If you’ve been following Holiday Hints since Oct. 1, you should have a pretty good handle on today’s festivities. If not, there are still a few hours left to wrap up any last minute details.
If you have leftover candy, either from handing out or a child’s haul, here are some tips for storing candy from the National Confectioners’ Association:
Chocolate. Dark chocolate can be kept for one to two years if wrapped in foil and stored in a cool, dark and dry place. Milk and white chocolate have a more limited storage time-no more than eight to 10 months.
Hard candy (lollipops, hard mints, butterscotches). Hard candies can last up to a year when stored at room temperature in a cool, dry location.
Soft candies (gum drops, jellied candies). If the packaging has been opened, soft candies should be covered away from heat and light at room temperature. Stored in this manner, the candy should last six to nine months. If the packaging has not been opened, soft sweets will last approximately 12 months.
Candy corn. If opened, candy corn should be stored under the same conditions as soft candies and will last approximately three to six months. Unopened, packages will last about nine months.If chocolate is stored in too warm a location, it will develop “bloom” –grayish-white streaks that are formed by the cocoa butter forming crystals on the chocolate surface. This is normal, and does not affect the quality or taste of the chocolate; it just may not look as appetizing.
Sadly, when the evening is over, so is Halloween. Tomorrow is an ideal time to pack away all the Halloween decorations. To get jump on it, while you’re waiting for trick-or-treaters tonight start collecting Halloween items from around the house and place them in a central location, such as a countertop, the top of the washer or a table.
Holiday Hints will be back tomorrow with a few tips on storing your Halloween regalia, and we’ll get a head start on Thanksgiving plans.Read More
Just one more day to Halloween, and lucky for us it falls on a Saturday this year so we can attend to those last minute details. Today, go through your checklist to see what’s still missing and then add those items to your usual Saturday to-do list.
Do you have all the components for the costumes? Remember wigs, accessories, makeup and props.
Do you have enough treats?
Are the jack o’lanterns carved? Do you have a light or candle for the jack o’lantern?
If you’re hosting a party, what items do you need from the store, or what household tasks need to be done? Are the outdoor decorations in place?
Tonight, it’s time for a trick-or-treat dress rehearsal of sorts. After dark, turn on outdoor lights and place any luminaries or other lights where you want them. Turn on the music if you plan to play it for the trick-or-treaters. Then, approach your home from the street, keeping in mind what the trick-or-treaters will see. Are the porch lights clean, and are all the bulbs working? Are any open flames set away from any areas where children will be walking or standing? Are there any extension cords or wires in the way? Can you hear the music? Is the doorway clear of obstacles? Make any adjustments as needed.
With just a few minutes of review and preparation today and tonight, Halloween will much less stressful. All you’ll need to do is put the candy in a bowl, turn on the lights and the music and kick back for a ghoulish night of fright and merriment.Read More
From websites like match.com and Eharmony to popular books and movies like “Sex and the City” and “Bridget Jones,” one might think that the angst and agony of looking for a mate is a modern creation. Interestingly, many Halloween superstitions involve looking for Mr. Right. It seems that divination rituals were very popular on Halloween for centuries, and most fortune-telling schemes involve finding a single girl a husband.
One thread that runs through nearly all accounts of early Halloween rituals and traditions is the idea that the separation between this world and the spirit world was blurred. Because of that, the ancients believed that the future could be foretold, and eventually these rituals became parlor games in the Victorian age. Here are just a few of lengths that young women went to look for their true love. Most involve food, usually apples and nuts–two signs of the harvest that we still recognize today.
• A matchmaker would hide a ring in food (some stories say it was mashed potatoes, others say it was bread or cake); the diner who found the ring would have luck in finding a mate by the next Halloween.
• Young women would name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding represented the girl’s future husband.
• In another account related to tossing nuts into a fire, an engaged couple would toss a nut into the fire on Halloween; if the nut burned quietly, the marriage would last, while a nut that crackled and popped meant a rocky road ahead.
• Some say that if a young woman ate a concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night, she would dream about her future husband.
• Other girls would look for their future husband’s face in a pot of cooked food.
• Peeling an apple in one continuous paring and then tossing it over your shoulder, it would land in the shape of the initial of the person you would marry.
• Bobbing for apples originated as a divination game; whoever won the game would be the first to marry.
• In a slightly spooky ritual, young women would stand in front of a mirror in a darkened room, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands’ faces.
Safe to say, there was no shortage of beliefs and superstitions in this and other areas of life. Many of these rituals were carried out at adult gatherings on Halloween; it wasn’t until the early 20th century that the focus of Halloween traditions shifted to children. So this year, if you’re attending or hosting a grown up Halloween party, bust out one of these Victorian games and bring a bit of the past to the present.Read More
Hooray! It’s pumpkin carving day! With just three days remaining until Halloween night, it’s finally time to carve the pumpkins; there is less likelihood that the pumpkin will mold or shrivel in the next few days. (Even if it does, see below for tips!)
Pumpkin carving can be simple, with “triangle eyes” designs, or intricate, using patterns purchased or downloaded from various Internet sites. Whatever style you prefer, here are few tips and hints to keep in mind:
* Cut out the bottom of the pumpkin instead of the traditional lid in the top. Then, scoop out an indentation where the candle can sit and place the pumpkin over the candle.
* When cleaning out the pumpkin, save the seeds and roast them (see directions below).
* Carve a hole in the top, back side of the pumpkin to act as a chimney if using a real candle.
* Consider candle alternatives such as an LED light (widely available at most grocery and discount stores) or a flameless candle.* Sprinkle some cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, ground cloves and ginger on the inside top of the pumpkin. The heat from the candle will create an intense seasonal aroma.
Here are some preservation techniques from the experts at www.pumpkinmasters.com:
1. Prevent your pumpkin from drying out by placing petroleum jelly on the cut edges of your carving.
2. Spray your pumpkin with water, cover it with plastic wrap then store it in the refrigerator when it’s not on display. This helps prevent premature decomposition.
3. Soak or spray the pumpkin with water mixed with a little bit of bleach. This will help ward off mold and kill insects for a longer preservation.If your pumpkin begins to shrivel, soak it in water for several hours. When the pumpkin is removed from the water, dry the inside with a towel as much as possible to impede mold growth. Even dried-out pumpkins can be revived almost completely with this technique.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a popular snack, and no wonder – they’re packed with minerals, are low in saturated fat and high in protein.
When carving the pumpkin, separate the seeds from the pumpkin flesh and strings. Place them in a large bowl of water and rub them between your hands to clean them well. Drain the seeds in a strainer and let them dry completely.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the seeds in a large bowl. For every 3 cups of seeds, add 2 T. of canola oil, 1 T. of kosher salt and seasonings of your choice (optional):1 t. garlic powder and 2 t. Worcestershire sauce; or 1 t. chili powder and ½ t. cayenne pepper; or 1 t. dried thyme and 1 t. dried oregano; or1 t. cinnamon and ½ t. ginger; or 2 t. lemon pepper. Toss well to coat the seeds. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once. Turn onto paper towels and cool. Store in an airtight container.
Whether your pumpkin is silly, simple or scary, the important thing is, you’re keeping a time-honored tradition alive and well in the modern times.Read More
Cupcakes have become quite the trendy treat, complete with a trendy price tag upwards of $3 each. With some help from a boxed mix (plus a secret addition) and a few simple ingredients for the icing and decoration, you can make glossy, gorgeous cupcakes at home. The icing is a simple ganache–it sounds fancy, but if you can boil water, you can make ganache.
Chocolate Spider Web Cupcakes
1 boxed chocolate cake mix
1 T. instant coffee powder
1 c. milk chocolate morsels
2 T. butter
½ c. heavy cream
1 egg white
3 c. confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees; line 24 muffin tins with paper liners. Prepare the cake mix as directed on the box, adding the coffee powder to the dry mix. Allow the baked cupcakes to cool completely on a wire rack.
Place the morsels and the butter in a small mixing bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it’s just boiling. Pour over the morsels and whisk until well blended. Frost the cooled cupcakes by dipping and swirling just the tops of the cupcakes in the ganache. Place on baking sheet.
To make the spider web design, make royal icing: whisk together the egg white and the confectioners’ sugar in a small mixing bowl. If needed, add water, 1 t. at a time, to achieve a smooth, workable semi-thick icing. Transfer about half of the royal icing to a quart-sized zipper top plastic bag. Snip a 1/8 inch corner from the bag and pipe a spiral of icing onto the cupcakes. Using a toothpick, lightly drag the icing from the center to the edge to achieve a web effect. These keep best covered in the refrigerator; bring to room temperature before serving. Yield: 24
Notes and hints:
- For perfectly sized cupcakes, fill the muffin tins ½ full.
- Royal icing can set up quickly, so work in small batches, spiraling and dragging 2 or 3 cupcakes at a time.
- Change or wipe off the toothpick often for a clean design.
- To make your own dessert stand (see below), place a small drinking glass on a dinner plate, then place small dessert-sized plate on the glass. Voila! A two-tiered cupcake display!
The best part is, the cost of 24 of these cupcakes is about the same as 1 or 2 cupcakes from a specialty bakery. These are sure to please every witch, ghoul and goblin in your life!Read More