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2 ideas for harvest, Halloween party refreshments

Editor's note: These recipes previously ran online on the writer's website, pammcmurtry.com.

Here are two delectable dishes to celebrate the harvest season and Halloween.

SPICY CHEESE FONDUE WITH CRUDITES AND CROUTONS

Adjust the spiciness by eliminating some of the chiles if you wish. This version has a bit of a bite, but is not too spicy-hot.

1 24-ounce round loaf of unsliced sourdough bread

For the fondue:

3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated (12 ounces)

12 ounces Neufchatel cheese (light cream cheese), softened

1 cup sour cream

1 cup green onions, chopped

2 (7 ounces) cans diced green chiles

½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off top of bread, reserve top. Hollow out the inside with a small knife, leaving a ¾-inch shell. Cut remaining bread into 1½-inch cubes. Toast as directed below.

Mix together cheeses, sour cream, onions, chiles and salt. Spoon into bread, replace lid. Wrap tightly with several layers of heavy-duty foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until cheese is melted. During the last half hour of cooking, toast bread cubes. Remove bread with fondue from foil and place on a serving tray. Encircle with crudites (or chopped vegetables) and toasted croutons (see below).

For the crudites:

Prepare broccoli florettes, zucchini, celery, cauliflower, green cauliflower and red, yellow and green pepper strips.

Wash and cut the vegetables in pieces large enough for dipping. Cut apart the broccoli and cauliflower in bite-size pieces, slice the zucchini, celery and pepper strips into manageable chunks. Figure about ½ cup per person or 4 ounces prepared.

For the toasted croutons:

1 16 oz. baguette sourdough bread, cut into ½-inch slices

bread removed from bread bowl, cut into 1½-inch cubes, toasted if desired

½ cup butter, melted

¼ cup vegetable oil

Place sliced bread and bread removed from the bread bowl on a baking pan. Stir together the butter and oil and drizzle over the bread and toss gently. Place in oven during the last half hour the fondue bakes. Remove when the croutons are crisp but not hard.

WHAT-WAS-UNDER-THAT-ROCK TRIFLE?

This is a rich variation of the classic English dessert. It is pretty (scary) layered in a glass bowl and served with a new trowel or placed in a cauldron. Layer ganache (or substitute instant chocolate pudding made with 1½ cups milk), crumbled brownies (see instructions below), cheesecake filling (see recipe below), gummy worms, chopped nuts (optional) and crushed chocolate sandwich cookies. Top with meringue mushrooms (see recipe below), garnish with mint leaves or for a more festive look, candy rocks, gummy worms and spiders.

For the ganache:

16 ounces good chocolate, chopped

1½ cup whipping cream

Melt chocolate over low heat. Add cream and stir well. Chill for 45 minutes, whip and set aside.

For the brownies:

Bake according to package directions a 9-by-13-inch pan of brownies. Set aside to cool, then crumble.

For the cream cheese filling:

8 ounces whipping cream

¼ cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 8 ounce Neufchatel (light) cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

Whip together whipping cream, ¼ cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Fold in cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla.

Place in bowl and chill until time to use.

To assemble:

Crush about 30 chocolate sandwich cookies and set aside. Chop and set aside 1 cup peanuts, walnuts or pecans (optional).

In the serving container, layer ganache, half of the brownies, half of the cream cheese filling and nuts. Tuck in a few gummy worms.

Repeat layers, top with ganache, crushed cookies and a few more gummy worms. Decorate with meringue mushrooms (see below), candy rocks, mint leaves or parsley, gummy worms and spiders, if you dare!

For the meringue mushrooms:

2 egg whites

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

sprinkle of salt

½ teaspoon vanilla

½ cup sugar

1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy.

Add cream of tartar, salt and vanilla and continuing beating. While the mixer is running, stir in ½ cup sugar one tablespoon at a time.

Continue to beat until the mixture is smooth, stiff and glossy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Place meringue mixture in a plastic zip seal bag, squeeze out excess air and seal. Cut off one corner to make a ½-inch opening.

When making meringue shapes, allow an inch or two around each piece for expansion while baking. Place the tip of the bag on the parchment and squeeze out six 1-inch to 2-inch stems (should be standing up). Enlarge the opening to ¾-inch and squeeze out caps in varying sizes.

Moisten your finger with water and smooth the points on top of the mushrooms to get a rounded top on the cap and flat top on the stems. Lightly sprinkle the caps with cocoa powder.

Bake in the center of the oven at 200 degrees for 1 hour to 1½ hours or until dry and dark cream in color.

Melt the chocolate chips in a glass bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir and heat another 30 seconds. Repeat until melted.

Dip the tops of the stems into melted chocolate, place on upturned caps. When chocolate sets, store mushrooms in airtight container or place on trifle. Stored in an airtight container, the mushrooms will keep for several weeks.

These two delicious dishes should land you a prime spot in the Halloween hostess hall-of-fame. Happy Halloween!

Pam McMurtry is a wife, parent, artist and writer. Her "A Harvest and Halloween Handbook" is sold at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Her website is at pammcmurtry.com.