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In & Out of the Kitchen: Second life for Halloween candy

Halloween will soon be upon us, so it’s time to come up with a game plan.

For the kids, that means mapping out their route for trick-or-treating, making sure to hit the houses that give out full-sized candy bars and avoid the ones that give out spare change — seriously, there was a guy in our neighborhood who did this. What, was I supposed to go buy my own candy with those nickels and pennies?

For parents, there’s a whole different issue: What are you doing to do with all of that candy after the kids get home?

Granted, you could just let your kids eat it all, which is what my mom always did (though I never ate every piece, because there were always kinds I didn’t like in that pile of sugar). Or you could buy it from your kids, give them a certain amount of money per pound to turn over their sweet stash ... but then, of course, the candy becomes your problem instead of theirs.

It doesn’t have to be a problem, though. In fact, this time of year is great for people with a little kitchen creativity — heck, I’ve been known to purposely seek out half-priced candy on the day after Halloween (or Christmas, or Easter) to stock my pantry.

Some basics

What’s it good for? Let’s start with the basics: Everybody’s had those peanut butter cookies with the Hershey Kisses pressed into the tops, right? Those are easy enough, and you can even use refrigerated cookie dough if you want. Just bake, then press a Kiss into the top of each cookie while they’re still warm. You don’t have to limit this to just Kisses, either. Try putting little balls of dough into a mini-muffin pan, then pressing an unwrapped miniature Reese’s peanut butter cup into the top of each one, pushing down until the top is level with the top of the dough. Bake, cool in the pan, then eat ... and eat ... and eat.

But maybe the kids already ate all of the peanut butter cups. Maybe all that’s left is the less appealing stuff, like Milk Duds and Dots and candy corn, or even some of the good stuff like miniature candy bars. That can all be put to good use, too — just whip up some pound cake batter (or use a mix, whatever) and toss a bunch of it in before baking. This will also help get the sweets out of the house, because a candy-studded cake sounds like something your coworkers will gobble up. You’re not limited to cake, either; you could make some pretty festive Rice Krispies treats, too.

Do you have neighbors that try to give out “real food,” like pretzels or peanuts, instead of candy? There’s a use for that stuff, too. Just chop it up if you need to, spread it in a wide pan along with any other leftover candy you’ve got, then pour melted white chocolate over the whole mess and let it set. Break it into pieces, and you’ve got candy bark. (This is a good use for any leftover Halloween Oreos you’ve got lying around, too.)

Just ingredients

But just because all of this stuff is candy doesn’t mean that you have to think about it in those terms. I think of it more like ingredients. After all, why buy a bag of peanut butter chips or Heath bar bits when you can use chopped-up leftover candy? I usually stockpile bags of discounted peanut butter cups, which are great baked into chocolate cookies or brownies. You could also use Kit-Kats or Hershey Miniatures or just about any miniature candy bars. And while you’re chopping up your candy, don’t forget to set some aside to sprinkle on your next bowl of ice cream, or a chocolate cream pie, or a frosted cake or cupcakes.

Those miniature Hershey bars — milk chocolate or dark chocolate — are just solid chocolate. That makes them perfect for any use that calls for melted chocolate. Melt a few to drizzle over ice cream or cookies or, well, almost anything’s better with a chocolate drizzle, right? Or melt some chocolate and dip strawberries or apple slices in it, let harden and enjoy.

Even better, you can make those little chocolate bars do double-duty as the winter holidays approach. Throw them in the fridge until December, then melt a couple in a mug of hot milk to make your own cocoa, the perfect treat for a dark, chilly evening. Or if you’ve got enough left by then and want to save some money, melt the chocolate, pour it into holiday-themed candy molds (available at any craft store) and let harden. Voilà: Halloween candy becomes Christmas candy.

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