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Pumpkin Pie Seeds

Pumpkin Pie Seeds

Pumpkin Pie Seeds

Simmer the seeds a few days in advance and leave to soak in their brine, ready to strain and bake when the time comes (see Storage Tip).


4 C. (1 L) of water

1 cup (250 mL) of brown sugar

¼ cup (60 mL) of Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce

2 T. (30 mL) of salt

2 T. (30 mL) of ground ginger

1 T. (15 mL) of ground allspice

1 T. (15 mL) of cinnamon

1 T. (15 mL) of nutmeg

1 tsp. (5 mL) of ground cloves

4 C. (1 L) of unsalted raw pumpkin seeds


Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Turn on your convection fan if you have one. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and lightly oil the paper or foil. Measure everything except the pumpkin seeds into a small saucepan and bring to a slow, steady simmer for a few minutes. Stir in the pumpkin seeds and simmer for a few minutes so they soften. Turn off the heat and rest long enough for the flavors to absorb, at least 15 minutes. Strain the seeds, reserving the reusable liquid. Spread them evenly on the prepared pan. Bake, without stirring, until lightly crisped and browned, 15 to 20 minutes. As they cool, they’ll crisp further. STORAGE TIP Room Temperature: Cool the seeds, tightly seal in a zip-top bag and store for up to 10 days.

Witches Hat Not-Nachos

Witches Hat Not-Nachos

Witches Hat Not-Nachos

8 oz cream cheese softened

1 T. taco spice if you like it spicy add some cayenne

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

couple drops orange food coloring red & yellow or brown

2 T. sliced green olives

2-3 T. fresh cilantro chopped

1-2 T. carrot diced small

1 bag blue tortilla chips

1 resealable plastic storage bag


In a small bowl mix together cream cheese, taco seasoning, lemon juice & a couple drops of food coloring. Stir well until all ingredients are well combined. Spoon into plastic storage bag, squishing out air and sealing. Lay out your chips on a serving platter/dish. Remove any broken pieces. Cut off a tiny corner of the storage bag. Squeeze to drizzle cream cheese on each chip giving them a unique design replicating the band on hat. Sprinkle on green olives, carrots & cilantro.

Instead of carrots you could use bell peppers and if you do not like the taste of cilantro, substitute in flat leaf parsley for the cilantro.

Try fresh herbs like basil, dill, mint or parsley mixed with cream cheese, omitting the taco seasoning for a slimy green look.

Make cream cheese the day before, store in refrigerator, remove a couple hours before serving to soften up before piping your hats.

Witches Hat Snacks

Witches Hat Snacks

Witches Hat Snacks

1/8 tsp. Chipotle chile, powder

2 T. Cilantro, fresh

2 T. Red bell peppers, roasted

2 T. Ripe olives

5 C. Tortilla chips, blue


Turn crispy triangles into a witch’s topper with a squeeze of chipotle cream cheese and sweet pepper confetti.

Giant Witch Cookies

Giant Witch Cookies

Giant Witch Cookies

1 C. sugar

1 C. butter or margarine, softened

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 C. Gold Medal™ flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 container Betty Crocker™ Rich & Creamy vanilla frosting

3 or 4 drops green food color

3 or 4 drops yellow food color

1 container Betty Crocker™ Rich & Creamy chocolate frosting

Assorted candies for decorating, as desired


In large bowl, beat sugar and butter with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Divide dough in half; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour for easier handling. Heat oven to 375°F. Line cookie sheets with cooking parchment paper. Shape half of dough into 10 (1 1/2-inch) balls. On parchment-lined cookie sheets, pat each ball of dough into 4-inch circle, using floured fingers if necessary. Place 2 or 3 circles on each cookie sheet, about 9 inches apart. On floured surface, divide remaining half of dough into 2 portions. Roll each portion into 9×6-inch rectangle. Cut each rectangle into 4 whole triangles and 2 half triangles (see diagram).

Press 2 half triangles together to form fifth whole triangle. Cut 1/2-inch strip from top edge of each dough circle on cookie sheet; set aside. Place triangle over each cut edge of circle, covering 1/4 inch of cut edge; press to seal, aligning edge of triangle with edge of circle. Slightly bend point of “hat” if desired. Roll each 1/2-inch strip into 2 (1-inch) ropes; attach to either side of “hat” for brim. Bake 7 to 11 minutes or until edges of cookies are golden and surfaces look dry. With broad metal pancake turner, remove cookies from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Tint vanilla frosting green with green and yellow food colors. Spread on circles for witches’ faces. Spread chocolate frosting on hats. Make faces using candies.

The Walking Dead Brain Cupcakes

The Walking Dead Brain Cupcakes

The Walking Dead (Zombie) Brain Cupcakes

Pink or white paper Cupcake liners

1 recipe batter for Red Velvet Cupcakes

1 recipe Vanilla Butter Cream Frosting

Red and black food coloring

Pastry bag and large round tip


Line Cupcake tins with the liners. Fill the Cupcake liners two-thirds full with the batter and bake the Cupcakes as directed in the recipe. Mix a drop of red and black food coloring into the frosting to make it a pinkish gray brain color. Using the pastry bag, pipe the frosting in a squiggly pile on half of each Cupcake top (brains have two hemispheres, you know). Now pipe the frosting in a squiggly pile on the other half of the Cupcake top.

Spooky Mummy Pumpkin Pop Tarts

Spooky Mummy Pumpkin Pop Tarts

Spooky Mummy Pumpkin Pop Tarts

3 C. all-purpose flour

1 T. sugar

1 tsp. salt

4 T. unsalted butter, cold

1/2 C. milk, plus 1 to 2 T. more

1 large egg yolk


1 C. pumpkin puree

2 T. sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Pinch of salt

Edible eyeballs


1 C. powdered sugar, sifted

Pinch of salt

2 T. milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract


In a large stainless steel bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, sugar, and salt; stir to mix well. I am a firm follower of the grating butter method. Using a cheese grater, grate the butter into the dry ingredient mixture. Transfer to the freezer to chill for about 5 minutes. Mix the butter into the flour mixture, until thoroughly combined, breaking up the butter bits until they resemble the size of peas. In a measuring C., measure out the milk and then add the egg yolk. Whisk the two together. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix until it roughly comes together. Remove the dough from the bowl, place it on a lightly-floured counter, and knead it until it comes together; if it’s super dry, add a T. of milk or water until it comes together (I needed about 2 T. extra of milk). Form it into one disc and using a bench scraper or knife, divide into two equal pieces. Gently pat each into a 1-inch thick square, working quickly to seal any broken edges before wrapping them tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or, ideally, overnight. You can keep the dough in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for up to 1 year. If frozen, remove the dough and place tin the refrigerator to thaw one full day before you intend to use it.


In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, sugar, egg yolk, spices and salt. Remove the first disc of dough from the fridge. Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough out to a 1/2-inch thick round. Using a 3-inch or 4-inch round cookie cutter, stamp out rounds of pop tart dough and transfer them to a baking sheet or tray. You should end up with about 20 rounds. I stuck them in the freezer for about 10 minutes just to firm up a bit. We’re going to use the scraps for the top; if it’s too warm, transfer the scraps to the fridge to cool down before rolling out. Re-roll the scraps and cut a variety of 2-inch strips, 1-inch strips and 1/2-inch strips. This will all be the “mummy bandage” top. Brush each round entirely with beaten egg. Add a scant tsp. of pumpkin filling to the center of each round. Place a variety of strip on top, one skinny, one thicker, overlapping them, so it appears “bandage-like.” Trim the strips so they’re not super long, but they don’t have to be perfect. Using the tines of a fork (dipped in flour), press the edges together and do this around the edge of the entire round, making a decorative edge. Take the 3-inch or 4-inch cutter (whichever one you used) and cut the hand pie once more to clean and define the edges. Transfer to a baking sheet and place it in the fridge. Repeat with the remaining hand pies.

Transfer them to the freezer to chill for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

I baked these in batches, about 8 to a baking sheet. Brush the tops with egg wash and transfer to the oven to bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Repeat with the remaining pop tarts. Add the edible eye balls to each pop tart. I used tweezers to make it easy on myself.


Meanwhile, whisk together powdered sugar, salt, milk and vanilla, until smooth. I added the glaze to a piping bag (no tip required), snipped off the end and drizzled it on. You can use a spoon too!

Add the glaze on top! To store, place in an airtight container. Store at room temperature.

Jack-O-Lantern Pie

Jack-O-Lantern Pie

1 3/4 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Pumpkin spice
2/3 c. butter
4 – 6 T. Cold water

1 c. cooked pumpkin
3/4 c. sugar
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 c. milk
1 T. Flour

Stir flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and pumpkin spice in a bowl together using a fork. Cut butter into mixture until a crumbly texture. Add water, 1 T. at a time until moistened. Form dough ball in your hands. Place in a slightly floured surface and roll into a circle. Place on a pie plate, removing excess from rim using a knife. Save excess. Crimp piecrust around the edge.

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend thoroughly. Pour into piecrust. Sprinkle with cinnamon if you wish. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 – 35 minutes or until set (middle will shake just slightly). Decorate pie with baked cut outs when first taken out of the oven. Cool on wire rack.

Decoration: Using the remaining piecrust, form a small dough ball. Roll out on slightly floured surface, into a circle. Cut shapes to decorate your pie. Brush pieces with egg wash. If you wish, brush on yellow food coloring and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Prick shapes with tip of fork. Place cut outs on a piece of foil and bake beside pie until golden brown. When pie is finished baking, gently press the baked shapes onto pie.

Spiderweb Eggs

Spiderweb Eggs

webegg1 dozen large eggs
8 cups water
2 cups frozen blueberries
sea salt, for serving

Place eggs in single layer in a large saucepan, and cover with water and blueberries. Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat. Cover; let stand for 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove eggs one at a time, and place on several layers of paper towels. Lightly crack shell on one side with the handle of a whisk or wooden spoon. Transfer egg to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining eggs and then pour all of the cooking liquid on top of the cracked eggs. Place bowl in the refrigerator and let cool completely.  Carefully peel shells from eggs. Serve with salt. Serve in a Halloween Bento with plastic spiders.







Halloween Devilled Spider Eggs

Halloween Devilled Spider Eggs

spider3 slices bacon (3 oz.)

8 hard-cooked large eggs

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

Salt and pepper

8 large  black olives


In an 8- to 10-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, cook bacon, turning slices as needed, until browned on both sides and crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain. When cool enough to handle, crumble bacon. Cut each egg in half lengthwise; gently scoop out yolks and place in a bowl. Mash yolks with a fork, then stir in mayonnaise, green onions, mustard, and crumbled bacon until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.   Spoon or pipe about 1 tablespoon yolk mixture into the hollow of each egg-white half. Serve immediately or cover and chill up to 4 hours.  Then:  cut pitted black olives in half lengthwise and nestle one half on top of an egg for the body, and then cut the other half crosswise into thin slices to form the creepy legs.









Candy Corn Cheesecake Mousse

Candy Corn Cheesecake Mousse


1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup milk or cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 small container (8 oz.) Cool Whip, thawed

orange and yellow food color

candy corn (for garnish)


Beat cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer until fully smooth.  Slowly add powdered sugar, then milk (or cream).  Add vanilla.  Continue mixing.  Beat about 1 minute on medium to medium-high speed.  Fold cool whip into cream cheese mixture, and stir until fully combined. Scoop about 1/3 of the Cheesecake Mousse into a bowl, and color orange.  Color another third of the mixture yellow.  Leave the remaining third white.  One color at a time (starting with yellow), scoop mixture into a piping bag or large ziplock bag, and squeeze a layer of the Cheesecake Mousse into small dessert dishes of your choice.  Repeat with orange and then white Mousse. Refrigerate 30 minutes (or up to 1 day) before serving.  Garnish with candy corn if desired. Recipe yields 4 moderate servings or 6-8 mini servings.

Jack O Lantern Pancakes

Jack O Lantern Pancakes

From the Kolbialka Family @

  color-filled fun with my World’s Best Pancake recipe.

With a little colored batter in squeeze bottles,

I drew these (I felt very artistic doing this!)

And filled them with orange and green batter.

 and flipped them, of course!

And made these.


 And Yummmmmmy.

 They were scarey, spooky, yummy fun!

Ghostly Pancakes

Ghostly Pancakes


Your favorite pancake batter (or simple recipe below)

Chocolate Chips (blueberries, raisins or craisins can be used as well)


Spread pancake batter in blobs on griddle heated on medium-high heat. Don’t worry too much about the shapes, just make sure they aren’t circles. Place two chocolate chips, pointy side down, on the pancakes for eyes and another chocolate chip for the mouth. Cook until bubbles form, flip pancake and cook for an additional 30 seconds-1 minute on the other side. Remove from pan and serve!


Basic Pancake Batter


2 c. sifted all-purpose flour

3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 T.p. sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 c. milk

3 T.p. oil


Mix all together. Pour 3 T. batter in skillet. Brown on both sides until batter is done.


Monster Mouth Pasta Shells

Monster Mouth Pasta Shells


1 tsp. vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 slices bacon, chopped

1 pound ground beef

2 medium plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

4 slices American cheese, chopped

1/2 package (12 ounces) jumbo pasta shells (about 18 shells), cooked and drained

baby carrots, olives, red bell pepper, small pickles and cheese slices for decoration


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 13×9 inch baking dish.  Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and bacon. Cook until onion is tender. Add beef, then cook and stir about 5 minutes or until beef is no longer pink. Stir in tomatoes, cheese, salt and black pepper. Spoon mixture into cooked shells, then place in prepared baking dish.  Cut carrots into very thin strips. Cut small slit in each olive and poke one end of thin carrot strip into each olive for “eye.” Cut red bell pepper into fang shapes. Slice pickle lengthwise to make tongue shape. Cut cheese slice into zigzag pattern for teeth.  Bake 3 to 5 minutes or until hot and remove from oven.  Decorate as desired with olive and carrot eyes, bell pepper fangs, pickle tongue and cheese teeth. Serve immediately.

Frankenstein Tamale Pie

Frankenstein Tamale Pie

1 T. vegetable oil

1/2 C. chopped onion

1/3 C. chopped red bell pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

3/4 pound ground turkey

3/4 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) Mexican type stewed tomatoes, undrained

1 can (15 ounces) chili beans in mild chili sauce, undrained

1 C. corn

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 package (8 1/2 ounces) corn muffin mix plus ingredients to prepare mix

2 C. Taco flavored shredded cheese, divided

green and red bell pepper, pickle slices, pimiento pieces, chopped onion, chopped black olives and carrots for decoration


Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, then cook until crisp tender. Stir in garlic. Add turkey and cook until turkey is no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Stir in chili powder and oregano. Add tomatoes with juice and cook for 2 minutes, breaking up tomatoes with spoon while stirring. Stir in beans with sauce, corn and black pepper, then simmer 10 minutes or until liquid is reduced by about half.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 1 1/2 to 2 quart casserole dish. Prepare corn muffin mix according to package directions and stir in 1/2 C. cheese. Spread half of turkey mixture in prepared casserole; sprinkle with 3/4 C. cheese. Top with remaining turkey mixture and 3/4 C. cheese. Top with corn muffin batter. Decorate with assorted vegetables to make monster face.  Bake 20 to 22 minutes or until light golden brown.  NOTE: If desired, you can make this pie cute instead of creepy by creating a simple Jack O Lantern face with bell pepper cutouts.

Freakish Frog with Fly

Freakish Frog with Fly

2 thick apple slices

1 slice of green pear or apple (tongue)

peanut or nut butter

sunflower seeds


dried fruit (eyes)


Use peanut or nut butter to “glue” both apple slices together to shape a mouth. Poke sunflower seeds into frog’s mouth for teeth. Place a green pear or apple slice in mouth for the tongue. Use peanut or nut butter to “glue” dried fruit pieces to form bugged eyes. Flies: Stick sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds, or almond slivers into raisins to form wings. Place fly on frog’s tongue.


Scary Snake Calzone

Scary Snake Calzone


2 loaves (16 ounces each) frozen white bread dough, thawed

4 T. mustard, divided

2 T. sun-dried tomato pesto, divided

2 tsp. Italian seasoning, divided

10 ounces thinly sliced ham, divided

10 ounces thinly sliced salami, divided

1 1/2 C. (6 ounces) shredded provolone cheese, divided

1 1/2 C. (6 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

2 egg yolks, divided

2 tsp. water, divided

red and yellow liquid food coloring

pimento stuffed green olives

roasted red peppers, cut into 1 inch strips



Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.  Roll out 1 loaf of dough into 24×6 inch rectangle on lightly floured work surface. Spread 2 T. mustard and 1 T. pesto over dough, leaving 1 inch border and sprinkle with 1 tsp. Italian seasoning.  Layer half of ham and salami over dough. Sprinkle 3/4 C. of each cheese over meats. Brush edges of dough with water. Beginning at long side, tightly roll up dough. Pinch edges to seal. Transfer roll to prepared baking sheet, seam side down and shape into an S shape for the snakes body. Repeat with remaining ingredients.  Combine 1 egg yolk, 1 tsp. water and red food coloring in small bowl. Combine remaining egg yolk, remaining tsp. water and yellow food coloring in another small bowl. Paint stripes, dots and zigzags over dough to make snakeskin pattern.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Let dough rise, uncovered, in warm place for 30 minutes. After rising, taper one end of each roll to form head and one end to form tail. Score tail end to form rattlers, if desired.  Bake snakes 25 to 30 minutes. Cool slightly. Use olives for eyes, secured with toothpicks, and roasted red pepper strips for tongues.  Slice and serve warm.

Pumpkin Seed Snacks

Pumpkin Seed Snacks

Basic Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:  Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut open the pumpkin and use a strong metal spoon to scoop out the insides. Separate the seeds from the stringy core. Rinse the seeds.  In a small saucepan, add the seeds to water, about 2 cups of water to every half cup of seeds. Add a tablespoon of salt for every cup of water. Bring to a boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain.


Lemon Pepper Pumpkin Seeds:  In a medium-sized bowl whisk together 1 egg white, and 2 tsp. Lemon Pepper (the kidlet’s favorite seasoning on everything ;)).  Add 1 C.  pumpkin seeds and toss well. Drain off any excess egg white (using a strainer) and place seeds in a single layer across a baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes or until seeds are golden. Sprinkle with a bit more lemon pepper when they come out of the oven. Taste and season with salt if needed (lemon pepper has a fair amount of salt in it).



Chili Powder Pumpkin Seeds: In a medium-sized bowl whisk together 1 egg white, 2 tsp. chili powder and 1/2 tsp. salt. Add 1 C.  pumpkin seeds and toss well. Drain off any excess egg white (using a strainer) and place seeds in a single layer across a baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes or until seeds are golden. Sprinkle with a bit more chili powder when they come out of the oven. Taste and season with more salt if needed. 

Spicy and Cheesy Pumpkin Seeds:  In a small mixing bowl, beat an egg white with a whisk until soft and foamy. Stir in a pinch of salt, ¼ tsp. Cayenne Pepper, ¼ tsp. Garlic Powder, 2 tsp. Soy Sauce, and ¼ C. very finely and freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.  Spread 2 C. pumpkin seeds in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat with the egg-white mixture. Bake 13–15 minutes until the pumpkin seeds pop. Let them cool completely and store in a covered container.


Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Seeds: In a medium-sized bowl whisk together an egg white, ¼ C. sugar, ½ tsp. cayenne pepper and ½ tsp. salt. Add the pumpkin seeds and toss well. Drain off any excess egg white (using a strainer) and place seeds in a single layer across a baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes or until seeds are golden. Sprinkle with a bit more sugar and cayenne pepper when they come out of the oven. Taste and season with more salt if needed.

Pumpkin Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

If you really like the *pumpkiny* flavor of pumpkin seeds, you can do it differently.  Do not rinse the seeds.  The pulpy bits left on the seeds crisp up and turn a little brown and crunchy and add a lot of flavor.






Parmesan Witches’ Broomsticks

Parmesan Witches’ Broomsticks

2 1/4 cups Original Bisquick® mix

2/3 cup milk

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Heat oven to 350°F. Stir Bisquick mix and milk until soft dough forms. Place dough on surface dusted with Bisquick mix; gently roll in Bisquick mix to coat. Shape into ball; knead 10 times.  Shape dough into 30 one-inch balls. Roll 15 balls into 15 six-inch ropes to make broomstick handles. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Pat remaining balls onto 1 end of each broomstick handle. Dip fork into Bisquick mix; press fork firmly on balls to make bristles.  Brush egg over dough. Sprinkle cheese over dough bristles. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Serve warm.   High Altitude (3500-6500 ft) Bake 13 to 18 minutes.

Candied Apples

Candied Apples

1 1/2 C. sugar

2 tsp. vinegar

2/3 C. water

1 package cherry Kool-Aid

10 apples


Mix sugar, vinegar and water. Boil until mixture reaches 300-degrees; cool.  Stir in Kool-Aid. Put apples on sticks and dip into mixture quickly. Yield:  10 Candied Apples.


Olive Puffs

Olive Puffs

Olive puffsThese puff pastry wrapped olives are our family’s favorite holiday appetizer. We make them with a variety of olives – pimento stuffed green, plump kalamata, Provencal – just make sure they are pitted. We like to use strongly flavored olives; the flavor of canned ripe olives disappears in the puff pastry. You can make these ahead, and freeze; allow 30 minutes for the pastry to thaw before baking. Another advantage: the kids like to make them and eat them.

24 pimento-stuffed green olives
1 (17.25 ounce) package frozen puff pastry, thawed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Cut pastry into strips about 6 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Wrap a belt of pastry around each olive. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Sleepy Hollow Cider

Sleepy Hollow Cider

Sleepy Hollow Cider

2 bottles (64 oz. each) apple cider or juice

2 cinnamon sticks (3 in.)

3/4 tsp. whole cloves

1/2 of a whole nutmeg

Pumpkin spice-infused vodka (recipe follows; optional)


In a 5- to 6-quart pan, combine apple cider, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg. Cook, covered, over medium-high heat until steaming, about 14 minutes. Reduce heat to low to keep hot. Set pan on a tabletop burner or warming tray. Or pour into a thermos or insulated pitcher. Ladle or pour into C. and add vodka to taste (if desired).


Pumpkin Spice-infused Vodka: Cut 1 vanilla bean (6 in.) in half lengthwise. With a vegetable peeler, shave 12 thin ribbons (4 to 6 in. long and about 1 in. wide) off a rinsed piece of pumpkin or banana squash. In a 1- to 1 1/2-quart jar, combine vanilla, pumpkin, 1/2 of a whole nutmeg, and 1 bottle (750 ml. or 1 qt.) vodka. Seal jar and let stand at least 4 days or up to 3 months. The flavor intensifies the longer it stands; remove flavorings once vodka tastes as strong as you like.