News from the Tennessee Valley Food

Use licorice, gummy candy and candy corn to turn an Oreo Cakester into a black cat.
Courtesy photo
Use licorice, gummy candy and candy corn to turn an Oreo Cakester into a black cat.

Boo brews
& creepy-crawly cookies

By Patrice Stewart · 340-2446

Some Halloween party food traditions date back to the ancient Romans, while other treats are as modern as the latest cookie and candy shipments to your favorite store.

The Romans celebrated the harvest feast of Pomona, the fruit goddess, around the same time of year, according to Dian Thomas, author of “Holiday Fun Year-Round.”

Rituals still in use today include fruit and nut centerpieces, bobbing for apples and drinking cider, Thomas said.

A lot of sweets and treats have been added through the years, and children have come to expect them at Halloween. You can stick with the apples or raisins and other healthy substitutions, purchase bags of candy or make your own treats, especially if you are preparing for a small party or festival.

Letting children help decorate their treats may help them cut down on the amount they eat while creativity is flowing.

You can test that theory with treats based on cookies such as Nutter Butters, which can be turned into ghosts by dipping them into white almond bark and adding eyes (edible fruit or candy of your choice). That works with stacked marshmallows, too. And to make spiders, add pretzels for spider legs to products such as Ritz crackers spread with peanut butter and dipped in chocolate.

Spider, bat, black cat

New products in your supermarket, like Oreo Cakesters, can help, too. The filled, cake-textured version of Oreos can quickly transform into a spider, bat or black cat with decorative gels and frostings and candy accents. You can use different cookies and snacks for similar creations.

Spider: For the spider’s legs, cut black string licorice into eight 1-inch pieces. Insert into opposite sides of one Oreo Cakester soft snack cake. Use red decorating gel to make the eyes.

Bat: For eyes, place two cinnamon red-hot candies on top of one chocolate crème Oreo Cakester. Cut white tip off each of two candy corn pieces and place on top for the fangs. Cut a second Cakester in half, using a zigzag cut. Add one on each side of bat for the wings.

Black Cat: Place two candy-coated chocolate chips at top of one Oreo Cakester for the cat’s ears, using a small amount of frosting to secure ears to cake. Cut one green gummy candy into two triangles and place on top of cake for the eyes. Add one piece of candy corn for the nose. Use white decorating gel for the mouth. Cut black string licorice into four 11/2-inch pieces and place two pieces on each side of the nose to make whiskers.

Sometimes you need to feed a crowd, with more than the individually decorated goodies. If you need to make up a big caldron of treats, Land O’Lakes offers this witchy recipe: a tasty mix of popcorn, sweet candy corn and salty snack foods.

Witch’s Caldron Corn

One 3.5-ounce bag microwave popcorn, popped
2 cups bugle-shaped corn snacks
2 cups braided twist pretzels, broken in half
1 cup roasted pistachios
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup candy corn

Place popped popcorn, corn snacks, pretzels and pistachios in very large bowl; set aside.

Melt butter on high in microwave-safe bowl (30 to 45 seconds). Add sugar; stir.

Pour butter mixture over popcorn mixture; stir to coat. Carefully stir in candy corn. Makes 32 1/2-cup servings.

Note: You can substitute one 3.5-ounce bag microwave kettlecorn popcorn. Omit butter and sugar. A 3.5-ounce bag microwave popcorn equals about 12 cups popped popcorn.

Jack O’Lantern cake

Thomas gives some ideas for adapting simple cakes and other goodies as treats and refreshments for Halloween parties.

If you want to create a Halloween Jack O’Lantern cake, make two bundt cakes with your favorite recipe. Then trim the flat side of each cake to make it level. Spread some frosting on one flat side, but don’t let it show when putting the two cakes together and matching the “ribs.”

Then you can decorate it with orange icing for the mouth and triangular eyes and nose. To cover the center hole on top, fill with icing, perhaps in green to create a stem and leaves effect for the pumpkin look.

If you prefer a spider over a Jack O’Lantern cake, here’s another simple idea. Take any white-iced cake and create a spider web with chocolate frosting. Then attach a plastic spider or make one yourself with cookies and licorice or pretzel legs.

Spook Sticks

Spook Sticks are treats on their own, and they can also be used to stick in a cake or in a basket of treats.

3 pounds white chocolate
Aluminum foil
Oil or vegetable spray
15 to 20 wooden ice cream sticks
40 miniature chocolate chips

You can use dipping chocolate, coating, chips or similar products. Cut up the chocolate, if necessary, with a knife or food processor to melt it in the top of a double boiler. Fill the bottom of the double boiler with hot water, leaving a 1-inch space below the top pan. Stir occasionally. Do not heat above 120 degrees F, and never allow water to get into chocolate.

Stir until smooth (and vigorously stir the melted chocolate again each time you use it to create a spook). Cover a baking sheet with foil and grease lightly. Dip the sticks into the melted chocolate until 2 to 3 inches are coated; place them on a baking sheet about 4 inches apart.

Pour the outline of the ghost with a small stream of melted chocolate and then fill it in. Before the ghost hardens, put two chocolate chips in place for the eyes. Refrigerate on baking sheets until chocolate is firm. Makes 15 to 20 ghosts.

For party favors, you can wrap white chocolate Spook Sticks in plastic wrap and tie with ribbon.

Note: These spooks can also be used to decorate a graveyard cake. Consider using Fig Newton cookies for tombstones. Pipe an icing name on each and add a Spook Stick.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Remove the seeds from your pumpkin before carving your Jack O’Lantern and roast them for a tasty snack.

2 cups pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon salt

Rinse the pumpkin seeds until all the pulp and strings are washed off. In a medium bowl, combine the Worcestershire sauce, salt and melted butter or margarine. Add the seeds and stir until they are coated. Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 225 degrees for 1 to 2 hours, until crisp. Stir frequently to prevent scorching. Makes 2 cups.

Peanut Butter Boulders

Packaging is important, too. Associated Press writer Jim Romanoff suggests making Peanut Butter Boulders and wrapping them in pieces of wax paper. “Twist the ends, and they’ll look just like a piece of candy,” he said, although they combine whole-grain oat cereal with dried cherries and sunflower seeds and sweetened with honey.

1/2 cup reduced-fat peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup instant nonfat powdered milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
11/2 cups oat ring breakfast cereal (such as Cheerios)
2/3 cup dried cherries
2/3 cup raw hulled sunflower seeds

In a large bowl, combine peanut butter, honey, powdered milk and lemon juice. Mix well. Add the cereal, dried cherries and sunflower seeds and stir well.

Have a small bowl of water on hand to moisten hands as needed. Roll the cereal mixture into balls. Set on wax paper until the outsides feel dry to the touch, about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. Makes about 30 balls.

What’s in a treat?

Halloween trick-or-treating is not as simple as it used to be, as candy and toys for children are coming under more scrutiny.

People who try to watch the sugar they pass out to party-goers and truck-or-treaters also have to worry about ingredients such as nuts, eggs and wheat.

While trying to strike a healthy balance, be careful about nuts and other ingredients, cautions Anne Munoz-Furlong.

Food allergies have doubled in the last 10 years, and 3.1 million American children now have allergies.

“Many of the most common food allergens are found in candy,” said Munoz-Furlong, founder of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. “For some children, just one bite of the wrong food can bring on anaphylaxis — a severe allergic reaction that can cause death.”

Eight foods are linked to 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions in the United States: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. All those but the fish and shellfish can be found in various candies.

Because of this, you may want to consider alternatives to candy, such as coins, small toys, pencils and pens, balloons, stickers and trading cards.

Some people give boxes of raisins or sugar-free gum, instead of candy or trinkets. Others load up on apples, bananas or popcorn.

Check online sites such as www.naturalcandystore
.com for natural, organic, vegan and gluten-free options — many without artificial sweeteners, coloring or preservatives.


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