tbo: Tampa Bay Online.
Monday, May 21, 2018
  • Home

Kessel: Halloween is creeping closer

Lately I’m a menu-planning, grocery-shopping fool. Last week it was for a nifty ’50s party. This week it’s creepy-chic.

For several years I’ve toyed with the idea of hosting a Halloween dinner party for my favorite holiday. Since 2008 I’ve been collecting things like wrought-iron candelabras, a flock of realistic-looking black crows and purple twinkle lights for just such an occasion.

But for one reason or another I’ve yet to make it happen. There always seems to be some obstacle in the way.

Not so with Amanda Ramella, my friend and hairdresser. Obstacles or not, she annually hosts a howlingly successful Halloween bash for her friends and family.

As she chopped my graying locks recently, I begged her to let me help prepare her party food this year. And could I please, pretty please, decorate the table, too?

I didn’t have to twist her arm very far.

So here’s my plan.

Turning the buffet table into a haunted mansion will be surprisingly easy.

Merging Halloween fun with grown-up sophistication, I’m going to ditch the cheerful orange pumpkins and smiling ghosts for goth meets glam.

I won’t have to look far for “props” to set the stage.

First I’ll grab stuff I already have around the house, garage and attic, like a black-iron, three-tiered serving stand. To “goth it up” I purchased 12-inch cardboard cake circles and sprayed them black. Then I hot-glued black lace around the edges. Voila!

These will hold a dazzling array of creepy treats. Going for Martha Stewart meets Mistress of the Dark, I’ll adorn the stand with one of the black crows from my flock. While at it I’ll spray black paint onto bare branches anchored by a pair of urns and strung with cobwebs.

I’ll also use an assortment of vintage silver platters I found trolling thrift shops.

You can also add drama to your scene by spray-painting empty wine bottles in matte black, replacing the labels with your own creations. Using scrapbooking labels or cardstock and a Sharpie, come up with creepy names like snake oil, voodoo potion or toxic tonic for the liquids supposedly in the bottles.

You can fill old apothecary jars and other glass containers with water tinted with yellow and green food coloring to suggest formaldehyde. Then drop anything — tiny plastic animals, seed pods and bits of moss — into the colorful liquid. Or you can create terrariums by filling glass vases with twigs, moss and tiny plastic bugs and snakes.

Need a centerpiece? Use a muted palette of grays, browns and black. Spray paint pumpkins glossy gray, and you have a chilling look that’s anything but ordinary.

Maybe next year I’ll get it together. Until then, here’s a wickedly delicious concoction to impress your guests.

Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist and blogger. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel or look for her blog at



8 hard-boiled eggs

2 fully ripened avocados, peeled, pitted and diced

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 tablespoon grated horseradish, drained (optional)

Peel the hard-boiled eggs; cut in halves lengthwise. Remove yolks to a medium bowl. Arrange whites on a serving platter. Add avocados and lime juice to yolks. Mash until smooth, mixing well. Season with salt and pepper. If desired for extra flavor, stir in horseradish. Fill each egg white with heaping tablespoon of mixture, piling high.

To make devilish eyes, thinly slice roasted red peppers to create veins on eyeballs or drizzle tops with bottled red hot sauce. Top with sliced green olives.

Serve immediately.

Weather Center