Whipping up a batch of Halloween-inspired treats shouldn't require a scary amount of time or energy.
By the time you've carved an army of pumpkins, costumed your pint-sized ghouls, purchased bushels of candy and hung the requisite number of fake spider webs and black-cat cutouts, time and patience for cooking up spooky grub may be in short supply.
So we've gathered ideas -- vampire doughnuts, candied apple skulls, goblet graves and doughnut spiders -- from Matthew Mead's book "Halloween Spooktacular" (Oxmoor, $15) for setting a spooky tone for your Halloween table without setting you back.
Head to the craft store (or online) and pick up a silicone skull and crossbones ice cube tray. Fill each cavity with plain Greek yogurt, then use an offset spatula to smooth the tops and remove any excess yogurt from the tray. Freeze until solid (overnight is best).
Let the cubes soften at room temperature for several minutes, then remove the ice cubes from the tray. Arrange the cubes in a small bowl set over a larger bowl of crushed ice. Serve alongside goblets of grape juice.
Wash and dry six Red Delicious apples. Insert a 6- to 8-inch crab-apple twig (cleaned) or a large frozen pop or candy stick. Set aside. Place 12 ounces of white candy melts in a medium heat-safe bowl. Set the bowl over a medium saucepan of simmering water. Stir until the candy has melted.
One at a time, dunk each apple into the candy melts, spooning it up the sides and over the top for an even coating. Set the coated apples upright on a sheet of wax paper to set.
Meanwhile, use a rolling pin to roll out Tootsie Rolls until flat. Use a paring knife to cut round eyes and a heart-shaped nose from the flattened Tootsie Rolls. "Glue" the eyes and nose (mount the "heart" upside down) to the apples using piping gel or a bit of purchased frosting.
Set a stack of honey-glazed doughnuts on a large serving tray. Use a bamboo skewer to poke two fang holes in the top of each, then dribble red gel food coloring (sold in tubes in the grocer's baking aisle) coming out of the holes and down the sides of the doughnuts.
Set a chocolate glazed doughnut in the center of a large serving platter. Place a chocolate cake doughnut up against it. The glazed doughnut forms the spider's body; the cake doughnut is the head.
Place two chocolate doughnut holes on top of the cake doughnut to form eyes (use a dab of frosting to hold them in place). Top each doughnut hole with a dab of white or yellow frosting, then gently press a chocolate chip into each.
For the legs, arrange three sets of three chocolate doughnut holes coming off of each side of the "body" doughnut. If desired, additional frosting can be used to keep the leg doughnut holes in place.