I f just the thought of all the treats coming home with your little goblins on Halloween frightens you, relax. We’ve compiled some tricks to enjoying the spirit of the holiday (and maybe even sneak in a piece of candy or two) without feeling haunted by a sugar-induced hangover.
Healthy can be fun
“Halloween should be a fun time, but allowing kids to have free range of the candy afterward can be detrimental,” says Dr. Erin Johnson, a dentist at South Hill Pediatric Dentistry.
Snacks like fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and cheese are good alternatives, she says.
So how do you convince your kids that healthy foods can be fun?
“Just use fun shapes or drop some food coloring in it – kids get excited,” says Julie Grant, a mom of three young children and a caterer for Just a Couple of Moms catering.
With a little creativity, red pepper strips become spider legs and carrots turn into witches’ fingers. Use cookie cutters to make pumpkin-shaped cheese slices and ghost sandwiches.
“Use food color to tint some mayonnaise or cream cheese orange for sandwiches,” Grant suggests. Start with a circle of bread, spread an orange layer on it, and cut out a jack-o’-lantern on the top circle of bread.
“My kids think it’s the coolest,” she says.
Instead of cupcakes, Grant makes whole-wheat muffins using Splenda no-calorie sweetener and applesauce in place of oil. Instead of frosting, you can use cream cheese and decorate the tops with small icing writer tubes.
A spider web is easy to make – just draw concentric black circles with icing and drag a toothpick from the center out to the edge of the muffin in a few places.
If you fill their bellies with healthy food, the little goblins in your life might be less likely to gorge on goodies. Having a family Halloween dinner or inviting the neighbors over before trick-or-treating is also a great way to shift the emphasis from candy to community.
“The biggest thing with kids and having fun is getting them engaged,” says Grant.
Plan a hands-on meal and let guests make their own “mummy dogs” by cutting thin strips of crescent roll dough and wrapping them around whole hot dogs and baking them. Or set out platters of English muffins, pizza sauce, cheese and toppings and let kids build their own crazy pizzas.
“Use broccoli florets for monster heads and pepperoni and black olives for eyes. Let them make kooky faces or use thin strips of cheese to make it look like a mummy,” Grant suggests.
Snake bites (recipe at pauladeen.com) or macaroni and cheese monsters (recipe below) are sure to be a hit, or make a big pot of chili and serve with breadstick “bones.”
“Take packaged breadstick dough and snip each end 1 ½ inches in from the end and swirl the ends in toward each other. It bakes up like a bone,” explains Grant.
To crank up the fear factor on your standard punch recipe, Grant suggests taking a latex food-service glove, filling it with colored water, tying the end and freezing it. Remove the glove and float the “dead hand” in your punch bowl.
Another trick you can play on your guests is to freeze individual ice cubes with colored water and Gummi worms.
“If they don’t fit in the cube, just let them hang over the edge,” Grant says. Add the creepy cubes to a punch bowl or individual beverage glasses.
For a steamy bowl of witches’ brew, place some warm water in the bottom of a large glass or plastic bowl, and add some dry ice chunks (available at Fred Meyer) using tongs. Next place a smaller bowl on top to hold the punch. The steam will rise out from under the smaller bowl of punch. (Don’t touch dry ice with your bare hands or you might get burned.)
Eat this, not that
As far as protecting your teeth, not all candy is created equal.
“Anything sticky, stay away from,” warns Dr. Erin Johnson.
The first thing parents should do after trick-or-treating is go through the candy and get rid of Starburst, Tootsie Rolls and similar sweets because these gooey goodies stay on the surface of the tooth longer, increasing the chance of tooth decay, Johnson says. Hard candies like Lifesavers should be avoided also because they bathe the teeth in sugar for an extended period of time.
Here’s the good news: you can keep the Hershey’s Kisses, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and other chocolates.
“Chocolate rinses off the teeth relatively easily, and can be brushed away after snacking,” explains Johnson.
“(Kids) do occasionally need treats,” she adds. “But limiting the number of pieces of candy a child can have (say one or two) immediately after a meal is a much healthier way to enjoy Halloween than allowing a child to reach into the candy bowl whenever they want.”
Outside the box
If you are going to hand out sweets, stick to chocolate, non-sticky candy or sugar-free gum, advises Johnson. Consider alternatives like temporary tattoos, pencils or spider rings.
How about hair clips, coins, seashells, polished rocks or decorative Band-Aids? The website greenhalloween.org has lots of great earth-friendly ideas for Halloween fun.
Buttery Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Courtesy of Dr. Erin Johnson, who also likes to serve these as a garnish for butternut squash soup.
1 ½ cups pumpkin seeds from fresh pumpkin, washed and patted dry.
2 tablespoons butter, melted (don’t use margarine)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss cleaned pumpkin seeds in bowl with melted butter and salt. Spread on single layer baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes so both sides get toasted. Cool slightly and serve warm.
Variations: Use the basic method above and adjust the seasonings.
Savory flavor: Use 2 tablespoons butter, ½ teaspoon garlic salt or powder, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Fall flavor: 2 tablespoons butter, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground allspice and ¼ teaspoon salt.
Spicy seeds: Follow the basic recipe and add a dash of red pepper or chili powder
Yield: 4 servings
Courtesy of Barb Trotter, Just a Couple of Moms Catering Company.
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup Splenda granulated no-calorie sweetener
2 eggs (or 4 egg whites)
½ cup applesauce
¼ cup water
¼ cup milk
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Optional: ½ cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the ingredients well and spoon into paper baking cups to fill ½ to ¾ full. If desired, sprinkle a few chocolate chips on top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Yield: 22 to 24 muffins
Macaroni and Cheese Monsters
6 cups prepared macaroni and cheese, store bought (2 boxes) or homemade
1 bunch or package fresh or frozen spinach (defrosted)
1 teaspoon butter or olive oil
Green or black olives for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spoon prepared macaroni and cheese into well-greased muffin tin and bake for 10 minutes.
Sauté the spinach in butter or olive oil until hot. Place a bed of spinach on each plate and top with one “monster head” of baked macaroni and cheese so the spinach forms “hair.” Decorate with sliced olive eyes.
Yield: 12 monsters
Spaghetti and Eyeballs
From the Lite ’n Hearty cookbook published by the Heart Institute of Spokane
1 pound lean ground turkey breast
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 egg whites
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon oregano
1 (7-ounce) jar pimento-stuffed olives
1 (14-ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
1 (8-ounce) package spaghetti
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix the ground turkey, bread crumbs, ketchup, egg whites, pepper and oregano in a large bowl.
Form the meat mixture into 18-24 eyeball-sized balls. Press an olive into each eyeball, pimento side out. Place the eyeballs in a baking dish, cover with the spaghetti sauce, cover with tinfoil and bake for 45 minutes.
About 20 minutes before the eyeballs are done, cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. When eyeballs are done, remove from oven and spoon onto spaghetti, irises up. Spoon sauce around them.
Yield: Serves 6.