Any pirate, superhero, witch or princess … er — kid — will tell you: Halloween is all about the candy. In fact, the National Retail Federation anticipates the average consumer will spend $20.29 on the sugary stuff this year.
But as fun as it is to inhale Laffy Taffy, Milky Way minis (the dark chocolate ones, please) and Kit Kats of all flavors and sizes, that’s a lot of sugar. Add in a few parties, parades and other events, and it’s sugar overload.
While it may be tough to pry away the trick-or-treat bag (or bowl, if you’re the one doling out the candy instead of collecting it), for parties and other events you can swap in party treats that are tastier, healthier and just as friendly on your wallet.
(All cost estimates are based on non-sale New York City supermarket prices. If it’s a cheap recipe in NYC, we figure cooks in most other places in the country will spend even less. Prices are also adjusted for quantity: if a recipe calls for half an onion, you’ll probably find something to do with the other half.)
Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chocolate-Pumpkin Frosting
A post-candy sugar rush can be pretty scary. That’s why Tiffany McCauley from “The Gracious Pantry” came up with a sugar-free cupcake recipe that relies on the natural sweetness of canned pumpkin. Unsweetened cocoa powder in the frosting adds richness.
Dragon’s Blood Punch
One of Frugal Foodie’s new favorite recipe search sites is Yummly, which lets you adjust a recipe search for fewer calories, less sugar, or to avoid allergens or hated ingredients. This pomegranate and ginger ale brew is sweet, but uses fruit in lieu of added sugar.
Pumpkin Mousse Frosting
Cost: $2.15 ($4.35 including cupcakes)
Prepare your favorite cupcakes (a boxed mix is OK) and top them with this great lightly sweetened homemade icing recipe from Sift Cupcakes in Napa, Calif. In a bowl whip a cup heavy whipping cream and gradually add confectioners sugar to taste. Combine gently with one tablespoon pumpkin pie spice and a dash of a stabilizer (either cornstarch or cream of tartar) until they are fully mixed in.
For a scarier and more sugary version, make mix in black food coloring before spreading the icing on chocolate cupcakes. Top with crushed Oreos and gummy worms or other Halloween candy. Voila: a spooky cupcake graveyard. (Adds $1.50 to the cost.)
Eyeballs on a Stick
Brace yourself before you click through to review this Canned Food Alliance recipe, which turns lychees, blueberries and a dab of strawberry jam and into a treat worthy of a haunted house display. It’s pretty creepy, but tasty, too.
Apple Cider Muffins
Inspired by fried apple cider donuts, Frugal Foodie makes a baked muffin version that subs in applesauce for the usual egg, and apple cider for the milk. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and place liners in a muffin pan. Melt half a stick of butter, and let cool. Mix butter with a half-cup apple cider, one cup applesauce, and one teaspoon vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, mix 1 ¼ cups flour, one teaspoon baking powder, one tablespoon ground cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Combine wet and dry ingredients until just mixed, and then fill muffin pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Melt three tablespoons butter. Brush across muffin tops and follow with a sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.
For a more decadent version (adds $0.50 to the bill and lots of extra sugar and fat), skip the muffin liners and grease the pan instead. After the muffins are done baking, melt a stick of butter in one bowl, and in a second, combine a cup sugar with two tablespoons cinnamon. Roll slightly cooled muffins in the butter, and then in the cinnamon sugar.
The challenge of making meringue has a fantastic payoff, and spooky, too — creator Heidi Swanson of “101 Cookbooks” describes her recipe as a tiny ghost army. An optional chocolate/coconut base adds extra sweetness if desired (adds $0.75 to the cost).
Apple slices and slivered almonds morph into scary (vampire?) mouths in the easy-to-make recipe.