wooden spoon

Remember Karen Cook of Santa Maria? Last Christmas she answered my call for cookie recipes and sent her terrific Pecan Delights recipe. A retired nurse, Karen bakes from her grandmother’s treasured cookie cookbook. Her pecan cookies are great and I’ve baked them more than once this year.

At the same time, she included a family-favorite Halloween treat, and now is just the right time to share her recipe.

These tasty little treats are aptly named “spiders” and have an uncanny resemblance to those furtive multi-legged critters.

“My grandmother made them for the grandsons who gobbled them up,” Karen said. “I make them for my two nephews, now grown men who also gobble them up.”

Karen’s spider cookies are perfect for cooking with kids. Easy to make, fun to shape and good to eat.


1/2 pound milk chocolate bar

1 12 ounce package chocolate chips

2 squares unsweetened chocolate

1 tablespoon butter

1-1/2 cups coconut

4 cups cornflakes

In a double boiler, melt chocolate bar, chips and squares with butter. Mix coconut with cornflakes in a large bowl. When melted, pour chocolate mixture over coconut and cornflakes, and stir until well coated. Drop from rounded tablespoon on ungreased cookie sheet and shape into spidery mounds. Refrigerate until set. Makes about 3-1/2 dozen.

“They hold up best if kept in covered container in refrigerator,” Karen said.

Also this week, I’m sharing my favorite homemade Halloween candy, old-fashioned vinegar taffy. I remember making this with my mother and continued the tradition by making it with my girls. Hmmm. Maybe it’s time to drag out this one out and try it on my grandkids.

As the name implies, the vinegar keeps these candies from being too sweet. It’s a taste from my childhood that comes with a large helping of nostalgia.

It’s easy to make, fun to pull — you really need a partner to do this — and tasty. It’s not for little kids and even the older ones will need supervision. Before it’s ready to be pulled the taffy is quite hot and needs to cool to a comfortable temperature before handling.

This recipe is from my Mother’s Searchlight Recipe Book, published in 1937 by Household Magazine, and is listed in the hardball section of the candy chapter. Hardball is the operative word here. The syrup must be cooked to the proper temperature to be pulled. If you have a candy thermometer, use it.

By the way, pulling taffy aerates it by incorporating tiny air bubbles throughout the candy. This makes it lighter and chewier.


2 cups sugar

1/8 teaspoon cream of tarter

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup vinegar

few grains salt

Generously butter or spray a large plate or platter, or use a 9x13-inch glass baking pan, and set aside. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook to the hardball stage, 265 to 270 degrees on a candy thermometer. Watch carefully and don’t allow mixture to burn. Pour syrup onto prepared surface and allow to cool. When taffy has cooled enough to handle, add a small amount of food coloring if desired, then grease your hands with oil or butter and pull taffy until it’s light in color and has a satiny gloss. Here is where you can use a friend to help. Pulling should take about 10 minutes. Roll pulled taffy into a long rope, about one half inch in diameter and cut it with greased scissors into one-inch long pieces. Let taffy rest for half an hour until completely cooled. Wrap each piece in waxed paper, and twist ends of paper to keep candies from sticking together.

Long-time Valley resident Elaine Revelle can be reached at thewoodenspoon@juno.com


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