The beauty of Halloween treats is that you don't have to worry about making them pretty.

In fact, the uglier they are, the better. And that was our inspiration for this baked treat. We wanted a bar that was appropriately loaded with sugar (it is the high holiday of sweets, after all) and looked as though somebody had dragged it through a swamp.

And so we came up with bog bars, which start as a basic blondie-like bar studded with dried cherries. Then we smear melted chocolate over the top and start dumping delicious things all over them. The gummy worms and pretzels are a particularly nice touch, resembling the snakes and twigs one surely encounters during midnight swamp strolls.

Then again, Halloween is the one time of year nobody seems to mind a little blood on their food.

So to get you in the mood for gore, we created these grossly delicious blood drop cookies. They are quick, easy and perfectly disturbing.

Let Halloween in on the pumpkin pie action by turning the classic autumnal dessert into a punch.

This blend of spices, apple cider and ginger ale is delicious and rich, yet still refreshing. And it's easily adapted. Leave it as is for kids, but add vodka or rum for an adult version.


Bog Bars

Start to finish: 40 minutes (10 minutes active)

Servings: 16

2 cups dried cherries

1/2 cup apple or orange juice

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

16 chocolate sandwich cookies, broken into large pieces, divided

12 ounces milk chocolate bits

2 honey graham crackers, broken

1/2 cup mini marshmallows

1/2 cup pretzel sticks (broken)

Handful gummie worms or bugs

2 green fruit roll-ups, torn into pieces

Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch pan with cooking spray.

In a microwave-safe dish, combine cherries and juice. Microwave on high until bubbling, about 1 minute. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl between additions. Stir in vanilla. Add flour and salt and mix just until combined. Drain reserved cherries, then add them and half of the broken chocolate cookies.

Spoon mixture into prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden and set.

While bars are still hot, sprinkle milk chocolate bits over the surface. Allow to melt. Use the back of a spoon to spread the melted chocolate to cover the surface. Sprinkle with broken graham crackers, marshmallows, pretzels, gummie worms, remaining chocolate cookies and pieces of fruit roll-ups. Allow to cool.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 520 calories; 150 calories from fat (29 percent of total calories); 17 g fat (9 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 65 mg cholesterol; 88 g carbohydrate; 5 g protein; 6 g fiber; 320 mg sodium.


Blood Drop Cookies

Start to finish: 2 1/2 hours (20 minutes active)

Makes 3 dozen cookies

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate bits

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

2/3 cup granulated sugar

4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate bits and butter, stirring constantly. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, granulated sugar and eggs. Add melted chocolate and butter, then stir until smooth. Stir in baking powder, salt and flour until completely smooth. Refrigerate until completely chilled, about 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Scoop dough by tablespoonfuls out onto the prepared baking sheets leaving 2 inches between the cookies for spreading. Gently press each ball of dough with the palm of your hand to slightly flatten until about 1/2 inch thick.

Using your thumb or the handle of a wooden spoon, create a dimple in the center of each cookie. Add a teaspoon of raspberry jam to the dimple of each cookie. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on the pan, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.


Pumpkin Pie Punch

Start to finish: 10 minutes

Makes 1 1/2 gallons (about 24 cups)

15-ounce can pumpkin puree

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 gallon apple cider

2-liters ginger ale, cold

In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Add apple cider and whisk until smooth and the sugar is dissolved. Chill.

In a large punch bowl, gently stir together cider-pumpkin mixture and the ginger ale. Serve with ice.

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