In just a few days, many of you will likely be staring at a mountain of candy gathered by your trick-or-treating witches and pirates on Halloween.
Perhaps you are the type of person who conquers, divides and hides the sack of goodies. Maybe you take some to work or filch a few mini chocolate bars when Dorothy of Oz isn't looking. A bagful stowed in the freezer provides lunch-box treats for weeks.
This year, you can do all of that and still have plenty left over to make milk shakes. Just a few mini Heath bars dropped into the blender with vanilla ice cream and milk transform a simple delight into pure decadence.
And don't stop at Heath bars, though it's best to pause at sweet-and-sour gummy worms, which will gum up the blender blades. Bubble gum won't work well either, but just about every other miniconfection can be sufficiently ground in the blender to add flavor, color and texture. If your blender is short on power, smash the candy in the wrapper and then stir crumbs into the ice cream drink.
Some candies break apart more easily when frozen and brittle. And because candy lasts up to a year in the freezer, you'll have milk shake garnishes for a long time. To ensure freshness, store the candy in a freezer bag and push out as much air as you can before sealing.
Though candy milk shakes are made from kids' stuff, a splash or more of spirits can turn the drink into adult fare. Consider peppermint schnapps in a shake with Peppermint Patties or cream de cacao in anything with chocolate. For a real wallop, replace some of the milk with Bailey's Irish Cream for a Milky Way Shake or go half-and-half with milk and Kahlua that's mixed with chopped up Snickers and vanilla ice cream.
Always save some of the candy to garnish the top of the shakes.
Besides milk shakes, surplus Halloween candy (yes, there is such a thing) can be used in various other ways.
• Consider donating candy to military personnel overseas. Some dentists do a buy-back program offering as much as $1 a pound and then send the candy to the troops through Operation Gratitude (operationgratitude.com) in Southern California. Another organization that sends care packages is Operation Shoebox (operationshoebox.com), which is based near Gainesville. Go to their websites for instructions, but be aware that hard candy, gum and gummy candies fare better than chocolate, which can melt.
• Chopped candy, such as peanut butter cups, can also be folded into cake or brownie batter before baking.
• A frosted chocolate cake will look even more special with a garnish of malted milk balls. If it's a layer cake, make sure you put some candy in the frosting between the layers. When making a Bundt cake, pour half the batter into the mold and scatter chopped candy evenly over it. Finish it off with the rest of the batter and bake.
• Stir Reese's Pieces — or other small, contained candies rather than chopped — into Rice Krispies treat mixture before spreading it in the pan to set.
• Save that candy corn — which is basically hardened marshmallow — to stir into your candied sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving.
• Heat red hots with bottled barbecue sauce, stirring until they melt. The sweet heat adds a pop.
• Save any colorful candies to decorate gingerbread houses.
• Drop caramels into hot coffee and stir until they dissolve for a DIY specialty coffee treat.
• And you can always take it to work, though you might incur the wrath of co-workers fighting their sweet-tooth temptation.
But before you do all that freezing, sending and baking, make everybody a milk shake. Ah, a Halloween to sip and savor, even through horrid plastic teeth.
Janet K. Keeler can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8586.