Haunted homes: 'Showdown' proves gingerbread isn't just for Christmas

Clinton Kelly hosts "Haunted Gingerbread Showdown"

With less than four weeksleft until Halloween, now is the time when you'll see homes decked out in Halloween decor that ranges from playful to downright chilling — like the giant, glowing inflatable spider that's propped up outside my home improvement store. Terrifying.

Arachnophobia aside, Halloween decorations are a great opportunity to let your imagination run wild. And one of the more recent seasonal trends is about putting a spooky spin on a well-known Christmas tradition: a gingerbread house. A haunted gingerbread house is the perfect Fright Night centerpiece, whether you're hosting a party or just displaying it on the front table next to your Halloween handouts. And if you're looking for inspiration, look no further than Food Network's "Haunted Gingerbread Showdown," which kicks off a new season this Sunday, Oct. 6.

The series premiered last year and the concept proved to be a hit. Now it's back for a second season, with the affable Clinton Kelly taking over hosting duties from Sandra Lee.

Nine new gingerbread artists — three per weekly episode — are hoping to wow the judges with their over-the top, nightmare-inducing gingerbread creations. And it isn't just a question of slapping together four walls and a roof and then decorating it with candy corn (although there's art in that, too).We're talking theme parks and haunted forests and — spoiler alert if you plan to watch Season 1 — even a haunted lighthouse, which was created by Season 1 winner Steve Konopelski.

Season 2 judges Jamika Pessoa, Gesine Prado and Jason Smith will determine the winner each week. Those three finalists will advance to the fourth and final episode, which is a winner-take-all finale in which one person will win the $25,000 grand prize and a feature in Food Network Magazine.

It's always fun to see how far bakers will go to push or blur the boundaries that separate food from art. And that's what "Haunted Gingerbread Showdown" delivers.

But if you're looking to make your own haunted gingerbread house, some stores sell pre-built kits that will take care of the structural details. You just need to assemble it and jump right in with the fun decorations.

If you have more time and you're more of a do-it-yourself baker, you can find printable templates to bake your own gingerbread house on foodnetwork.com. You'll also find pumpkin carving tips, pretrick-or-treating meal ideas (such as Mac-O-Lantern and Cheese Bowls) and Halloween treats that run the gamut from classic candy corn to spider-shaped ... to, well, everything.

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