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No tricks, just treats this Halloween

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Back in “the good old days” in my hometown of Sidell, Ill., Halloween treats were often homemade. My grandma Dillon (Momo) made all the old-timey treats, like popcorn balls, rock candy, taffy apples, and peanut brittle.
She would let me invite a few friends over when she made popcorn balls. Looking back, I really admire her patience, calmly teaching and dealing with a bunch of giggly, sticky girls!
She would make Rock Candy a lot, making it different colors for different holidays. She always had some in her glass cookie jar on the kitchen table for me. My mother told me that when she was young, and Grandpa still had his doctor’s office, there was always a jar of rock candy on the desk for patients, especially kids. She said sugar was a special treat back then, in the 20’s and 30’s, and it was worth a trip to the doctor’s office if you got a piece of candy! It is easy to make, but you need a candy thermometer, and you have to watch it carefully after about 10 minutes of boiling so it doesn’t burn. (I was making some orange rock candy just a few hours ago, got sidetracked by the phone when it was about 250 degrees, and you guessed it, I burned it. It made me so mad. I had to start over.)
Besides the popcorn balls and rock candy, here are another couple of treats I’m mighty fond of. The Peanut Butter Macaroons are super easy and delicious, and my grandma would have loved the microwave peanut brittle. Happy Halloween!

Popcorn Balls
5 quarts popped corn
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. water
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1 t. vinegar
1 t. vanilla
Keep popcorn hot in 300-degree oven. Butter sides of saucepan, and add sugar, water, salt, corn syrup, and vinegar. Bring to boil and cook to hard-ball stage (250 degrees). Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Pour mixture slowly over hot popcorn, stirring just to mix thoroughly. Butter hands lightly, and shape mixture into balls.  Let cool on waxed paper. Makes 15-20 medium sized popcorn balls. (You can add food coloring to the liquid before boiling if you want to tint the popcorn balls.)

Rock Candy
3 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. water (or fruit juice)
1/2 t. cream of tartar
Bring all ingredients to a boil in large heavy saucepan and cook, without stirring, to 290 degrees on candy thermometer (hard-crack stage). Pour quickly into greased shallow pan and chill. Crack into pieces. Makes one pound.

Chewy Peanut Butter Coconut Macaroons
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
3 c. shredded coconut
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Combine all ingredients and drop by rounded teaspoon onto lightly greased pan. Bake in preheated 325-degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Makes three dozen.

Microwave Peanut Brittle
1 c. peanuts
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. corn syrup
1 t. vanilla
1 t. butter
1 t. baking soda
Cooking spray for 9x13 pan
Mix sugar and corn syrup in a large microwaveable bowl. Cook on high for four minutes. Stir in the peanuts and cook on high for three minutes. Add the butter and vanilla and blend well. Cook on high for one minute. Remove from microwave and add the baking soda and stir until foamy. In sprayed 9x13 pan, spread the mixture out and let cool for half an hour or more. Break in pieces. Makes one pound.