By JANET K. KEELER
© St. Petersburg Times,
caramel apples vs. candy apples
Candy apples are coated with a mixture of sugar, corn syrup, water, cinnamon and red food coloring. (Kits, complete with sticks, are available at most groceries this time of year.) The ingredients are boiled together in a saucepan until the liquid reaches about 300 degrees on a candy thermometer. The high heat is what facilitates the candy's hardening when it cools. An apple speared with a wooden stick is dipped into the boiling mixture and rolled around until it is covered. The sugary coating hardens in about an hour.
(Candy is sometimes difficult to make in humid weather because the moisture in the air prevents hardening. Air conditioning helps balance Florida's humidity, and now, as humidity falls, is a better time to make candy.)
Caramel apples are coated with sticky, gooey caramel, which is a good base for peanuts, M&Ms, coconut, chocolate chips or anything else your heart desires. (Caramel apple kits are also available at stores.)
Most people reach for the large Red Delicious apples for candy or caramel apples, but the slightly tart, crisp McIntoshes or Granny Smiths play perfectly against the sweet coatings.
"I went to a restaurant that serves "breakfast at any time.' So I ordered French toast during the Renaissance." -- comedian Steven Wright
Room temperature eggs whip up better than those straight from the refrigerator. To bring eggs to room temperature, set them in a bowl, cover with tepid water and set aside for five minutes. Also, make sure there is no dust, oil or other liquid in the mixing bowl, or the whites won't whip.
this web site cooks
A package of goodies from home is always welcomed by military men and women on duty far away from loved ones. CarePackages.com puts the packages together and ships them out when you don't have the time. The "Miss You Honey" kit ($32) includes NECCO Sweethearts candy, Red Hots, stamps, envelopes, pens and a phone card, among other things. Packages are $16.95 to $47.50, shipping not included. Themed packages can also be sent to honor holidays, birthdays, weddings or anniversaries, or to college students or ailing friends and relatives. Call the customer service hotline toll-free at 1-877-354-1205.
sweet and sour
At a St. Petersburg Publix last weekend, people couldn't grab six-packs of the new Diet Coke With Lemon fast enough. It looked promising, and at just more than $1 per pack, a bargain too. An informal taste test done by the Times features copy desk produced a split decision. The detractors said it tasted like perfume or Lemon Pledge and that the aftertaste was unpleasant. One said it was too lemony; another not lemony enough. The tasters who liked it were reminded of Fresca or called it Sprite crossed with Coke. They applauded having something different to drink in the soda department. Looks like you'll have to judge for yourself. (Note: Lemon taste also can be achieved by adding a slice of real lemon to sodas. How novel.)
give 'em a hand
From the folks who brought you Big Mouth Billy Bass, here's a bowl that will reach out and touch you. Literally. Gemmy Industries' animated plastic candy bowl has a motion sensor: Grab a piece of candy, and the hand tries to grab yours while announcing lighthearted Halloween messages. It costs $10 to $20 at Walgreens, Target, Party City and some Hallmark stores. Beware, ghouls and goblins: Supplies are limited, and these bowls may not be restocked.
martha's monster bash
As Halloween approaches, Martha Stewart's idea cup runneth over. On Martha Stewart Living (9 a.m. weekdays, WFTS-Ch. 28) there will be plenty of merry and macabre suggestions to celebrate Oct. 31 with style. On Monday, a makeup artist will turn Stewart into a "black widow Spiderwoman," and Tuesday's show will debunk superstitions about household pets. The "Black Show" will air Halloween day, when topics include black bats, black paint and black bean salsa. Stewart's show on the Food Network (6:30 p.m. weekdays) will also feature Halloween topics.
Judging crews from Jack Daniel's will be roaming the parking lots around Raymond James Stadium this Sunday, looking for the best tailgater in Bucs land. Judges will be looking for fans who demonstrate great cooking ability, creativity and team spirit. At the end of the season, the winning tailgate teams from the cities whose professional football teams make it to the Super Bowl will be invited to the Great American Tailgate Party in New Orleans before the Feb. 3 game.
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From the Times Taste section
From the features wire