FARGO - With Halloween just days away (and the fact that I was baking on Friday the 13th), I should have taken it as an omen when I ran into a woman who told me, "I read your column all the time, but I don't try a lot of the recipes because they're too complicated."

I told her I love baking weird things, like Pop Bottle Cakes or Lumberjack Cake. I mentioned that for Halloween I was inventing David S. Pumpkins cupcakes named for the super weird Saturday Night Live character played by Tom Hanks. His first appearance - alongside two equally-weird dancing skeletons - last Halloween on SNL was so popular, David S. Pumpkins costumes started selling out at online retailers. Producers invited Hanks back for another guest appearance in 2017.

I bought all the goods to make what I thought would be some super cool cupcakes. I was ready for magic.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans. It was a colossal failure, embarrassingly so. I won't go into detail here, but if you'd like to see the aftermath go to thegreatindoors.areavoices.com.

After my major baking fail, I washed my hands of it (quite literally, because they were stained with the black icing that was supposed to be Tom Hanks' cupcake hair). I remembered what that woman said about my complicated recipes.

While I think it's fun to tackle the big, unusual cakes and cookies, sometimes what people need are simple recipes - especially now at Halloween when schedules are packed full with tricking or treating, haunted houses and pumpkin-carving activities?

Imagine my excitement when I found these adorable, easy Shortbread Pecan Ghost Cookies. Use your imagination and picture the ghosts holding other things like gummy bears or candy kisses. They're about a million times easier than my attempt at David S. Pumpkins cupcakes and sometimes when life gets busy we don't need to create more work for ourselves. As David S. Pumpkins would say, "Any questions?"

Shortbread Pecan Ghost Cookies

Yields 24 cookies


24 raw pecan halves

2 sticks (1 cup) butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt


Beat butter and sugar in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy. In a medium size bowl, whisk together flour and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture. Increase speed and mix until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball. Divide dough into two disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat; set aside. Unwrap one disk of dough and roll out on floured surface. Dough should be about ¼ to 1/2-inch thick.

Using a 2 1/2-inch ghost cookie cutter, cut out dough and place ghosts on prepared baking sheets. Place one pecan half in the middle of the cookie and gently fold arms up over the pecan half. Repeat with remaining dough and pecan halves. Using the flat end of a bamboo skewer, press two eyes into each cookie.

Bake cookies for 18 to 20 minutes or until they are set and very lightly golden at the edges. Allow cookies to cool completely before serving.

Recipe courtesy of the American Pecan Council