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Ask A Chef: Best Spooky Halloween Treats

Thinking of something more than a bag of candy to treat your family and guests this Halloween? Don't want to just buy something? How about making your own ghoulish, silly or just wonderfully delicious treats? Two local chefs share some recipes for you to try out this Halloween season.
John Sanders
Old Town Grill
444 Main St.
Placerville, CA 95667
(530) 622-2631

John Sanders is an extraordinary man with the grill. His Old Town Grill is a mouth-watering treat no matter the time of year. His career path, covering 38 years, led from corporate stints to him and his wife owning their own place in Placerville, which is a continuing success with diners. It's one of those places where you could close your eyes, point to the menu and experience an absolute slice of gourmet heaven. Along with that, you get John, who may be one of the nicest people you'll ever run across. Take a look at his ideas for some Halloween fun at your table.

Recipe 1: "Bloody Hand Burger"
  • 1 1/2 pounds grass fed natural ground chuck
  • 1 stalk scallion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup crispy bacon bits
  • 1/4 tsp diced red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic or 1/4 tsp fresh crushed garlic
  • 1/2 cup bleu cheese (gorgonzola crumbles)


  1. Combine ingredients with hamburger, being careful to not overwork the meat.
  2. Form into 5 hands.
  3. Refrigerate 30-45 minutes prior to grilling.
  4. Grill on charbroiler or pan fry approx. 7 minutes, flipping only once to sear in the juices.
  5. Finish grilling for approx. 5 final minutes.
  6. Serve on a toasted seed bun, ciabatta roll or brioche roll.
Recipe 2: Bloody Spread
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp celery seed
  • 1/8 tsp dry mustard
  • dash of cayenne pepper


  1. Mix the ingredients well.
  2. Top the Bloody Hand Burger with this Bloody Spread.
  3. Enjoy!
Recipe 3: Pumpkin Seed Brittle
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup raw, shelled pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp flaky sea salt


  1. Spray food spray/pan coating on a baking sheet.
  2. Bring sugar, corn syrup and 3 tbsp of water to a boil in a saucepan.
  3. Over medium heat, stir to dissolve sugar--needs to reach 290 degrees F for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Stir in pumpkin seeds, butter, Kosher salt and cook, stirring often until light brown, approx. 3-4 minutes, until temperature reaches 305 degrees F.
  5. For a great pumpkin orange color, add 2 drops each of yellow and red food coloring.
  6. Stir in baking soda and cinnamon--mixture will bubble.
  7. Immediately pour caramel onto prepared baking sheet.
  8. Use a spatula to spread evenly on baking sheet.
  9. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  10. Let cool, break into pieces and enjoy!

Related: Best Pumpkin Treats In Sacramento

Kevin Schultz
Sportsman's Hall
5620 Pony Express Trail
Pollock Pines, CA 95709
(530) 647-2670

Sportsman's Hall is a national landmark and has been around since the 1850s. It was a pony express stop when the ponies were galloping through. It's been a hotel, a stage stop and always a great place to eat. Owners Moon and Amy Shim keep the traditions going, with modern twists. Chef Kevin works the kitchen here, cooking up good food for the guests. He has been creating delicious eats for 43 years. Keep your belt loose because there isn't any such thing here as a short plate. Here are some Halloween treats for you to whip up, as Kevin looks to flare up your Halloween sweet tooth. Start the oven, get the mitts and enjoy.

Recipe 1: Ghostly Strawberries
  • Enough large, ripe strawberries for your guests
  • 8 oz white baking chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp shortening
  • 1/8 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips, or chocolate M&Ms


  1. Wash the strawberries.
  2. Pat dry with paper towels.
  3. In a sauce pan, or in the microwave, melt white chocolate and shortening until smooth.
  4. Stir in almond extract, add more for taste if needed.
  5. Add a drop of food coloring of your choice to the mix if you want a color other than white.
  6. Dip the strawberries, one at a time, in the melted chocolate mix.
  7. Place on a wax paper-covered cookie sheet.
  8. Allow chocolate to drip onto wax paper as this is part of the "ghost."
  9. Press chocolate chips or M&Ms into chocolate for eyes.
  10. Place in freezer for about 5 minutes, or until the chocolate is hard.
  11. Melt chocolate chips or M&Ms in a saucepan or microwave, stir until smooth.
  12. With a toothpick or other small tool, dip into the melted chocolate and draw a mouth on the strawberry, your choice of scary or nice.
Recipe 2: Hot Chocolate with Floating Eyes
  • 8 cups of milk, divided
  • 1 cup mint chocolate chips, or others for taste
  • 1 cup instant hot chocolate mix
  • 16 large marshmallows
  • 16 black candies of any kind, or M&Ms
  • 16 lollipop sticks, or long toothpicks


  1. Combine 1 cup milk, mint chocolate, or other chips, and hot chocolate, and mix in a large saucepan.
  2. Cook and stir over low heat until the chocolate chips are melted.
  3. Stir in remaining milk, and continuing over low heat, heat it through.
  4. Cut a slit into each marshmallow.
  5. Insert a candy of your choice into the slit.
  6. Insert a long toothpick or lollipop stick through the marshmallow and into the candy.
  7. Pour hot chocolate into cups.
  8. Place marshmallow "eyes" into the hot chocolate, candy side up.
  9. Serve hot. Enjoy!
Recipe 3: Halloween Fingers
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • red decorating gel
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds


  • Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl
  • Combine baking powder, flour and salt, and gradually add to the bowl with the cream mixture.
  • Divide the dough into quarters.
  • Put in refrigerator until easy to handle, around 30 minutes or so.
  • Roll the dough into 1-inch balls.
  • Shape the balls into 3-inch by 1/2-inch "fingers."
  • With a table knife, make an indentation in one end of the "fingers" for the fingernail.
  • Make three cuts in each "finger" where the knuckles should be.
  • On a lightly greased or sprayed cookie sheet, place the "fingers" about 2 inches apart.
  • Bake at 325 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, or until they are lightly browned.
  • Cool for 3 minutes
  • Squeeze some of the red gel onto each tip where the fingernail will go.
  • Place one almond sliver on the gel of each fingertip, allowing the gel to ooze out a bit or a bunch.
  • Place on a wire rack to completely cool down.
  • Serve with the hot chocolate and floating eyes.

Related: Best Apple Pie In Sacramento

Charles Ferris is a freelance writer who has lived in the Sierra, halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, for the last 37 years. In 2010 he retired from teaching after 36 years . He and his wife hike, kayak, cross country ski, snow shoe, ride mountain bikes and road bikes, year round. His work can be found at
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