bean bag toss!

fresh pumpkins

tractor rides

The place is as scenic as it is fun. The dirt road that takes you off the highway and brings you to the barn winds its way past withered cornfields and adds to the charm of driving through the countryside. The paved driveway is lined up with weathered white fence and a neat row of trees on each side. Going there an hour and a half or two before sunset is best as an end-of-October late afternoon sun colors everything warm orange.

pumpkins, apples, and corn

farm animals

farm animals

Jersey cows

old-time fun

It’s a season for decorating . . .

Every year I spruce up my formal dining room with spider webs, bloody candles, a flock of crows, and a lonely bug on its way out of my grandma’s old, tarnished silver teapot. A tad sinister but it sets the mood. We’ll soon carve our pumpkin here and decorate a bunch of cookies . . . or cupcakes.

It’s a season for baking  . . .

Halloween cupcakes

Baking from scratch or a store-bought mix, it’s all about embellishing your goods! I find that decorating cupcakes is just as much fun as frosting cookies. Maybe more.  Just think of all the three-dimensional ideas you can plaster them with!  I played up the graveyard theme on these regular-size chocolate cupcakes and even buried a secret under their tombstones. I believe you can “bury” pretty much any candy you like, but these sour gummy worms fit the theme perfectly and are sure to collect you a bunch of “phew’s” from guests.

Halloween baking

The cupcakes are a bit time-consuming to put together. So enlist your whole family’ help and delegate tasks. On the other hand, if you intend to surprise them, send everyone off to bed and bite the bullet in solitude. They are totally worth the sacrifice.

seasonal cupcakes

And whereas some of you might have to only sacrifice an hour or two of beauty sleep (depending on the dexterity), I had to break my gluten-free baking streak as I last minute fixed them from a Duncan Hines. Oh, well.

I need to figure out gluten-free all-purpose chocolate and vanilla mixes and have the recipes ready in my recipe book like a couple little black dresses in the closet . . . As a matter of fact, those two mixes should be staples in the repertoire of any serious baker, gluten-free or not.

birthday cake

princess cake

fun Halloween cupcakes

It’s a season for celebrating . . .

The season. You know, fall’s bounty, family, and friends. Perhaps a couple birthdays. My little one’s sixth birthday bash that my friend Lili helped me put together was a sweet little gathering for the neighborhood kids. It was all about decorating pumpkins. All I could focus on was the cake. Funny thing is, I ordered one at the bakery where I had been apprenticing for the last couple of weeks and helped Kathy decorate it. Decorating a cake for my daughter’s birthday is a tradition I will never compromise.  

So Halloween . . . A holiday or a season?

What’s it to you?

Recipe for Graveyard Cupcakes, adapted from the June 2011 issue of Cupcakes by Better Homes and Gardens

Ingredients:

1. 12 regular-size chocolate cupcakes in paper bake cups

2. 1 ½ cups canned creamy white frosting

3. 12 chocolate sandwich cookies with white filling, like Oreos

4. 12 sour gummy worms

4. a bag of gumdrop candies in various colors

Directions:

1. To make gumdrop roses, lightly dust a work surface with granulated sugar. With a rolling pin, roll 3 gumdrops to a thickness of 1/8 inch, then cut in half crosswise. Roll 1 piece into a tight bud and pinch at one end to form the center of the flower. Place the remaining pieces around the center, overlapping them slightly and pressing them together at the base. Trim the bottom to form a flat base. Repeat 35 more times if using three roses per cupcake. Set aside.

2. To make tombstones, split cookies in half. Remove and discard filling. Using a serrated knife, cut three sides from each of 12 of the cookie halves to make tombstone shapes. Crush remaining cookies and trimmings. Place about ¼ cup of frosting in a heavy resealable plastic bag; seal. Snip off a small piece from one corner. On the flat sides of tombstones, pipe RIP, BOO!, or other messages. Set aside.

3. To assemble cupcakes, make a long incision in the center of each cupcake with a small paring knife and carefully insert a gummy worm. Generously frost tops of cupcakes. Carefully tuck in a cookie tombstone into frosting on each cupcake and sprinkle with the crushed cookies. Arrange gumdrop roses as desired.