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Cooks' Exchange: The trick to the best Halloween treats
COOKS’ EXCHANGE

Cooks' Exchange: The trick to the best Halloween treats

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While wondering how Halloween will soon be celebrated in my beloved Madison during COVID-19, I opened a Burnett County Sentinel, read editor Jonathan Richie’s front page article about saving the date in Grantsburg for a new way to trick-or-treat and … smiled.

I remember this time so well from childhood, when I became a Native American princess wearing a beautiful feather in her hair. Life will temporarily change everywhere Oct. 30, especially in Burnett County in Grantsburg when its main street becomes excitingly sweet for area pre-school children to trick-or-treat with their parents or guardians from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Businesses along the avenue plan to offer candy within reach outside of their shops. Also featured during the four-hour time span will be a business costume contest with votes for the best made online at the Sentinel’s website.

Also applauding Grantsburg’s clever idea is my good friend, Sandy Bonanno Hunter, who recently shared the love and affection she has had for Halloween since childhood when the autumn season seemed to explode with apples, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squash and the list goes on including favorite seasonings and special cookies she has mastered through the years.

Pumpkin Pie Snickerdoodles

Sandy shared a fabulous fall twist on a classic cookie the entire family will love with a delicious pumpkin pie flavor that’s easy to make with her own all-time favorite homemade pumpkin pie spice recipe.

½ cup butter, softened

½ cup butter-flavored shortening

1 cup sugar

½ cup brown sugar

¾ cup pure solid pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling

1 tablespoon vanilla

2¾ cups flour

1½ teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice *See Note below

¼ teaspoon salt

Sugar Mixture to Roll Cookie Balls In

4 tablespoons sugar

3 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Cream butter, shortening and sugar together. Add pumpkin puree and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to creamed mixture, stirring until well combined. Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine sugar, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon in a small bowl. Remove dough and form into small 1-inch balls. Roll balls in sugar mixture and place on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove and let cool on sheet for two minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

Note: Pumpkin Pie Spice is a seasonal blend made with warming spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice. Combine and shake all in a jar.

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon cloves

Note: When making the Snickerdoodles, you’ll need to double the pumpkin pie spice recipe.

Candied Pecan Bacon

By adding a new twist to your typical bacon breakfast, Sandy describes this recipe as having a sweet and savory flavor with bacon taking 25 minutes to make yielding 12 pieces to share (or keep for yourself).

12 bacon strips

¼ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup finely chopped pecans

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place bacon in a single layer in a foil-lined 15x10x1 inch baking pan. Bake until lightly browned, 16-18 minutes. Remove bacon from pan. Discard drippings from pan, wiping clean if necessary. In a shallow bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Dip both sides of bacon in brown sugar mixture, patting to help coating adhere; return to pan. Bake until caramelized, 8-10 minutes longer. Remove immediately from pan.

Stewed Cinnamon Apples

Here is a sweet side to your savory meal. With the delightful cinnamon and nutmeg flavors, Sandy describes these stewed cinnamon apples as being delicious and taking only an hour to make.

6 cups peeled, chopped Granny Smith apples, about 2 pounds

½ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup apple juice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan. Cover and cook over medium-low heat 45 minutes or until apples are tender, stirring occasionally. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve warm!

Autumn Spiced Roasted Acorn Squash Wedges

By this time, many readers are probably wishing, like me, that Sandy Bonanno Hunter lived just around the corner, especially when autumn arrives. This happens to be one of her own all-time favorites that serves 2-3.

1 acorn squash, halved, scooped free of seeds/membranes, and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces]

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

ª cup real maple sugar

2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds (toast in a dry skillet over low heat for a few minutes)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and coat it lightly with olive oil. You may need two baking sheets. Mix olive oil, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, sugar, salt, pepper and squash. Toss to coat. Lay the wedges flat in a single layer. Roast in oven for 30 minutes (or until squash is tender and some charring is starting to appear around edges). Meanwhile, reduce maple syrup over medium-low heat in a small saucepan, for just a few minutes until slightly thickened. Brush thickened syrup evenly over roasted squash wedges. Sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds and serve immediately.

Honey-Cardamom Crunch

Another sweet treat happened in Colorado when Rebecca Vancuren, remembering a cardamom-laced sweet roll she tasted as a 14-year-old while vacationing in Wisconsin, decided to create a colorful recipe using cardamom to coat Chex cereal and dried cranberries. Everyone loved it and so did the Chex judges who munched on the winning $5,000 snack mix. When this recipe appeared in the December 1999 Hometown Cooking publication, readers were also made aware that it doesn’t take much cardamom to overwhelm a recipe, so be aware of the amount added. Also noted is that allspice is a nice alternative.

ª cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup butter

¼ cup honey

½ to 1 teaspoon ground cardamom or ¼ teaspoon ground allspice

6 cups bite-size rice-square cereal

2 cups tiny pretzel twists

1 cup unblanched whole almonds

1 cup coconut

1 cup dried cranberries or snipped dried pineapple

In small saucepan, heat and stir brown sugar, butter, honey and cardamom until butter melts. In a large roasting pan, combine rice-square cereal, pretzels, almonds and coconut. Drizzle butter mixture over cereal mixture; toss to coat.

Bake in a 300 degree oven for 40 minutes; stir every 10 minutes. Stir in cranberries. Spread mix on foil; cool. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 13 cups.

Needless to say … Happy Halloween!

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at greenbush4@aol.com.

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