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GOURMANDISE

A tricky treat

Stop! Don't carve that pumpkin the same old boring way this year. Look at all sides and you may see that the stem is really the nose.

The pumpkin shown above is the creation of artist Joost Elffers, who has compiled a delightful new book called, reasonably enough, "Play With Your Food" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $19.95).

Elffers doesn't stop with pumpkins, either. He can create a mouse from a lemon (the stem end is the snuffly snout), an octopus from a banana skin, an ant from three cherries.

This book is fun. And it's inspiring. We're betting you'll look at produce (especially pumpkins) differently from now on.

Marshmallow madness

Are you aware that there's actually such a thing as a Marshmallow Festival in this country?

More than 20,000 marshmallow lovers from across the country flocked to Ligonier, Ind., this year for the sixth annual such affair, honoring what may well be America's least politically correct food. (Marshmallows contain corn syrup, sugar, cornstarch, gelatin and vanilla, and not much else. At least they're low in fat.)

By far the largest number of marshmallows in the United States are sold from October through December, kicking in at Halloween and moving through Thanksgiving, when Sweet Potato Casseroles are the rage.

Here's a fun recipe to get things moving.
MARSHMALLOW GHOSTS

2 packages (6 ounces each) white chocolate baking squares

1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

Assorted candies
Microwave white chocolate on high for 2 or 3 minutes or until smooth when stirred. (Stir every minute.) Stir in marshmallows; mix lightly until completely coated.

Drop by spoonfuls onto a waxed-paper-lined tray. Smooth and flatten to make ghost shapes. Decorate with candies to make faces. Store at room temperature. Makes about 16 ghosts.

Chef carvers

You say you want a super special jack-o'-lantern for Halloween? You say you don't have time to do it yourself?

The solution is simple. Stop by the Main Transit Market at 8200 Main St., Williamsville, Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and ask a chef to carve one for you.

This is the sixth annual Pumpkin Carving sponsored by the local chefs' association. Proceeds go to charity.

Spook story

The following incident, supposedly true, was adapted from a new cookbook, "Spies, Black Ties & Mango Pies," a collection of stories and recipes from CIA families all over the world. Yes, that's right -- the Central Intelligence Agency. (Publisher is Community Communications; call (888) 476-8700 for information. And whisper.)

Like all the recipes and stories in the book, the story is strictly hush-hush. No contributor's name (or even country) is given:

We were living in a very modern clean, efficient Asian city . . . anything and everything was available. American-style holiday celebrations, with a local touch, were a commercial boon -- especially at Christmas. Artificial snow, decorated palm trees and skinny St. Nicks were everywhere. We were sure that Halloween, a great commercial success in the United States, would certainly already be well-known.

When the evening approached, the children were very excited and happily submitted to makeup and elaborate costumes. Monsters, skeletons and gruesome ghosts were the preferred choices. Flashlights and bags for the goodies completed the outfits.

We proceeded along our quiet residential lane to the first house. A bright front door light was a great encouragement and we knocked politely.

The door was opened slowly by an ancient woman. She took one look at our group of goblins, screamed and slammed the door. We were somewhat startled and were about to turn away when the door opened again. A large bucket of water was thrown on us, accompanied by more screams.

We fled.

The accompanying recipe:
DIRT CAKE

1 package (20-ounce) chocolate sandwich cookies

1/4 cup margarine

1 package (8-ounce) cream cheese

1/4 cup powdered sugar

2 1/4 cups milk

1 package instant chocolate pudding (6-serving size)

1 container (12-ounce) whipped topping
Using a rolling pin, crush cookies between 2 pieces of waxed paper. In a small bowl, cream together margarine, cream cheese and sugar; set aside. Mix milk and instant pudding. Combine with margarine mixture and fold in whipped topping.

In small, clean clay flower pots or paper cups, layer first the crushed cookies and then the pudding mixture. Chill overnight.

Top with gummy worms or other suitable garden friends.

Spud spirits

Don't care for marshmallows? How about constructing haunts from potatoes?

Nothing could be easier.
MASHED POTATO GHOSTS

5 cups mashed potatoes

1/2 cup small black olives
Cut ghost shapes out of waxed paper to use as templates. Place the ghost templates onto a
serving dish. Working with about 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes for each ghost, use a rubber spatula to mold them into the ghost shape. Make eyes and mouth with sliced olives. Reheat in microwave before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Candy corn forever

Because we know you couldn't go another day without knowing all there is to know about candy corn, we present the following facts from Favorite Brands, a leading manufacturer:

Fact 1: One kernel of candy corn contains 4.4 calories and no fat.

Fact 2: There are about 294 kernels of candy corn in a 1-pound bag.

Fact 3: The amount of candy corn produced in the United States each year, expressed as ears of corn: 2,250,000.

Fact 4: The favorite way to eat candy corn: color by color. (The orange and yellow sections taste the same, but the white tip has a slightly different flavor.)

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