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Sink your teeth into creepy, gory Halloween eats

By Nicole Saidi, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Freaky foods help set the mood at any Halloween gathering
  • Essentials this year include zombie brains, inside jokes for geeks
  • Don't forget about vampire blood, defensive garlic maneuvers
  • Bugs, graveyard cakes are perennial favorites; share your food ideas at CNN iReport.

Editor's note: Check out CNN's Geek Out coverage for more stories about nerdery, geekery, popular culture and more. The term "geek" is used affectionately here. Comment with your ideas and share your photos and video via CNN iReport.

(CNN) -- As Halloween brings trick-or-eating time back again, frightening foodies and gobbling ghouls will appreciate the spooky spoils of the season.

Suzanne Marques, 28, loves throwing theme parties, especially when there are monsters and spooks involved.

"Halloween is the only occasion where I can gross out my guests and they enjoy it," says Marques of Hollywood Hills, California.

The blogger and lifestyle expert already went all-out this year, inviting costumed monster guests for an elegant "Brunch in Bon Temps" in "True Blood" style and featuring black lace, pumpkin pancakes, bloody syrup, deviled eggs and Stackhouse Screwdrivers.

Outdoors, Marques planted a "True Blood" garden in Southern style, set up a fog machine to create the proper mood and dripped blood from the glasses and decor. Simple touches were key, she said.

Watch the spooky video on YouTube; it shows green cocktails as thick and murky as a Louisiana swamp.

Marques is still proud of her "Miami Vice" party a couple of years ago, but says Halloween events are always especially memorable.

"I once served kitty litter cake. It was chocolate cake presented in a new litter box with chocolate crumbles on top. Even though I knew it was safe to eat, I couldn't take one bite, but my guests gobbled it up!"

If you're planning a party, there are lots of paths to terrifying bliss, but hopefully all lead somewhere scary and foreboding.

Here are some essential foodstuffs.

Brains!

Zombies are the new black and orange, and the undead couldn't be much more aliiiiiive as record-breaking "Thriller" dances and shows like AMC's "The Walking Dead" capture audiences' cold, moldy hearts.

Where there are zombies, there must be brains. If you're throwing a Halloween party, gray matter is a must-have.

First, decide if you want to serve sweet or savory brains. If you're treating them as dessert, a "zombie brains cupcake" tray made with dots of frosting can go a long way toward setting the mood.

It's mind over batter, really. Use any cupcakes you like, and dot white or grayish frosting on top in a few rows so it looks like the coils of brains. A ghastly green can also substitute nicely.

You can also go the gelatinous route. Brain-shaped molds can be bought online and in specialty stores. You can fill these molds with standard gelatin mixtures -- from realistically grayish-white to brightly colored and filled with fruit -- or you can put food such as pate, mashed potatoes, spinach dip, meatloaf or other soft and savory fillings inside.

Finally, you could carve brains from a watermelon, pumpkin or other fruit. Plenty of photos can be found on the internet posted by expert melon carvers, who take this practice to the ultimate level.

For extra realism, add "blood": strawberry or cherry sauce, for example, or ketchup squirted in patterns. Gummy worms and other substances can be added to translucent brains for additional realism and texture, and gelatin or frosting eyes may help with the realism.

Bento boxes

Blogger and stay-at-home mom Sheri Chen of San Leandro, California, says she's been making bento for her kids for years to teach them healthy eating habits in a fun way. As fall brings lots of colorful foods into season, all sorts of attractive bento designs become possible. The Halloween icons only make the bento a sweeter treat. She posted numerous photos of these seasonal projects, including a melon brain.

"I like carving jack-o'-lanterns into orange-colored foods such as sweet potato, persimmon, tangerines, carrots, etc.," she says.

Thematic bento has become quite popular, and you need only do a quick internet search to turn up some pretty fantastic examples of tiny edible spooky things that could inspire some bento of your own.

Chen is planning a harvest-themed party featuring green finger cookies and pumpkin whoopie pies. She likes to make skulls out of quail eggs and rice balls.

Graveyard

This eternal favorite's popularity refuses to die. For a simple graveyard, bake a cake, top it with frosting and use rectangular or oval-shaped cookies as your tombstones. Tubes of frosting can be used to write clever sayings on the grave markers. Crumbled cookies give the appearance of dirt.

Be creative with your use of candies and candles, as well. Plenty of Halloween-oriented shapes are available that can make your cake good enough to raise the dead for real.

Vampire gore

One thing is for sure: With the popularity of vampire-related popular culture, there most certainly will be blood, and lots of it. Plan on having some kind of red blood drink, either tomato juice or a fruity red smoothie, or perhaps even the old savory standby -- the Bloody Mary.

Red berries and other fruits are key aids in making your red creations. Commercially available fruit punches or other drinks can assist in the bloody look. Add the spirits of your choice for extra punch.

Inside jokes

You might want to sneak in a few clever references to relevant programming if you count any hardcore fanboys, fangirls and fanvamps among your friends.

Provide a bowl of werewolf kibble for your "Twilight" lovers. Briton Donahue of Provo, Utah, devised a recipe in 2008 while coming up with some "Twilight" party ideas, which she compiles on BiteBella.

Such fans might also appreciate mushroom ravioli, in reference to a famous restaurant scene from the franchise. Or, for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" watchers, provide simple sandwiches from the grill under the auspices of the Doublemeat Palace brand. Secret ingredients not included, of course.

Bats and bugs

Suzie Ridler of Halifax, Nova Scotia, is a food writer who loves how "creatively taboo" these seasonal foods can be. One of her new favorites is "vampiric pumpernickel bats with bloody eyes flying over the full moon." That's her name for a fun dish that includes a squash soup for the eerie yellow sky background, with pumpernickel bats flying under a white sour cream moon. Ridler uses dots of hot sauce to make the bats' eyes.

Creepy-crawlies are another must-have. Perhaps a stuffed roaches recipe circulating around the blogosphere will tickle your fancy, or you can manufacture spiders from purchased candies. A few plastic spiders and roaches sprinkled in the mix and dotted about your serving table will send the proper message about your housekeeping.

Body parts

You could always go for full gross-out gourmet, like the cannibal-themed Halloween supper concept. This takes more planning, whether you go for human body parts or some form of alien autopsy simulation. Or, you can make individual body parts and fingers from individual pieces of food. They're always a favorite.

Protective measures

With all the vampires around, consider providing guests with something of a garlicky nature, just in case. Garlic breadsticks, stuffed garlic, roasted garlic and anything including these fragrant cloves will be of interest. Perhaps even serve it with a meaty steak they can drive through the heart of any bloodsucking fiends.

 
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