3 Ideas for Healthy Halloween Treat Alternatives for Your Kids and Trick-or-Treaters

Alternative Halloween TreatsHalloween is my favorite fall activity and so this time of year, my Pinterest board is a smorgasbord of Halloween decor, treats, foods, party ideas, costumes, and more! We aim to be healthy parents so I try to keep the candy-eating to a minimum around the holidays (mostly because I end up eating it all!). Well fear not, my friends, as there are plenty of healthy alternative treats that our kids can still enjoy this month!

Alternative Halloween Treats

1) NON-CANDY TREATS

We are so used to buying an enormous bag of candy every October, dumping it in a big black cauldron, then crossing our fingers that we use it all up on the Trick-or-Treaters. Sometimes, it’s hard to remind ourselves that we could fill the cauldron with non-candy items! I know, I know – you’re thinking “She’s crazy! The kids will hate it!” However, I speak from experience when I say that I’ve had many kids choose the non-candy items over the candy, even to be excited to find a Halloween pencil in the bowl!  (And yes, I still buy some candy to mix in the bowl – old habits are hard to break!)

There are a few reasons to choose non-candy items for your trick-or-treaters this year:

  1. The best reason is of course, for their health; their dentist & parents will thank you!
  2. We all know they will still end up with a ton of candy from other houses so why not mix it up a bit and give them a temporary tattoo instead?
  3. Finally, because this is a great way to help children with allergies to find a treat they can enjoy.

Teal Pumpkin

If you are participating in offering alternative goodies for children with food allergies, be sure to check out the Teal Pumpkin Project.  This is a new campaign to spread awareness of food allergies and help parents & children find houses offering goodies they can enjoy this Halloween.

Here are a few non-candy suggestions to get you started:

Alternative Halloween Treats

  • Beads & string
  • Mini pumpkins
  • Stickers
  • Erasers
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Glow in the dark sticky eyes
  • Playdough
  • Glow in the dark bracelets
  • Spooky crayons
  • Slime
  • Halloween bubbles

You can see a ton more non-candy ideas at The Kennedy Adventures100 Days of Real Food, and Apartment Therapy.  There are some really cute make-ahead ideas at Lil Luna that you can prepare with your children.

When your child does come home with enough candy to last until next Halloween, what do you do? We encourage the Switch Witch to visit our home on Halloween night by leaving out our extra candy on the kitchen table.  Similar to the Tooth Fairy, she is invited to come in the night to make an exchange in your child’s favor.  The Switch Witch loves candy so much, that she is willing to give children books, toys, or other non-candy treats in exchange for their delicious, sugar-filled candy!  Be sure to talk to your children about the Switch Witch in advance so that they will be excited about trading in their candy.

Halloween Candy BuyBack

You can also check out Halloween Candy Buyback to find dentists in your area that will trade your children candy for prizes.  The dentists send the candy to troops overseas.  If you don’t have a dentist in your area participating in this program, send them the link to the Halloween Candy Buyback but also check out the instructions on sending your own candy to the troops through Operation Gratitude.

Alternative Halloween Treats

2) HEALTHY TRICK-OR-TREATS

Many grocery stores will have healthier food treats readily available in “trick-or-treat” size bags.  You can also package your own healthy treats in small baggies or plastic cups.  Here’s a few of the healthy food treats you may want to hand out this year:

  • Pretzels
  • Fruit snacks
  • Crackers
  • Applesauce
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Popcorn
  • Raisins
  • Trail mix

Healthy Halloween Snacks

3) HEALTHY PARTY SNACKS

If you are planning a Halloween party or bringing snacks to school for a class party, consider making some of these fun & clever Halloween snacks!

Find many more creepy, spooky, yet deliciously healthy party snacks at Listotic, Buzzfeed, & C.R.A.F.T.

What is your favorite healthy Halloween treat alternative?  What are your children’s favorite items to receive when they go trick-or-treating?  Share them with us in the comments!

Gettin’ Weird in the Garden: 7 Strange Foods to Grow at Home

If you already have a garden or looking to start one next spring, then you’re probably planning to plant the basics – tomatoes, herbs, and other familiar items (depending on your level of gardening). But for next spring, wouldn’t it be fun to mix things up a bit and grow some weird looking foods along with those staples? It would be a great way to add some diversity to your garden and to create fun talking points when people come over for dinner. If this sounds like a fun project, we’ve provided 7 strange foods you can grow at home.

Gettin’ Weird in the Garden: 7 Strange Foods to Grow at Home

Romanesco image courtesy of Huffington Post

1) Romanesco

This is one of the craziest yet coolest looking vegetables out there. It’s a type of cauliflower that is packed with vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber, and carotenoids. The reason for its “trippy” appearance, according to an article in Huffington Post, “It is a natural approximation of a fractal” and “follows the Fibonacci pattern.” If you actually know what that is or means, you’re probably impressed with this veggie, but even if you don’t, it’s just one cool looking vegetable.

Gettin’ Weird in the Garden: 7 Strange Foods to Grow at Home

White Pineberry image courtesy of strawberryplants.org.

2) White Pineberry 

This is one weird yet delicious sounding fruit. It’s basically an inverted strawberry: white on the outside and red in the middle. And if that wasn’t strange enough, while it feels and looks like a strawberry, it actually smells and tastes like a pineapple. Two of my favorite fruits morphed into one!

Gettin’ Weird in the Garden: 7 Strange Foods to Grow at Home

Lion’s Mane Mushroom image courtesy of mushroom-appreciation.com

3) Lion’s Mane Mushroom 

While I am not a big fan of mushrooms, this one may change my mind. Not only does it look furry, like a lion’s mane, it’s also supposed to taste like lobster meat. Yes, please!

Gettin’ Weird in the Garden: 7 Strange Foods to Grow at Home

Buddha’s Hand image courtesy of www.smithsonianmag.com.

4) Buddha’s Hand 

This slightly creepy-looking fruit could be used as a Halloween decoration, but you’re better off using in the kitchen. Although it looks like a possessed lemon, it has little to no pulp or seeds and smells like a sweet lemon blossom. So basically it’s one big heavenly smelling rind that can be used in cocktails, candied, and more.

Gettin’ Weird in the Garden: 7 Strange Foods to Grow at Home

Cucamelon image courtesy of buzzfeed.com

5) Cucamelon

It’s the cutest veggie ever! They look like watermelons, are the size of grapes, and oddly taste like cucumbers with a hint of lime. They can be planted like cucumbers; however, they apparently are much easier to grow. While I’ve never eaten or grown one, I am excited to add this to our small garden next spring!

Gettin’ Weird in the Garden: 7 Strange Foods to Grow at Home

Szechuan Buttons image courtesy of marxfoods.com.

6) Szechuan/Buzz Buttons 

It’s nature’s Pop Rock candy! These natural “buttons” don’t have any nutritional value but simply eat a few petals ,and your mouth will start to feel a tingling or bubbling sensation. Talk about a conversation starter!

Gettin’ Weird in the Garden: 7 Strange Foods to Grow at Home

Cocktail Kiwis image courtesy of homegrown-revolution.co.uk

7) Cocktail Kiwis 

I love the taste of kiwis, but hate the work that goes into peeling one, as it results in a tiny amount of fruit. That’s where these little mini kiwis come in handy. Apparently these little bundles of goodness are super sweet and (best of all) fuzz-free, making the entire fruit edible. No more annoying peeling!

Do any of these strange foods inspire your gardening? Do you grow different strange foods at your house? Share with us in the comments!

Casting a New Light on Energy Awareness Month

Casting a New Light on Energy Awareness MonthOctober is Energy Awareness Month, and in this day and age if you are not aware of energy, chances are you’re living in a picturesque off-grid cabin somewhere in Vermont. From liberal to conservative, the topic of energy is firmly entrenched in the collective consciousness of our nation as we prepare to face the challenges of powering the ever-increasing demands of our modern world. No matter your position on the issue, one fact cannot be ignored: our energy-hungry world is taking no steps backwards from its triumphant foothold in the technological revolution. For those of us who walk that thin line between the idealistic hope for an environmental revolution and a pragmatic understanding of the realities of our newly forged world, this month is more than just about a list of tips and tricks to defeat rogue kilowatts, it’s about a perspective on what energy is and how it shapes our world.

Let’s start with the very basic concept of energy. According to physics, energy is the ability to do work, and according to the law of conservation of energy, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Step back for a moment and realize the implications of this concept, every ounce of energy in your life, from your ability to perform metabolic processes, to internal combustion, to lighting a room, every last drop of energy is part of an eternally continual chain of reactions that utilize energy from one source, only to become the source for the next reaction. Nothing that happens in this world occurs in a vacuum, that very concept carries with it a certain gravity when you realize that every action undertaken is dependent on something else.

Even as you read this blog, the air you are taking into your lungs is the result of a complex series of reactions involving the Sun, plants, animals, and even lightning. From our early days as students in grade school, we are taught about the amazing interconnected dependencies of the food web, but one thing we never really touch on is the energy web, that web that powers not only our smartphones and flat screens, but life itself. Energy is everywhere; it is past, present, and future. The very energy that once departed our Sun many hundreds of millions of years ago now helps to carry planes across oceans.

All of this is leading to a point, and that is to really stop and consider the very nature of energy, no matter its form. In today’s busy world, it’s almost necessary for us to gloss over the deeper relevance of things, and to that end I think that we are losing something of our connection to the world around us. Awareness doesn’t require such an investment of time and consciousness, but the world does seem to come alive when we dig just a little bit deeper.

4 Helpful Tips for Understanding Fall Fruits and Vegetables

4 Helpful Tips for Understanding Fall Fruits and VegetablesFrom farmers markets to restaurant fare, consumers seem to think that the best foods expire at the end of August, but nothing could be further from the truth! So I want to set the record straight: fresh food isn’t the sole province of summer. Think about it – every autumn features harvest parties, recipes, and holiday traditions with foods seen only once a year, and that’s because fall is the time of year these foods are traditionally harvested.

Since supermarkets stock produce year round, this creates ambiguity as to which items are actually in season, and which ones are seasonal impostors. So, how can we know what’s genuinely a traditional farm-to-fork item and what’s grown somewhere in a greenhouse? Let’s have a look at these 4 helpful tips for understanding the harvest of fall fruits and vegetables.4 Helpful Tips for Understanding Fall Fruits and Vegetables

1) Many fruits like apples, pears, and grapes are available in your “big box” grocery store all year long, but here’s the reality: the North American growing season for these items begins in mid-late summer and actually ends in early autumn. If you grew up in the Northeast United States like me, you’ll remember harvest parties revolving around these amazing fruits as the days grew shorter and air turned crisp. Some other familiar fruits like cranberries, pomegranates, crab apples, and quince are also natives of traditional harvest months.

4 Helpful Tips for Understanding Fall Fruits and Vegetables2) Fruits from another mother: Gourds. Surprise! Gourds like pumpkin and squash are fruit! Many of our favorite varieties of gourds like pumpkins, acorn squash, and butternut squash are traditionally harvested in the autumn.

3) You can create a stunning and diverse menu by relying on seasonal fruits and vegetables, many of which you’d never associate with the fall season. Sweet potatoes and turnips are typically harvested in the months between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are also native to the autumn season.

4) If you’re looking to season your culinary masterpiece, herbs and aromatics like sage, shallots, garlic, ginger, and many varieties of mushrooms peak in the fall.

4 Helpful Tips for Understanding Fall Fruits and VegetablesThe truth is, the list of fall fruits and vegetables is exhaustive. Eating seasonally during the fall is a definite change from spring and summer, but it is no less flavorful and it is certainly not lacking in variety. Farm-to-fork doesn’t end with Labor Day; in fact, it only gets better as the season progresses. If you really want to make any season last, learn to can and to pickle. This skill will enrich your palette and extend any food season long past the change in weather.

Do you have any fall food tips? If so, let us know in the comments below!

7 Fall Tips for Winter Gardening in Texas

7 Fall Tips for Winter Gardening in Texas

To The Garden image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Believe it or not, the fall is here in Texas, which means the winter will be coming soon after.  Based on all the freak “polar vortex” trouble the US experienced last winter, it’s never too early to start thinking about this upcoming winter. Before temperatures drop outside, there are some helpful tasks you can do to protect your home and yards like trimming trees and bushes. But for those of you with gardens, we wanted to share seven tips to help protect your garden during colder temperatures in Texas.

  1. Bulk Up Before the Freeze. Your plants will need plenty of food before winter. A great way to “feed” them is to put a layer of compost and mulch on top of the plants along with some water if it isn’t already too cold. Be sure not to over-water, as this leads to cold soggy roots which are not great for plants that are cold already.
  2. Take Care of the Soil. According to Green Horn Gardening, there’s a special plant called a cover crop – also known as green manure. The provided example of rye and hairy vetch go great together. The beauty of such crops is that they suppress weed growth, keep soil in place, and then break it down to provide nutrients to the soil. Talk about a one-stop-shop!
  3. In order to save your herbs, find a place to store them inside during the winter months.
  4. Use any fallen leaves as mulch on your lawn and/or garden.
  5. If you have a garden with so-called “root crops” like carrots, radishes, or onions, then leave them in the garden over winter but cover them heavily with straw or pine branches.
  6. 7 Fall Tips for Winter Gardening in Texas

    Pruning Trees is Fun!

    Prune all trees and shrubs to remove all dead branches. Doing so will actually cause your plants to produce more flowers and fruits and ward off pests and diseases. Plus for larger trees, pruning dead branches can save your home from possible damage in case they break off and fall during a freeze or bad storm. Click here for more information on how to prune back trees and shrubs.

  7. Cover up your plants before a freeze. You can use an old sheet, or if you want something professional, purchase a frost cover from your local garden center. Just don’t use anything made out of plastic, as it can actually make the plants too hot.

Happy Gardening! Do you have any fall and winter gardening tips for your fellow Texans? Share with us in the comments!