It’s that time of year. The weather in California has finally cooled to 78 degrees. Festive decorations adorn houses, as they will stay that way for the next six months. Holiday movies are scheduled for their annual reruns. Beverage stores are full of homey spices and aromas. Thematic foods and desserts decorate our explore pages. And we just want to be part of the fun! Take a load off from midterms with these stress-free and timely treats.
Small Spooky Spider Pizzas [insert picture]
If you are looking to get some real food before jumping to the sweets category, try these mini spider pizzas. They are both fresh-tasting and well-fitting for the season — a guaranteed win! And if you need to skip the homemade components, frozen or pre-made pizzas will achieve the same goal. Similarly, canned pizza sauce can replace the sauce recipe below. Use whatever you have on hand, and have fun!
Ingredients (Homemade Pizza Sauce):
- 6-8 ripe Roma tomatoes, quartered
- 6-ounce can tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 2-3 fresh garlic cloves, minced
- Olive oil
Ingredients (Toppings and Dough):
- 1 package of pizza crust dough
- Cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms, controversial pineapple, etc.
- Whole pitted black olives
Directions (for the sauce):
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Lower heat and add in basil, oregano, parsley and red pepper flakes. Stir and cook until fragrant.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and cover. Let the tomato juices simmer for 5-6 minutes, stirring every minute. If the tomatoes begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a tablespoon of water.
- Crush the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, against the sides of the pot. Add tomato paste and balsamic vinegar, and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 10-12 minutes. Stir and crush tomatoes as needed.
- Let cool, and if the sauce is too chunky still, blend in a food processor for 1-2 minutes.
Instructions (for the pizzas):
- Preheat the oven to 450 F.
- Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
- Roll out the pizza dough and use a 3-inch round cookie cutter (or another circular household object, i.e., a water glass) to cut out the mini pizzas. If the dough is very sticky, lightly flour the surface and rolling pin.
- Place the dough on the prepared baking sheet. [For scrap dough that cannot be re-rolled into pizzas, cut into strips, drizzle with melted butter, garlic powder and parmesan cheese to make Little Caesars-inspired crazy breadsticks.]
- Spread 1-2 tablespoons of sauce onto each round of dough.
- Top the pizzas with cheese or any other toppings as desired. If using pepperoni or other chunky toppings, circumvent the pizza, so that there is a flat, open space in the center, leaving room for the spider.
- Bake for about 8 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden.
- Remove the mini pizzas from the oven and let cool slightly. Halve the olives, and thinly cross-section half of them to create the correct ratio of spider bodies to spider legs. Arrange the olives atop the mini pizzas.
Make sure to give your friends or housemates a forewarning before serving these. From far away, the olives really do look like spiders. Making these pizzas from scratch is not only rewarding but also makes for a healthier meal. Which means more room for the sweets!
Spooky Brownie Ideas
You may think you have tried all combinations of the brownie — more chocolate chips, peanut butter, Oreo, caramel and more chocolate chips. It is a blank canvas for so much more. Take a batch of homemade brownies or a box of brownie mix to new heights this Halloween with these pumpkin patch and cobweb designs.
First, you’ll need your brownie base: thin and baked 9-by-13-inch shape. Though a box mix provides efficiency and ease, homemade brownies are just as simple. Not to mention, you can substitute in more healthy options such as whole wheat flour or reducing sugar. In a brownie as decadent as this, you won’t be able to spot the difference.
- 1 cup butter, melted
- 3 cups granulated sugar (can reduce to 2 ½)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or substitute with whole wheat flour)
- 1 cup cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Chocolate chips (optional, highly recommended)
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar and vanilla with a whisk until smooth.
- Whisk in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Stir in flour, cocoa and salt until combined.
- Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with tin foil or parchment. Spray with non-stick spray. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 26-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Remove your brownies from the oven and patiently allow them to come to room temperature before touching them. For both the pumpkin patch and cobweb designs, it is recommended to cut the brownies into squares before decorating. If you have a wire rack, place the brownies on top and slide a plate underneath to catch any droppings.
For these cobweb brownies, you’ll need about a cup of marshmallows. Microwave them until they are gooey and melted. They will puff up and start to rise above the bowl at around 30 seconds. Using a fork, stir until smooth and let them cool slightly. Know that once you start stirring them, heat and air bubbles will escape and the marshmallow fluff will return to a reasonable-looking amount.
Using two forks, stretch about a tablespoon of the melted marshmallow into a thin strand to drape over the brownies. The marshmallows are extremely sticky and will get everywhere. If you try to fix a mistake with your finger, it may be a few seconds before you can remove your fingers from the sticky mess.
Try to use a corner of a brownie as a starting place and string each marshmallow strand from that corner. Repeat to create a web-like pattern. For a little added fun, you can place some sprinkles or chocolate chips on top to make it look like your web has caught something. Be aware that actual non-food items may also get caught in the web. The marshmallows will stay sticky, so serve immediately. They can be stored for up to 2 days.
Pumpkin Patch Brownies
These pumpkin patch brownies allow for plenty of creative freedom. Some ideas are:
- Pumpkin candies
- Candy corn
- Decorative icing or gel
- Crushed Oreo cookies
- Gummy worms
- Melted white chocolate with green food coloring
For the most indulgent version of these brownies, start with chocolate frosting. Spread it across the brownies, then generously sprinkle Oreo crumbs on top. Once you have the earthy ground taken care of, cultivate your farm — spread out the pumpkins, some clustered, some solo. With green icing (or melted white chocolate combined with a few drops of green food coloring), connect the vines on each of the pumpkins, and watch the patch grow to life.
Further decorations with gummy worms, candy corn and various other candies are more than welcome. Serve immediately or store for up to 3-4 days. They always taste the best on the first day, so don’t be afraid to share with housemates or friends and dig in!
Brag about your delightfully spooky creations by tagging @ucsbonthemenu on Instagram! We look forward to seeing your creations!
Homemade brownie recipe adapted from ‘Absolutely the Best Brownies Ever’ from The Recipe Rebel.