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Let kids create cookie monsters

Eating is only half the excitement when you let the kids lend a hand in preparing a Halloween party.

Serve foods that kids can make, shape, build or decorate before eating. Let them pound their own pizza dough and form their own hamburger patties. Pre-molded balls or blocks of low-fat or sugar-free frozen yogurt make great canvases for creative young minds.

Let kids dress up the food too. Make cookies or ice cream into scary faces with candy corn and licorice sticks or let them disguise hamburgers and pizza with thin strips of cheese, mustard, ketchup and onion slivers.

No need to buy caramel apples for Halloween when you can make them at home _ in just minutes.

Have fun and remember: moderation and participation.

Basic Pizza Dough

1 teaspoon honey

} cup warm water

1 package dry yeast

1 cups bread flour

1 cup semolina flour

\ teaspoon salt

Vegetable oil as needed

Cornmeal as needed

Combine the honey, \ cup of the water and the yeast. Stir in enough of the bread flour to make a thin batter with the consistency of buttermilk. Cover and let rise in a warm spot for about 1 hour.

Add the remaining bread flour and water and the semolina flour to the batter, then knead in a mixer with a dough hook or by hand until the dough is smooth, springy and elastic. Rub it lightly with oil, place in a clean bowl and cover with a cloth. Let the dough rise until it doubles in volume, 2-3 hours.

Punch down the dough and divide it into four equal pieces for individual pizzas or leave whole for large pizza. Round the dough into smooth balls, cover and let rise once more until double in volume, about 1 hour.

Flatten the balls of dough and roll or stretch until they are about -inch thick. Place the dough on baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal. The pizza dough can either be refrigerated until needed or topped and baked. Makes 4 individual pizzas or 1 large pizza.

Source: the Culinary Institute of America's new book From Our Kitchens.

Ice Cream Vampires

4 large (3{-inch) soft oatmeal cookies

4 large scoops chocolate ice cream (about 1{ pints)

Assorted candies for decoration such as candy corn, licorice whips, jelly beans and fruit rolls

For the bat's wings: Place cookies on a work surface. Cut cookies in halves. Using a teaspoon, cut a scalloped edge on the straight side of each cookie; set aside.

For the body: Place a scoop of ice cream on four individual serving plates. Using a knife, make a {-inch deep cut on opposite sides of each scoop of ice cream.

To assemble: Insert the end of cookie half into each cut in the scoop of ice cream to form wings. Decorate ice cream with candies to create the vampire's face. Use licorice whips for the antenna, jelly beans for the eyes, candy corn for the fangs. Serve immediately or freeze up to two hours before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Source: National Dairy Board.

Spooktacular Chocolate Cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

} cup cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

{ teaspoon baking powder

} cup shortening

} cup buttermilk or sour milk

} cup water

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Assorted candies (optional)

Peanut Butter Cream Filling:

2 3-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

cup creamy peanut butter

\ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin cups (2{ inches in diameter) with paper bake cups.

Stir together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add shortening, buttermilk, water, eggs and vanilla. Beat on low speed of electric mixer 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally.

Fill muffin cups { full with batter. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely.

Place peanut butter cream filling into pastry bag fitted with large star tip. Insert tip into center of cupcakes; pipe filling into cake. Remove tip from cake; garnish top with swirl of filling. Decorate with candies, if desired. Cover; refrigerate leftover cupcakes. Makes about 3 dozen cupcakes.

Note: To sour milk, use 2\ teaspoons white vinegar plus enough milk to make } cup.

Peanut Butter Cream Filling: Beat cream cheese and peanut butter in large bowl until blended. Add milk and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency. Makes about 2} cups filling.