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We all have a soft spot in our heart for kitschy Halloween parties. The unapologetic decorations of orange-and-black everything; the finger food that looks like fingers; the cackling candy bowl.
And I'll be the first to admit that I have a complicated relationship with candy corn (I know it's just wax and sugar, but why is it so fun to eat?)
And while it's fine and good to embrace the Halloween spirit on the street, in the office, or at the bank, it's a whole other situation in your own home.
If you, like me, straddle the world of children whose only thoughts are how much candy they can grab and adults who have to chaperone these children to get said candy, Halloween can be a bit of a question mark.
Solution: Throw a semi-adult Halloween party. You can still eat so much candy you'll have a bellyache, but you can also drink boozy cider! And do Halloween crafts. The best part is, you don't need to wear a costume.
Here's are the rules:
1. Say no to candy corn. In fact, I challenge you to skip storebought candy altogether for your party. If you need to stock up on some fun-size candies for the wee trick-or-treaters, do it—but you and your guests deserve better. (Though if you have a secret stash in your freezer for tough times, I will not judge). Make your own version of the storebought treats you grew up with (I'm partial to the Cookies and Cream bar).
Or, make a few different versions of chocolate bark and place bowls around the room. Have guests vote on their favorite version with their mouths.
2. Put a moratorium on black food coloring. Or food coloring of any kind, really. If you want a dessert the color of a moonless night, try this chocolate cake (it's vegan! If you or your guests care about that). If you want to be fancy, make some squid ink risotto.
4. Choose a simple, satisfying entree.
Make something that's special and warming and super-savory, to balance the avalanche of sweets you're surely consuming. The ultimate non-cheesy Halloween party main is also the cheesiest: fondue. If you don’t have a fondue pot and those delicate slender fondue forks, you can use a wide pot or a Dutch oven and regular old forks. But first, ask your friends—odds are one of them has her aunt’s fondue pot in a closet somewhere.
If you want to avoid the fondue situation overall, go for a baked pasta—this version is pretty fall-a-rific. Assemble it ahead of time and bake it off when your guests arrive.
Make sure to serve a salad of some sort to cut through all the cheese (yes, even on Halloween you should still attempt to eat green things).
5. Do a Halloween craft.
I'm especially fond of crafts that you can eat afterwards, like carving pumpkins and roasting their seeds into salty, crunchy pepitas. Ask guests to B.Y.O.-pumpkin if you want to cut down on costs, and be sure to have a batch of pepitas ready to snack on as you carve. You can either eat your roasted seeds or send guests home with a bagful.
6. No apple bobbing. Because that is unsanitary, and also incredibly difficult. Plus, I’d rather have my apples covered in chocolate and caramel.
7. Minimize the decoration. Skip the orange and black garlands of construction paper and fake spider webs (unless you want to be cleaning those things off your trees and porch for forever).
Just light a few candles for spookiness and maybe add a decorative gourd or two to your table. Power-drill the pumpkin you made pepitas from. Maybe put some nice dead flowers in a vase to symbolize the proximity of the spirit world. Or not.
8. Skip the punch with eyeballs floating in it. Instead, make a steaming pot of appropriately autumnal booze, like mulled wine or hot cider. You could also make hot chocolate and have guests add their own nips of liqueur, but then again, you might want to save that for a party of its own.
How do you party on Halloween? Do you stay home alone with a thriller and hand out candy or put on a costume and go out? Tell us in the comments.