Kids Healthy Cooking – Healthy Chocolate with Natural Sweeteners

healthy chocolate

Kids and chocolate. They go together well. All the memories of chocolate covered faces, whether from ice cream or pudding or just a good old fashioned chocolate bar. Yes they say too much chocolate is not good for you, but honestly there is such a thing as healthy chocolate.

A lot of the trouble with chocolate is the amount of sugar in it, but chocolate without sugar and natural sweeteners instead, is a different story. Chocolate itself is rich in antioxidants and is actually very good for us. It is the sugar that is the problem.

healthy chocolateWhen I learned to make my own healthy chocolate, I was surprised at how quick and easy it was. It was so easy that I came home and made it with my oldest son, who at the time was only 6. Four simple ingredients gave us our base chocolate, and then we could create whatever we wanted. He loved it! and wanted to make more. Now my twins who are also 6, love making it as well. It is so easy to make with kids.

So when it came to our last class of Mini Chefs, making healthy chocolate was really a no brainer. I wanted a nice sweet, fun, but healthy treat, so this was perfect. In class, we made the plain chocolate and kept it in liquid form for fondue, dipping a variety of fruit into it; such as apples, oranges and bananas. All of the kids loved it! And yes ended up with chocolate faces 🙂

Raw Organic Chocolate

Ingredients:

Cacao butterhealthy chocolate

Cacao powder

1 vanilla bean

pure maple syrup or honey

*amounts depend on how much chocolate you want to make

Boil water in kettle. Pour boiled water into a large metal bowl, place second smaller metal bowl on top of large bowl so that it sits on top. Place cacao butter into top bowl. Cacao butter will start to melt. While cacao butter is melting slice vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the inside seeds with a spoon. Put seeds into melted cacao, it is ok if cacao butter is not completely melted yet. Stir.

*Be very careful not to get any water into your chocolate as it will not work if you do. If your second bowl sits nicely on top, this should not be an issue as you do not need to lift the second bowl off the one with the water in it until you are done making your chocolate. 

Sift cacao powder into a separate bowl. Once cacao butter is completely melted add 2-4 tablespoons of cacao powder. Taste for desired level of chocolatey-ness. If you’d like it richer add more cacao powder. Once satisfied with amount of cacao powder add natural sweetener of choice. Start with 3 teaspoons and mix. Taste, if desired level of sweetness has not been reached, add 1-2 more tablespoons and taste again. Once level of desired sweetness has been reached you have your base chocolate. This can now be kept liquid and used as a fondue, or can be poured into chocolate molds to form chocolates.

Another option at this point is to add additional ingredients such as nuts, dried fruit, coconut, essential oils (ensure that the essential oils you are using are safe to ingest), etc and pour onto a cookie sheet to let set. Chocolate is best set in freezer but may also be set in fridge.healthy chocolate

I had also been promising the kids we would make ice cream for a number of classes and many of them kept asking when we were going to make it. Since it was the last class we did make peanut butter ice cream as well. Sugar free, dairy free and super easy to make with kids. Look for the peanut butter ice cream recipe in the next kids healthy cooking post.


Kids Healthy Cooking – The Perfect Mini Pizza

making mini pizzas with kidsPizza is another one of those fabulous recipes to make with kids that is super easy and fun. Not only do kids like eating pizza, kids like making pizza to! It is fun, easy and something they can get their hands into.

Making mini pizzas with kids is great because they can choose their own ingredients and put on what they like. Giving them choice and control over what they are having. It is also great because they use their hands to make it, and most kids, (though I do know some who don’t), like getting messy and using their hands to make and create things.

The key as the adult is providing a number of ingredients for them to choose from, not only in hopes that they will choose ingredients that will provide a balanced diet, but also an opportunity for them to try something new.

making mini pizzas with kidsMaking mini pizzas is also a great way to give kids further autonomy over their pizza because they are truly making their own, that they are going to eat and no one else.

I had to laugh when we made these in our Mini Chefs class. As soon as I took out the ingredients we were using, little ones started expressing how they did not like tomato sauce, or mushrooms, etc. I just smiled and said that was the great thing about making your own pizza is that they could put whatever they wanted on it!

So they did. Some of them completely excluding the tomato sauce and just placing ham and cheese on top. Others experimented with all the ingredients, while some went for the simple straight forward ‘just cheese’.

And it’s so great to watch them experiment and try new things. Sometimes I don’t know what is actually new for them until after class when I talk to Mom and say “Suzy had ham and cheese on her pizza today.” Then Mom looks at me in surprise and says “Wow, she tried ham, she won’t touch it at home,” looking impressed.

Once you have the kids making a basic mini pizza, you can then start adding in some new ingredients the next time you make them, like spinach or feta. You can also get creative around holidays like Halloween and have them make spooky faces on their pizzas (again adding new ingredients to try like peppers or olives – they’re great for faces). Pizza options really are endless and once they’re hooked and involved they’ll be no limit to what you and they can try.

Mini Pizzas

Ingredients:

Tomato saucemaking mini pizzas with kids

Daiya mozzarella cheese (or regular mozza if preferred)

Sliced ham

Pineapple, sliced and cut into pieces

Mushrooms, sliced

Whole Wheat English muffins

Cut english muffins in half. Place both halves face up on counter. Spoon on 1-2 tablespoons of tomato sauce (to taste). Be careful not to use too much as it will make the muffin soggy. Place desired toppings, ham, mushrooms, pineapple on top of tomato sauce. Spread toppings evenly. Sprinkle with Daiya mozarella.

making mini pizzas with kidsPlace in pre-heated oven (350F) or toaster oven until cheese is melted and muffin is golden brown around the edges – approximately 5-10 minutes. Keep an eye on your pizza as some ovens are warmer than others and may cook faster.

Next week we experiment with dips – the caramel one is to die for (and is fabulous with apples – you’ll want to eat an apple just to eat the dip)!

Everything Chocolate

IMG_4653Rich dark chocolate melting in your mouth, delighting the palate as it brings your tastebuds to life and activates natural soothing in the brain, making us feel oh so good.

Chocolate dating back to the Aztecs and Romans, has long since been considered an aphrodisiac, a treat associated with love and romance. Women love it, men crave it. Not only is it a popular gift, but a popular treat as well.

It’s no wonder that during the week of Valentine’s Day, a holiday long associated with love and romance, 58 million pounds of chocolates are sold, being the third largest holiday in sales of this popular treat (Halloween being first with Easter as the second).

The good news is that chocolate is actually good for you, as it contains fat, produces natural opiates which soothe nerves and make us feel good, as well as natural chemicals that lower your risk of cancer and heart disease (sounding pretty good doesn’t it?) Chocolate provides even more health benefits when made with cacao instead of cocoa, both derived from the same bean but processed differently, creating a superfood (cacao) that is rich in vitamins and minerals (getting better and better all the time).

IMG_4647Chocolate is also one of those things that goes with and can be used in just about anything, creating a myriad of delights for the palate to enjoy, a sensation of pleasure and joy in our human experience.

Since I have discovered how to make my own chocolate at home, (ready in about 10 minutes this really is a quick simple and easy way to make chocolate), we have not only been able to enjoy more chocolate in our home, but also enjoy lots of great things around the holidays.

For instance, this Valentine’s Day, we will enjoy heart shaped chocolates, Chocolate Dream Pie, Chocolate Truffles and if the spirit moves me, I may even make Chocolate Cupcakes with chocolate icing of course (even better these recipes are sugar free and dairy free). I love doing it up around the holidays and seeing what kind of fun things I can create; and the kids look forward to it!

Making your own chocolate is very easy, all you need is cacao butter, cacao powder, vanilla and natural sweetener of your choice (such as honey, pure maple syrup, etc.) I have a detailed post on how to make chocolate, as well as one on possible additions or variations you could use to flavor or fill your yummy chocolates.

IMG_4655This chocolate mix is also great for making Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (simply dip fresh strawberries in warm melted chocolate before it sets) or using it for Chocolate Fondue.

Other chocolate delights I have discovered, whether it be for Valentine’s Day or other, are Chocolate Macaroons (could shape them into little hearts for Valentine’s), Chocolate Pudding (one with chia seeds, one simple chocolate), Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Waffles, Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Smoothies and even Chocolate Marshmallows! And I love that they are all dairy free and naturally sweetened! On holidays, like Valentines, I often have a hard time picking only a few things to make 🙂

IMG_4658So now you know, you can live guilt free this Valentine’s Day and enjoy your chocolate; or you can venture out and make your own for yourself or to share with others (but you may not want to). Of course with anything, regardless of how good it is for you, everything in moderation (I know I just took all the fun out of it – but here’s the thing you can make MORE or try a new chocolate recipe, another version of chocolate).

So enjoy your chocolate with a great big smile this Valentine’s Day, and if no one gives you any, go get your own, it’s ok 🙂

*The majority of these recipes can be found on my blog or I have linked them to the appropriate site for you. Just click on the name and it will take you to the recipe. Enjoy!


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Get Frozen this Christmas

220px-Frozen_(2013_film)_posterGrossing over 1.2 billion, Disney’s Frozen filled the hearts of young and old alike when it hit theatres last year. Taking the world by storm, it created many Elsa and Anna fans, along with their friends Kristoff, Sven and the beloved snowman Olaf.

A cute, fun and loving movie about a young Elsa, born with powers that she cannot understand or control, and her sister Anna who helps her not only to understand her power but to harness the love between them that saves them all.

The wave of Frozen themed products (from dolls to backpacks) quickly followed the movie’s success, littering the stores and soon residing in many children’s homes. On Halloween, Elsa costumes were one of the most popular, with Elsa’s everywhere (did everyone see the man with 5 daughters who all dressed up as Elsa’s including him?), with Anna close behind. Frozen is literally melting hearts everywhere. Of course I have some of my own little Frozen fans in my house.

My oldest son after frozen-movie-itunes-620x387seeing the movie, printed out pictures of Elsa and plastered them all over his room. He also decided he was wearing only blue, and had to have gloves. The younger two just wanted to watch the movie over and over again, learning and singing all the songs, which at this point they only sing the same few lines over and over. I thought ok, this is it, that’s not too bad. They didn’t even ask to be any of the Frozen characters for Halloween. Phew! Made it. Until…we were at Superstore the other day checking out the toys in the toy section (you know where I am going with this). 41dZ4p0p8zL._AA160_

Chloe had been talking about wanting an Elsa and Anna Barbie doll for Christmas. I thought sure they might exist. Seriously, might exist? I should have known better. Not only do they exist, they come in regularcolor changing, traditional outfit, dressy outfit (the ones they wore at the ball) and singing. They also have Kristoff, which so far I have only seen one style (I’ve always felt that Ken got gipped), but who knows perhaps there is another style out there. 41brLKFYoQL._AA160_

I have found Christmas is to be no exception in the Frozen merchandise, and feel they may have even amped it up, as there is a plethora of product out there for our buying pleasure. So far I have found, dolls in various styles from Barbie to toddler, books, puzzles, play-doh, styling heads, costumes, board games (from original game to themed Frozen Trouble), castles and even lip smacker. Lip smacker really? I guess if we buy it they’ll make it. And I bet there are lots of things like pyjamas and such that I have not even discovered yet.

I joked with my mother the other day that it would be a ‘very Frozen Christmas’ but I don’t think I was that far off the truth. Because of course I have already gone back to the store, sans kids and picked up not one, but all 3 Frozen dolls, and am on the lookout for a Frozen puzzle and perhaps a few other things. In fact, I discovered this morning that they are releasing on Tuesday (November 18), a Frozen Sing-Along DVD (and yes I am considering getting one, I know it’s terrible, I have been hooked by all the hype and excitement. Cause really how cool is that? And I think we must have one).

A word of advice – I highly recommend shopping around and comparing prices for these products. The dolls at Superstore were $24.99 each, but when I hopped online to check them out at other stores I found them for half price at another store. Not only did I fly down to Target to get them, but I got an extra good deal as they were on buy 2 get one free! I ended up saving $45 in the end, which is enough for another gift or a good few months of Starbucks lattes. Honestly I was shocked how much of a difference in price there was between the stores, but it just goes to show that it pays to shop around!

So if you have a little (or big) Frozen fan this Christmas, there are lots of options out there to satisfy every age. Also shop early, this stuff is popular! It will it give you time to find the deals, and find the Frozen products you want without being stressed about it (as well as possibly not over spending -you know when you see that one last perfect gift)!

One Dark Spooky Night

halloweencity-1024x680Halloween, the second biggest revenue holiday next to Christmas. Children flock to the streets dressed in costumes looking for treats. Superheros, villians, princesses, scary figures, all interested in a little sweet treat as they knock on your door.

Decorations abound in neighborhoods, community events of all kinds pop up offering various alternatives to the traditional door to door. Halloween is a fabulous holiday and one that adults and children alike can get creative and have a lot of fun. There are all kinds of traditions around this holiday, like the jack-o-lanterns we put on our doorsteps, dressing in costume, and going door to door.

images-25I was curious this year to find out more about Halloween and where it came from. How did this holiday begin, why do we go door to door? If you think about it, it seems like a really odd thing to do, dress up and go ‘begging’ for candy. I wanted to know more.

Halloween, also called All Hallow’s Eve, stems from the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain, which is a festival in which they celebrated the end of the harvest season and the first day of winter. It was also believed that this transition between seasons was when the veil between worlds was the thinnest and a bridge to the world of the dead. It was when deceased would come back and wreak havoc such as sickness or damaging crops. Masks and costumes were used during the festival to mimic the evil spirits and appease them, so to protect and leave the community alone.

The tradition of going door to door in costume was first found in medevial times when the practice of ‘souling’ was done. On All Hallow’s Eve poor folks would go door to door receiving food in return for prayers for the dead, therefore protecting people and offering peace to the deceased. Fascinating I thought, instead of candy, it began with people asking for actual food.

images-27The Jack-O-Lantern was one of the most interesting. Based on the Irish folktale of Stingy Jack, who had tricked the Devil into not taking his soul, had nowhere to go when he died. As he had led a sinful life he could not go to Heaven and because he made a deal with the Devil who couldn’t take his soul, he had no place to rest and was left in darkness. Unable to see, the Devil threw him an ember from Hell to light his way. Jack placed the ember in a turnip, his favorite vegetable and wandered the Earth looking for a resting place. The Jack-O-Lantern became a symbol to keep spirits and ghosts away on Samhain.

Traditionally, all these Halloween events took place and originated in Ireland, Scotland and England as early as the 10th century, not reaching North America until 19th century, really taking off in the late 20th. In fact, during World War II, Halloween was toned down quite a bit due to sugar rationing during that time.

HalloweenHow the items given out at the door evolved from food items to candy is a mystery, and I have not been able to find out exactly why this changed. I can only hypothosize that it may have been a cheaper alternative as trick or treaters became more abundant or something along those lines.

Today, many of the Halloween traditions still hold true, though there is a strong trend to reduce the amount of candy and sugar surrounding the holiday and with anything, there is controversy on both sides whether we should or shouldn’t do so. Honestly, I believe it is a personal choice as to what you choose to do and why. Regardless, people still dress up in costumes and enjoy going door to door, parties or other events finding their ways to celebrate and enjoy the holiday.

Stingy Jack

Stingy Jack

Here are some more fun facts I discovered in my research on Halloween:

  • The colors orange and black are associated with Halloween because orange is associated with the Fall Harvest and black with darkness
  • The fear of Halloween is known as Samhainophobia
  • If you see a spider on Halloween it represents the spirit of a loved one that passed away is watching over you
  • It is believed that if you have a Halloween birthday you have a gift of communicating with those that have passed over
  • Cats, spiders and bats are not random symbols, they are associated with witchcraft
  • The pumpkin took over from the turnip for the Jack-O-Lantern when they Irish arrived in America and discovered the orange vegetable in abundance

If you have any fun or interesting facts about the history of Halloween please share them in the comments below!

Halloween Martinis

IMG_4259I am so excited about Halloween this year! For the first time in years I am going to a Halloween party. That’s right, dressing up, going dancing and socializing with other adults. It’s been years since I have done this and though I have always wanted to have more of an adult experience around Halloween, it was often more about the kids, their costumes, their events and trick or treating. So my adult adventure never worked out.

Not that I don’t enjoy hanging with the kids and doing all kinds of activities with them around Halloween. Each year I find fun new Halloween crafts to do, create a Halloween menu for the day (which traditionally includes pumpkin pancakes – yum!), and add more to the decorations we have around the house and outside on the front lawn.

It’s fun, I get very excited (almost as much as I do for Christmas), as do the kids and we spend a good couple of weeks preparing, planning and expanding on our Halloween adventures.

IMG_2335

Bat Bites

But I would be lying if I said I am not looking forward to my adult Halloween. There’s just something about no bedtimes to worry about, no other people to be responsible for, and an evening where you can enjoy the company of other adults sans enfants.

So in the spirit of Halloween I started thinking about what I could do to add a little more ‘adult’ to my Halloween. What was out there that could make things a little more interesting? I always enjoy finding some new recipe to make in some kind of fun Halloween shape or theme. Last year I discovered Bat Bites, a cream cheese ball rolled in poppy seeds with tortilla chips for wings. Not only did they look super cool but they were also delicious!

This year I decided to go with some kind of Halloween drinks, some spooky concoction I could whip up in the kitchen. And with my new adventures in trying different martinis I decided there must be some kind of Halloween martini out there and would be the perfect fit! I hopped on Pinterest to see what I could find.

I was not disappointed, I found an abundance of Halloween themed martinis, the question was which one to try? Of course I wanted one that was sugar and dairy free, or one that I could modify easily. Yes I know, but this would just make things simpler and I would feel less gross after (I have really noticed that if I fall off the wagon, even a little bit with that I just feel sick after, my stomach is not happy at all).

I discovered a few and now have a list of martinis to try, such as the Black Widow and Witches Brew. But I did of course feel I should try at least one right away, so that I had something to share with everyone this week, you know to enjoy your adult Halloween this year.

The Poison Apple, a fabulous mixture of apple juice, pomegranite juice, honey and tequila, even a little healthy. Deadly in it’s title, it is also deadly delicious. I made two versions last night. First a virgin martini, omitting the alcohol, so that I could share with my son while we enjoyed our show for the evening. Then the full on version a little later, after he went to bed, you know so I could get a good idea of what it tasted like before I suggested it to all of you.

Both are very good, I love the pomegranite juice, but the one with the alcohol has a definite strength to it. Even if you are not a fan of tequila, you will likely still enjoy it as the juices and the honey sweeten it just enough to make it go down nice and smooth. You can even add in an apple floating in it for effect. Pretty cool.

I am looking forward to trying out those other martinis, though I have to purchase some ingredients first. There were even some recipes with dry ice, which would be super cool to do!

Poison Apple Martini

2 oz. apple juiceIMG_4254

1 oz. pomegranite juice

2 oz. tequlia

1 tsp. honey

Fill martini shaker with ice. Mix ingredients together in shaker. Shake well, pour into chilled martini glass and enjoy!

What’s your favorite Halloween drink?

 

Yummy Pumpkin Muffins

IMG_4234There’s nothing better than a warm pumpkin muffin, fresh out of the oven, with a nice bit of butter on it, melting as the muffin melts in your mouth with that first delectable bite. I love pumpkin and that is one of the many reasons I love this time of year. In the Fall, pumpkins and pumpkin recipes and dishes abound.

Whether it be preparing for the Thanksgiving feast or the events at Halloween there are pumpkins everywhere. And I am quite happy to take advantage of this and enjoy as much pumpkin as I can. There is so much you can do with pumpkin from soups to pies, cheesecakes, even drinks like martinis and lattes! (Who else can’t wait for Fall so we can experience once again the delectable flavors of a pumpkin spice latte)?

IMG_4224Muffins are one of the quickest and easiest ways to use pumpkin. They are great for snacks, to put in lunches and easy to freeze, if they last that long. My kids love muffins of any kind and will gladly gobble up the pumpkin ones just as quick as the strawberry rhubarb, apple, blueberry, etc. Of course I tend to make my favorites (or honestly what is in abundance at our house, for instance earlier in the Fall we had all the apples from our apple tree).

Over the past couple of years I have adjusted my pumpkin muffin recipe, passed down from my Mom to make it sugar free and dairy free, meeting our new dietary choices. I have IMG_4237also been experimenting with gluten free recipes as well and therefore have found some good gluten free pumpkin muffins as well. (Usually I still need to do a little adjusting with the sugar, but it has become second nature now and is a quick and easy substitution).

So I make both at times, as my kids will eat either, though I am finding I am moving more towards gluten free only because I am noticing how my body is feeling after gluten sometimes (which is not so good). And today I am sharing both recipes with you. Both are equally easy and delicious, so it is simply your preference or dietary needs to decide which one to try (You could, like me, make both).

Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins

1/2 c. tapioca flour

1/2 c. garbanzo flourIMG_4225

1/2 c. brown rice flour

1 c. coconut sugar

3 tbsp. flaxseed

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. nutmeg

2 tsp. cinnamonIMG_4220

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 c. pumpkin puree

1/2 c. safflower oil

2 eggs

1/2 c. dates or raisins

In a medium mixing bowl, mix dry ingredients thoroughly (flours, coconut sugar, flaxseed, baking soda, salt and spices). In another bowl, mix wet ingredients together (pumpkin puree, safflower oil, eggs). Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and add wet ingredients to dry. Stir until just combined, then mix in dates or raisins.

Line muffin tin with muffins cups or grease with coconut oil. Fill each cup. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins

Pumpkin Muffins

1 3/4c. all purpose flourIMG_4223

1/2 c. coconut sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. cloves

pinch ginger

2/3 c. almond milkIMG_4233

1/2 c. pumpkin

1/3 c. olive oil

1 egg

1/2 c. dates or raisins

In a medium sized bowl, beat together egg, pumpkin and oil. Add almond milk. Sift together dry ingredients and add to mixture. Mix in dates or raisins.

Line muffin tin with muffin cup or grease with coconut oil. Fill muffin cup and bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins

Do you have a favorite pumpkin muffin recipe?

Tips and Ideas for a Sugar Free Easter

IMG_2914It has been 3 years since we have eliminated refined sugars from our diet. This was for the benefit of my son who was not only experiencing extreme mood and behavior but was having trouble sleeping as well.

Though it was challenging to do in our everyday lives, the real challenge came around the holidays, as in our culture there is a lot of focus around food and feasts, especially sweets. As you can imagine Halloween is the biggest, with the entire focus of trick or treating being on collecting candy, with Easter being a close second.

P4240615Over the years we have found many different tips and tricks to enjoy these holidays without the focus being on all the candy and chocolates. I have to admit our first sugar free Easter was a bit of a challenge. My son, who was only 7 at the time, was old enough to remember the basket and eggs full of chocolates and jelly beans, so when Easter morning he discovered a basket full of socks and books, he was a little disappointed and understandably so.

I did my best to compensate by making our usual Easter Brunch, complete with eggs and sausages, waffles and fruit, which he enjoyed immensely. He then got treated with a new pair of sneakers from Grandpa and a cactus for his room. He soon forgot about all the things he was missing and was enjoying what he had.

The next year was better, as in the interim I had taken a class on how to make raw organic chocolates so was able to make chocolates we could enjoy, in addition to the new treats that the Easter Bunny brought for us.

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Easter Chick

For the twins, it has been a non issue as a sugar free Easter is the only kind of Easter they have known. I imagine as they get older they will learn what other children do for Easter and it may or may not matter to them, but I believe that because they will have known this way since birth that they will have a strong foundation and may feel very happy with our Easter regardless.

Now Easter is back to being another fun holiday that we all enjoy with our various traditions and ‘treats’. The kids baskets are full of non candy items, the eggs full of cash, sugar free (and good for you) chocolate and a wonderful mid morning feast of our favorite breakfast foods. Of course we add in other things from year to year, but those are the ‘basics’. No one feels denied or left out, nor focuses are what’s missing but appreciates and gets excited about what we have.

Ideas for a Sugar Free Easter (or sugar reduced)

If you are looking to reduce the sugar intake this Easter here are some tips on how to do so without the kids feeling disappointed:

  1. Fill Easter baskets with toys, socks, books, sunglasses, seeds, gardening gloves, bubbles, chalk, etc. I like to buy things that are inexpensive but not cheap, as well as things that they will enjoy and use. One year Matthew got a movie he wanted and a few smaller items. It can vary from year to year but I am not one to buy junkie trinkets just to fill the basket.
  2. Make your own chocolate with natural sweeteners. It is easy to make your own chocolates; you can get Easter molds (I have found some at the Dollar Store) and add anything you want to it. You could even get the kids to make them with you, ready for Easter morning.IMG_2904
  3. Plan an Easter Egg Hunt. We have lots of those plastic Easter eggs that I fill with coins or stickers. Usually I leave a little trail from their bedrooms down the stairs and hide them all over the main level. Sometimes they even get hidden outside. There are many ways you can set up the hunt and ideas for non candy items to put in the eggs.  They could just be clues that will lead the kids to a prize of some sort at the end.
  4. Make a yummy (sugar free) Easter brunch or breakfast. If the kids are looking forward to their favorite french toast or waffles, they will likely be distracted and awaiting that yummy feast.
  5. Do Easter crafts or activities. Most kids love crafts, even my 10 year old son will still sit down and do a craft, painting or art project.
  6. Decorate the house for Easter. If the kids get into decorating the house this takes the focus off the candies and onto other stuff. The twins have been ‘decorating’ for weeks, setting up army men around the Easter tree or hanging crafts they made at preschool in their room. Decorating also makes it more than just about the one day and makes it more of an event.
  7. Get others on board. Encourage other family members and friends to get non sugary treats for everyone; then the kids see that everyone is getting the same, so it must be ok.
  8. IMG_2903Color eggs. You can do this on Easter as an activity or prior to. Either way it is another way of removing the focus and putting it onto something else that is fun and enjoyable.
  9. Be grateful. Encourage the kids to be grateful for what they have. Create a gratitude jar or choose another gratitude activity to do do with them.
  10. No matter what you do have fun. Whether you are creating new traditions, foods, or making crafts enjoy the Easter holiday. Remember why we celebrate, and what is most important to you as a family this holiday.

Spooky Halloween Appetizers – Bat Bites

halloween appetizersOne of the things that I have enjoyed about Halloween over the past few years is the unique fun recipes that I have discovered. Now when I say unique and fun I mean ways of taking healthy food and making it into something Halloween themed.

I know I could have been doing this years ago, but since eliminating sugar and going to a sugar free Halloween, my focus has shifted to seeking these things out. I wanted to take the focus off the sugar fest at Halloween and show the kids the other fun aspect of things, like the decorating, festivities and food.

As a result I have made things like Boo-nanas and Apple Bites, which are banana ghosts and ghoulish looking smiles with teeth. I have found veggie platters made into skeletons and this year Bat Bites!

healthy halloween snacks

Apple Bites

These I think are by far the most fun yet. They are made from goat cheese, cream cheese and pesto (of which I have all non dairy substitutions for) and they are not only easy to make but look super cool. These treats are likely more for the adult crowd as some kids may not like the tastes and texture of them.

The trick was when do I make them? Luckily I had planned a wine and cheese for my neighbors and friends very close to Halloween, so I was able to try them out. Of course they were a hit! People loved them, not only how they looked but how they tasted as well.

So if you’d like to get a little creative this Halloween with your eats definitely give these a try! And there are all kinds of ideas out there. Hop on the net and Google it to find a variety of ideas to fit every taste bud.

Bat Bites

4 oz. vegan cream cheese

8 oz. soft mild goat cheese

1/4 c. pesto

2 tbsp. coarsely ground pepper

2 tbsp.poppy seeds

8 pitted olives, sliced

32 triangular corn chips (I just used Tostitos and broke them into smaller triangles)

Mix together cream cheese, goat cheese and pesto. Chill for 40 minutes.

Shape mixture into 16 2 inch balls, about 1 heaping tsp. each. Mix pepper and poppy seeds together in a bowl. Roll balls in poppy seed mixture to cover. Press olives into ball for eyes and insert chips on either side for wings.

healthy halloween snacks

Boo-nanas

Happy Halloween!

Shrunken Heads and other Halloween Decor

IMG_2317My oldest son Matthew is really into Halloween this year. Creating and buying decorations, making our yard into a spooky spectacle. He has always enjoyed Halloween and gotten quite excited about it, but for some reason this year he is really into the decorations.

He has asked me a few times if he could get on the internet to google homemade Halloween decorations, and has created some of his own. He’s done things such as buy a small plastic skeleton from the dollar store and build it’s own paper coffin for it. He’s taken an exercise band and made it into scary caution tape by writing and drawing on it with black marker. Yes he also went to the Halloween store on the weekend with his Dad and bought a cemetery set, some yellow caution tape and a few other things but the thing I love is that he is willing and happy to do both, buy some and create his own.

IMG_2319I have always loved decorating for Halloween and often thought that we should add to our collection of decorations. We have had pumpkin and skeleton lights for years, as well as the ghosts that you hang in the tree and spider webs. But Matthew really likes to go to town, in fact every time I turn around at the moment he is making something new to add to the decor.

IMG_2328The thing that I have found the most unique though is the apple shrunken heads. I am not sure where he got the idea from but it is pretty cool and very easy to do. They take about 2 weeks to complete, simply because you need to let them dry, but they are very easy to do.

IMG_2321Even Luke and Chloe are quite excited about Halloween this year and they are counting down the days like their older brother. I think that it’s going to be a pretty fun Halloween this year and I have to say that I do like that the amount of work that I have actually had to do so far has been quite small.

Shrunken Heads

Apples

Lemon juice

Peel apples, using as many as you like (we did 5). With a butter knife carve out eyes and mouth into apple. Dip apple in lemon juice so that it is completely covered. Set apple on platter or plate and let dry. Best to put apples in a place that is cool and out of direct sunlight. After 1 week dip in lemon juice again. Takes about 2 weeks for apples to shrink and wrinkle. Display shrunken heads in amongst your Halloween decor.

Matthew and his shrunken heads

Matthew and his shrunken heads