How to Create Natural, Healthy and Cost-Conscious Fun
by Avery Mack
Hooray! Princesses and superheroes are more popular than witches and devils these days. With encouragement from parents, kids can enjoy a greener Halloween with tiaras, wands and capes made from recycled cardboard and hobby shop items. Thrift stores offer up hats and jewelry for added bling. The Internet overflows with inspiration. Also, many public libraries host costume swaps this month; find other swap locations at Tinyurl.com/CostumeSwaps.
Consider inexpensive temporary hair coloring instead of wigs. Mix three packets of sugar-free drink mix or one box of sugar-free gelatin dessert mix (because sugar makes hair sticky), a few drops of both water and a conditioner into a paste. Apply cocoa butter at the hairline to prevent color from running down the face. Use a paintbrush to apply it to the hair, topped by a shower cap for a steeping period of as long as youthful patience allows before shampooing.
Parents that shop for costumes spend an average of $66, while those that make their own spend just $28.
Homemade face paint is a fun and healthy alternative to sweaty masks. (Commercial face paint can contain lead and other undesirables.) A moisturizer with sunscreen, unscented lotion or cocoa butter acts as the base. “UVA/UVB rays are present year-round,” says Dermatologist Michael Taylor, in Portland, Maine. “Use zinc- or titanium-based products, free from fragrance, para-aminobenzoic acid, parabens, bisphenol A, phthalates and other harmful ingredients.”
Natural food coloring, spices or other pantry items provide colorants. Turmeric makes a bright yellow; raspberry, blackberry or beet juice yields pink or red; mashed avocado and spirulina show up green; blueberry juice is naturally purple and cocoa powder makes a great brown, according to Greenne.com.
For the youngest treaters, hold an afternoon party with games and an outdoor wildlife/leaf hunt. “Plan a scavenger hunt or arrange stuffed toys to be knocked over with balls,” suggests Pamela Layton McMurtry, author of A Harvest and Halloween Handbook, and mother of seven in Kaysville, Utah. “Older kids will love a block party. Solar twinkle lights can mark the perimeters. Plan for a potluck and emphasize healthy choices. Games with prizes like wooden toys, juices, raisins or gluten-free crispy rice cakes take the focus off of candy. Tweens like progressive parties: appetizers at one house, dessert at another and music or scary movies at a third.”
“Disguise healthy snacks as scary, gross foods,” suggests Rosie Pope, a parenting style leader and former reality TV personality in Ridgewood, New Jersey. “Homemade grape or orange juice popsicles with a small gummy worm inside are popular.”
Pope likes to decorate cucumber and apple slices with raisins, dried cranberries, blueberries and pretzels adhered with organic peanut butter to mimic crawly creatures. Black spaghetti colored with squid ink can simulate boiled witch’s hair. Spinach linguini masquerades as swamp grass. Look for gluten-free varieties. Prepare peeled grapes for green eyeballs.
“Cover party tables with a patchwork of fabric remnants,” advises McMurtry. She also suggests a DIY taco area or cat-and-scarecrow-shaped pizzas. Use sliced olive or cherry tomato eyes, shredded cheese hair and a red pepper smile. Prepare a cheesy fondue with whole-grain bread. Individually wrapped popcorn balls studded with bits of fruit can be great take-home desserts for guests.
In addition to the usual farmers’ market gourds, Indian corn and pumpkins, “Oranges, tangerines and apples covered with cloth and tied with orange or black yarn or ribbon hung as miniature ghosts in the kitchen and doorways add a spooky touch,” adds Pope. “After the holiday, the fruit returns to the table as a snack.” Pope’s children also like to draw Halloween murals on windows using water-based markers.
Traditional tricks and treats are easily improved upon with mindful shopping and imagination. The calorie counts are lower, environmental impacts are lighter and the feel-good fun factor soars.
Avery Mack is a freelance writer in St. Louis, MO. Connect via AveryMack@mindspring.com.
More Green Treats
- Keep kids’ hair dry after applying temporary coloring to keep ingredients from running.
- Mix cornstarch and beet juice to make “blood”.
- Post a door notice that this family is giving out healthy snacks. Search out organic, fair trade, GMO-, gluten-, nut- and sugar-free treats in recyclable packaging (or no packaging at all). Avoid artificial preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup.
- After gutting the pumpkin, roast the seeds for a snack and purée the pumpkin to add fiber and flavor to recipes.
- Post-Halloween, compost the jack-o’-lanterns and gourds and add any corn stalks to foliage recycling.
Find more tips at Tinyurl.com/Eco-Halloween.
A Terrifyingly Healthy Halloween!
Kids can make individual pizzas starting with pre-baked crusts, bagels or English muffins. Choose whole wheat or gluten-free as desired. Smaller sizes allow for portion control. Add toppings and cheeses, regular or vegan, pop in the oven and serve.
Want fun shapes like a Halloween cat or scarecrow? Make an organic crust with a recipe from RealFood GirlUnmodified.com/fail-proof-organic-pizza-dough, or try a whole-wheat version like one found at EatingWell.com/recipes/whole_wheat_pizza_dough.html (using whole wheat and organic, unbleached all-purpose flour and a natural granulated sugar).
Kids can make individual pizzas starting with pre-baked crusts, bagels or English muffins. Choose whole wheat or gluten-free, as desired. Smaller sizes allow for portion control. Add regular or vegan toppings and cheeses, pop in the oven and serve.
Yield: 8 servings
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
8 bagels evenly split, English muffins or prepared pizza rounds
1 garlic clove, peeled and split lengthwise
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 cup organic pizza or marinara sauce
One protein, such as lean ground beef or soy crumbles (browned and drained); sliced vegetarian pepperoni; turkey or vegetarian bacon, (fried, drained and broken into pieces); or peeled and deveined shrimp, cut into bite-sized pieces
Red, yellow or green bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, sliced or diced
Black or green olives, drained pineapple bits, garlic cloves, drained and roasted
1 to 1½ cups shredded mozzarella or vegan mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly oil two cookie sheets and set aside. Open and arrange bagels or muffins on the sheets. If using prepared pizza rounds, place on sheets whole.
- Rub each piece of bread lightly with cut garlic. Brush each round with olive oil. Bake for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove to stove top and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
- Return to oven for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove, spread with sauce.
- Raise the oven heat to 375 F. Begin with the proteins, layer the vegetables and the special ingredients and top with a layer of cheese.
- Return the rounds to the hot oven and bake until the cheese melts. Cool slightly and serve.
French Bread Pizza Dough
2 Tbsp active dry yeast
2 cups very warm water
2 Tbsp natural granulated sugar
3 cups organic unbleached all-purpose or bread flour, divided 2-to-1
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups whole wheat flour, divided 2-to-1
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease baking pans.
- Dissolve yeast and sugar in the warm water. Stir gently, let yeast rise until frothy foam covers surface. Mix dough by hand with a dough hook or using an electric mixer.
- Add 2 cups all-purpose flour, salt and olive oil and mix well.
- Add 2 cups whole wheat flour (grind just before using for maximum nutrition).
- Gradually add the additional flour until a smooth dough forms. Depending on altitude and humidity, more or less may be needed. Mix until dough is smooth.
- Remove to flour-dusted bread board. Shape and roll out to about ½-inch thick, top with marinara sauce, cheese and desired toppings.
- Bake at 400 F for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden around the edges.
Aunt Judy’s Taco Stacks
Yield: 6 servings
This one-dish treat contains all of the major food groups. Prepare favorite taco ingredients and stack them on organic, blue, corn chips or a bed of torn lettuce. Homemade salsa adds more veggies and zing. Use a recipe like one at AllRecipes.com/recipe/fresh-salsa-2. For a flavor twist, add diced avocado sprinkled with lemon juice to keep the bright green color; red, green, orange or yellow peppers; and fruit like mangos or peaches.
1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil (if needed)
1¼ lb naturally raised lean ground meat or meat substitute
1 small onion, 2 in or less in diameter, chopped
1 (8-oz) can organic tomato sauce
1 tsp chili powder
¾ tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
2 (15½-oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped in ¼-inch pieces
1 bunch cilantro leaves, stems removed
1 ½ cups organic shredded cheddar, Mexican blend or vegan cheese
1 (15½-oz) can black olives, drained and sliced
1 (8-oz) container of regular or vegan sour cream
1 small head Romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
1 (1-lb) bag organic blue corn, whole grain, artisan, white or yellow corn or gluten-free baked tortilla chips
- Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to an 8-to-10-inch skillet and heat over medium-high heat until the oil just begins to simmer. Add chopped onion and stir. Sweat for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the ground meat or meat substitute. If needed, add additional olive oil. Stir to break up large clumps and cook until browned.
- Remove from skillet and drain the meat. Return to skillet, and then add tomato sauce, chili powder and cumin. Stir to blend and simmer over medium heat until the sauce begins to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.
- Place beans, tomatoes, cilantro, cheese, olives and sour cream in separate bowls. On a serving plate, put Romaine lettuce, taco chips or a combination of the two. Add toppings and salsa as desired.
(Optional substitution: Use one 8-oz can of tomatoes with green chiles instead of the tomato sauce, chili powder and cumin.)
Yield: 3 cups
8 Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 bunch green onions, sliced
3 jalapeño peppers (or to taste), seeded, stems removed, finely minced (wear gloves and work in a ventilated area)
1 to 2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp natural salt
Juice of 1 lime
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
- Chill covered.
- Adjust seasonings before serving.
Spicy Cheese Fondue with Crudités and Croutons
1 24-oz round of unsliced sourdough bread
3 cups (12 oz) organic sharp cheddar cheese, grated
12 oz organic Neufchâtel cheese, softened
1 cup organic sour cream
1 cup green onions, chopped
2 (7-oz) cans green chilies, diced
½ tsp salt
Directions for bread bowl:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut off and reserve the top of the sourdough bread round. Hollow the inside with a small knife, leaving a ¾-inch shell. Cut remaining bread into 1½-inch cubes for croutons.
Directions for fondue:
Mix together the cheeses, sour cream, onions, chilies and salt. Spoon the mix into the bread bowl, replace the reserved top. Wrap tightly with several layers of foil and place on baking sheet. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour or until cheeses melt. During the last half-hour of cooking, toast bread cubes. Remove bread from foil and place on a serving tray. Encircle with vegetables and toasted croutons.
Toasted Croutons for Fondue Dipping
Cut one 16-oz baguette of sourdough bread into ½-inch pieces and add the cubed bread from hollowing the sourdough loaf. Add ½ cup of melted butter. Toss bread gently to coat it. Place in oven during the last half-hour the fondue is baking. Remove when crisp, not hard.
Crudités for Fondue Dipping
Plan 4 servings per pound of vegetables of broccoli, zucchini, celery, cauliflower, green cauliflower, cucumber, mushrooms and red, yellow, orange and green bell pepper strips. Also consider serving grapes, orange slices and melons as refreshing bites after the cheesy fondue.
Source: Recipes courtesy of Pamela Layton McMurtry