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Back in the “old days” when refrigerators were known as iceboxes, and we played card games like Old Maid and War for hours on end, celebrating Halloween on the East Side of Madison found us running door to door wearing masks and costumes just like kids did everywhere else, but with different demands.

Instead of shouting “Trick or Treat” when front doors opened, we hollered ”Soap or Grub” because that’s just the way it was. The phrase was passed down by older kids in the neighborhood and meant that if there wasn’t any candy to treat us with, a bar of soap might leave a soapy mark on a front screen or glass window. Although it sounds rather naughty, I never gave it a thought back then. Besides, everyone on Talmadge Street seemed to have plenty of candy until it was time to go home.

Mother always made a light supper Halloween night to make sure we had something good and healthy “in our tummies” before spending the rest of the night eating candy. Many years later, when I became a mother, the same practice took place in my kitchen to make sure my three little boys were treated in the same manner by making the same simple recipe we decided to call Halloween goulash.

They liked it so much they repeated their past with their own children and those are the ingredients of what fond memories are made of. The only difference was when the boys and later their children went door to door they shouted Trick or Treat, and never Soap of Grub like we did back in the old days.

Halloween goulash

3 or 4 slices of bacon, cubed

½ onion chopped or ½ to 1 cup

1 pound of hamburger

¾ of a 7-ounce box of Creamette elbow macaroni, cooked and drained

10-ounce can of tomato soup

Salt and pepper to taste

In a small Dutch oven, fry bacon and onion until “brown.” Leaving bacon and onions in the pan, add hamburger and brown, then drain only excessive amount of grease. Add cooked macaroni to the pan and stir in undiluted tomato soup. Cover and cook on low for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Thinking back with a smile to those days recently found me searching for homemade Halloween cookies made with pumpkin. I found what I was looking for in a 320-page “Homemade Cookies” cookbook compiled and published in 1971 by Food Editors of Farm Journal. Bursting with 460 delicious recipes with promises to please cookie-loving families with old-time favorites, I was in my glory finding many original Farm Journal Test Kitchen recipes appearing in print for the first time.

If you’d like to bake cookies to celebrate Halloween, here is a recipe described as being “mild and spicy, not too sweet.”

Pumpkin oatmeal cookies

¾ cup butter

1 ½ cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ½ cups sifted flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 ½ cups quick-cooking rolled oats

½ cup shredded coconut

½ cup chopped nuts

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs; add pumpkin and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices. Stir into creamed mixture. Add oats, coconut and nuts.

Drop teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheet. Bake in 375 degree oven about 12 minutes. Remove cookies and cool on racks.

Makes 6 dozen

Another delicious pumpkin cookie recipe was found in Donna Weihofen’s excellent book, “Magic Spices.” As a registered dietitian and nutritionist in Madison, her book boasts 200 healthy recipes featuring 30 common spices and should be within reach at all times. These cookies are described as being “soft, moist, and flavorful and keep well for several days, but will never last that long unless you hide them.”

Pumpkin cookies

1 1/3 cups butter

¾ cup sugar

¾ cups brown sugar

2 eggs

15-ounce can pumpkin

3 cups flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

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1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

½ cup golden raisins, optional

¼ cup coarse-ground decorative sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheet. In a large bowl beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar together. Add eggs and beat well. Add pumpkin and mix. Combine flour with baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir into batter. Add vanilla, nuts, and raisins. Drop batter by teaspoons onto cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until set. Do not overbake. Remove from pan and cool on rack. Makes 60 cookies.

If you’d rather bake pumpkin bars, here is an autumn recipe from “Norske Nook’s Farm Recipes and Food Secrets” cookbook with favorites from the Osseo roadside cafe, published in 1993 by Norske Nook founder Helen Myhre and journalist and writer Mona Vold who grew up on a farm in Osseo.

Pumpkin bars

4 eggs

1 cup Wesson oil

2 cups sugar

2 cups pumpkin puree

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix eggs, oil, sugar, and pumpkin together, using an electric mixer. Add flour, cloves, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Pour into a buttered 12- by 15- inch jelly roll pan. Bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out dry (mustn’t under-bake) . Cool and frost with cream cheese frosting.

Note: If you have this book, turn to page 181 and notice there are two different amounts of salt listed as ingredients. After calling the Norske Nook in Osseo and bringing it to their attention, they checked with one of the bakers and I was told to cross out the 1 teaspoon salt as an ingredient.

The book also suggests frosting the bars with cream cheese frosting, but perhaps a simple white powdered sugar frosting would work just as well. However, if you prefer, here is their cream cheese frosting recipe.

Cream cheese frosting

8 ounces cream cheese

2 ½ to 3 cups powdered sugar

½ cup (1 stick) butter

1 cup chopped nuts, optional

Combine all ingredients except for nuts. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth and fluffy. Blend in optional nuts and spread over cooled bars.

A few weeks ago, while stopping by the annual Apple Fest held at Warner Park Community Center, countless exceptional used cookbooks were available, five of which were purchased for less than $5 to add to my own collection.

One in particular was “The Madison County,” a lovely book published in 1994 and packed with homespun recipes, family traditions, and recollections from Winterset, Iowa. Compiled by the members of St. Joseph’s Church, there are 500 authentic recipes including one that fits in perfectly for today’s Halloween column.

Witches brew

1 cup blood drops (1 package red hots)

1 cup owl eyes (1 package peanuts)

1 cup chicken toenails (1 package corn candy)

1 cup colored flies (1 package M & M’s)

1 cup cat claws (1 jar sunflower seeds)

1 cup dead ants (½ pound raisins)

1 cup chicken gizzards (1 can shoestring potatoes)

1 bat bones (1 bag straight pretzels)

1 cup ghost noses (1 bag miniature marshmallows)

Mix ingredients and serve in a hallowed Halloween pumpkin.

Boo! Happy Halloween!

Recent requests: A German grandmother’s “delicious” mashed potato recipe including endive, bacon drippings and/or cucumbers, and a slight hint of vinegar.

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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