In my childhood trick-or-treating days, our moms worried about the wackos who laced apples with razor blades.
Today Halloween "treats" are just as frightening - a buffet of teeth-rotting candies and other harmful "goodies" like the scary melamine-tainted milk powder from China that has snuck into sweets sold in Europe and the U.S. This industrial chemical was even found in the famous English Cadbury candy.
Without sucking the spirit out of Halloween, here's my advice to fellow mothers about getting the most fun out of it with the least sugar and contaminants, while dishing up a little folklore on the side.
Modern day trick-or-treating is believed to have originated from the 19th century European custom of "souling," when Christians knocked on village doors begging for food during the period of Hallowmas. The housewives handed out bread squares with currants. In exchange for these "soul cakes," the beggars promised to say a prayer for the dead on All Soul's Day.
Over generations the town's children became the beggars, collecting apples, buns and coins from homes. During the American Wild West, the superstitious pioneer women gave candy to the children to sweeten the deal and safeguard against pranks, and the kids shouted out, "Trick-or-Treat!" When the sugar rationing of World War II ended, trick-or-treating became entrenched in popular culture thanks to children's magazines and TV shows.
Today American's are shelling out more than $3 billion in assorted Halloween sweets, some worse than others.
I'm putting my faith into organic treats including bittersweet chocolate and energy bars, fruit leathers and wholesome cookies. Think outside the trick-or-treat bag with savory and salty snacks like mini bags of pretzels, trail mix, popcorn, roasted pumpkin seeds or corn nuts.
Whatever treats you decide to dole out, downsize. One or two per kid is sufficient. And when yours bring home their stash, vet and ration it.
Steer clear of Cadbury anything, Reese's peanut butter cups and other peanut snacks due to the growing legume sensitivity and the presence of aflatoxins, coconut bars like Almond Joy which are high in saturated fats, and the high-sugar-stick-to-your-fingers-and-teeth sweets like caramels, jelly beans and gummy worms.
Try hosting a homey Halloween shindig that will serve as a trick-or-treating diversion to shorten or eliminate door-to-door candy collecting. The kids can decorate their own pizzas with strips of green and red pepper for a cat's whiskers, orange or yellow tomatoes cut in triangles for a Jack-O-Lantern, or black olives for a witch's warty face.
For dessert, make a "graveyard mud pie," layering chocolate pudding at the bottom of a deep, rectangular pan, crumbled chocolate cookies for the cemetery soil and dollops of whipped cream for ghostly images. Stick Lady Fingers into the mixture to simulate the headstones.
In honor of a healthier Halloween, here is a pre-trick-or-treating dinner recipe for "spaghetti and eyeballs." As the skeleton said to his dinner guests on Halloween, "bone appetit!"
Spaghetti and Eyeballs
1 pound of whole wheat spaghetti, cooked to desired texture
For the sauce:
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon of fresh chopped basil
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
In a saucepan, heat the oil on low and saute the garlic until tender. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes.
For the meatballs:
1 pound of ground turkey or chicken
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 sweet red pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons of bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Jumbo green olives with pimentos and toothpicks for the special effects
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, combine the ingredients, adding more bread crumbs for a firmer texture. Form into balls and bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet for about 15 minutes until cooked through. Drain the meatballs.
Cut the tops off the olives and stick them into the meatballs with toothpicks. In a large serving bowl, toss the spaghetti with the sauce and arrange the "eyeballs" randomly. Remove the toothpicks before digging in.