Today is Halloween!
It’s time for costumes and sugary treats: candy, toffee, caramel, pumpkin spice, cinnamon. Time for apples, pumpkins and all types of orange winter squash.
Time for death and hibernation as the earth goes to sleep for the long winter. Trees have shed their leaves and are ready for winter slumber. Bears hibernate. Darkness overtakes us.
Oct. 31 is also known as All Hallows Eve: hallow means holy; “een” means evening. Nov. 1 is All Saints’ Day and Nov. 2 is All Souls’ Day, also known as the Day of the Dead.
The roots of Halloween date back to Samhain, meaning “summer’s end” — the Celtic harvest festival. The ancient Celts once inhabited a large area of Europe reaching from modern-day Turkey to Spain and the British Isles, where remnants of Celtic languages are still spoken today.
Today, Halloween is bereft of its ancient religious rites, like bonfires to keep spirits away and an extra plate at dinner for any spirits who may wish to visit. Instead, it has become a children’s holiday of sweet treats, costumes, scary stories and trick-or-treating.
In the 1950s, the Disney cartoon, “Trick or Treat,” featuring Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie made trick-or-treating for candy a popular pastime for kids. Today, Americans spend almost $7 billion each year on Halloween candy, costumes and decorations, making it the country’s second-largest commercial holiday (NCA, National Confectioners Association). Plastic-wrapped, boxed candy overflows the aisles at supermarkets and big-box stores. Because people fear poisoned candy or candy with razor blades hidden inside, homemade treats are reserved for parties.
Halloween ushers in the season of sweet treats. It is followed by Thanksgiving, a time for sweet pies and cranberry-nut breads. It is followed by Christmas, with cookies, candy canes and chocolate.
Whatever your choice, keep in mind that candy is a treat — not part of your daily diet. It’s not healthy food. Keep portions small with bite-sized goodies, and serve fruit along with candy.
According to NCA, bite-size chocolate candies rank as the favorite among trick-or-treaters. What’s your favorite Halloween candy?
From maple candy to Witch’s Fingers, to pumpkin muffins, eyeball cupcakes (frosted cupcakes decorated like eyeballs) or decorated cookies, there are many homemade treats to make. Decorating cookies and cupcakes for Halloween can be fun for the whole family — let your imagination roll!
Here are a few ideas I found online:
Crescent Mummy Dogs: tinyurl.com/5yvv6prx.
Eyeball Cupcakes (Powered by Mom): https://tinyurl.com/bdh7a5zt.
Pumpkin cookies: https://tinyurl.com/2s49dkse.
Halloween food: https://tinyurl.com/5yvv6prx.
I have seen many recipes for these popular spooky cookies online. Use your favorite sugar cookie recipe or shortbread recipe. Shape cookies into fingers; use your pinky for size. Use blanched, slivered almonds and a red jam or jelly (strawberry, raspberry or cherry) to paint the fingernails. I found several sites that featured these; this one doesn’t use food coloring: https://tinyurl.com/mr2tz2mr.
Oatmeal Pumpkin Faces
This cookie is simple to make. Use pumpkin; if you don’t have pumpkin, substitute applesauce or mashed banana.
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup pumpkin puree, applesauce or mashed banana (or combination)
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons plain yogurt
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips, raisins or candy corn, for decorating
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.
In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda.
In a large bowl, stir together pumpkin puree, maple syrup and yogurt. Stir in oats, then stir in the dry ingredients.
Line cookie sheets with parchment. Drop cookies by teaspoonfuls or tablespoonfuls. Press down with your fingers to form a circular shape. Decorate with raisins or chocolate chips.
Bake in preheated 375-degree oven about 15 minutes. Allow to cool, then transfer to a plate.
Makes about two dozen chewy cookies, depending on size. They do not store well, so eat them up! Store, freeze or keep in the fridge.
Note: Mashed banana will make the sweetest cookie; applesauce is the least sweet so you may want to add sugar or extra syrup.
Note: To make pumpkin pie spice, combine 3 teaspoons cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 3/4 teaspoon powdered ginger, 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice and 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves in a small jar or bowl.
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Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @yvonawrites.