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Halloween treats to try at home

Acorns made with chocolate, cookies and caramel chips for Halloween.
Acorns made with chocolate, cookies and caramel chips for Halloween.

Ordinarily, I don’t advocate playing with your food.

But as often happens this time of year, I’ve been inundated with photos in magazines, emails and on the Facebook pages of friends and relatives showing all the adorable things you can do with food to make it so crafty for holidays.

“Look, you can turn an Oreo into a spider by sticking pretzel sticks in its cream filling!”

Uh huh.

Now, I fancy myself a good cook and a good baker.

What I’m not is a good artist or enthusiastic crafter.

One Fourth of July, I did decorate JELL-O with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream to look like an American flag. It was festive and family members took a picture of it. But that’s pretty much it, unless you include the Thanksgiving salad for which I fashioned feathers out of carrots to make the top look like a turkey. I don’t really count this one because it became clear at dinner that I was the only one who was able to envision the turkey; the rest of the family just saw carrot sticks.

So when I look at photos where someone carved Mount Rushmore out of a marshmallow I usually ask myself, “Who thinks up these things?”

This year, however, I decided to embrace the challenge.

Maybe it was the enthusiastic ravings of a cousin’s wife that motivated me; maybe I’ve just finally gotten into the spirit of the holidays; or maybe, readers, I was just trying to spare you the time and trouble. I decided to road-test a few of these food crafts to see just how fun and easy they really are.

Here are my findings, which are most definitely not scientific.

The acorn kiss

This one looked easy enough. You take a Hershey’s Kiss, and using frosting as glue, top it with a miniature vanilla wafer, and then glue a chip (either peanut butter or butterscotch) on top to look like a stem.

Once it’s done, it looks like an acorn. Now this is where you all should be saying, “Oh, isn’t that cute. How clever.”

Yes, it is cute and clever. And this one’s not too hard, either.

On the difficulty scale, this one was pretty easy, but I do issue this warning: Beware of using frosting as glue, a common thread through many of these crafts. Unlike Elmer’s, white frosting does not dry clear. Overdo it with the glue and your seams will show, and it won’t go away when it dries.

The veggie skeleton

The idea here is to use cut vegetable sticks to form the shape of a skeleton. Use a bowl of dip for its head.

Can’t picture it? Don’t worry. Just Google “veggie skeleton” and you’ll get hundreds of images. That’s what I did, and I just copied the one I thought looked the best.

Now I’m an expert at cutting vegetables, so I’ll rate this one easy-peasy. Using curved red pepper strips for the ribs really gives it a nice skeletal feel.

Bonus challenge: I dare you to make this and not end up humming: “And the knee bone’s connected to the leg bone, dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones.” That song’s still in my head.

The cheese broom

String cheese and a pretzel stick: How hard can that be?

Just take a log of string cheese, cut it into three or four pieces, stick a pretzel stick in the end of one piece to form a broom handle then shred the cheese to look like the broom bristles.

Not too difficult, right? Believe it or not, it’s harder than you may think. String cheese works best when you have some length to pull down the strings. I tried peeling off the string cheese from these cubes but ended up having to use a knife to shred them into bristles.

I did, however, tie a nice chive around my cheese bristles to give the broom a more authentic look. Take that, Martha Stewart.

This craft isn’t hard, but you have to ask yourself: Who wants to eat a piece of cheese that I have just had my hands all over for the past 10 minutes? I rate this high on the yuck-factor scale for too much human contact with the food.

The vampire apple

The vampire apple seemed simple enough. A caramel apple, with a wedge cut out and marshmallows cut to form two front teeth and a pair of fangs.

Of course, I wasn’t taking into consideration that this actually required making caramel apples first, before turning them into a vampire. And oh, by the way, unwrapping all of those caramels is as tedious as gluing a nose on a marshmallow witch.

Once the apples were dipped and dry, cutting the wedge was easy; just make sure you have a sharp knife. Cutting marshmallows, that’s another story. Make sure you’ve got some confectioner’s sugar or cornstarch on hand, as it is sticky business for sure.

But the real problem came when I tried to get the marshmallows to stick to the cut apple.
I mistakenly thought the caramel would be sticky enough to hold the fangs in place. It was not. Making matters worse, the juice from the cut apple was starting to melt the marshmallows.

Eventually, I did what any good dentist would do, and resorted to implants.

I used broken toothpicks to anchor the teeth into place, making these fangs scary for more than one reason. A co-worker who saw my vampire apple made fun of its fangs.

Think they look bad? Just wait until you bite into it.

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