Candy Corn Krispies

Rice Krispies Treats are the American version of marzipan, easily molded into such things as teddy bears, clowns, and boobs. This clever little innovation is fun to make, just cute as can be, and a great Halloween treat.

For the outer yellow ring use 5 cups Rice Krispies, 5 cups miniature marshmallows, and a quarter stick butter with yellow food coloring; for the middle orange ring, 3 cups Rice Krispies, 3 cups miniature marshmallows, and a quarter stick of butter, with orange food coloring; and for the white center, 2 cups Rice Krispies, 2 cups miniature marshmallows, and a quarter stick of butter.

For each ring, combine marshmallows and butter, and microwave for about 3 minutes, stirring after a minute or so, until blended. Stir in food coloring; you don’t need much, only a few drops of yellow and a couple of yellow and red for the orange. Pour over the cereal, coat your hands with butter and mix the marshmallows into the cereal with your fingers until the color is uniform.

Working quickly, divide each color batch in two, then beginning on the outside of greased 8 in. cake tins, make your rings: yellow first, then orange, then the white center. Keep them an even width. Press the cereal/marshmallow mixture into the pan to ensure they stick together and make them a consistent thickness. Let the rings set for thirty minutes, then turn out on a cutting board and slice first in half, then into quarters, then into eight even wedges. Store with waxed paper between layers.

Crackerjacks

People had been eating mundane mixures of peanuts and popcorn for at least a couple hundred years before the Rueckheim brothers created a magical mix with molasses at the 1863 Chicago World’s Fair. In a few years, they began marketing Cracker Jack nationally, quite unintentionally becoming the fathers of American junk food.

It wasn’t long before America’s premiere snack became synonymous with America’s premiere sport; the sticky, salty snack became regular fare at baseball games (“Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks/I don’t care if I never get back!”), and among the first “prizes” in a box of crackerjacks were baseball cards. Other early toy surprises included plastic figurines, booklets, and rings such as the one George Peppard gave to Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a play on the prizes’ pop-culture status as cheap gifts. Jim Steinman’s “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”—recorded by Meat Loaf on his 1978 album, Bat Out of Hell—includes the lyric “there ain’t no Coupe de Ville/ hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box”.

Junk food it very well is, but crackerjacks are also a great snack, as junk foods tend to be, of course. Buying crackerjack in bulk can be problematic; however, the basic combination of popcorn, peanuts, and molasses is easily made at home quite easily. Mix 10 cups popped corn and 2 cups Spanish peanuts in a roasting pan. Place in oven at 250. Bring a half cup dark corn syrup, a half cup butter, a quarter cup brown sugar, and a teaspoon of salt to a rolling boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in a teaspoon vanilla. Working quickly, pour over warm popcorn while tossing until well coated. Spread on a shallow baking pan and return to oven, stirring with cooking spray occasionally, for 45 minutes. Don’t let it stick. Turn onto foil to cool.

Pumpkin Juice for Muggles

Everyone under forty—and a great many over—know that the best pumpkin juice comes from London Pumpkins & Sons, who have been making the beverage since 1837. We also know that this company is in the London of Harry Potter’s Wizarding World, which makes it unavailable to us Muggles. However, I have it on good authority that this recipe comes from the bountiful kitchen of Molly Weasley, who passed it on to her daughter, Ginny Potter, who shared it with her Muggle buddies. Pumpkin juice is served over ice at any meal and at special events. Mix very well 2 cups pumpkin puree and 32 ounces peach nectar with a gallon of apple cider. Stir in 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1 teaspoon ginger. A dusting of nutmeg before serving is a nice touch.

Catshit Cookies

Let me go on record as saying that the most important cookbook you’re going to give any female relative Of a Certain Age is going to be Jill Conner Browne’s The Sweet Potato Queen’s Big-Ass Cookbook (and Financial Planner). This work is not so much a cookbook as it is an exercise in sheer, unadulterated attitude, a book about living life to its fullest, and the recipes are more often than not wonderful and indulgent. This is where I first ran up on what polite people call “cat poop” cookies. They’re great for Halloween, but also fun for kid’s parties. Here’s Jill’s recipe:

“Just put 1 stick butter, 1/2 cup cocoa, 2 cups sugar, and ‘/2 cup milk in a pan and cook it just until it bubbles a little bit around the sides. Then take it off the heat and dump in 3 cups Quick Oatmeal, ‘/2 cup peanut butter, and I running. over teaspoon vanilla. Stir it up and drop globs of it onto waxed paper and let it cool. (Cooling is, of course, optional.)” Serve in a shallow pan over crushed cereal or nuts. Provide a slotted spoon for scooping.