Aside from connecting more with my family and old friends, I think it's fair to say that Halloween has so far been my favourite thing about being back in Canada.
The other day, I saw a truck just driving down the street with a fake bloody arm caught in the back window. Hilarious!
I also love to dress up, and felt my debut costume as a "Hot Mess" was a real hit. It was especially funny to have toilet paper hanging out the back of my dress all night at a concert, knowing it was there, and knowing how many awkward looks I was getting. It was a proud moment.
This is the highlight of Halloween for me now, but when I was a kid, it was definitely ALL about the candy. I actually shudder now to think of my poor blood sugar levels (or maybe that's residual shakes from too many hyperglycemic moments?).
To be fair, my parents ate pretty healthy, and fed us a lot of good food. Especially considering I grew up in the 80s and 90s when white bread and cheese slices reigned supreme. So come Halloween, they probably just looked the other day for a few days.
(My candy was always gone in 3-4 days, max. My sister Naomi would have a pillowcase under her bed for MONTHS. And she was savage if she caught you with your hands in it. We have a better relationship these days now that there's no candy-under-the-bed to fight over. Although sometimes I drink her beer when I'm at her house, and then the old feelings rise up again).
So I'm not advocating that you don't let your kids go trick-or-treating, or that you steal all their candy and swap it with fruit. I'm just saying that in the days leading up to Halloween, you can still get into the spirit (get it- this is my favourite pun these days), without the sugar overload.
1. Banana Coconut Ice Cream Ghosts
Adapted from one of my all-time favourite NZ cookbooks- Real Fresh Food by Anna and Roger Wilde
1/3 cup cashew pieces- soaked overnight and drained
150ml coconut cream (like from a can. Look for the fewest ingredients on the label. Ideally it should say "Coconut cream, water")
1 tsp vanilla (buy real vanilla. Artificial vanilla is garbage. The real stuff tastes nicer and is made from a real food rather than a bunch of chemicals)
2 small chocolate chips per "ghost" (or a little bit of chocolate icing)
To make chocolate ice cream: 3 tbsp cocoa or cacao if you want to be fancy. Can also add 1 tsp ginger or cinnamon and that's tasty too!
To make berry ice cream: 1/2 cup frozen raspberries or blueberries
*Put all ingredients into a food processor or blender and process until well pureed.
*Spoon the mixture into popsicle molds and freeze.
*Ever-so-slightly melt the chocolate chips so that one side can stick to the popsicle to make eyes, or pipe on a tiny bit of chocolate icing instead. Voila!
*This recipe can also make a "soft serve" type ice cream if you freeze the bananas first, before you puree. Just dish up instead of putting them in the popsicle molds.
2. Chocolate Date Ball Spiders
1/2 cup dates, pitted and torn
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tbsp cocoa
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Straight pretzels, for legs
*Put the dates, cashews, cocoa, cinnamon, and half the coconut into a food processor or blender and process until well mixed. It is ok if it is a bit crumbly.
*Test the mixture to see if it will stick together by trying to form some into a ball. If it is too crumbly, add 1-2 tbsp water, and re-mix.
*Spoon out tbsp-sized amounts of the mix and roll into balls.
*Roll the balls in the rest of the coconut
*Break the pretzel sticks in half and use them for spider legs.
*These make an awesome addition to lunches or a good little after-school snack. They are sweet but also have some good protein in them from the nuts and coconut. Yum!
3. Popcorn Balls
Not everything has to look like something creepy ok? Sometimes you just want a delicious treat that has slightly less sugar, and none of the crappy preservatives, colours, etc of a commercial candy.
1 cup unpopped popcorn (makes 16 cups popped). Ideally look for organic popcorn, especially if you are in North America because most of our corn is genetically modified.
2 tbsp coconut or avocado oil (for making the popcorn)
1 1/2 tbsp butter or coconut oil (no margarine please!)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 cup peanuts, almonds, or walnuts (optional)
*Make popcorn on the stove like this: Turn stove to med-high. Add 2 tbsp coconut oil and 3 popcorn kernals to a large pot with a lid. Put the lid on and wait for the kernals to pop. Quickly add the rest of the popcorn, put the lid back on (fast!), and shake the pot back and forth on the stovetop while it pops.
*When the pops become much less frequent, take the lid off and immediately pour the popcorn into a large bowl, so that it doesn't burn. Mix nuts through.
*Add butter or coconut oil, salt, sugar, and honey to a medium pot. Turn heat to medium and stir constantly with a whisk. Bring to the boil, then reduce and simmer, still stirring, for 5 minutes. The longer you heat it, the stickier it will be. To test for done-ness, add one drop to cold water- it should form a hard ball.
*Pour sugar mixture over popcorn and nuts and form into balls.
The good news is if you fail at making this into balls, it is still bloody delicious :)
Happy Halloween Everybody!