Dishing with Sandra, FN’s Queen of Halloween

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To get in the Halloween spirit, the Dish took a few minutes to chat with Sandra Lee while she baked up mini pumpkin bundt cakes in Food Network Kitchens. Sandra's Semi-Homemade Cooking Halloween special airs this Sunday at 11:30am/10:30c, and believe us, you don’t want to miss it. The theme is Renaissance Faire, the costumes are amazing, and there are some surprises, including … Sandra as Cher?

Semi-Homemade is now in its 14th season on Food Network — “I think Friends was only on for 10 seasons!” she says — and to celebrate, Sandra worked with Food Network to publish Semi-Homemade: The Complete Cookbook, stocked with 1,000 recipes.

Read on for Sandra’s dish on the new book, Halloween tips and buy bid-worthy tablescapes.

You always go all-out for Halloween, but this year on Semi-Homemade Cooking, you’re taking it in a new direction: Renaissance Halloween. What was the inspiration behind this theme?

The New York Renaissance Faire. I wanted to do something to support New York, and the fair is something my girls and I go to every year. When I saw all the beautiful visuals, I thought, why not do something a little retro, fun, maybe a little bit of history? You’re going to love this episode. It starts with Queen Elizabeth, then we go to Robin Hood, and everyone loves Cher so I gave them a little Cher as a fortune teller.

On we have video of all of your best costumes — do you have a favorite?

My Cher costume rocks! I also really love the dress I wore when I was Guinevere. That dress! If I could wear it every day I’d be happy. Queen Elizabeth was kind of shocking, because I did complete white face and even white eyelash, white mascara. We get into the details. You’ll even notice that the nail polish matches the character that I’m playing. Farine, who’s queen of the fairies and one of my favorite costumes for sure, has white glittery nail polish; the dark lady Cher has black glitter nail polish.

Any tips for an awesome money-saving Halloween party?

Parties are always less expensive if you do appetizers as opposed to a sit-down meal. If you’re going to have cocktails, just choose one or two; you don’t have to do 29. Just decorate with things from the grocery store, from normal places that we all go. Don’t go out and spend 900 bucks on an upside-down wrapped mummy that you don’t need and that I think is kind of creepy anyway. Keep it real and do smart things. If you’re going to do webbing or netting, use old ripped-up nylons.

Semi-Homemade: The Complete Cookbook includes recipes from your own personal recipe box. How long have you been writing and saving recipes?

I have some of my grandma’s recipes from the '50s, before I was even born! I have to say forever. Since I was a little girl, I started baking from scratch from the Joy of Cooking cookbook. This is my first cookbook together with Food Network and I was so happy that it is such a monumental piece that we can all be proud of. I tried really hard to create something that will stand the test of time.

How long did it take to develop all the recipes for a book of this volume?

I’ve been creating this book for seven years. The recipes come from everywhere … personal recipes, recipes from my show. The index alone is unbelievably done; there’s no way you can’t get everything you need from this one book. When you’re on page five or six of the index, you’re still on “C” for chicken!

You’re busier than ever these days, with two Food Network shows, your own magazine, new cookbook and even an eBay auction of your signature tablescapes to benefit Share Our Strength. Full disclosure: Which tablescape would you most want to bid on?

My nephew Bricer’s birthday was pretty fantastic, I have to say. He’s my nephew so of course I’m going to think that the birthday party I threw for him was fantastic! Because I’m Aunt Sandy. And when you’re Aunt Sandy, or Aunt Susie or Aunt Becky, you want to make sure that the party you throw for them is fantastic. They’re kids and they only get to be kids once.

What are your own plans for Halloween next weekend?

Sleeping! I’m handing out candy. I give out little baby candy bars, I’m a good candy-giver. Last year I did two Halloween parties, one for 12-year-olds and one for twin 15-year-olds. So this year I’m taking it a little easy. You know it’s a good Halloween party when the kids come up to your kids at school and say “If you do a Halloween party this year, would you please invite me?”

Catch Sandra's Halloween special this Sunday at 11:30am/10:30c.

Head to Food Network's Halloween central to see all of Sandra's costumes, plus tons of spooky drinks, treats and party dishes.

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