October 26, 2016

Dear friends,

Time sneaks up on you. One Halloween you dress up as Carmen Miranda with tap shoes and real fruit on your head (I made a chicken-wire base and centered the arrangement with a pineapple), and the next thing you know you’re spending the holiday on the sofa in a sweat suit watching TV.

When did Halloween parties stop being part of my life? In my 30s and 40s, even in years when no friends threw a bash, I at least dressed up and hit the streets of Kent for my alma mater’s surreal downtown blowout.

One year I went as half-man, half-woman, buying two head-to-toe outfits at Goodwill, cutting everything down the middle, and sewing the male-female pieces together. One half of my head was covered with a fedora and the other half with a flowered pillbox.

Now I don’t even hand out candy to trick-or-treaters because we don’t have any on my stretch of country road, where the houses are far apart and set way back. For a couple of years I bought a few treats and delivered them myself to neighborhood kids, but the children grew up and I don’t bother anymore.

Somewhere I still have a cache of silly disguises such as Groucho Marx glasses, a pig’s nose, and antennas made from miniature slinkys and ping pong balls glued to a headband. For most of my adult life I kept such things handy because you just never knew….

Yes, once I was the kind of person who dressed up and went out on Halloween. I miss her, but not enough to become her again. That would require staying out after 10 p.m. and drinking alcohol, neither of which I enjoy much anymore.

On the other hand, my taste for Halloween treats continues unabated. If I still bought candy bars for door-knockers, I would probably still buy way too many and use the leftovers in something like Milky Way brownies, which I wrote about in my Carmen Miranda days. If you lean more to Snickers, I’m also sharing a recipe I developed for Snickers cheesecake made with 16 miniature (“fun size”) candy bars. For the latter, Snickers bars are melted down, swirled through the batter and drizzled over a sour cream topping. More bars are sliced and used to decorate the finished cake.

SNICKERS CHEESECAKE

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups sugar, divided
1/4 lb. butter, melted
4 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp. vanilla
Pinch salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
16 Snickers fun-size bars, divided
4 tbsp. milk, divided
2 cups sour cream
Whipped cream for garnish
Whole fun-size Snickers Bars for garnish

Stir together graham crumbs and one-fourth cup sugar in a bowl. Drizzle in butter and stir well with a fork. Press evenly into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan.

Beat cream cheese and 1 1/2 cups sugar at medium speed of electric mixer until soft and fluffy. Add vanilla and salt and blend. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on lowest speed of mixer. Pour over crust.

Chop 10 candy bars and combine with two tablespoons milk in a small saucepan. Cook and stir over very low heat until smooth. Spoon over cheesecake batter in parallel strips. With a knife, cut across the strips to swirl melted candy into batter. Bake in a preheated, 350-degree oven for one hour, or until done. The cheesecake is done when the edges appear to be firm, but center moves slightly when gently shaken. Cool for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop remaining six candy bars and melt with remaining two tablespoons milk over low heat. Beat together sour cream and remaining one- fourth cup sugar. Spread sour cream mixture over cheesecake. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle melted candy over sour cream in a decorative pattern. Return to oven for three minutes. Refrigerate immediately. Before serving, decorate with whipped cream and whole candy bars, if desired.

MILKY WAY BROWNIES

BATTER
13 fun-size Milky Way Bars
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

MILKY WAY FROSTING

4 fun-size Milky Way Bars
2 tbsp. butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. water

For batter, chop candy bars into thirds and combine with butter in a small saucepan. Cover and stir over very low heat until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in flour blended with baking powder and salt.

Spread batter in a greased, 8-by-8-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until edges pull away from sides of pan. Cool.

For frosting, melt candy bars with butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar and water, beating until creamy. Spread over cooled brownies. Cut into squares to serve.

TIDBITS

The Boy Scouts in Uniontown are cooking again, which is cause for celebration. The Scouts (actually, their parents and boosters, including my friend Marty LaConte), are staging their popular cabbage roll fund-raiser this weekend at Queen of Heaven Catholic Church’s Parish Life Center. On Sunday, eat-in or carry-out diners will get two big cabbage rolls, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, corn bread or a roll and beverage for $8 for adults and $6 for children.

The hours are noon to 3 p.m. but I suggest you go early because the cabbage rolls usually sell out. That may happen early this year because the dinner is being held after church rather than on the usual Saturday night. Also, cabbage rolls may be bought in bulk this year from 5 to 6 p.m. Saturday evening, after the all-day cooking session. Marty and her crew will make 800 cabbage rolls as usual, and when they’re gone they’re gone.

The church is at 1800 Steese Road in Uniontown.

THE MAILBAG

From Sue T., Pittsburgh:
I have a favorite ice pop recipe that I am trying to modify to a low-sugar version since I am on Weight Watchers. Do you have any suggestions for a sugar replacement in a frozen treat?  My recipe is 1 1/2 cups of water, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup white wine, 3/4 cup lemon juice and grated rind of 4 lemons. Thank you so much.

Dear Sue: I would replace the sugar with a generous half-cup of Splenda granular and taste. Add a bit more Splenda if necessary. Then beat the bejeezus out of the mixture in a blender to aerate it before you pour it into ice-pop molds. Even better would be to partially freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker before spooning into the molds.

Sugar helps soften the texture of frozen treats. Without sugar, your pops could freeze to the consistency of a block of ice. The wine helps, and so will aerating or processing in an ice cream maker.

I replace the sugar with half as much Splenda granular because I think it is sweeter than regular sugar, although the company says otherwise. Also, it can develop a bitter edge if too much is added.

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