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updated: 10/23/2012 11:09 AM

Candy you don't have to be afraid to eat

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  • Surf Sweets Spooky Spiders

    Surf Sweets Spooky Spiders
    Courtesy of TruSweets

  • Vanilla Cloud Cake from Shauna Sever's "Pure Vanilla"

    Vanilla Cloud Cake from Shauna Sever's "Pure Vanilla"
    Courtesy of Quirk Books

  • There are five flavors in the UNREAL line of un-junked chocolate treats.

    There are five flavors in the UNREAL line of un-junked chocolate treats.
    Courtesy of UNREAL


Halloween candy doesn't have to be scary, made with ingredients you can't even pronounce.

Take Surf Sweets Spooky Spiders for instance.

The recipe for these tasty arachnids, made in Wheeling by TruSweets, includes organic fruit juice and organic sweeteners -- no corn syrup, synthetic dyes or artificial flavors in the mix. The gluten-free gummies also have 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C per serving and come in cherry, blueberry, tangerine and lime.

The 2.75-ounce packs of Spooky Spiders cost $2.19 each. That's a bit pricey to be handing out to the neighborhood trick-or-treaters, so consider trading a couple packs for the frightful haul of sweets your own goblins bring home (and take the Baby Ruths and Mounds to the office). These colorful creatures also would be great for decorating Halloween cakes, cupcakes and cookies.

Look for Surf Sweets Spooky Spiders at Whole Foods Markets and other natural food stores. A portion of each sale goes to EcoMom Alliance, a nonprofit organization nurturing, connecting and empowering mothers to create a healthy and sustainable world.

If your kids have a hard time giving up their chocolate bites and bars, have a couple UNREAL bars ready for bartering. This line of five chocolate candies may look like your average junk food, but without the corn syrup, hydrogenated oil, artificial flavors and synthetic colors you find on other labels.

So what does this un-junked food contain? Traceable cacao beans from Ghana and Ecuador, 100 percent sustainable and organic palm kernel oil sourced from a sustainable and organic plantation in Brazil, dairy from free-range cows pasture raised without antibiotics or added hormones and all-natural colors, coming from plants like beets and red cabbage. On average the bars pack 60 percent more protein and 250 percent more fiber per serving and 30 percent less sugar than leading competing brands.

I put the UNREAL 54 Candy Coated Chocolate with Peanuts and the UNREAL 77 Peanut Butter Cups in my sons' lunches and they gobbled them up and searched the pantry for more when they got home from school. I treated myself to the Snickers-ish UNREAL 8 Chocolate Caramel Peanuts Nougat Bar. With its 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein, I almost felt healthier after eating it ... a totally pleasurable and guiltless snack break.

The bars and candy packs cost 89 cents to $1.29 each and are in drugstores and grocery stores.

Nothing plain about vanilla: If you think vanilla is just plain vanilla, prepare to have your notion debunked at a vanilla tasting Saturday with cookbook author and former Rolling Meadows gal Shauna Sever.

In her new book, "Pure Vanilla" (Quirk Books, $22.95), Sever explores the history of vanilla from orchid to extract and provides tasting notes for all of today's varieties. She also tells readers how to make their own vanilla extract, vanilla sugar and vanilla-infused liqueurs and provides 80 recipes and dozens of full-color photos.

You won't miss chocolate (well, only for a minute) when a slice of Vanilla Cloud Cake (pictured) is on your plate. Or how about trying Glazed Vanilla Bean Donuts, Vanilla Bean Meringue Kisses, Golden Pear Vanilla Jam or Vanilla Mojitos.

Sever will lead a vanilla tasting from 11 a.m. to noon Oct. 27 at Anthropologie, 111 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago. From noon to 1 p.m. she will sign copies of "Pure Vanilla" as well as "Marshmallow Madness," which was published earlier this year.

Pizza please: Have you heard? Halloween is one of the busiest pizza delivery nights. If you want to curtail the number of cars zipping down your street on Halloween night, learn how to make pizza at home.

On Saturday, Oct. 27, Phyllis Kramer, a former West Aurora High School teacher, will teach a class in Pizza, Flatbreads and Calzones at Prisco's Fine Foods, 1108 Prairie St., Aurora. Class starts at 8:30 a.m.

Kramer will show students to make pizza con quattro, a pizza divided into fall, winter, spring and summer sections; potato, fontina and oregano pizza; classic tomato basil flatbread;, grilled flatbread with white beans, tomatoes, chicken, sausage or roast beef with arugula salad; and a classic ricotta, sausage and spinach calzone.

The two-hour class costs $45 and includes recipes, discounts on recipe ingredients and wine samples. Register at (630) 264-9400 or

• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram @PankeysPlate.

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