Welcome to Make/Buy/Zhuzh, a series where we plan a dinner party with three components: one thing you make from scratch, one thing you buy straight off the shelf, and one thing you accessorize to completion. This Halloween edition also includes what to buy to decorate your spooktacular space.
Even though I’m scared of my own shadow, I love throwing a Halloween party. It’s an excuse to dress myself and my dogs up and go all-out with fun, weird food that is either “bloody” or inspired by the undead. Because I’m an adult with no kids, my ideal monster mash sits at the intersection of classy and spooky. And by spooky, I also mean a little bit cheesy, both in the kitchy-fake-spiderweb way as well as the cheese-is-a-core-food-group way.
To get you started on your Halloween party planning, I’ve got three food ideas that you can make yourself, buy from the store, and zhuzh in a semi-homemade way — as well as a bunch of spooktacular decorations and serveware to set yourself up for spooky success.
Ghoulishly Good Food for Your Halloween Party
MAKE: Shrimp Cocktail Brains
Defrost large frozen shrimp in a bowl of room-temperature water for about 15 minutes. Dry thoroughly, then toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Roast at 400° for 7 to 10 minutes, or until opaque and cooked through. Squeeze lemon juice over shrimp then toss with cocktail sauce to coat. Best served chilled in some sort of severed head, with toothpicks to stab a “bloody” shrimp.
Because I’m an adult with no kids, my ideal monster mash sits at the intersection of classy and spooky.
BUY: Mozzarella Stick “Fingers”
There’s nothing easier than popping some store-bought, frozen mozz sticks in the oven for a quick snack — and you can easily spook them up for your guests. To make your mozzarella sticks look like severed fingers, cut a divot in the top after cooking and stick a pumpkin seed or a piece of roasted red pepper in the top (to make it look like a fingernail). Serve with marinara “blood” and skeleton “hands” serveware for an extra bone-chilling party centerpiece.
ZHUZH: Piggie Mummies
Transform pigs in a blanket into piggie mummies! Buy crescent roll dough (preferably a sheet) and small hot dogs or Lit’l’ Smokies. Instead of wrapping with individual triangles, cut a bunch of thin strips of dough and wrap them around the hot dogs so they look like mummies! Splash red food coloring in store-bought ranch (or make your own with a Hidden Valley Ranch packet, sour cream, and mayonnaise) for a bloody dip and serve in a cauldron.
BONUS DRINK: Zombie Shirley Temples
Fill up a skeleton drink dispenser or a few cauldrons with Zombie Shirley Temples! Mix together club soda, grenadine, and lots of maraschino cherries — with optional vodka on the side to spike into Dirty Shirleys. Want to go the extra mile (and into the graveyard)? Cut little X-shaped eyes (carefully, using a paring knife) into the cherries so they look dead… or undead. Serve them up in lime green or orange plastic cups, which can also be decorated to look like Frankenstein’s monster or Jack O’Lanterns using black Sharpies.
Hang candy from spiderwebs.
You can set up a candy spiderweb inside or outside — all you need are clothespins and a web that fits your space. Candy — fun-size or full-size, depending on your budget — with wrappers that have a little border of scalloped wrapper (like Kit-Kats, Twix, and M&Ms bags) are easiest to hang with a clothespin. One jumbo bag of mixed candy should do you just fine, but more candy never hurt a Halloween bash.
Even though I’m scared of my own shadow, I love throwing a Halloween party. It’s an excuse to dress myself and my dogs up and go all-out with fun.
Make a coffin cooler.
Line a pop-up coffin with a few large plastic trash bags, add ice, and then any cans and bottles you’re serving at the party. Illuminate it with a red strobe light nearby for an even spookier festive vibe.
Make room at the table for ghosts.
Pick a tablecloth that’s Halloween-themed but still feels classy. Pair it with orange and gold plastic plates, sleek black plastic cutlery, and black-and-white dotted napkins that will make cleanup easy, breezy, ghoultiful.
Photographer: Paul Quitoriano
Stylist: Charlotte Havelange
Food: Mary Rupp
Art Direction: Sarah Ceniceros