FARGO — Halloween is right around the corner, and we've been working on some creative delights that can be enjoyed by trick-or-treaters of all ages. Whether you're hosting a party for adults, a classroom celebration, or just looking for a new treat to soak in the season, these Jalapeño Mummy Poppers, Candy Corn Pumpkin Scones and White Chocolate Strawberry Ghosts are sure to please even your most ghoulish guests.

We approached this column with a goal to create a Halloween scene that would delight our senses and play to our inner child, with imagery both quirky and charming. When visiting my sister's family this past weekend, I showed a photo of our Halloween spread to my 3-year-old niece, Zoe, who gasped and shrieked, "Oohhh, I want to eat all of that!" which also happened to be Tony's (my 40-something husband) reaction. Mission accomplished.

The strawberry ghosts bring a bit of whimsy to the table, and are so easy to make that even a 3-year-old can help. After washing and drying the berries, we melted a few bricks of vanilla almond bark in our microwave and then dipped each strawberry until it was almost fully coated. We placed the dipped berries on a sheet of wax paper, allowing the excess to drip onto the paper to create the ghostly tail.

For the eyes and mouth, we used mini chocolate chips, which we placed on the berries immediately after they were dipped. The ghosts should set at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving, and can remain at room temperature for several hours.

For the candy corn pumpkin scones, I adapted our basic scone recipe by adding some canned pumpkin puree and a variety of seasonal spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. For even more seasonal flair, I used brown sugar instead of white, and also added a tablespoon of pure maple syrup. These scones are not overly sweet, and if we weren't planning to glaze them I would add another tablespoon of brown sugar to the mix. With their autumnal flavor and appearance, these pumpkin scones would also work well for a Thanksgiving brunch.

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The trick to making excellent scones is to use really cold butter, so I freeze the cubed butter for at least 30 minutes, or even longer (it can store for several months in the freezer). Another key to ensuring a flaky result is to handle the dough as little as possible, so I use a food processor to create the dough, and a cake pan to form the dough before cutting out the wedges. While these steps aren't necessary, and may even seem a bit fussy, they can make the difference between a good scone and a great scone.

The jalapeño poppers are one of the most playful foods I think we've ever made, and I found this clever idea on a blog called "The Hopeless Housewife." We halved and seeded a bunch of jalapeños, filled them with flavorful cream cheese filling and then wrapped them with refrigerated crescent dough. Baby bell peppers could be used for a non-spicy version. For the eyes, we used candy eyeballs, which we placed on the poppers as soon as they came out of the oven.

Whether you're looking for a sweet or savory treat, we hope we've brought a bit of whimsy and charm to your day and wish you a safe and Happy Halloween.

Strawberry Ghosts

Ingredients

Vanilla almond bark (quantity will vary depending on number of berries being used)

Strawberries, kept whole, washed and dried before using

Mini chocolate chips

Directions

In a microwaveable bowl, melt the bark on medium-high setting, in 20 second intervals, until fully melted. Dip each strawberry in the bark and transfer to wax paper, allowing excess to drip onto the paper to create the ghostly tail. Immediately place the chocolate chip eyes and mouth and let set at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Jalapeño Mummy Poppers

Makes 24 poppers

Ingredients

12 medium jalapeño peppers, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed - leave stems on when possible (Note: Use gloves when handling jalapeños)

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

8 ounces plain or pepper jack cheese, shredded

½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

2 scallions, finely chopped

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 to 3 teaspoons milk, as needed

1 package refrigerated crescent rolls

48 candy eyeballs (available at hobby/craft stores)

For the egg wash, beat together:

2 eggs

1 tablespoon water

Pinch of salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, prepare the egg wash and set aside until ready to use.

In a small bowl, mix the three cheeses with the scallions, salt and pepper until incorporated. If too thick to mix well, add a bit of milk, starting with 1 teaspoon and adding more only as needed.

On a cutting board or baking sheet, separate the crescent roll dough into 4 rectangles and use your fingers to gently press into the perforations until no longer visible.

On a lightly floured surface, gently roll each rectangle of dough until it is 12 inches in length. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut each rectangle lengthwise into approximately 10 pieces, each about ¼ inch in width.

Fill each jalapeño half with the cheese mixture, then wrap with the dough, criss-crossing mummy style and leaving a ½-inch opening for the eyes. You may need to use 2 pieces of dough, depending on the jalapeño's size.

Brush each popper with the egg wash and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake in a 400-degree oven for 8 to 12 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the dough appears golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately press the candy eyes into the opening on each popper. Serve immediately, alone or with your favorite dipping sauce.

Sarah's tips:

  • Always use gloves when handling hot peppers.
  • For a non-spicy version, use baby bell peppers instead of jalapeños.
  • The peppers may be prepared up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerated until ready to bake.

Pumpkin Candy Corn Scones

Makes 8 large scones, or 16-20 small scones

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon white sugar

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated or ground

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ginger, freshly grated or ground

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes and chilled

1 cup heavy cream

½ cup pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

For egg wash, beat together:

1 egg

1 teaspoon water

Pinch of salt

For glaze, mix together:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons cocoa powder (add after scones have been dipped in vanilla glaze)

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place flour, baking powder, sugars and spices in a large bowl or food processor and use a whisk to mix, or pulse 10 times. Add the cubed butter and cut in with 2 forks or a pastry blender if making by hand, or pulse in the food processor about 12 to 15 times until the mixture resembles coarse meal. If using a food processor, transfer the dough to a large bowl.

In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the cream, pumpkin, maple syrup and vanilla. Using a fork, gently stir the liquid into the flour mixture until a dough begins to form. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and gently knead by hand for about 15 seconds, to form a sticky, rough ball.

Lightly flour a square cake pan and gently press the dough into the pan; this step helps to prevent over-handling the dough, but you may also use your hands to form a square.

Flip the pan over and turn the dough out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into wedges, either small or large, and space them out along the sheet at least 1 inch apart. For best results, place the baking sheet with the scones in the freezer for 30 minutes before baking.

Remove from freezer and brush to the top of each scone with the egg wash, then bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes until the top is a medium golden brown. Remove from the tray and transfer to a wire cooling rack for 10 minutes. Prepare the glaze and drizzle over tops if desired, allowing glaze to set before eating.

To create candy corn scones: In a small bowl, make the vanilla glaze by mixing all the ingredients together, excluding the cocoa powder. Next, dip the top third of each scone into the glaze, then place the scones on a wire rack to drip dry.

Add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the vanilla glaze and stir until well combined. Once the vanilla glaze has set, hold each scone by the middle and dip the bottom third into the chocolate glaze, then return to the wire rack to drip dry.

To store: Place scones in an airtight container for up to 3 days. To freeze baked scones, wrap individually in plastic wrap and freeze in a plastic zip bag or airtight container for up to 2 months. For best results, add glaze after thawing. Scones can also be frozen before baking for up to 3 months.