Leaves in Vermont

From my Vacation in Vermont

I’ve been remiss in posting for a while. After the whole flood episode, I went on a wonderful vacation in Vermont (planned months ago), and then followed it with one of those whirlwind-of-unexpected-activities weeks at work. But it is mid-October, which means Halloween is approaching. So of course that inspired me to try to do a few ghoulish treats. My immediate inspiration was a post on Lil’ Luna, featuring neon green cookies with a single eyeball. How freaking cool is that? But I really wanted to make something simple, so I opted for a couple of different variations – one using coconut macaroons, and the second using rice crispy treats. I found candy eyeballs at Michael’s, but it looks like you can get them at some grocery stores, and I’m guessing that cooking stores would have them as well.

Macaroons can be deadly in terms of calories and fat, since they’re basically just coconut. But I’ve used Let’s Do Organic’s Reduced Fat Shredded Coconut previously and liked it, so I opted for half regular and half of the reduced fat stuff, as well as using a little over half erythritol and only 2 Tbsp of sugar. I found a great, simple recipe for coconut macaroons on Taste of Home, and followed it exactly with the exception of the 1/2 reduced fat coconut and food coloring.

All Ingredients Except the Coconut

All Ingredients Except the Coconut

Artificial though it (usually) may be, I make bold exceptions for food coloring when it comes to holiday baking. Baked goods are just more fun when they are vividly colored. (And that gel food coloring for cake decorating is awesome). For the neonish green I used green and yellow food coloring, and was very happy with the result. The coconut didn’t really dim the color down much at all after I added it.

I had initially planned to just attach the eyeballs with some simple icing after the macaroons cooled, but then I thought, hmmm….what if I made the icing red? And made it kind of ooze out behind the eyeballs? Oh, yeah! Great move – totally vivid and creepy looking!

Monster Macaroons

Monster Macaroons

For my other item, I made Rice Crispy treats. The first batch I made was with half the amount of marshmallows and butter as the normal recipe calls for, and had added Chocolate PB2 and honey.

While they were good, they were rather unworkable, as there just wasn’t enough ‘stickage’ without the extra marshmallows. So those I ended up forming into a giant blob with eyes (and sprinkles), and then freezing them to get them to set up a bit.

PB2 and Honey Rice Crispy Monster Blob

PB2 and Honey Rice Crispy Monster Blob

Then I cut them into jaggedy pieces. They tasted awesome, even though they were sub-par format-wise.

Jaggedy Chocolate PB2 and Honey Monster Crispies

Jaggedy Chocolate PB2 and Honey Crispies

Since I had leftover marshmallows and Rice Crispies, I decided to go ahead and make a more traditional batch with the full amount of marshmallows and butter. Once the marshmallow and butter were melted, I added orange food coloring. Which, when combined together, really served to highlight what kind of disgusting material marshmallows are made of. Oh well, it is Halloween, so it’s appropriate.

Melted Marshmallows and Butter with Food Coloring - Ew

Melted Marshmallows and Butter with Food Coloring – Ew

Once I mixed the gross orange stuff in with the Rice Crispies, I packed bits into a muffin pan to make round shapes, and then pressed the eyes in, and refrigerated them to let them set up.

Orange One-Eyed Rice Crispies

Orange One-Eyed Creepy Crispies

Here are the recipes for all three, should you care to try them yourself.

Monster Macaroons
adapted from First Place Macaroons on Taste of Home

makes 12 – double for more

2 egg whites
1/3 cup sugar (I used 2 Tbsp sugar, and the rest erythritol, available at Whole Foods)
2 Tbsp flour (I used white whole wheat)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1+1/3 cup shredded coconut (I used 1/2 reduced fat coconut, available at Whole Foods)
green, yellow, and red food coloring
candy eyeballs
1 Tbsp skim milk
powdered (confectioners) sugar

Preheat the oven to 325°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or spray with cooking spray).

Beat together the egg whites, sugar, flour, vanilla, and salt with a mixer or a whisk. Add green and yellow food coloring a bit at a time, mixing well, until the desired color is achieved. Stir in the coconut, and mix well.

Make 12 equally sized hemi-spheres (as best you can), and place on the baking sheets. Push your finger or thumb gently into the middle of each to form a flat space to put the eyeballs onto later. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until fairly well set, and golden brown on the edges. Remove and let cool. (Theoretically you’re supposed to cool them on a rack, but I was pretty sure mine would fall apart if I removed them, so I just let them cool on the baking sheets).

Once the macaroons are cool, combine 1 Tbsp skim milk with a few tablespoons of powdered sugar. Then keep adding powdered sugar as necessary to make icing a bit thicker than honey. You basically want it to be only slightly drippy when you put it on the macaroons. Add red food coloring until your desired level of grossness. Then place a small bit on top of a macaroon, and press an eyeball into it. Thicken or thin the icing as needed, before finishing the rest. Allow to dry completely before storing.

Jaggedy One-Eyed Chocolate PB2 Crispies

makes about 12 – double for more

3 cups Rice Crispies
1 cup marshmallows
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp honey
4 Tbsp PB2
2 Tbsp milk
candy eyeballs
colored sprinkles (optional)

Put the Rice Crispies in a large bowl, and set aside. Mix the PB2 and milk together in a small bowl and set aisde. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or spray with cooking spray) and set aside.

Melt the marshmallows, butter and honey in a microwave safe bowl for about a minute until the marshmallows are completely non-marshmallow-shaped. Add the PB2 mixture, and mix everything together well.

Add everything to the Rice Crispies and stir together well. Put the mixture onto the baking sheet and smooth it out. Press the eyeballs in at even intervals. Add sprinkles for extra bizarre detail, if desired. Place in the freezer until it sets up, and then using something that won’t damage the baking sheet, cut around the eyeballs to make jaggedy one-eyed creepy crispies. Store in a container in the freezer.

Creepy Crispies

makes about 16

4 cups Rice Crispies
2 cups marshmallows
2 Tbsp butter
orange food coloring
candy eyeballs

Put the Rice Crispies in a large bowl, and set aside. Spray a couple of muffin pans with cooking spray, and set aside.

Melt the marshmallows and butter in a microwave safe bowl for about a minute to a minute and a half, until the marshmallows are completely non-marshmallow-shaped. Add orange food coloring until you get the desired color. (This will be kind of gross at this point, bravely move on.)

Quickly add everything to the Rice Crispies and stir together well.  Press even amounts into each muffin cubbyhole (whatever they’re called), and then press an eyeball into the center.

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My husband and I once saw a display of Halloween cookies labelled ‘Spooky Cookies’. Since these were of the variety with the actual cookies dyed luminescent colors, and slathered with (what we could only assume to be) tasteless frosting, we found the moniker tremendously funny. Since then it’s been a running joke, appropriate for the grocery store cookies of many brightly colored holidays (especially St. Patrick’s Day). So when I decided on making some kind of orange and black baked goods for Halloween, then found some cookie cutters with ‘Spooky Cutters’ on the packaging, I knew I was in business.

It being me, I naturally went and attempted to make lower-fat sugar cookies, with fairly decent results. They didn’t taste bad, in fact my husband and I plowed through them fairly quickly, but these aren’t going to compare with your grandmother’s full-fat holiday sugar cookies. But I was so pleased with how they looked, that I felt compelled to post them, low-fat chocolate sugar cookieness and all.

The cookie cutter shapes in the set I bought (which was very hard to find, I’d like to add – there is not a great selection of cookie cutters with good bats), included a bat, a pumpkin, a coffin, a woeful looking two-legged spider, a cat, and a tombstone. A couple of weeks earlier I had investigated how to make black frosting, and found that in order to get a true black frosting, you pretty much have to have accept a slightly bitter taste. But then I did a little searching and found something called ‘black caviar candy‘, which is black candy-coated peppermint balls, the size of caviar. I ordered some, and then found some reasonably priced professional-grade orange icing color ($2.50 at Party America – hey, can’t beat that, and it will last until the end of time since it’s so concentrated). This stuff really allows you to get deep, rich colors. I had planned to do a few colors, but after painstakingly laying out the black candy caviar on each individual cookie, I decided that two different colors was more than enough. I used the old grocery-store liquid food coloring for the gray-purple bats, and was actually thrilled with the color. (I’m nearly certain that I used 3 drops of blue and 2 drops of red, but…I kind of didn’t write it down, and it’s been several days.)

Lower-Fat Chocolate Sugar Cookies for Halloween

Lower-Fat Chocolate Sugar Cookies for Halloween

If you want to give the lower-fat version a try, it’s below. If you want to make a sure crowd-pleaser, you might want to make my mom’s almond sugar cookies (a full-fat version her mom got from a Swedish friend (these cookies are probably my favorite ever – I LOVE almond)).

Lower-Fat/Lower-Calorie Chocolate Sugar Cookies

makes 30-40 cookies

5 T butter, softened
3/4 cups erythritol
3 T applesauce
2 T cocoa powder
1/4 tsp espresso powder
1 egg
1+2/3 c flour (I used white whole wheat)
3/4 tsp baking powder (1 tsp at sea-level)
1/4 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar together. Add applesauce, cocoa powder and espresso powder, and mix well. Taste and adjust as desired, then add egg and mix well. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt, and then gradually add flour to the first bowl, mixing well. You should have a firm dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to  375  degrees (350 at sea-level). Roll dough to 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch thickness, and cut with cookie cutters dipped in flour.

Bake for 8-12 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack after one minute, and allow to cool completely before decorating.

Swedish Almond Sugar Cookies (Full-Fat)

makes 30-40 cookies

10 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1+2/3 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder (1 tsp at sea-level)
3/4 tsp almond extract

Instructions: Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs and almond extract, beating well. In a separate bowl, mix together flour and baking powder, and then gradually add to butter and sugar, mixing well. You should have a firm dough.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (375 at sea level). Roll dough to 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch thickness, and cut with cookie cutters dipped in flour.

Bake for 8-12 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack after one minute, and allow to cool completely before decorating.

Icing

1+1/2 c powdered sugar
5 T milk
1/4-1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract (optional)
food coloring

Gradually add milk to the powdered sugar until you have a consistency that’s easy to spread, but that’s thick enough that it won’t just run off the cookies. Add flavoring of your choice. Gradually add food coloring until you get the color you would like. I used professional grade icing color for the orange, and 3 drops of blue and 2 drops of red for the gray-purple. Frost and add additional decorations as desired, then let sit until the icing has hardened.

A Colony of Bat Cookies

A Colony of Bat Cookies

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