Thursday, November 24, 2022

Florence Biffle’s Sweet Potato Bake

Happy Thanksgiving!

This fantastic yet simple recipe, titled “Sweet Potato Bake,” is from Mrs. Florence M. Biffle (1914–2006), who was a member of Faith Lutheran Church in Jefferson City. I recently found her obituary online. I’ll bet my Great Aunt Lydia Meyer knew her well, since she was a longtime member of the same church and was also a quilter. Also, I’ll bet my Grandma Schroeder and Great Aunt Minnie Bartlett new Mrs. Biffle, too, since they were all longtime members of Jefferson City’s Hawthorn Garden Club.

I never knew Mrs. Biffle, but I feel I could easily have known her. There’s a good chance I was in the same room with her at some point, and just never knew it. Anyway, I’m grateful to her for this recipe, and for these small connections between our worlds.

I noticed she was buried out at Hawthorn Memorial Gardens cemetery, so in a few weeks when I'm out decorating Grandma and Grandpa Renner's grave, I'll see if I can find Mr. and Mrs. Biffle.

This recipe was on p. 49 of Cooking with Faith: Favorite Recipes of Faith Lutheran Church Women, Jefferson City, Missouri, by the Faith Lutheran Ladies Guild, Jefferson City, Missouri [ca. 1975].

This is an interesting, fruity-glazed alternative to the standard (and I think tiresome) sweet potato casseroles made with brown sugar, pecans, and marshmallows, so common at the Thanksgiving table. I think you’ll really like this for a change of pace.

I’ll offer my tips and suggestions after the recipe.

Sweet Potato Bake

Cook 4 to 6 sweet potatoes until almost tender. Skin and cut to desired size (chunks). Place in a casserole dish.

Combine and bring to a boil:

1 c. apricot nectar
2 T. orange juice concentrate (not diluted)
½ c. brown sugar
1½ T. cornstarch
1 t. salt
½ t. cinnamon
2 T. butter
½ c. water

Pour over the potatoes and bake 30 to 40 minutes at 350°F.

Julie’s notes:

You can peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into chunks, then cook them in gently boiling water if you don’t want to bake them. I have also steamed them, and that works, too. But don’t overcook the potatoes; remember they will be cooking for another half hour in the oven.

I use a 9 x 9 Pyrex baking dish. You will cook it uncovered, so what begins as a liquid dressing reduces to a gooey glaze over the potatoes. Pull them out of the oven when the sauce is gooey enough for your taste.

The dressing mixes up most easily if you first combine all the dry ingredients together before adding them to the liquid.

Kern’s Apricot Nectar, which is no doubt what Mrs. Biffle had in mind, used to be available at all the grocery stores around here, but I haven’t seen it in years. I think the company’s out of business. There’s another brand called Jumex, but I’ve never seen it except online. I’ll bet it’s something to look for at an international store. Both seem to contain high fructose corn syrup and other less-than-desirable ingredients. But it’s no problem if you can’t find apricot nectar. Just take some canned apricots and some of their juice and puree it in a food processor or bullet blender, so it gets to the consistency of a thick “nectar” type juice. You only need a cup. A bonus of doing it this way is that you can decide how much corn syrup to include (since you are selecting your can of apricots—in heavy syrup, light syrup, or whatever). You can even puree the apricot pieces with just water, if you want.

There's no reason you couldn't use dried apricots, simmered in water until they're perfectly soft, then process those in a bullet blender or run them through a food mill, to make them into a liquid puree. I suppose that would be healthier. But I think using canned apricots with their corn syrup is more authentic to the midcentury church ladies cooking style.

Do-ahead tip: You can put the peeled, precooked potato chunks and the uncooked sauce into the casserole dish, dotting the butter on top, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Or out on your unheated sunporch, if it’s cool enough. Finish it in the oven the next day.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Jar of Goodness 11.20.22: Artemis I

. . . The weekly virtual “gratitude jar.”

This week, I’m expressing thanks for NASA’s Artemis I.

“We are going back to the moon.” Did you watch the launch of Artemis I Wednesday morning? It was worth getting up early to see! If you missed it, you can see the official NASA broadcast on YouTube here. And here’s a link to NASA’s Artemis I web page.

All the pictures of this post are screenshots from the YouTube video, or else they are photos of that video playing on my computer monitor. Because sometimes you want to remember what it was like, personally, to participate in this event.

This Space Launch System (SLS) and spacecraft (Orion) are designed to get people to the Moon and back, and eventually allow people to travel from the Moon to Mars. The Artemis I mission is un-crewed, operated by programming and remote transmissions, as they’re testing the system before sending living people up in it. It’s also multitasking with several other experiments and stuff.

The biggest deal on Wednesday was the SLS—the massive rocket system that launched the capsule out of Earth’s atmosphere and into space, heading toward the Moon and beyond.

The launch system is simply fantastic. The liftoff was intensely dramatic—like watching a volcano erupt, but on cue and perfectly in control: “Three, two, one, boosters and ignition . . . And liftoff of Artemis I! We rise together—back to the Moon, and beyond!”

After about 1 minute after liftoff, the rocket was going over 600 mph, with 8 million pounds of maximum thrust. About 20 seconds later, it was 1,420 mph. Just 2 minutes and 11 seconds after liftoff, the two solid rocket boosters had done their job and were jettisoned. Soon after that, the rocket was traveling at more than 3,400 mph.

Three minutes into the launch, the speed was 4,060 mph; after another minute, it was up to 5,200 mph. At 5 minutes, the speed had increased to more than 6,800 mph, and a minute later to 8,800 mph. At T+06:20, the speed had exceeded 10,000 mph, and at T+07:00 it was up to 12,000.

Then, after 8 minutes of flight, the main rocket engine cutoff occurred, and the core stage separated from the Orion capsule, which was then considered to be in Earth’s orbit. After that, in following days, it would continue on to the Moon. At the point of main engine cutoff, the speed was more than 16,000 mph.

Do you know how orbiting works? Think about it this way. If you hold a ball in the air and then let it drop, it falls straight down to the earth, thanks to gravity. If you flip the rock sideways a little, it still falls to earth, but it follows a curved path. If you throw or pitch the rock a little harder and faster, the rock travels farther, and its curved path is wider. If you shot the rock out of a cannon, it would travel even farther, tracing an even wider curve, before falling to earth. But what if you shot the rock so fast and far that its curved, falling path actually matches the curvature of the planet? It would continually be falling . . . but it would never fall to earth.

By the way, the current land speed record is 760 mph. The air speed record (by ducted jet engine aircraft, within the atmosphere) is something like 2,193 mph, set by a Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird” Mach 3+ jet.

The Orion spacecraft, with its 26-day mission, will eventually take a far-distance elliptical orbit around the moon, traveling a maximum of 280,000 miles away from Earth and 40,000 miles beyond the far side of the moon. That’s substantially farther than the 1970 Apollo 13 mission, during which the astronauts traveled a maximum of 248,655 miles away from Earth.

This is a big deal, you all! Yes, we’ve sent amazing remote-controlled equipment into space, to Mars, to Jupiter, and beyond. . . . And as for crewed space flights, the various space shuttles and space stations have all remained in low Earth orbit. No humans have truly gone out into space since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Exploring is what humans do. Learning, identifying, describing, making connections, questioning, making predictions, testing, understanding, recording, and communicating about it . . . that’s what humans do. That is our superpower. It’s our ministry. It’s in our DNA.

We are the portion of the Earth that is programmed and equipped to allow Earth to see and try to understand itself. We animals are its eyes, brains, and conscience.

And are you excited that NASA is pointing out, strongly, that the Artemis missions will land the first woman and the first person of color on the moon? You should be. It’s an indication that we’re not stuck in the 1950s, even though some people seem to think that’s where we should return. So including all types of our nation’s people in the space program is a strong signal that everyone in our country is encouraged to contribute—because diversity is our nation’s strength. And we need to get back to that thinking!

. . . So that we can rise together!

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Jar of Goodness 11.13.22: Sunporch Storm Windows Done

. . . The weekly virtual “gratitude jar.”

This week, I’m expressing thanks for having the storm windows be up.

I’ve blogged about our storm windows before, and you know I have mixed feelings about them. Enough that we’ve come to rate each spring and fall transition to and from screens and storms on “the cussometer” scale. Some years, it’s been an 8 on the cussometer. This year, Sue gives it a 0.5, which is about the lowest it’s ever been. “It went just like clockwork.”

The fall operation involves moving furniture and blinds on the sunporch to clear space for the operation. Removing the screens (blissfully lightweight) and wiping down the sills and other framework. Hauling the storms out of the coal bin (which is a storage area in our basement), and cleaning them. Carrying them out the basement doors, up the steps into the backyard, across the backyard, up the porch steps to the porch. Fitting them into place. Putting everything back together.

A subcategory is putting the storm window in the porch door, which involves a screwdriver.

Another subcategory is using a screwdriver to stuff styrofoam insulation noodles and bits of fiberglass into the gaps. It really makes a difference on windy days. I’ll get to that this next week.

Another subcategory is removing screens and putting in storms (plexiglass) into our front storm doors. I did that yesterday. That has its own kind of cussometer.

But regarding today’s project, I gave it more of a 3, since my left shoulder’s been painful, and it just seemed like more of a chore—something I really didn’t care to do.

BUT having it done is a lovely thing. Being able to have the sunporch windows all closed means it can be more like a little greenhouse out there on sunny days, even when it’s cold outside. We will get some more weeks, or at least days, of being able to enjoy the sunporch.

And Lois is going to be able to enjoy sleeping in the sun in the mornings.

I said I have mixed feelings about these elderly storm windows. No one today still has heavy wooden storm windows that have to be hauled in and out of place each year. In all honesty, it’s a bitch. They’re unwieldy. We’re always having to futz around with them. (This year, one of the hooks came out of the wood, so we’ve got to fix that.) Why not get modern, expensive, do-everything windows that stay in place 100 percent of the time, and you just, like, open them temporarily, if they came with an openable, screen feature? (Wait, do people open their windows anymore?)

The answer for me has something to do with that sense of transition. It feels completely different out there, now, with the storm windows in place. It’s not breezy and open anymore; it’s cozy and protected. The outdoor sounds are muffled. And there’s a genuine feeling of warmth—like having that first bowl of ham and bean soup on a crisp fall day. There’s a perfection, and a rightness, to it.

Likewise, it’s a real pleasure to switch them to screens in spring. Suddenly, it’s like being in a treehouse! I feel a sense of glee—like if you have a convertible, and it’s the first day you can drive with the top down!

But also, why would we need to replace something that isn’t exactly broken?

Monday, November 7, 2022

You Say Apothem, I Say Opossum

Today I am sharing with you a little blast from my past. Have I always had a thing about opossums? No, I tell you, NO! I’m a cat person!

But then, thanks to the miracles of social media, I recently reconnected with my geometry teacher from ninth grade, and she graciously supplied me with images of a spoof geometry textbook a friend and I had concocted and gave her as a present.

Was it a present? In it, we poked fun at math, geometry, and her. The joke were all stupid. It is a testament to her good-naturedness and easy sense of humor that she was able to laugh with us. She could see that creativity impelled our spoof, not anything that resembled real dissatisfaction with the subject, the class, or our teacher. (Indeed, we all adored her.)

And she actually kept our little gift after all these years. Seriously, it was spring of 1981 when we finished up ninth grade and geometry class.

So, it was two of us who made our little spoof geometry book. Here’s what we looked like in 1981.

And here’s our spoof alongside a copy of the actual textbook we were using. Notice that I reversed the design of the original book. (How did I do that? Did I use a mirror?)

I’m omitting the names of everyone here to protect both the innocent and the guilty, plus I’m long out of touch with my co-conspirator. He might be a lawyer or politician or something these days, or even have some kind of respectable career, and we don’t want his shady, geometry-ridiculing past to haunt him. What if he became a mathematician? Horrors; he might never live this down, you know?

But when you’re a ninth grader, how can you not make fun of stuff like sober, humorless definitions of the things like “lines” and “points”?

And then they go and name something in geometry an “apothem.”

AN APOTHEM!

Come on! They were just asking for it.

There’s a HILARIOUS photo in our junior high yearbook (yes, where I found the old pictures in this post), no doubt taken within five minutes of the picture of our geometry instructor above. It shows four of us while we’re sitting in geometry class. WHAT is going on with our expressions? We look despondent, horrified, bored, disbelieving! Yeah, that’s my head in the upper left, and it looks like I’m rolling my eyes. (Yeah, I have eye alignment problems in a lot of old photos, but I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the case by ninth grade.) It just cracks me up! Seriously, we didn’t usually look like this in class. At least, that’s not how I remember it. Maybe some other math classes, but not geometry. We all liked geometry.

Okay, maybe we were reacting to a student photographer being in our class. Or maybe it was our usual look about an hour after lunch. We all ate hamburgers, hot dogs, or pizzas, with french fries and a sea of ketchup, every day at lunch. It’s a wonder we didn’t get scurvy. (Or indigestion.) But this was just months before ketchup was deemed a bona fide vegetable, so maybe we were ahead of our time.

I’ll have you know that I did okay in math, including geometry. It’s true, however, that one year of high school math was as far as I got. Boy-howdy, that was my limit. So I jumped for joy when I successfully tested out of math in my college entrance exams, so my undergraduate GPA didn’t have to suffer. Hallujah!

Anyway, remembering this spoof book (and others I did later on) makes me think that a career in book publishing maybe wasn’t such a stretch for me. The surprise might be that I went into editing instead of graphic design.

Because, yeah, there were more. In high school English class, when we had to go to the school’s Language Arts Resource Center and check out paperback copies of whatever novel we were supposed to be reading, I’d always select a copy that had a completely destroyed cover, or one that was missing.

I would use some card stock and some pens and watercolors to sort of reconstruct the book cover, but I’d do something different. Like when we read William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, I copied the cover design exactly, but I had my copy say “As I Die Laughing.” I’d use contact paper to laminate the new cover and affix it to the book. I was really careful. These were sound, decent book covers . . . except for the spoof. I can’t remember any others, but there were a lot of them.

I’d always nonchalantly return them to the LARC at the end of the unit, with a perfectly straight face. I’d make sure my copy wasn’t on the top of the stack, however. But what were they gonna do to me? They were actually in better shape than when I’d gotten them. When I checked them out, I’d note “Condition: no book cover.” When I checked them back in, well, now they had a cover!

Today I wonder how I had the time to do all this nonsense . . . but look at me blogging now, about this and that.

. . . Everyone needs a hobby, huh?

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Jar of Goodness 11.6.22: Little House Books

. . . The weekly virtual “gratitude jar.”

This week, I’m expressing thanks for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books.

Dad’s been clearing out their garage and giving me boxes of children’s books and other items of my childhood. He’d packed them away so well, it’s kind of difficult to get to them. Thus, here I am in my fifties, receiving boxes of my old stuff.

I told you about the old Nancy Drew books. Well, I also got a box containing my old Little House books.

I read these in elementary school, too. I didn’t read all of them, however. I owned four of them and only read about 2.3. The two that were most engrossing were Little House on the Prairie and On the Banks of Plum Creek. I only got partway through By the Shores of Silver Lake before giving up on it. My old bookmark, in which park-ranger Snoopy encourages us to prevent wildfires, was still in place.

Why didn’t I plow through the whole series? . . . I think it was because the books started to focus on social situations, frontier technology and town-building, and sewing. It might also have been that the Little House television show quickly went from amazing (in my kid view) to sickly sweet.

In the books, I liked the parts about spunky young Laura, who walked around in nature, barefoot—in the prairie, along the creek—and noticed things. Kind of how I did as a kid. I was always looking in creeks. Like Laura, I was always peering under creek rocks to see crayfish.

. . . Or wondering at the beautiful glinting snow, or marveling at the array of wildflowers that grew, for free, in the woods.

I distinctly remember reading part of On the Banks of Plum Creek one sultry summer afternoon at Columbia’s Camp Takimina, then the local Camp Fire camp. My parents were probably helping do some kind of maintenance with other adults. I sat on the camp’s one wooden bridge, my feet dangling over the little creek. Then I set the book down and walked around on the big, flat, smooth limestone rocks that formed the creek bed. I saw tiny black toad tadpoles moving around in the water. There were water striders, too.

You never know what things will influence you in certain times of your life. You can’t predict which influences will be profound, or in what ways. Somehow, I never outgrew my childhood curiosity about nature. Rereading Laura Ingalls Wilder recently has reminded me how important those books were for, well, empowering my sense of agency, my willingness to explore, to have outdoor adventures.

Or, let’s put it this way: if I had read these books, and not been able to follow-up with my own outdoor adventures, I would have been frustrated indeed. Instead, I had our backyard, the big drainage ditch and creek behind our house, and Mrs. Ridgeway’s property nearby. And my parents were always taking us on hikes.

So it has been a blessing to reread these Little House books, aloud, with Sue. We discuss them as we read them. And we will continue reading them, including the ones I hadn’t finished reading way-back-when. We will buy the books I didn’t have, and we will plow through all of them.

And then, perhaps next spring, when we ((((finally)))) have a new, reliable car, we can visit Mansfield and see the house where Laura ended up. Who knows, maybe we can do a trip to South Dakota and Minnesota, to see the sights there. Why not?

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Jar of Goodness 10.30.22: Gans Creek

. . . The weekly virtual “gratitude jar.”

This week, I’m expressing thanks for Gans Creek Wild Area.

I’ll never get tired of this view.

Gans Creek is part of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. I’ve been going there for hikes since the place opened in about 1981. It’s always been a favorite hiking place of mine. Lots and lots of my early journal entries begin “At Gans, at my outlook.”

I had to call it “my outlook” and “my precipice” because that was before anyone declared that it should be named “Shooting Star Bluff.”

Indeed—this was so long ago, there was a sea of perennial wildflowers, yes, called shooting stars, that quite literally carpeted the triangle of ground between the main trail and the V of trail leading to and from the outlook. It was a magical scene each April, with them and bird’s-foot violets all over that outlook.

The shooting stars, violets, and all their topsoil are a memory now at that spot; it’s been trampled to death.

I don’t go to Gans nearly as often as I used to. The old field at the beginning of the trail has turned into second-growth woodland characterized by cedars and autumn olive.

But the older forested areas along the bluffs still feel like a home to me, and it was good to visit the place last Thursday.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Halloween Party Food!

So! Have you decided yet what kind of food you’re going to have at your Halloween party? If you haven’t, you’d better hurry up!

Fortunately there’s a lot you can do almost at the last minute, taking not much more time than any other meal, with a bit of creativity. You know how to draw a face, right? Or at least a pair of eyes? I mean, I’m looking at you!

I’ve gotten more serious about Halloween eats in the last ten years or so. It started in 2015, when Sue and I decided to take Halloween on the road! We don’t usually get many trick-or-treater children in our neighborhood, so we decided to show up at my parents’, unannounced, with a meal and goodies, and in costume. We rang the doorbell and when Dad opened it (expecting children), we yelled “trick or treat!” and then took over their living room.

We hung orange and black streamers, replaced all their normal light bulbs with orange or purple ones, strung up some purple string lights, stuck a battery-operated strobe light in a plastic pumpkin, and handed funny hats to them to wear. I think we all had stick-on fake mustaches that year, too.

We had all kinds of goodies to eat. That year (as I recall), we had a frozen cheese pizza to which I’d applied pieces of black olives, bell peppers, and pepperonis arranged to look like spiders, bugs, and spooky faces. I made a sweet, cream-cheese pumpkin dip (to have with sliced apples), and cookies in the shape of “witches’ fingers.” I carved a “barfing pumpkin,” set it on a big tray, and had a mild black-bean-and-corn salsa coming out of its mouth, and blue corn tortillas strewn around.

It was such a fun time, we did it the next year. And the next. And indeed, each year since then. The costumes and makeup change, the decorations change, and the food changes, but the fun continues.

The past few years, I’ve taken the time to click some photos of the food. And I’ve got a nice little “Halloween” section of my recipe files. What will I make this year?!

Here are some possibilities. Some are pretty basic; you just add decorations clipped out of vegetables, like I did atop the pizza. The recipes for lot of these can be found online.

Beverages

  • Caramel-Apple Sangria (pinot grigio, apple cider, Smirnoff “Kissed Caramel” vodka, sliced apples).
  • Anything brightly colored served in test tubes. I don’t know where you get test tubes.
  • Apple Butter Old Fashioned (apple butter, bitters, apple cider, bourbon, club soda, serve on rocks in bar glass; sugar rim; garnish apple slices and cinnamon stick).
  • “Jason’s Juice” punch (Google it; make a sugar syrup with orange zest, cloves, cinnamon stick, plus cranberry (crangrape?) juice, sparkling cider; freeze water in a Halloween mask and float it in the punch as a creepy face).
  • Fun fact: tonic water glows under a black light!

Main Dish Ideas

  • Meatloaf shaped like a big hand, onion “bone” sticking out of wrist, beet leaf midvein/stem as “veins”; once cooked, carefully move onto a bed of green-colored mashed potatoes (see side dishes below).
  • Meatloaf shaped like a zombie head (chopped white onion teeth, olives for eyes, ketchup in the mouth, etc.).
  • Cheese pizza decorated with trimmed veggies, pepperonis, to make faces, spiders, etc. Sausage or hamburger meatballs plus sliced olives can be eyes.
  • Lasagna decorated as above.
  • Shepherd’s pie decorated as above (use pureed-spinach-green-colored mashed potatoes).
  • Any autumnal/hearty dish, such as baked squash, bean soup, beef stew, chili, haluski (kielbasa and butter-fried cabbage and onions).
  • Hot dogs wrapped with puff pastry to look like mummies.
  • Poke uncooked spaghetti noodles through uncooked hot dogs; plunge into simmering water until both are cooked. They will look like space aliens or squids.
  • Ruby Ann Boxcar’s Monster Casserole (from her Down Home Trailer Park Holiday Cookbook), “the color alone is enough to frighten small children”: cream of corn soup colored green; cooked egg noodles colored orange; cubed Spam, a can of corn, a small package of Velveeta, cubed . . . put in a casserole and bake. (I’ve never made this one . . . yet.)

Side Dishes

  • Mashed potatoes (buy them premade to save time), colored green with pureed fresh or thawed frozen spinach (use a bullet blender). Pro tip: heat the mashed potatoes well, first, and then add the spinach puree. If you heat the spinach too long, your green will turn olive green, and the flavor will suffer.
  • Cornbread colored green with food coloring. You can put faces on each piece, using cut up veggies.
  • Deviled eggs (roasted red bell pepper puree makes the middle nice and orange); shape like pumpkins; or can turn upside down, poke out holes using a straw to make a “Jason” face mask.
  • Spooky tomato slices (add eyeballs made of olives); serve on lettuce leaf.
  • Brain-shaped Jell-O molds are mighty useful for Halloween Jell-O salads!
  • Bell peppers carved like Jack-o-lanterns; can steam, carefully, and fill with mac and cheese, or sauteed veggies, or whatever.
  • Barfing pumpkin: carve to make it look like a puking face, including a gaping mouth low on the face. Chopped salads or dips can be arranged to look like they are spewing onto a tray. Guacamole is good; so is black bean and corn salsa; slaw, Waldorf salad, or chopped kale salad work well, too.
  • Colorful Halloween slaw: shredded red cabbage, shredded carrot, some matchstick/julienned tart apple; a light vinaigrette; garnish with raw pumpkin seeds.

Desserts

  • Brain mold cheesecake: use a Jell-O brain mold and instant cherry cheesecake mix. You night need two boxes. Add some Knox gelatin to ensure it will gel hard enough to unmold; spray mold lightly with Pam. Serve atop the blood-red cherry goo.
  • Pumpkin patch brownies (a pan of brownies decorated with candy-corn pumpkins, with vines added using green icing and appropriate pastry tips).
  • Pumpkin roll (you can buy these now!)
  • Sweet Pumpkin–Cream Cheese dip (cream cheese, pumpkin puree, powdered sugar, pie spice, vanilla extract; can fold in whipped topping and chopped snickers, Kit-Kats, mini M&Ms, whatever); dip apple slices, plain cookies, carrot and celery sticks, pretzels, whatever.
  • Ye Olde Kitty Litter Cake, with crushed sandwich cookies mixed with crumbled cake and vanilla pudding, and Tootsie-Roll cat turds. A beloved Halloween classic.

More Sweet Treats

  • Nutter Butter cookies dipped in melted chocolate (milk, dark, or white) on one side, with 2 eyes added (Wilton makes edible cookie-decorating eyes).
  • Witches’ fingers cookies; roll cookie dough like a snake and shape into gnarly fingers; use sliced or blanched almond (or a cashew nut) for fingernail. Extra points for red gel icing “blood” at base of finger.
  • “Impaled head” buckeye candies. You draw little faces on them with a toothpick and dark food coloring. I saw this online somewhere but it’s disappeared. Maybe it was too gross and they took it down.
  • Rice Krispies Treats, colored green or purple (food coloring); decorated with Wilton eye decorations.
  • Spider cookies: make chocolate chip cookies; while still hot, use a toothpick in the melted chocolate drops on top to delicately add “legs.”
  • Gingerbread haunted house.
  • Pretzel cigs. Dip small pretzel sticks 2/3 of the way in white chocolate. Dip the tips in bright orange chocolate and then dip in silver sugar sprinkles. When dry/hard, arrange on a big (clean) ashtray, with extra sugar sprinkles in the middle for “ashes.”
  • Popcorn balls: an old-school favorite. There are many recipes for these. This year, I’m trying the one made with Orange Jell-O.

Old School Halloween Refreshments

These are from old party books from the late 1930s and 1940s.

  • Nut cookies
  • Candied apples on sticks
  • Cake
  • “Witches’ brew” (fruit punch).
  • “A Halloween Campfire”: bacon, wieners, buns, eggs, pickles, coffee; molasses candy; toasted marshmallows.
  • “A Hard Luck Hobo Party”: hot dogs; coffee or hot chocolate.
  • “A Hard Times Party”: sandwiches wrapped in newspaper; coffee.
  • “A Harvest Party”: corn muffins, coffee, popcorn balls, crackerjacks
  • “A Halloween Frolic”: coffee, sandwiches, pumpkin pie, apples (bobbing)

Are you still out of ideas? Then do what I do every year, just for fun: do a Google image search on “Halloween food” and “Halloween beverages” and see what you get!