Ghoulishly Great Halloween Ideas

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If you’re throwing a Halloween party this year, scare your guests with spooky decorations and themed dishes instead of bottomless bowls of high-calorie candy. Here are the party treats that won’t play tricks on your waistline that I shared on WCNC’s Charlotte Today:

Spooky Appetizers

Starting off, every Halloween party needs a witch and you’ll know she’s flying nearby if you see these easy-to-assemble pretzel cheese broomsticks from Mom Foodie.

Witches' brooms

Bats and witches naturally go together and I loved this recipe from Tastefully Simple for bats made out of deviled eggs. I used a lower fat mayo because it contains fewer calories and smoked paprika because adds so much flavor!

Deviled egg Bats

I used Green Mountain Farms cream cheese (four times the protein compared to regular cream cheese plus live and active cultures – i.e. probiotics) and  good-quality shredded cheddar cheese to make Beth of Hungry Happenings cute Cheddar Monsterscheddar monsters

After learning what was in a hot dog when I was a teenager (scrap meat) I said “no thank you.” Now you can find newer and better hot dogs including the uncured turkey hot dogs I used to make mummy dogs.

A Better Fall Beverage

Fall means apple cider and you can either make your own (and make it low-calorie with a sugar substitute) or buy it (I recommend getting it from an apple farm). If you make yourself be sure to add cinnamon and allspice.  In addition to adding flavor, like apples, both also add antioxidants.

Desserts that will DelightHalloween Dess

Strawberry ghosts are so easy to make that very young children can help. Melt a white chocolate for candy decorations (some brands of white chocolate may not melt or dry as well) and dip washed and throughly dried strawberries in the chocolate while letting the rest of chocolate flow off the strawberry. Use mini chocolate chips for eyes. Melt chocolate chips and pour in a <Wilton Candy Eyeballs
. Cut a small bit off the tip of the bag so the icing can flow through. Now, make your mouth.

Follow the package directions for rice krispie treats (I substituted a light butter spread with no hydrogenated oils for  butter) to Rice Krispie pumpkins. Once your rice krispie treats are made, turn off the heat and immediately add a tiny bit of orange dye and mix it throughout the rice krispies (I used food gloves that I found in Wal-mart so my hands wouldn’t turn orange). Next, shape your rice krispie batter into pumpkins. Let these cool off at room temperature for at least an hour. Instead of using  candy for the stem, I cut a whole-grain breakfast bar into stems for each pumpkin. Next I placed a small bit of green icing from a green icing tube (Betty Crocker and Wilton make these. Find the tips that go with these particular brands right next to the icing and buy one with a leaf tip.) onto the top of the pumpkin and then set my breakfast bar stem into the pumpkin. After this I piped a few leaves around the stem of the pumpkin.

Spider Cookies
A Spicy Perspective had the cutest spider cookies that I found on Pinterest. Click here for the recipe. I substituted one third of the flour for whole wheat flour and may work with this recipe a little more in the future. You can also lower the sugar content of the cookies (or any baked goods) by substituting all natural Swerve Sweetener for most or all of the sugar. As my colleague Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD, an expert at working with Swerve says “many recipes call for so MUCH sugar” and you can easily reduce the amount in savory dishes (and the amount of Swerve if you use it) but, in baked good sugar provides “bulk” which makes sugar reduction a little tricky. Instead of using a truffle in the middle, I made protein balls with peanut flour (high protein and a good or excellent source of several vitamins and minerals as well as fiber) for the body of the spider.

Protein balls:

Ingredients
1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup honey
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 to 1 cup peanut flour or chocolate peanut flour (find this right next to peanut butter in the grocery store or on amazon – Jif Regular and Chocolate Peanut Powder).

Directions
Mix the oats, honey and peanut butter in a mixer (I use the heavy duty KitchenAid). Next add peanut flour in small amounts until balls can be shaped but are not too dry (all protein is drying, it sucks the moisture out and the amount of flour you use depends a little on the texture of the peanut butter). Once your mix is easy to handle and shape in balls, shape small balls for the spider’s body. Dip each body into melted chocolate melts and let the excess drain off. Quickly add the eyes (Wilton Candy Eyeballs) before the chocolate dries. Next, place the chocolate dipped protein ball onto the head of the cookie. Next, using your melted chocolate in an icing bag (cake decorating bag), pipe the lines of the spider on the cookie.

Oftentimes the excitement of Halloween isn’t the candy, which is available all year long in different packaging but instead, the decorations. So, if you are throwing a party for kids or adults, decorate each room, use Halloween themed napkins, cups and plates and serve healthier food and drink options that incorporate the Halloween spirit. Get your guests up and moving by setting out fun games they can participate in – treasure hunts and bean bag tosses. Plus you can keep kids active by setting out sidewalk chalk, pumpkin decorating kits and other craft ideas.

Swerve is an al natural sweetener that is made from erythritol (erythritol is naturally found in many fruits and vegetables) and oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides are a type of prebiotic fiber (prebiotic fiber stimulates the  growth of healthy bacteria in your gut) that has a naturally sweet taste.

Food & Nutrition Trend Setters – the Latest & Greatest from Expo East 2012

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Natural Products  Expo East and West showcase the latest and greatest in natural, organic and healthy products. Here is a review of the trends I saw as well as some of my show favorites:

  • Coconut – this flavor trend is still growing and can be found in several different beverages, confectionaries, packaged foods and dairy products (yogurt, frozen yogurt, coconut milk).
  • Lentils – lentils are hot and I tasted several lentil crackers, chips, pasta, ready to eat meals, and breads made from lentil flour and/or lentils. Lentil flour increases the protein and fiber content of gluten free foods providing products with a better nutrition profile.
  • Gluten free
  • Non GMO
  • Chocolate and cocoa
  • Probiotics naturally found and added to yogurt, “shots”, frozen yogurt and confectionaries.

A few of my favorite finds:

Rob’s Really Good Coconut Zero

Rob’s Really Good Zero is indeed really good! It is sweetened naturally with erythritol and monk fruit extract. No calories, tastes great. I was hooked on the coconut and coconut pineapple flavors at Expo East.

Mediterranean Snack Foods Rosemary Lentil Crackers

There were several lentil chips and crackers and all of the ones I tried had a good taste profile and the texture of a typical non-gluten free cracker. Mediterranean Snack Foods Lentil Rosemary Herb are so good you might not want to share them with a dip or spread.

Explore Asian Cuisine Black Bean Spaghetti, Organic Mung Bean Fettuchini and Organic Soybean Spaghetti are the best tasting high protein pasta products I have ever had. In fact, I prefer the taste and texture of Explore Asian Cuisine pastas (I tried all three) over all white American pasta. And they take just 6-8 minutes to make. My quick prep lunch today was black bean pasta, sauteed yellow bell peppers and fresh Parmesan cheese. I love it when a protein-rich, veggie meal is quick and easy to make.

My colleague Elizabeth Jarrard, RD introduced me to this Vega Sport Natural Performance Based Protein . If you are looking for a vegan protein, look no further. This one contains 26 grams of protein and it has over 5 grams of added BCAAs (smart move!), glutamine and digestive enzymes. I was thrilled to find a performance-based natural, vegan product that is so well formulated. Thank you Elizabeth for taking so much time to speak with me!

Purely Elizabeth granola

Since I don’t live in Phoenix I can’t pick up La Grande Orange’s outstanding homemade granola on a regular basis (if you are visiting Phoenix, schedule a trip to this store, you won’t be disappointed). And….just when I thought my granola fix would go unmet, the people I work with at KIND Snacks introduced me to KIND Healthy Grains as soon as it hit the marketplace (their Oat & Honey Clusters with Toasted Coconut is my favorite but, I adore coconut). And, after this past weekend I have another favorite that doesn’t require a trip to Phoenix (though of course I won’t turn down a trip there) – Purely Elizabeth Original Ancient Grain Granola. Once you taste it and check out the nutrition facts panel you’ll realize why it has been featured in several magazines including Women’s Health Magazine’s 125 Best Packaged Food for Women. And, the beauty of Expo East and West is that you can talk to the person behind the food, beverage or natural product and hear their story. Like all of the other people I met, Elizabeth was an absolute delight to speak with and passionate about tasty, nutritious natural foods.

Wow Baking Ginger Molasses cookies

And of course if you want a sweet gluten-free treat, try Wow Ginger MolassesGlow gluten free cookies Udi’s Gluten Free or Glutino. All of these brands carry baked goods that will make you forget all about your grandma’s freshly baked cookies. Even if you don’t eat gluten free, you will want to try these!

On the beauty side, fragrance is a hot topic because one fragrance could contain a number of ingredients including ingredients people are sensitive to.  If you want to follow everything natural in beauty products, follow Jessica Rubino. And on that note, it would be nice to see “natural” and “artificial” flavors include a list of ingredients as well.