Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Terror-ific treats

Making your own Halloween treats can be a howl, especially if you include the little ghosts and goblins in your haunted house

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HALLOWEEN apples!

A long time ago, that used to be the battle cry of the trick-or-treating ghoul on your doorstep. And apple is what they might have expected.

Sadly, those days are gone. We are restricted to handing out, and consuming, shrink-wrapped, store-bought treats... unless we're heading off to a community party.

And the community Halloween party, run by community clubs or church groups, does seem to be more popular every year. So maybe that's an opportunity to bring back some of those old-fashioned, home-made Halloween treats.

As much fun to make...

If there's a community Halloween party in your future, get the kids involved in making some the treats that follow. It's interesting to know, for example, how hard candy is made and really fun to try and make it yourself. There's also some pride to be had in turning out some treats that everyone will like.

A few tips for the party cook

* Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when providing food for a community party is that some kids have serious allergies. It seems that nuts, particularly peanuts, are the most common and can be really hazardous. Unless you know for certain that every child attending is allergy-free, it's just easier to avoid bringing those foods with you. Dairy is another common food restriction as well. So, as a rule, avoid them altogether and substitute something else where you can. You want every child to be able to enjoy the party and all the goodies that are there.

* It can be helpful to other parents if you add a short note listing the ingredients in your food. Parent of kids with serious allergies can then feel confident that their children will not be at risk.

* If you're using store-bought candies to decorate items (like the monster lollipops below), check the ingredients to be sure you're not unintentionally adding nut products to your recipes.

* If you're in charge of planning the menu for the group, do assign something besides sweets. The skeleton veggie platter below fits the bill nicely.

* Make sure you have some kind of container on hand that the hobgoblins can use to transport their treats safely home.

* Kids will be sticky. Plan to have some way of cleaning them up.

Have a go at these treats. Every one of them is easy.

Popcorn hands

These are as easy as stuffing a clear plastic disposable glove with popcorn. Martha Stewart's website suggests using a sliced almond for a fingernail and painting it with a little red food colouring. But if you want to avoid the nuts, substitute Smarties or jelly beans. Slipping a yellow jujube onto a "knuckle" makes an effective wart.

Troubleshooting: Making these takes time because it's tricky getting the popcorn down into the fingers. Pour a small amount at a time, and a large mouth funnel (the type used for pouring preserves into jars) is helpful. You can use a butter knife to slide the Smarties fingernail in -- but go slowly so you don't tear the glove. Tie up the end with a ribbon. You'll need about 250 ml (1 cup) of popcorn for each glove.

Candied apples dipped in coconut

Once upon a time, apples and candied apples were giveaway favourites. These will give you a chance to wallow in nostalgia while the kids pull their fillings out with these candy-coated treats. The coconut is delicious with this, although it is -- alas -- more pretty than ghoulish.

500 ml (2 cups) granulated sugar

500 ml (2 cups) corn syrup

75 ml (1/3 cup) red cinnamon candies

250 ml (1 cup) water

5 ml (1 tsp) cinnamon

2 ml (about 1/2 tsp) vanilla

5 ml (1 tsp) red food colouring (optional)

6 to 8 crisp, fresh apples

500 ml (2 cups) or more flaked coconut

Remove stems from apples, wash and towel dry.

Insert a wooden stick into each apple from the bottom to the top without sticking out the top. Spread a thick layer of coconut onto a cookie sheet.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, cinnamon candies, and water in medium to large saucepan.

Cook until candies dissolve, stirring constantly. Do not boil.

Add cinnamon, vanilla and food colouring. Mix thoroughly.

Boil mixture to 150C (300F) using a candy thermometer without stirring.

As soon as mixture reaches 150C (300F), it will be very thick.

Remove it from heat and dip each apple into the mixture to thoroughly coat.

Stand the apples on a very thick bed of coconut with the skewer pointing up until mixture hardens.

-- Adapted from Candied Apples Topped With Coconut at www.recipezaar.com

Troubleshooting: Choose apples that will stand up. You can find the sticks in the grocery store near the apples in the produce section. Choose small apples -- a little goes a long way. The kids are going to be eating a whole lot of stuff so a big apple will go to waste if they can't finish them. The redder the better. You need to set these on a very thick bed of coconut because the candy coating is going to drip down and you don't want it to soak through. Leave them on the cookie sheet with the coconut to transport and serve.

Monster lollipops

These were so much fun to make -- much easier than expected. And they look great. You'll get about 10. You can use the same type of sticks that you used for the apples.

500 ml (2 cups) sugar

150 ml (2/3 cup) light corn syrup

60 ml (1/4 cup) water

10 lollipop sticks

candies for decorating

Generously brush 3 baking sheets with vegetable oil. Prepare a small ice water bath. Place all ingredients except candies in a small saucepan, and place over medium-high heat. Stir continuously to dissolve sugar. When the syrup comes to a boil, stop stirring and clip on a candy thermometer. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the mixture turns golden and reaches 150C to 155C (300F to 310F) on the thermometer, 5 to 7 minutes. Occasionally wash the sides of the pan using a clean brush dipped in the ice water bath to prevent crystals from forming.

Remove the pot from the heat. Transfer the syrup to a 500 ml (2 cup) heatproof measuring cup (be cautious, as the syrup might bubble up). Using a heatproof rubber spatula, stir in the food colouring until completely dissolved.

Working quickly, pour 10 3-inch circles onto prepared baking sheets. Press in lollipop sticks. With your fingertips or a toothpick, press candies in to decorate. Set aside until completely cooled and hardened.

-- Adapted from "Halloween Lollipops" at www.marthastewart.com

Troubleshooting: The syrup is very hot and it sticks to you, so keep the ice water bath close by in case you get it on your fingers or if the kids are helping out. You have to work quickly -- but not in a panic. If you wait a few moments before you start pouring the syrup, you'll have more control. Don't be tempted to make the suckers too big or put too much candy in them -- they will get too heavy. Don't stand them up until you are almost ready to give them away. If the room is very warm, they could start to "bend" over. Food colouring is an option -- if you like, add about 10 drops, but choose a light colour.

Cleaning the hardened candy out of the measuring cup is a lot easier if you fill it with water and put in the microwave for two minutes. Scrape out what you can and then re-fill and repeat. It may take 2 or 3 times but it will all come clean quite easily.

Skeleton veggie tray

This guy is so cute -- especially if you're serving to very small children.

You'll need a fairly large cutting board or flat tray, a small bowl for the head, a variety of fresh vegetables, and your favorite dip.

Start with the spine and neck. Alternate small pieces of celery with circles of zucchini that have been cut in half. Place the "head" at the top. You can either fill the bowl with dip or with cauliflower (makes great-looking brains). Cut thin slices of green pepper and line them up as ribs. Using carrots or other vegetables, cut into thin sticks for shoulders and hips. Use cherry or grape tomatoes for joints and for the heart. Baby carrots were sliced thinly for fingers and toes. Celery was cut long and thin for the arms and legs.

This skeleton by himself won't be enough food for a party, so either have a platter of veggies standing by and use the skeleton as a centrepiece for a large party. Or if you're just serving a few small children, just have pieces cut and ready to "rebuild" as he's gobbled up.

-- Adapted from Family Fun's Parties, edited by Deanna F. Cook

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 24, 2007 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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