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A pandemic Halloween

(Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

The end of October brings lots of pumpkins — and Pumpkin Day on Oct. 26. It also brings witches, ghosts and other scary creatures, and lots of sweet candy treats on Oct. 31, which is All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween.

This year there is a pandemic, and everything is different. Most people are staying home and safe, keeping porch lights off and not handing out candy to reduce risk of COVID transmission. Few will be out trick-or-treating, though some people are putting out bowls of individually wrapped candies, so any kids who come by can help themselves.

Instead, some families will do an in-home scavenger hunt for hidden candy. Others may roast marshmallows over a fire in the backyard while sharing scary stories. And some will watch Halloween movies while eating pizza and candy. Drive-in movies are being screened all over the Tri-Lakes area this year.

Ideas for creative Halloween activities are out there if you look. One is to decorate the yard with candy sticks so kids can still dress up and run around while socially distancing.

Another idea is for parents to go out with the kids looking for pumpkins — every time they spot one, the parent gives the child a sweet.

Celebrate Halloween in your kitchen! Create a vampire from a veggie tray, or bake fancy Halloween cookies. Use your favorite Christmas cookie recipe and shape them into fingers! Then decorate for Halloween. Bake pumpkin bar cookies with chocolate chips. Make all sorts of pies.

A fellow writer has gathered ideas for things to do with your kids on this unusual Halloween. Rinda Beach shared them on her blog, which can be found at www.rindabeach.com.

Ideas for both activities and food are everywhere. Scout the internet, and you might find more!

Here are a couple of candy recipes to make at home.

Maple Candy

Ingredient:

1 cup real maple syrup

Tools:

Candy thermometer

Deep saucepan (with high sides)

Wooden spoon

Molds

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Directions:

Place syrup in a deep saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Lower heat, and simmer until the thermometer reads 233 F. Remove from heat and cool to 110 F. Some like to add a teaspoon of vanilla at this point, but this is not necessary. Now beat well with wooden spoon for several minutes, until the syrup begins to hold its shape and its color lightens to a pale caramel. Vigorous stirring ensures the candy won’t have a grainy texture. Pour into prepared molds of the desired shape, or form into patties and place on a plate to cool and set the shapes.

Makes about 1/4 pound of maple candy.

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Easy Homemade Fudge

Ingredients:

3 cups chocolate chips

1 and 1/3 cups (14 ounce can) sweetened condensed milk

dash of salt

1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

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Directions:

Place chocolate chips in the top part of a double boiler, or in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Heat until melted. Stir in milk and salt; stir to combine. Add vanilla and nuts; stir again.

Line an 8-by-8 or 9-by-9 square pan with wax paper. Pour in contents, and spread evenly. Place in refrigerator until firm (about 2 hours).

Lift out of pan onto a cutting board. Peel off wax paper; then cut into squares. Store in the refrigerator in a covered container to keep from drying out.

Variations: Use mint chips for a mint version, or 2 cups Reese’s peanut butter cups for a peanut version (and omit chopped nuts).

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