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Had enough doom and gloom? Add Halloween fun to your life

Find the silver lining as you save money or create a bit of whimsy
by: , 
These Meringue Ghosts are an inexpensive Halloween treat to make for friends and family. Add some fun to life by whipping up a batch.

Have you had enough doom and gloom this month? I certainly have. Every American family has been affected by the country's economic collapse in one manner or another. As a nation, we are justifiably feeling more than just a bit down in the dumps and confused. It is hard to find the silver lining in the rain clouds over our heads.

Take heart, my countrymen - we can choose to hitch our hearts to every leap and dive of the stock market or we can take care of the basics and do what we can to keep a positive outlook on life. I am choosing to carry an umbrella and keep looking for that silver lining. The umbrella I suggest we carry? Simply pay attention to basic household economics.

This is a good time to evaluate your household budget and trim out the unnecessary expenditures. I was able to save $67 a month by cutting services I was paying for but not using. That will save me $804 over a year.

Take inventory of your pantry and freezer so you know what you have on hand. This keeps you from buying food you don't need.

For some of us, going to the grocery store is a form of entertainment. We shop out of habit, rather than need.

Eat what you have on hand - its already paid for and won't get any more fresh. Use up your back stock of staples and then replenish with fresh supplies.

Remember the more a food is handled the more expensive it is. Slice or grate cheese instead of paying for that service, and pack cookies and chips for lunches in baggies instead of buying the individual bags. Pack a lunch instead of eating out. You'll save calories as well as cash.

Check the grocery ads before you shop for sales and ideas about what you would like to cook. Remember foods in season are less expensive than out of season foods. Shop the farmers' markets for produce at great prices.

Shop with a list - always.

And don't linger in the store; get in and get out as quickly as possible. The more time you spend in the store, the more money you spend. Shop alone, too.

A couple times a week, make double batches of meals so you have leftovers for lunches or another dinner.

Redeem coupons. West Linn's Julie Parrish is my mentor on couponing - she is the champ! Visit her Web sites at www.hotcouponworld.com and www.organicgrocerydeals.com . It is more fashionable than ever to save money this way.

Eat in. Learn to cook, if you need help.

By dedicating myself to being a savvy shopper I know I am doing everything possible to preserve our resources. That is the best I can do.

Knowing that, my focus can then shift to ensuring my family's fun outshines the doom and gloom.

Halloween gives us the perfect excuse for adding fun back into our days. Carving jack o'lanterns, decorating sugar cookies, creating costumes for trick or treating are all activities that are just plain fun. Many of these activities can be done without spending money. There is no shortage of Web sites for gleaning more Halloween craft ideas for family fun.

Stroll through the neighborhood or park to gather colored leaves and nuts. You can use these to decorate your table, home and front porch.

Brown paper grocery bags can be cut and colored into all sorts of Halloween images - you are limited only by your imagination and the number of colors in your Crayola box.

Look in your closet for components for great Halloween costumes - you are bound to find something fun with which to work.

Spread the cheer far and wide and invite friends and neighbors to a Halloween Boo Bash, potluck style. There is no doubt that everyone is feeling the need for a little lighthearted trick or treating.

These recipes are some from my Halloween Spooktacular Classes taught to children in years past. They are totally kid friendly and inexpensive. Enjoy!

Bon Appetit! Happy Halloween!

Meringue Ghosts

Makes 8 to 12 ghosts

3 large egg whites

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

¾ cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

16 to 24 semisweet chocolate chips, cut in half

Preheat oven to 200ºF.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or butter sheets and dust with flour.

In a deep bowl, with a mixer at high speed, whip egg whites and cream of tartar to a thick foam. Continuing to beat, add sugar, 1 tablespoons every 30 seconds, then whip until meringue holds very stiff peaks.

Beat in vanilla. If using parchment, smear a little meringue on the underside of each corner to hold it to the baking sheets.

Spoon meringue into a pastry bag fit with a ½ inch plain tip, or spoon meringue into a gallon sized plastic food storage bag, then cut off one corner to make a ½ inch wide opening. Pipe meringue onto baking sheets into ghostly shapes about ¼ to ½ inch thick, 2 to 4 inches wide and 4 to 6 inches long, spacing about 2 inches apart. To make eyes and noses and mouths, press chocolate chips lightly into meringue.

Bake in a 200ºF oven until meringues begin to turn pale gold and are firm to the touch, 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours, switch pan positions halfway through baking. Turn off heat and leave meringues in closed oven for one hour.

Slide a spatula under meringues to release. Meringue ghosts can be made up to one week in advance. Cool and then store then in an airtight container at room temperature. Meringues are fragile - handle with care!

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 or by e-mailing brandall@lakeoswego

review.com .

Five:30

A five ingredient entrée ready in 30 minutes or less. Sorry , this has six ingredients - trick or treat!

Candy Corn Pizza

Serves 4 to 8

When cut in wedges, this pizza resembles candy corn, with the pepperoni being the dark layer, the cheddar being the middle tone layer and the mozzarella the light layer. It's perfect to fuel trick or treaters on Halloween night.

1 package refrigerated pizza dough

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon oregano or Italian seasoning

¼ pound of pepperoni slices

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

½ cup mozzarella cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Press or roll out the pizza dough into a 12-inch round on a bake sheet or pizza pan. Spread a thin layer of tomato paste on the dough and sprinkle with the oregano.

Arrange the pepperoni around the edge of the dough, covering about 1-½ inches of the dough toward the center. Next sprinkle cheddar cheese over about a 2-inch band of the dough, and then finally sprinkle mozzarella in the center, covering about a 3 inch circle at the center of the dough.

Bake the pizza for 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the crust is crisp on the bottom.

Remove from the oven and cut into 6 to 8 wedges.

Cook's Note: You could start with a premade cheese pizza and add your favorite toppings in bands to represent the candy corn layers. Use your favorite meats, olives, peppers, mushrooms, etc.

BR