“What’s the matter with you – a house just fall on your sister?” “Don’t make me call the flying monkeys!” “If the boot fits . . .”

Alice P. Clark StaceyKalas

One of these remarks is an insult, another sort of a self-disclosure and the third might be equated with “I’m just sayin’.” All of them are humorous references to witches.

But throughout history, the idea of witches and witchcraft was no laughing matter. It is interesting that the word carries such a demonic connotation, given that “witch” comes from “wicca,” meaning “the wise one.”

Witch-lore can be traced back as far as the discovery of fire. Over the centuries, many people (mostly women) were burned at the stake. It seems that witches and witchcraft hit Christianity’s and society’s radar in the 11th Century. The execution of witches was first sanctioned in the 13th Century by Pope Gregory, giving rise to the Inquisition. In 1498, the existence of witches was confirmed in a declaration by Pope Innocent VIII.

In 1590, Scottish midwife Agnes Sampson was burned at the stake, the first of 70 to meet that fate during the North Berwick Witch Trials. Irish moneylender Alice Kyteler was married four times, and each of her husbands met an untimely death, each increasing her wealth. Her fourth husband’s children accused her of poisoning him. Alice, the first accused witch in Ireland, was tried and convicted of witchcraft, but magically and permanently disappeared before she could be executed.

Marie Laveau, on the other hand, born in Louisiana in 1801 a free, Creole “woman of color,” became known as the “Voodoo Queen of New Orleans,” whose advice was sought by many, including world leaders. She was reputed to be a necromancer and said to practice mind control as well as many other skills. No stake for Marie, though. She lived to the age of 80 and died “peacefully in her home.”

The Salem Witch Trials occurred from 1692 to 1693 in Salem, Mass., and the early targets were slaves, beggars and sometimes the elderly. Over 200 people were tried, with 19 or 20 actually being executed. Apparently, some of the witch hunters decided, in retrospect, that they might have been a bit hasty in their judgements. In 1702, the trials were declared unlawful (a bit of “closing the barn door after the horse has been stolen,” if you ask me). In 1711, a bill passed “restoring the rights and good names of those accused and granted £600 restitution to their heirs.” In 1957, Massachusetts formally apologized for the events of 1692.

These days, witches are viewed in a “kinder, gentler” light. Who could ever conceive of persecuting Samantha Stephens (Elizabeth Montgomery, in “Bewitched”) and her pert little wiggling nose? Melissa Joan Hart further endeared witches in our hearts as Sabrina Spellman in “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” and more recently, the beautiful Catherine Bell has played Cassandra Nightingale in a series of “The Good Witch” movies.

Modern witches have it a lot easier than their forebears, due in large part to advances in technology. Between work, family and other obligations, today’s witches don’t have time to spend hours bent over a cauldron on an open fire. Luckily, the magic of modern day technology has replaced the bulky cauldron with the sleek, electric crock pot. No more aching shoulders and hunched backs from long hours stooping over cauldrons chanting “double double, toil and trouble like MacBeth’s three hags.”

There are scores of choppers, slicers, dicers, fancy mandolines and many other time-saving small appliances available as well, all of them designed to free up time for working on spells.

With all the sources available on the Internet, today’s witch can simply order necessities like lizard gizzards, eye of newt, toads and toad stools fresh, frozen or dried and have them delivered to her home, eliminating the necessity of foraging around in marshes and woods gathering supplies.

I categorically deny any allegations of my having witchy genes, and anyone who thinks otherwise might soon be relegated to sleeping all day, croaking all night and hopping from lily pad to lily pad.

Alice’s Spider on a Bundt creation Erik Daily, La Crosse Tribune

But I did make use of some of the modern advances in preparing some Halloween ideas for you.

There are a couple of grisly entries, the zombie meatloaf and flayed man; but they were fun to make and should be a hit at any party. My daughter Traci found the flayed man’s clear mask for me at the very last minute. My guess is she found it at Party City. Wherever it came from, it was perfect.

What would Halloween be without a big cauldron of gruel? The slow cooked black bean chili has what I thought was an odd combination of ingredients, but only time, and taste, will tell.

Then we turn to cute, with the spider on a Bundt. Note that it calls for pumpkin pie mix, rather than pumpkin puree. The difference, I believe, is that the pie mix includes the spices that make pumpkin pie so good, while you add the spices when using puree. Adding the spices gives you better able to control over the flavor, but I think either would work for this recipe.

The final recipes are quick, fun finger foods (one of them, quite literally), that everyone can pitch in to assemble. I used buffalo wings sauce for the blood, but if you don’t care for that much heat, use catsup or maybe enchilada sauce.

All that’s left to say is HAPPY HALLOWEEN! And sit back to wait for all the ghosts, goblins, witches, princesses and superheroes to start trekking to my door.

Zombie Meatloaf

1½ pounds ground beef

1 small onion, finely chopped

¾ cup buttery round crackers, crushed

⅔ cup milk

½ cup finely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

2 eggs

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon seasoned salt, to taste

1 hard-boiled egg, cut in half

Smallish garlic cloves, cut in 2 or 3 uneven pieces


½ cup catsup

¼ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons barbeque sauce

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil; grease or spray foil. Combine beef, onion, crackers, milk, cheese, eggs, Worcestershire sauce, and seasoned salt in a bowl. Transfer mixture to baking sheet; shape like a skull, leaving holes for eye sockets and mouth. Place a hard-boiled egg half in each socket, shaping beef around them to hold in place. Combine catsup, brown sugar and barbeque sauce in a bowl; stir until smooth. Spread half of the sauce over meatloaf, including eyes and mouth. Bake until no longer pink in center, 50 to 60 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted in center should read at least 160 degrees. Poke garlic pieces in mouth for teeth. Brush remaining sauce over meatloaf or serve on the side. (Adapted from L. Spivey, allrecipes.com)

Flayed Man Cheese Ball

1 clear plastic face mask

2 (3-ounce) packages prosciutto

2 pimento-stuffed green olives

24 ounces cream cheese, softened

6 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese

6 ounces shredded Havarti cheese

½ cup pitted green olives, chopped

¼ cup roasted red peppers, well-drained and chopped

Lightly coat plastic face mask with cooking spray. Line mask with plastic wrap; be sure to press it down fully into nose and eyes. Reserve two or three slices of prosciutto; tear remaining prosciutto into strips. Lay strips in mask to form “muscle tissue.” Start around eyes, leaving eyes blank; create cheeks, chin and forehead. Position whole green olives in eye holes, pimento-side down. Set the mask aside. Combine cream cheese, Cheddar, and Havarti in a mixing bowl. Add chopped green olives and roasted red peppers. Use an electric mixer or clean hands to mix until thoroughly combined. Take a heaping spoonful of cheese mixture; arrange it to form an eye around each olive. Gently fill mask with cheese mixture, taking care not to move prosciutto around. Press cheese down as you work to fill in all crevices. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Invert mask onto a serving platter; gently remove mask and plastic wrap. You should be left with a gorgeous (and freaky) face. If there is cheese showing around the bottom edges, use the reserved prosciutto slices to cover it before serving. (Tara; allrecipes.com)

Slow Cooker Black Bean Chili

2 pounds ground beef

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon oil

4 cups tomato sauce

2 cups diced Italian tomatoes

4 cups black beans, drained and well-rinsed

6 cloves garlic, diced

1 green pepper, diced

1 small onion, diced

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

Salt to taste

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon Tabasco

1 teaspoon all spice

Cook beef over medium-high heat on stovetop until lightly browned; season with salt and pepper. Place in crockpot; add remaining ingredients to crockpot. Stir well; cook 6 hours. (maggiem; betterrecipes.com)

Spider on a Bundt

24 Rhodes Yeast Dinner Rolls, thawed but still cold

½ box vanilla cook and serve pudding

1 tablespoon pumpkin spice

½ cup pecan pieces

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup butter or margarine

½ cup pumpkin pie mix

1 can chocolate fudge frosting

Candy for eyes

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut rolls in half. Combine pudding mix and pumpkin pie spice. Dip each roll half in dry pudding mixture. Arrange in sprayed Bundt pan, alternately with pecans. Sprinkle any remaining pudding mixture over top. Combine brown sugar, butter and pumpkin pie mix. Heat in microwave about 1½ minutes; stir well until syrup is formed. Pour syrup over rolls. Cover with sprayed plastic wrap. Let rise until even with top of pan. Carefully remove wrap; bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cover with foil last 10 to 15 minutes to prevent over browning. Immediately after baking, loosen from sides of pan with a knife; invert onto serving platter. When cool, place plastic cup, upside down, in center of Bundt to support body of spider. Spoon frosting into a pastry bag and spiral frosting to make spider body and head. Add spider legs from the body down to bottom of Bundt. Place candy for eyes. (rhodes.com)

Pretzel Broomstick

4 pieces string cheese (more depending on how many brooms you want)

Pretzel sticks

Fresh chives, halved

Cut each string cheese stick into thirds. Snip one end of each third into thin strings to look like a broom. Place a pretzel stick into each piece of string cheese for handle. Tie chive around cheese. (medoDIYstuffs; allrecipes.com)

Severed-Finger Cheese Sticks

6 string cheese sticks

12 almond slices

2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce, or to taste

Round off each end of cheese sticks with a paring knife to resemble a fingertip. Roughly tear each cheese stick in half for 2 “fingers”. Shave off a piece of each “fingertip” to form a nail bed; place an almond slice on nail bed to form a “fingernail.” Cut a few shallow lines in center of each finger for knuckles. Pour several drops of hot sauce into small pools of “blood” on a serving plate. Dip torn ends of fingers into blood for bloody fingers. Lay each finger in its own pool of blood. (Chef John, allrecipes.com)

Photos: Halloween displays at La Crosse area homes

Liven up your Thursday mornings by tuning in to Coulee Region Cooks from 10 to 11 a.m. on WIZM-AM radio, 1410 on the dial. Spend an hour with Mike Hayes and a different guest(s) each week in his studio kitchen, sharing recipes and cooking tips, along with a generous serving of fun.

Send requests, recipes and/or cooking tips and techniques to Alice P. Clark at: Reader Exchange, c/o La Crosse Tribune, 401 N. Third St., La Crosse, Wis. 54601; e-mail: readerexchange@lacrossetribune.com; or send a fax to 608.782.9723, attn: Reader Exchange.