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On the right project, some bad rust looks better than some good paint.
And if you're considering your own Halloween supper, be sure to also check out my Awful Edible Roasted Fleshworms!
Food and Halloween props have something in common - a large part of success is the presentation. So it's a natural combination. For my 2005 Halloween party I hosted a creepy supper - everything was guaranteed 100% edible and tasty (in other words, 100% "real food") but those with weak constitutions might find out just how much the presentation affects their perception of food...
The party had the usual costumes and decorations; followed by:
More precisely, what got being served was:
You don't need to follow exactly what I did, but you may get some additional ideas of your own or build on what I tried.
The Pre-Meal Snacks and Punch
Icy Hands Punch
The Icy Hands Punch is not really gross at all. It's just a simple chilled beverage served from a ladle in a large cooking pot, as though it's a stew of some kind. I used lots of ice and a mixture of tasty beverages - your usual party punch.
The other part of the presentation is the hand-shaped ice cubes. I read about using rubber gloves to make hand-shaped ice, and found a good way to do it. Here's how:
Chilled Brain Spread
The spread itself is not too important - I made a chili cheese spread, but almost anything with a vaguely fleshy hue to it will do. Spreads that hold their shape somewhat (like cream cheese-based spreads) are better than "sticky" or "gooey" spreads (like spinach dip, for example) for this purpose. It's all in the presentation.
My guests had no problem with the punch, but they were quite suspicious of this one.
I used a skull from The Anatomical Chart Company. I took off the top, and washed it well with dish soap. Then:
Then, place the skull with the spread on a suitable tray! I picked up the pictured silvered tray for 1$ at the dollar store, and it worked beautifully with the theme. You might need to take the jaw off the skull to make it sit at a decent angle on the plate (otherwise it will tilt back quite far unless you prop it on something.)
Peppered People Pate
This was made to resemble the result of something that fell (or was pushed?) into a meat grinder. You can see there are eyeballs and even a couple of stray TEETH stuck in there!
This one seemed to get on my guests' nerves quite badly. They were deeply suspicious of this food, and no one would have any until I ate some and told them it was simply Pepper Pate (trimmed and sculpted into a mound, with the "bits" stuck in). Even so, only a few helpings were consumed.
The teeth are from the skull I used for the Brain Spread (a few of the teeth are removable on the anatomically-correct skulls). The eyes are again from the Anatomical Chart Company (wash them well with dish soap before putting them in food).
These are shooters of my own design that are a little tricky to make, but once you get the hang of it they're a snap. Despite being "shooters", they are actually 99.9% non-alcoholic. They need to be made, then served immediately.
The effect is similar to that of an alien specimen in a tube somewhere in a lab. A layer of "blood" is pooled at the bottom of the glass, and organic-looking strands and clods hang suspended in a greenish fluid. Gross!
These also caused great suspicion amongst guests - but once someone tries it, they realize it's not so bad. Once again, it demonstrates the power of a good presentation on people's perceptions. Here's how to make them. You will need:
This is a layered beverage. You will need a spoon that fits snugly into the mouth of the shotglass. See the directions below.
1. Pour a small amount of Grenadine into the bottom of the shotglass. Try not to hit the sides.
Fit a suitable-sized spoon into the shotglass. Pour some Mountain
Dew gently over the back of the spoon (so as not to disturb the
Grenadine, and to keep as many bubbles as possible intact) into
the shooter glass. Fill the glass to approximately 4/5 full. Leave
the spoon in place. You know you have a good fitting spoon if it
takes a few moments for the Mountain Dew to flow past it into the
Gently attempt to float Irish Cream on top of the Mountain
Dew by pouring a small amount onto the back of the spoon. I say
attempt to float the Irish Cream on top because we actually can't
-- Irish Cream is heavier than Mountain Dew -- but this is OK.
Just pour it gently onto the back of the spoon as though you were
4. Observe the Irish Cream begin to snake down the sides of the spoon (also notice it stays on top of the Grenadine). Once this happens a little, gently remove the spoon. You'll see something like this:
5. After a couple moments of the Mountain Dew's bubbles pushing up along and through the Irish Cream, you should have something that looks a little like these pictures (and with any luck, some of the red Grenadine comes up with the bubbles and colors the tendrils like in the second picture):
That is an
Alien Autopsy Shooter
and it tastes a little like a Mountain Dew Float.
The Cold Appetizer
Eyes in Blood Sauce
This was inspired by finding this recipe for Eerie Eyeballs which look incredibly nice. I did not like the recipe though, and I spent a lot of time investigating alternative ways to make good eyeballs.
I settled on the following method. You will need:
Covering with plastic wrap keeps the small eyeball backs from drying out and becoming tough. (Feel free to dump the remaining milk mixture into a bowl and chill as well. Before eating, dump them out upside-down onto a plate. They are quite tasty, especially with some fruit sauce on top.)
Once the eyes have set in the mold (allow several hours at least), pull/pop them out and place them flat-side-down onto a serving dish. With a clean paper towel, gently wipe off any excess cooking spray from the top of the eye. You want the front of the eye to be as dry as possible for the next step.
Then, squeeze an EVEN blob of colored gel icing from the tube onto the eye, over and around the "pupil". The blob will be the cornea/iris. This part can be a little tricky, but if you screw up just wipe the gel icing off and try again. Making sure the surface of the eye is dry first will help the gel icing "stick".
NOTE: You may wish to take a warm, SHARP utensil and scoop/slice out a small hole from the raised part of the "eye" so you have something to anchor the pupil and gel icing onto. (I tried several ways to make this step easier - but nothing worked particularly better than anything else. If you have an easier way to make this step work, let me know.)
Then, with a toothpick dipped in the thick black coloring, stick the colored end into the cornea/iris and "paint in" a round black pupil in the middle of the gel icing. A little black goes a long way. (An alternate method is to suck up a little black coloring into an eyedropper, then inject a round pupil into the gel cornea/iris. Use whichever method works better for you.)
The eyes will stay the way they are - that is to say, without colors bleeding - for a couple hours at least. If they are not being used immediately, store them in the fridge.
Before serving, pour the Blood Sauce into the serving dish with the eyeballs. The effect is that the eyes are resting in a puddle of blood. Serve with a vicious-looking little fork for spearing the eyes (they are slick and hard to pick up with your fingers).
UPDATE: An alternate way to make the pupil is to use a mini chocolate chip instead of black food coloring. Before the gel icing, push the mini chocolate chip pointy-side-down onto the eye. The chocolate chip's flat backside will be the pupil. Then put the gel icing "iris" on top.
The Main Course Foods
Brain On a Plate
The Brain on a Plate is simple mashed potatoes, molded into an anatomically-correct brain shape. The mashed potatoes have a very good "grey matter" look to them that is perfect for a brain.
The Long Pig was covered with a large sheet of tinfoil, and was the centerpiece. It was "unveiled" for the main course - it is a skeleton torso with a tin-foil lined chest cavity that contained a mixture of BBQ beef, garlic sausage, and Chinese BBQ pork. (The meat was cooked on the BBQ, then transferred to the skeleton just prior to serving.) After unveiling, I "carved" the corpse with a couple of butcher's knives (though I was actually just stabbing the hunks of meat and pulling them out.)
The effect for the Long Pig was especially good. If I were to do it again, I would "corpsify" the skeleton for an even better effect. It was an excellent centerpiece. ("Corpsing" refers to making a skeleton look decomposed.) In fact, the skeleton I used for the Long Pig was the same skeleton I later used for my project How To Make a Charred Corpse. Check it out!
On to the recipes! For Brain On a Plate:
You will need a Brain Mold for this. I used one I have had for years - you can also purchase a similar one from The Anatomical Chart Company.
Prepare mashed potatoes as per your favorite recipe. (The black
specks in mine are from pepper, just so you know.)
Repair any obvious damage from leaving the mold.
Finally, as a finishing touch stuff some frilly lettuce (like buttercrunch lettuce) around the bottom edge. This conceals the rough bottom edge of the brain as well as makes the dish look much more presentable.
For The Long Pig:
The Long Pig is - recipe wise - one of the simplest items. It is mostly prop; the skeleton torso is from the Anatomical Chart Company. The base was a wooden shelf unit covered in a white plastic tablecloth. The bottom of the skeleton, the nooks and crannies, and the eye sockets were stuffed with poofy lettuce. An apple would have been great to fit into the mouth, but the jaw doesn't actually open very far so I used a couple lemon slices instead. Some spare blood mixture (see the Eyes in Blood Sauce recipe) was used here and there for garnish.
The chest cavity was lined with tin foil. The meat course consisted of a variety of boneless meat, cooked on the barbeque then transferred to the chest cavity. You can use any combination you want. You should do this preparation out of sight of your guests - if you can't get any privacy in the kitchen, simply fabricate an excuse to have your guests leave the kitchen briefly, or simply ask them to cover their eyes. The effect is ruined if any guests see it beforehand.
Once the meat is transferred into the chest cavity, cover the entire thing with a tin foil sheet. The whole platter is now ready to present to your guests! Pull back the tin foil with a flourish, and use long utensils to pull out the meat for serving. If you can be heard over the screams, you can even ask what organs they would prefer as you pluck out the meat.
Dessert - Chilled, Bloody Heart
This was inspired by the dessert on this page but I made some small modifications. It ultimately derives its inspiration from "Penn & Teller's Bleeding Heart" from their book How to Play with your Food.
I used an anatomically-correct mold of a human heart from the Anatomical Chart Company. It came with a recipe (which I used) for making a tasty, deep red colored gelatin heart. Basically it is strawberry Jell-0 (4 small boxes), 4 extra packages of unflavored gelatin, a can of evaporated milk, and 3-1/2 cups water. The "Blood" was the same as I used for the Chilled Eyes - a mixture of Grenadine, light corn syrup, and red food coloring. The blood goes into a bag which is embedded inside the heart. This allows you to stab or cut the heart and have it bleed profusely.
should wind up with something like this after removing from the
mold and trimming the excess.
out the arteries with a melon baller or round measuring spoons.
Then you need to paint it. I used syrupy food coloring (sold in small jars at pastry decorative stores, and some hobby stores) in purple, black, blue, and red. I literally used brushes with the food coloring as "paint". It worked beautifully. Here are some tips:
The first Heart's Successful Test Run!
A video montage of hearts, followed by a short clip from the supper.
And that's that! Everything turned out great for my Halloween supper, and if you decide to try something of your own, here are some tips to help you pull it off:
I like Halloween, probably more than any other holiday!
Halloween Monster List - Lots of great projects and info here.
The Anatomical Chart Company - No list complete without them.
Making Your Own Halloween Monstrosity Specimens - Wouldn't some of these look great in the kitchen, or sharing the table with your Halloween supper?
The Haunted USB Cable - I designed and built this prank USB device. It's not blood-and-skeletons "haunted", but you may like it anyway!
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