Creature feature

Oct. 22, 2013 @ 09:42 AM

Maybe it’s the dump truck-sized dog, or maybe it’s the two weird looking old people that live here, but in all the years we’ve owned our house we’ve had a cumulative total of about six kids come to our door, trick-or-treating.
For the first five or six Halloweens, I’d optimistically buy bags of candy, decorate the front porch, and make sure the light over the front door was a bright, welcoming beacon. 
And about 10 p.m. every year I’d give up hope and turn out the light, just me and my 10 pounds of candy left all alone at the pumpkin altar again.
But this year we have two new young ladies in our neighborhood, Ali and YaYa.  I’ve already checked with their mom, and on Halloween the girls will be dressed up and going door to door, including our own neglected portal.
This year though, I’m not buying any candy.
I’m making it. Quel scandale, no? I know, it’s almost unthinkable to give out homemade sweets, but the family knows me and my off kilter ways. 
But even if you have costumed hordes at your house, you too can hand out candy that you’ve prepared yourself.  When you package the goods, put your name, address, and phone number on each, and list any allergens (peanuts, dairy, gluten etc.).  Then introduce yourself to the adult chaperone, and inform them of the nature of your daring distribution.
There might still be folks who are uncomfortable taking homemade stuff, so it would be wise to lay in a small stock of store-bought loot (dollar stores have a big selection of cellophane Halloween bags, party favors, and candy), so nobody has to leave empty-handed.
For our neighborhood ghouls, I’m making creature cookies, butterscotch spiders, and zombie brains.
Creature Cookies    
You may know these as Preacher cookies.  When very little, The Kid misheard the name, and asked for more “creature cookies”.  The name stuck.
1/2 cup (one stick) butter
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix butter, cocoa, sugar, milk, and salt together in saucepan. Boil for 1 minute.
Stir in oatmeal, peanut butter and vanilla. Drop tablespoons of cookie preparation onto parchment paper. Allow to cool and harden.  Makes 3 dozen
When having oatmeal at home, I eat steel-cut oats.  But I’ve never seen any cookie recipes using them.  A couple of weeks ago I decided that I was a genius, and made creature cookies with steel-cut.  Because they’re basically gravel in their raw state, I cooked them before adding to the mixture. 
Now I know why there’s a total lack of steel-cut dessert recipes.  It was an abject failure; they never set up.  My Mensa card was revoked the next day.
Butterscotch Spiders
One 11 ounce bag of butterscotch chips
One 5 ounce can chow mien noodles
½ cup salted nuts (optional)

Melt chips in microwave: Place chips into bowl, and microwave on high for 15 seconds.  Remove from microwave, stir and repeat at 15 second intervals until completely melted.  If they are almost totally melted, don’t continue to heat (it could burn and seize up).  Just keep stirring until smooth.
Gently mix noodles and nuts into melted butterscotch, and place small mounds on parchment paper.  Allow to cool and harden.
Makes approximately 2 dozen spiders.
Zombie Brains
One 11 ounce bag white chocolate chips
2 cups golden raisins (sultanas)

Melt white chocolate in microwave as instructed above.  Stir in raisins.  Drop small mounds onto parchment.  Allow to harden.
Makes 3 or 4 dozen brains.
My parents live in a Greensboro subdivision with lots of families that make a big deal of October 31st.  Because our Durham neighborhood exhibits a complete lack of Halloween spirit, we’d go to Gramma and Grampa’s for trick or treating.  At 3 ½ years old, dressed as a pumpkin (and completely adorable), The Kid went out for the first time. 
On the ride home, from the darkened back seat came the voice of our sleepy toddler.
“That was fun.  Let’s come back and do it again tomorrow night!”
Thanks for your time.
Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is momsequitur@gmail.com.