Curses. It happened again. Halloween sneaked up on me.
I've spotted the giant bags of candy at the grocery store since August, but have ignored them saying to myself I still have time. The little orange lights and foam gravestones at Target should have been another clue, yet I've been so busy with Cook of the Week Challenge Cook-off prep (you're going to be there tonight, right?) that I've hardly given a thought to finding a fun way to trick (or treat) my boys.
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I'm so thankful that Associated Press food editor J.M. Hirsch (himself a busy dad) took the time to page through Matthew Mead's new book, "Halloween Spooktacular." The book is full of ideas for creating a frightful day without racking up a scary bill.
I particularly like Mead's Doughnut Spiders and will be stopping at Spunky Dunkers on the way home from the contest tonight so I can put these edible arachnids together.
It's easy: 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 2 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 each side of the "body" doughnut. If desired, additional frosting can be used to keep the leg doughnut holes in place.
I'll serve it with a blood red strawberry smoothie. A wicked way to start the day, don't you think?
Cooking contest jackpot: Hats off to two suburban women who will be among 300 competitors hoping to win $50,000 next week at the World Food Championships in Las Vegas.
Beth Peterson, a Naperville mom and founder of Beth's Table and judge for our Cook of the Week Challenge, and Gail Huesmann, chef at Old Towne Pub and Eatery in Geneva, are competing in the Recipe and Sandwich categories, respectively.
The competition brings together folks -- professional chefs and home cooks like -- who have won competitions in their respective categories: barbecue, chili, burger, sandwich, recipe, dessert and bacon. In addition, Taste Makers, such as Huesmann, have been invited to participate. After two elimination rounds, one competitor will lay claim to the title World Food Champion.
For Huesmann, this means participating in her first official competition, but don't tell her that.
"Every day of my life is a competition, every plate I put up is a competition," said Huesmann, who joined Old Towne Pub in June. "I have to compete with everything you've ever eaten ... that's how I'm going into it."
Huesmann says the judges can expect a sandwich inspired by the Black and Blue burger on her menu in one of the rounds and a tomato-y take on grilled cheese in another.
Peterson, who competed in the inaugural World Food Championship last year, says she is hoping to fare better in 2013. "I did participate last year in the side dish category and came in almost last place," says Peterson. "I don't know if I've earned enough to move onto the Top Table, but I want to go up a couple of notches."
Peterson says her "recipe" category will focus on pasta and she's challenged in the one heat to create her own version of macaroni and cheese. "It's an incredible challenge; you have to make sure you are doing something really unique and really delicious," she says.
In addition to Peterson and Huesmann, Lee Ann Whippen, owner of Chicago Q, will compete in the barbecue competition, while Wade Fortin of Second City Smoke will compete in the burger category. Fortin won the Bull Burger Battle in Carol Stream earlier this fall.
Good luck to them all. You can follow the competition on Twitter @WorldFoodChamp.
Come join us: We have chosen the finalists for the Daily Herald's Home Baking Challenge on Nov. 7. And if you want to be on hand so see which baker advances to America's Baking and Sweets Show, don't delay.
We have room for 100 guests to attend the event, presented by Thermador and Novak & Parker. The evening includes a holiday demo by Baking Secrets columnist Annie Overboe, treat decorating tips from Gail's Brownies, appetizers and drinks. The judges will name a winner in each of the 10 recipe categories and that person will go up against a field of national bakers at the sweets show Nov. 15 through 17 at the Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center in Schaumburg. The event is free and runs 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 7 at Novak & Parker, 1016 E. Northwest Hwy., Mount Prospect. Get tickets at homebakingchallenge.eventbrite.com.
• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be her friend at Facebook.com/DebPankey/DailyHerald