entertainingfoodFood & DrinkHalloween

A Last-Minute Halloween Dinner + “Picture Perfect Parties” Cookbook Giveaway

by Maxwell Tielman


If you’re anything like me, Halloween has a tendency of sneaking up on you like Freddie Kruegar in a nightmare. One minute, you’re installing your air conditioner in May and all of the sudden —BOOM— there are trick-or-treaters at your door. I have no idea how this keeps happening to me (early-onset dementia, perhaps?), but when October 31st rolls around, I often find myself sans-costume and sans-plans. So—if Halloween (two days away, you guys!) has snuck up on you this year, but you still want to get a little festive—don’t worry, y’all! Design*Sponge gotchu covered.

Using a few simple (but insanely delicious) comfort food recipes from Annette Joseph’s new book, Picture Perfect Parties, we assembled a pretty darn impressive last-minute Halloween party with just a few household supplies. With “no-carve” pumpkins decorated with black Sharpie markers and spider-web “doilies” made from cut bits of newspaper, these are decorations and treats that can be whipped up in a day—great for a quick, festive dinner party while greeting those trick-or-treaters. Continue after the jump for all of the recipes and our quick-n-easy decoration ideas! Happy Halloween! —Max

Giveaway: Annette Joseph and the wonderful people at Rizolli have allowed us to give away 3 copies of Picture Perfect Parties! To enter to win your own copy, tell us one of your favorite Halloween decorations in the comments section below! We’ll choose our favorites! Last date for entries: 11/5/13.


Above image: Brie, Bacon, and Apricot Grilled Cheese sandwiches, from pg. 187 of Picture Perfect Parties.


Above image: White Bean Chili from pg. 188.


Above image: Devil’s Food Cupcakes from pg. 190.


Above image: We created a flower “vase” by wrapping a tin can in newspaper and drawing vertical lines on it with a black marker.


Above image: we whipped up three decorative “no carve” pumpkins by drawing designs directly onto pumpkins with black Sharpies. Spider web “doilies” were created by cutting irregular circles out of newspaper and drawing webs on them with black marker.


Above image: A fringed table skirt was made by cutting strips into a folded newspaper page and coloring in every other strip with black marker. Simply attach the “skirt” to your table edge with double-stick tape.



Serves 6


  • 1 loaf challah bread
  • 6 pieces bacon cooked and crumbled
  • 1 12 oz. wheel brie cheese
  • 6 tablespoons apricot jam, 1 tablespoon per sandwich
  • 6 tablespoons butter softened 1 tablespoon per sandwich


Cook bacon until crisp in the oven at 400 degrees F, drain set aside.

Slice challah into 12 slices. Assemble the sandwiches. Place crumbled bacon , thin slice of brie, and apricot jam on the bread, place another slice of bread on top forming a sandwich. Butter the top and repeat until you have made 6 sandwiches.

In a heated sauté pan place sandwiches butter side down, butter the top half. Cook until golden brown, flip and cook the other side. Continue until all the sandwiches are done. Let set for 1 minute and cut bsgb  sandwiches into quarters.

Serve at room temperature



Serves 8


  • 1 lb ground sirloin
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups canned cannellini white beans
  • 2 cups canned pinto beans
  • 2 tablespoons dried coriander

On the Side

  • Tortilla chips
  • Avocado
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Sour cream


In a stockpot, sauté sirloin and turkey,  with a slotted spoon remove cooked meat and set aside. Pour out any excess oil.

Place olive oil and onions, garlic into the stockpot, heat on medium and cook until translucent. Add cooked meat, chili powder, salt, pepper and cinnamon and stock, simmer for 1 hour, add beans and coriander Cook for 3 hours.

Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and sliced avocado and chopped fresh cilantro tortilla chips.



Makes 36 cupcakes


  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup high quality cocoa powder
  • 3 sticks butter softened (1 ½ cups)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Chocolate Frosting Ingredients

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 7 tablespoons high quality cocoa
  • 1 stick of butter softened
  • 6 tablespoons evaporated milk


Cake Preparation

In the microwave, place water, then place cocoa powder in hot water, set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle blade place butter and sugar combine until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, add vanilla and oil and sour cream add cocoa mixture, beat on medium speed until combined.

In a bowl mix flour and baking soda and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture on slow speed until combined, and add chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into muffin tins, lined with cupcake liners fill liner until ¾ full. Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until a pick is inserted and comes out clean cool and then frost.

Prepare Frosting

Sift sugar and cocoa together in a bowl set aside

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle , cream butter, add sugar cocoa mixture slowly to the butter alternately with the evaporated milk, until fluffy.

Suggested For You


  • My mom always had this paper skeleton on our front door. It had adjustable limbs that I always like to reposition. That thing lasted for years.

  • Tall, black, grey and white candles on candlesticks! Halloween is just more fun by candlelight, but then most things are!

  • My mom was pretty crafty and had made a sort of “Halloween advent calendar” that was a haunted house wall hanging made out of felt. In the days coming up to Halloween, my brother and I would take turns pulling spooky things out of the pockets (spiders, bats, mummy, etc) and velcro them all over the haunted house. Always a favorite!

  • I made a really cute bat and skull paper garland with my silhouette paper cutter this year. I makes me happy whenever I see it.

  • Two new favorite Halloween festiv ideas:
    1) spray painting a wreath of your choice black & hot glueing spiders/feathers/ limbs/branches or anything you like with a second black spraying.
    2) stuffing lychees with blueberries and putting them in the freezer for eyeball fruity ice cubes!

  • I’m a traditional girl myself and love pumpkin and gourd decorations. Painted and decoupaged ones are fun too. I did see a blog entry somewhere that had some super fun bats hanging from trees. You know, kind of how people hang plastic eggs from trees around Easter. Anyway, I’d like to do those next year!

  • We created a cool smoking cauldron with one of those mister/fogger things and a big cauldron. It’s the perfect October filler for our non-working fireplace. The whole fireplace gets the Halloween treatment with a twig broom, a basket full of wood, and a mantle filled with apothecary jars full of fun “ingredients”. For an extra bit of fun, we tuck a few fake bones into the cauldron so they stick out just a bit.

  • My mom once impressed my 5th grade class by helping at our class halloween party and bringing dry ice, which is almost more than she had ever done for the holiday at our house. Otherwise, corn stalks from the garden are always a nice touch and gives them a second life at the end of the season.

  • I love to create spiderwebs with trash bags and put them on the windows, and hang spiders made with foam balls and some straws as legs. It’s fun, crafty and cheap! Happy Halloween!

  • Fake spiderwebs for miles. They can be lovely-creepy in an elegant Miss Havisham way, or funny-creepy in a kid party kind of way — with the added benefit of inspiring a few involuntary spiderweb dances from surprised guests (take it away, 2 Chainz: http://imgur.com/gallery/AIO2Wq9).

  • One year I carved a pumpkin like a panda, and it still is the best Halloween decoration I have ever done.

  • I love carved pumpkins. It’s always amazing to see how people who normally don’t participate in creative things take to it so much and enjoy it. I love the social process of carving with friends, and the results are always stunning :)

  • I am in love with the Spider Web doilies! How easy, quick and really cool! Annette Joseph is the nicest gal too! So this is a great giveaway! Crossing my spooky, boney fingers for one of the books :) Thanks Maxwell for the great last minute ideas — I need them! Joanne

  • Dry ice is always my go-to for Halloween. It lasts through the whole night and it’s fun to create a spooky entrance for trick-or-treaters!

  • My son made a bat in school with a clothespin on the back. Every year we attach it to the pull chain of our ceiling fan, turn it on, and the bat flies!

  • I love carving pumpkins too!! My favorite decoration is an iron “spider” pumpkin stand complete with 8legs and two eyes. It not only looks adorable but also has the practical side of keeping the pumpkin off the ground so the pumpkin stays whole longer!!

  • Best Halloween centerpiece idea: fill a non-powdered latex gloves with water, dyed with red food coloring, and then freeze it. Put the “frozen hand” in a bowl full of punch! I did this when I was a teenager, and it’s still my favorite decoration!

  • My favourite Halloween decoration is easy and cheap to make, yet it fully embraces the halloween spirit: glowing eyes. To make this decoration, simply cut eye shapes out of toilet paper rolls and insert colourful glow sticks inside them. To scare passers, put them in the bushes outside your house (or in dark corners of your flat) so that only the scary, colourful eyes are visible.

  • We spread a roll of white craft paper on the floor and draw silouettes of the kids. We cut them out and then they draw in the bones and we have life-size skeletons!

  • My favorite Halloween decoration is my candy corn garland made from yellow, orange & white sewn fabric strips that I made!

  • ‘Bats in the chimney’ make such a statement on my mantel! I cut several size bat shapes out of cardstock and tape them along the wall/mantel so they look as if they are coming out of the fireplace. So easy!

    Took a preview of the book on amazon – LOVE!

  • We carve pumpkins every year, and we have a lot of fun deciding on and executing our carvings. One of my other faves is a skull that shoots “flames” out of the top of it and has glowing eyes. It’s creepy looking but also kind of hilarious. Our 2 year old was afraid of it at first, but soon realized it was just a prop.

  • I love painted pumpkins this season! Pumpkins are such a common Halloween decor choice, but by painting them you can make them fit your theme or the decor of your home instead of just having a plain pumpkin or jack-o-lantern!

  • When I was young we had this hideous fake pumpkin that would light up and let out an evil cackle whenever anyone walked by–for years, that was my favorite halloween decoration, since it was so much fun to scare anyone walking by. Nowadays I’m a bigger fan of the real stuff. Nothing beats an authentic carved pumpkin flickering on the front stoop!

  • I love to hang long black crepe paper streamers from arches and doorways – elegant and spooky at the same time.

  • Not sure I’m eligible for the competition as I’m in the UK, but I couldn’t resist sharing anyway :) This is a bit silly… my family always go a little bit overboard for Halloween – it’s always been my favourite day of the year and somehow I’ve sucked the rest of them into it. A few years ago we built the front half of a pirate ship in the back garden, mostly out of cardboard, but with huge black fabric sails. It looked great, except that a lot of the younger trick-or-treaters thought it was real and wanted to to go and play on it. We told them they couldn’t – because it was haunted. That worked.

  • When I was little my favorite thing was when my mom took these strands of orange and hot pink Christmas lights and spiderwebbed them all down our long hall in the entry way. It was so much fun when you turned off all the other light!

  • I love the giant spiders people put outside their houses with the fake spider webs. Also the devil food cake cupcakes look delicious.

  • Since someone in my new neighborhood smashed my pumpkins two weeks ago (tear), my favorite Halloween decoration is the wreath I made from vines, faux spiders and snakes (and LOTS of spray paint and glitter). Its the eerie stunning centerpiece of my vestibule.

  • I too love my annual group pumpkin carving night. It’s fun to see what people will choose to do – from Legos, to ninjas, to cats, to wolves, to pirate ships, to a child’s name – this year we had a wide variety of pumpkins.

  • Love creative spins on the classics, non-carved pumpkins, (or unique carving ideas), painted gourds, etc.

  • I loved glittering my store-bought plastic pumpkins this year. Right now, they’re sitting on a nest of black shred. Next week, they will sit on a bed of natural raffia through the rest of the fall.

  • My favorite decoration is David, the creepy , too tan, 1970’s mannequin that leans against a tree in the front yard. He looks like Fref from scooby doo.

  • I love the fake cotton wool-like cobweb stuff, although annoyingly I couldn’t find it anywhere to buy this year. We have huge floor to ceiling windows in the living room and used to stretch it across the whole window, it looked great from outside. We have a pumpkin carving competition at work every year too which is great, everyone makes a huge effort :)

  • Acrylic paints (paint pens work too) or spray paint used on faux pumpkins, one new purchased slipper pumpkin bag w stencil design – then arranged in a turquoise newly sprayed painted basket I’ve had for a decade in the pantry for storage) plus reused and recycled ribbon, old fall leaf garland recycled and reused colorful flowers – photos available – it’s wonderfully crafty and colorful at the same time and on my doorstep now

  • Setting up creepy cut out rats (A la Martha Stewart craft) on the staircase at work in the morning before everyone gets in and hearing the new employes that don’t expect them scream! Plastic eyeballs set all around work as if they are looking at you from the creepiest areas. And last, decorating the company kitchen with good old pictures of Halloween cheer and candy that makes everyone happy!

  • It’s a tie between the spooky silhouette on our stair risers & the
    chiffon ghosts ‘hanging’ around!

  • My mom got me this gorgeous mercury pumpkin last year and I love having it out. It is a really classy but festive Halloween decoration!

  • My favorite is mad scientist skeleton that holds a smoking (dry ice) and glowing (glow sticks) beaker in one hand and a bowl of candy in the other. Creepy, fun, and a treat all in one!

  • This year, I’m discovering masquerade masks. I find them on the cheap, usually black in color, (or you could spray paint them), and just leave them on surfaces in the house. Like on my orange piano! I suppose you could cluster them and hang them on a wall also, but I like the look of a fancy spooky party having happened the evening before.

  • For years I had a lightweight cardstock skeleton, bones jointed together (by eyelets or rivets) permitting one to position the skeleton in every-which way and fold flat to store in an envelope. I used a long length of fishing line, tied to the top of his skull, ran it through a small loop in the light fixture in the center of my living room ceiling. With him hanging there, I moved my ladder, strung the line across the room and through the entry (small tack atop door-frame), and secured the line (with a loop) to a thumb-tack stuck in the top of our big old front door. When the front door was opened or closed Mr. Skeleton floated down or up. My children/grandchildren loved it!

  • I bought 10 or so fake pumpkins last year (funkins!) and used my vinyl machine to decorate them in various patterns. I love getting them out each year! And, if I ever change my mind I can just peel them off and start over. :)

  • You can never go wrong with classic pumpkins and other natural fall elements! But I have to admit, I love all my “pumpkin-head” decorations I put out in October.

  • My grandpa used to rig up this ghost made from sheets that he hung on a pulley system that connected from a window upstairs to a tree in the front yard by the sidewalk. While my grandma waited to give out the candy, my grandpa would sit at the window and make the ghost fly down in front of each group of trick-or-treaters. Everyone loved it, and if I ever have two-story house, I’ll be figuring out how to re-create it!

  • I spray paint (black) on branches found in my back yard, arrange them in vases on my mantle and add black feathered birds. Spooky!

  • At Hallowe’en I love to decorate with heirloom gourds! I think the different sizes, textures, colours, and shapes delight the eyes and are quintessentially “autumn”.

  • I have a big, black rattan Pumpkin that I found last year – really fun and different. I may paint some more (cheap) rattan next year.

  • My 4 kids find it frustrating that I won’t go out and spend all of our Christmas money on Halloween decorations each year. They want to have the scariest house on the block. This year they cut back on the complaining and decided to get together to make their own decorations. Their homemade bats and gravestones, witches and monsters are by far my favorite decorations. Oh, and persimmons from our backyard tree also. They look like mini pumpkins.

  • My favorite Halloween party decorations is to replace all of the pictures in frames around the house with spooky vintage pictures printed from the web. Add a few strands of fake cobwebs and voila! SpOoKy!

  • my husband cut out silhouettes out of wood of a scared black cat a witch and we painted them black….cute!

  • My mom has the most festive house I’ve ever seen, but my favorite decoration is the 7′ tall inflatable Frankenstein in the foyer. He has become the most popular member of the household, continuously standing and waiting patiently for Halloween every year since 1997.

  • A bunch of origami bats and spiders hanging in the entrance ways! Those plus spookily frosted Halloween cookies are my Halloween must haves.

  • My favorite Halloween decoration is one my husband and children made last year. They took old baby dolls, pulled off the heads and painted them in a ghastly green. They then took 2 black velvet dresses that they out grew (size 3s) and one play wedding dress and put them on the doll heads. He hung the trio from the eves and it’s the creepiest thing to come home to in the evenings.

  • I use different textures of black craft paper to create bats that can be hung with some dimension on the wall and from the ceiling with fishing line. I created the template myself and used different sizes. We hosted my boyfriend’s nieces and nephews for an early Halloween party and they were the hit of the party!

  • My favorite Halloween decoration is the vintage plastic pumpkin man that sits in our living room. He lights up too!

  • My favorite Halloween decoration is my paper bats, made from one of Martha Stewart’s templates. I made three different sizes (about 30 total) and I stick them on a giant round mirror and onto the wall. It looks a little like they’re flying in front of the moon!

  • My favorite Halloween decoration is a chicken wire cage turned upside down, filled with twinkle lights, and covered with a sheet. Ghost face added with black felt. It makes a fun and yet not too spooky for a little one, Halloween decoration.

  • My favorite Halloween decor is my mom’s mini skeleton that she got while in massage school in order to study bones and joints, but now it makes an appearance every year at her house, often decked out with black and orange mardi gras beads. Fun and spooky!

  • Large glow in the dark skulls and pumpkins (purchased at The Dollar Store) and hung on our giant front yard tree with fishing wire. Fun decoration to do with my daughter!

  • Candles. LOTS of candles. And putting some sort of Halloween costume on the dog always delights the kids.

  • fake spider webs – a classic! and my framed photo of Jack Torrance and some Overlook Hotel guests from the movie the Shining. i like putting it out on a table with spooky treats. :)

  • It’s not Halloween unless there’s a pumpkin! And a pumpkin scented candles. And a sugar skull or two.

  • I am kinda traditional when it comes to Halloween decorations, or any holiday for that matter. I think that is because holidays are so related to traditions for me. I always love to carve a pumpkin. :)

  • I saw my favorite Halloween decorations yesterday afternoon, when I was walking home. Someone had arranged a picture-perfect display of mums, pumpkins and squashes on their front porch and steps. Then they placed life-size, very realistic rats on the stairs and among the flowers and squashes. The best Halloween decorations take something pretty and tasteful and turn it kind of ghoulish and gruesome.

  • If I ever actually got trick-or-treaters, I would make some scary glow eyes to hide in my bushes out of toilet paper tubes and string lights.

  • Our neighborhood is very dark, so I like pumpkins that provide a little extra light. I like to pierce holes in the pumpkins (in a nice simple pattern) and insert little led lights into the holes. It makes a nice little (and safe) light for our path.

  • When I was growing up there were two light up plastic decorations. One was a jack-o-lantern and the other a black cat on a pumpkin. I with I had them. I guess my mom got rid of them at some point. :(

  • Nothing beats the class carved pumpkin as a Halloween decoration. I usually host a pumpkin carving party for Halloween.

  • My rusty metal sign which says, “The witch is in.” It was always a favorite with my ex-daughter-in-law who probably applied the thought to me.

  • My favorite thing to see this year is the photos of my kids in their costumes from the first ten years. I miss those days. So much preparation and excitement.

  • My favorite is a lot of carved pumpkins and a ghostly haunted table display for dinner, lightning only by candles! Spooky!

  • My absolute favorite Halloween decorations this year are the trendy gold/silver/white painted pumpkins. Also cheesecloth draped over tables.

  • I love paper shadows of bats, ghosts, creepy things that go bump in the night. It’s simple, and allows your imagination to run wild

  • I go for the classic pumpkins and mums on our porch. I really like mixing orange, white and multi color pumpkins. Happy Halloween =)

  • I like for my Halloween decorations to have a certain moldering elegance. Black lace tablecloth, tarnished silver trays, and my new favorite –pages from discarded books printed with Gothic images. This year, I printed anatomical illustrations on dictionary pages!

  • I love thinking about my Mom’s carved pumpkins. Very old school with a candle inside. They were always made with tons of love.

  • I’m currently loving the painted pumpkin as decoration. I dipped mine in white and gold this year. Left some of the tops orange. Taking color-blocking to a whole new level. I love them!

  • I love silly simple paper chains. And food is always easy on the eyes, with lots of good food around who needs decorations.

  • Lots and lots of candles. I dig out my Grandmother’s silver candelabra (the only time it gets used these days!) and just about every other candle holder we have and set them in the front window – far from any combustibles like kids in costumes.

  • My favorite halloween decorations are these glittery skeletons I’ve had for years. They are spooky and fabulous all at the same time!

  • I love Halloween! We carve pumpkins every year and one of them always has a cat on it (I’m a HUGE cat lady), but I think my favourite decoration is the giant cardboard haunted house we made this year. It was painted black with grey or yellow and a little bit of that glow in the dark glue in the windows to make them look luminous. We put it in the front yard and borrowed a fog machine to make it look creepy.
    (I’m Canadian, so if the contest isn’t open to us then this is just a regular comment, not an entry)

  • Some fake moss and foam cut headstones makes for a great graveyard tabke decoration

  • I like to fill glass jars and vases with water and food coloring, and put labels like “cyanide” and “poison” on them. Cheap and fun.

  • You mean beside my black velvet portrait of Bat Boy from the cover of Weekly World News? Probably making giant googly eyes for the round bushes in my front yard, because everything’s better with googly eyes.

  • If there are two things I love is 1) Halloween and 2) Crafting. Halloween is always a treat for me. One of my favorite Halloween crafts is little felt pumpkins. My mom taught me to make them when I was young and now my daughter is just starting to make them with me. We usually create a ton of little pumpkins while watching halloween movies (this year we did a Harry Potter marathon). I also saw a felt pumpkin garland on pinterest, so we tried that. It looked awesome! And it transitions to Thanksgiving!:)

  • First the decorations: I love spooky looking potion bottles (bottles with faux labels filled with coloured waters) and once I did a halloween party for a store I worked in and I found this amazing spiderweb fabric that was a beautiful table cloth!

    The food: Lovely! This is my favourite combo of simple, pretty and delicious! :)