How to Make Your Halloween Sugar-Free in Five Minutes or Less!

Halloween is just around the corner and you might be cringing at the thought of your child coming home with that giant bag full of candy.

Honestly, who says treats have to be candy? Make life easier for you and healthier for the kids in your neighborhood.

Purchase party favors in bulk via mail-order instead of candy!

Here are a few suggestions:  

Glow in the dark vampire teeth 

Transferable Tattoos 

Halloween Slime

Spider Rings

Jack-O-Lantern Stickers

Sidewalk Chalk

Playdoh

Halloween Stamps

Bubbles

Movie passes

Color Crayons 

Glow-in-the-dark bracelets

Themed pencils

It’s really ok to put a healthy spin on Halloween this year.

For you too- think how many times have you gotten into the fun-sized candy bars

waiting for the holiday to arrive! Plus, sidewalk chalk has a longer life expectancy.

What are you handing out this Halloween?

It’s all about the dressing

Summer salads are a great way to explore what’s in season while introducing your little one to new flavors. Dips, dressings, that little something extra is what makes a difference from the little one turning his or her nose up to diving right in. Dressing doesn’t need to come in a bottle. It’s something you can make at home with your little ones. Get them involved. See which flavor they like. Then, try mixing the dressings with produce. What do you like with the raspberry vinaigrette? Is there something that the balsamic is better with? (Try strawberries, feta and spinach with the last one. It’s a simple, warm weather healthy addition to any meal.)

Today, it’s all about the dressings. Maybe you end up with a variety of them in your home to meet individual tastes. That’s OK!! These are homemade and fresh. Each recipe makes enough to dress salad for four. If you find one that everyone likes, consider doubling or tripling the recipes and storing it in a mustard or jam jar. Before to shake before serving. These dressings should stay fresh for a week.

Citrus vinaigrette

  1. In a saucepan, simmer ½ cup of orange juice, ¼ cup lime juice and 2 Tbsp. lemon juice for 4 minutes or until 1/3 cup remains. Pour into a bowl.
  2. Whisk 1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar, minced red chile, a large minced shallot, chopped mint, ½ tsp. each grated orange and lemon zests, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, kosher salt and black pepper.
  3. Whisking continuously, slowly add ¼ cut extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified.

 

Balsamic vinaigrette

  1. Whisk together 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (white or dark), 1 ½ Tbsp. warm water, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard and ½ tsp. of each minced garlic, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Whisking continuously, slowly pour in 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified.

 

Mustard-herb vinaigrette

  1. In a blender, puree 1 hard-cooked egg yolk (this makes the dressing extra creamy, 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp. each grainy Dijon mustard and water, and ½ tsp. each of minced garlic, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. With blender running, slowly add 5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified. Pour into a bowl; stir in 2 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon, chervil, basil or parsley.

 

Fresh raspberry vinaigrette

  1. In a blender, puree ¾ cup fresh raspberries with ¼ cup reduced sodium chicken broth.
  2. Scrape puree through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl and discard seeds.
  3. Into the puree, whisk 2 Tbsp. canola oil, 1 Tbsp. each of apple cider vinegar and minced shallot, 2 tsp. Dijon honey mustard and ¼ tsp. each of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper until emulsified.

 

Sesame-ginger vinaigrette

  1. Whisk together 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger, 1 tsp. each of minced garlic and sugar, and 2 Tbsp. each of rice vinegar and soy sauce.
  2. While whisking, slowly add ¼ cut peanut or canola oil and 1 Tbsp. toasted Asian sesame oil until emulsified. Stir in 1 Tbsp. snipped fresh chives and 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds.

 

Chipotle-honey-lime vinaigrette

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk 3 Tbsp. lime juice, 1 minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce, 1 ¼ tsp. each or honey and ground cumin, and ½ tsp. each of minced garlic and kosher salt.
  2. Whisking continuously, slowly add 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified. Stir in 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro.

Planning healthy habits

Did you ever notice how difficult it is to eat healthy when hunger strikes? Your little one wants a snack; you go to the kitchen and start looking around. Often we find ourselves in this situation. The key to keeping it healthy is planning. I know! We’re all busy. In the spirit of spring cleaning and getting organized, consider organizing snacks with a snack station.

Inspired by Realsimple.com, today’s idea is a grab-and-go snack stashes.

Using a larger bin – consider Tupperware, something that can be cleaned easily – place a variety of snacks that can be mixed and matched for treats. You can use snack size sandwich bags to portion out orange slice, baby carrots, celery sticks, pepper slices. You can even rotate these treats to showcase whatever is seasonal, like berries. Include grapes, lunch meat roll-ups (like turkey and Swiss of ham and cheddar), yogurt, string cheese and, for dipping, a jar of peanut butter and hummus.

Make a habit of refilling your snack station one day a week, say Sunday night. Once it’s ready, you can tell your kids to grab something when you’re busy without worry. And, you can pick up a small bag on your way out to the many baseball and soccer games going on. Those chips are tempting, but not the best option for your little one – or you.

How will you personalize your snack station?

Veggie hide-and-seek

Are your little ones eating enough veggies? They probably aren’t specifically asking for extra peas and carrots. That could change by hiding them.

Investigators at Columbia University recently gave this a go. They enlisted 68 elementary and middle school children and gave them two samples to try. One was labeled broccoli gingerbread spice cake and the other simply gingerbread spice cake. The kids didn’t know the cake was the same but they loved the gingerbread spice cake that didn’t have broccoli in the name.

While children were more likely to eat products that didn’t have veggies listed on the label, doctors did encourage parents to introduce their children to a variety of vegetables to find one they like. Then the hiding won’t be necessary.

Let’s give it a try with sweet potato cupcakes with toasted marshmallow frosting. Thanks to Better Homes and Gardens and Lovin’ From the Oven for the recipes, respectively.

Ingredients
For the cupcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
16 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
3 large eggs
17 oz. sweet potato puree
½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting
8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
½ tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; stir together with a fork and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Mix in the sweet potatoes and vanilla extract, beating just until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.
  3. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes; then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in the top of a double boiler. Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it reaches 160 degrees with an instant-read thermometer. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk starting at low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form. Mix in the vanilla until combined. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.
  5. For a fun extra touch, you can use a kitchen torch and garnish with a sprinkle of brown sugar, if desired.

Mac and Cheese surprise

All kids love macaroni and cheese. Well, not just kids… let’s be honest. Cheese and noodle casseroles started appearing in medieval cookbooks – so yeah, you’re not alone in a love for this wonderful dish. Even Thomas Jefferson was a fan, serving “macaroni pie” at a state dinner in 1802. The recipe by today’s moniker appeared in 1824.

But it doesn’t need to be a completely unhealthy meal. With this Food and Wine recipe there’s some good news: mixing carrot puree with the cheddar cheese creates a wonderful source of vitamin A while reducing the amount of fat in the recipe. And, it’s still tasty.

 

Ingredients

3/4 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
Zest and juice of 1 navel orange, zest removed in strips with a vegetable peeler
Salt
3 cups penne rigate (9 ounces)
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
1 Tbsp. chopped tarragon
Freshly ground white pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine the carrots with the zest and juice and 1/4 cup of water. Season with salt and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over moderate heat until the carrots are very soft, about 30 minutes. Discard the zest. Transfer the carrots and any liquid to a blender and puree until very smooth.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  3. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the reserved water and the carrot puree and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the pasta is coated with a thickened sauce, about 5 minutes. Stir in three-fourths of the cheese and cook, stirring, until very creamy, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Stir in the tarragon and season with salt and white pepper.
  4. Transfer the pasta to a medium baking dish and top with the remaining cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Orange Smiles with a Jelly Twist

Most children have stuck an orange slice in their mouth and smiled. The peel making a comical smile is a childhood favorite. And, since slices of citrus will always be a healthy snack, this tradition will continue. In the spirit of April Fool’s Day this weekend, let’s add a twist to this favorite with blood orange jelly smiles. This can be made with any kind of citrus – like tangerines or navel oranges. Choose whichever your kids will try. But the blood oranges offer the most dramatic look. Consider serving these side-by-side with real slices of blood oranges. See if anyone can tell the difference!

 

Ingredients

6 blood oranges
1 packet of plain gelatin
Sugar or honey (optional to taste)  

Instructions

  1. Buy a sack of blood oranges.
  2. Get some plain gelatin. (You can find this in the baking aisle near the regular Jell-O.)
  3. Cut 6 oranges in half. (You can always multiply this recipe to make more.)
  4. Squeeze out the juice. Here’s where this project can be a little tricky. You want to squeeze out as much juice as possible without damaging the orange peel. Consider using a traditional manual juicer. Go slowly and twist each half so it’s as clean as possible.
  5. Scrape out any extra strings or flesh. Again, you want the peel intact, so if you can’t get everything out, it’s OK. A little extra orange flesh won’t mess this up.
  6. Put each orange peel shell into a muffin tin to hold them steady when you pour in the gelatin.
  7. Soften the gelatin. Measure 1/4 cup cold water in a glass measuring cup. Sprinkle 1 packet of plain gelatin into the water and let it sit.
  8. Heat the orange juice to boiling. Measure out about 3/4 cup of the juice. Also, this is where you can add a little sugar or honey, if you want to sweeten the juice. Taste and sweeten as needed. Bring the juice to a boil.
  9. Mix gelatin and juice. Take the boiling juice off the heat and whisk in the gelatin. Pour the juice and gelatin mixture back into the glass measuring cup.
  10. Fill orange peel shells. Fill each orange peel cup with the gelatin mixture, and put the muffin tins into the fridge to cool. The orange jelly will need 2-3 hours to set completely.
  11. Trim, slice, and serve! The filling should firm up and be quite stiff. Once it is hard enough, slice into wedges.

Clean hands save lives

No one ever thinks of soap as a super hero but it kind of is.

Inexpensive and best friend to water, soap keeps us clean. It keeps us and those we love happy and healthy. We emphasize cleanliness in the kitchen for many reasons, but keeping it clean extends far beyond working with food.

Friday marked Global Handwashing Day – it’s a real day! Check out www.globalhandwashingday.org.

The child-centric holiday has a simple sanitary message with a big goal: Helping people stay healthy! Washing your hands can affect your life outside of your home.

Children don’t always realize the impact which they can make. That’s a funny thing because they’re also the ones most willing to change their ways. And when kids are willing to change, adults around them follow their lead. It’s this logic that inspired Global Handwashing Day organizers to focus on children. That and the fact that about half of the about 120 million children born in the developing world each year will live in households with limited access to sanitation.

This limited access – which as we mentioned previously extends far beyond the kitchen – leads to poor hygiene which can lead to sickness and often be fatal for youngsters.

Those numbers can drastically diminish by introducing soap and water into our daily habits. It’s the most inexpensive way to ensure our kids are safe.

Started in 2008 by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap, the group simply hopes to make clean hands a part of all kids’ daily lives. Doing so should greatly diminish health-related issues.

The great news is if your kids get in the habit of washing their hands, they’ll keep those soap-using habits when with their friends. The domino effect will continue with your little one’s little friend. Thankfully rumors – and habits—spread amongst little ones just like they do adults. But in this case, it’s a rumor epidemic that could lead to healthier children.

Talking about hand washing can be an interesting way to integrate other cultures into the world.

Some don’t wash their hands because water is scarce. How lucky are we that clean water is easily accessible? Worldwide one child dies every eight seconds without access to healthy water. Locally, students in San Mateo County decided to do something about it.

San Bruno youngsters, who were in fourth grade when they started this effort in 2007, started Water For Life – an effort of selling spring water with a student-designed logo. Proceeds from the bottled water are pooled with other fundraising efforts to buy water pumps to be placed in Africa. By partnering with other student efforts nationwide, the kids have helped purchase two pumps.

The good news here is anyone – soap, water and your own little one – can be a hero. First they need to be informed.