Banff’s Santa Claus Parade

IMG_6729The main street is lined with people, children and adults alike. Lights all aglow, shops closed and waiting in anticipation for what’s to come. Snow glitters on the sidewalks and the majestic mountains surround us. It’s beautiful.

Excitement is in the air as children peek out from the crowd to look down the street to see if it’s begun. To see if Santa and his parade are coming. Waiting patiently, yet continually asking Mom and Dad if it’s time yet. This is Banff’s annual Santa Claus parade, held at night with the beauty and magic of Christmas lights all around.

IMG_6700We attended this beautiful event for the first time this year, and it is well worth the trip out to Banff. Currently run by Banff Lake Louise Tourism for the past 7 years, this event has been hosted by the Town of Banff for many years prior. The parade itself is actually the finale of a day filled with kid friendly and family activities such as face painting, balloon twisting, Christmas carols and a visit and photo with Santa down at the train station. There’s also horse drawn wagon rides, tasty treats and of if you’re up for it, a nice soak in the hot springs (which is available every day of the year but is always lovely).

I love touring Banff Avenue and spending time in the Christmas Shoppe. My youngest two, screaming in delight at the grand display of Christmas houses and towns. The ornaments are many, the options are delightful and there is no shortage of Christmas anywhere.

IMG_6723The parade itself is only half an hour long, which I feel is the perfect length for children, who remain engaged and excited the whole time. The floats were gorgeous, creative and unique all lit up as they moved down the street. From the Girl Guides to Sunshine Village there was an excellent representation of the town.

Of course I loved that it was at night. It just added to the atmosphere and excitement with all the floats magically lit up. Even my oldest son, who is 12 and I was unsure if he would like it, expressed that he did enjoy it and said it was “cool”, which meant we had success.

IMG_6677I think Santa Claus parades are such a fabulous idea and up until recently only knew of the big ones in Toronto and New York. I didn’t realize that many of the local towns in and around Calgary host their own Santa Claus Parades and they are quite well done! Parades are held in High River, Okotoks, Airdrie, and Cochrane (which if you still want to attend a Santa Claus Parade this season is this Saturday, December 12th). I think it’s a great way to celebrate the season and your community. And everyone has that little flare and does things a little differently, distinguishing themselves from the rest.

You can go to any of the town’s websites for details and pick the ones you want, or even do a tour! of Santa Parades – how fun would that be? We are already planning for Banff again next year, hoping to take full advantage of the day and all the activities they have to offer. We might even take the plunge and stay overnight!

IMG_6696It creates such great memories an event that I hope every family has the opportunity to enjoy.

Have you attended a Santa Claus parade this year? Share with us your memories and experience.

How to Set up an Easter Egg Hunt

Easter Egg HuntThis weekend I have the pleasure of spending Easter with my extended family. An unusual occasion, my parents and two sisters with our families have come together in my parents BC home to celebrate my father’s 65th birthday. As an added bonus we get to throw Easter into the mix as it falls on the same weekend.

Growing up my sisters and I loved Easter morning. The Easter Bunny would often leave tracks and paw prints, as a a little dirt in the house, as well as fill and hide our baskets and Easter Eggs. We love hunting for everything, in fact this was as much fun as what was in the basket and eggs when we found them. The eggs were the best part. I think because there were so many of them. You’d find one and then there’d be more and more. And sometimes we’d even miss one or two, finding them later in the year because the Easter Bunny had hidden them so well. Now with my own children, I continue the tradition of hiding eggs.

Easter weekend in OliverMy children love it just as much as I did. Peeking out of their room Easter morning, discovering a trail of eggs from their bedroom and down the stairs. Sometimes they discover the Easter Bunny has even left one or two in their room! And they get so excited to learn that he was so close.

Of course over the years I have gotten creative with the hunt. Sometimes hiding eggs outside or making a scavenger hunt out of it with clues inside and a larger prize at the end. In my creativity I got curious, as I do, about the hunt for eggs even began, and what other people were doing with this fun fabulous event.

I discovered this traditional Easter activity has been done for many centuries. Part of a salute to spring it is done in a variety of ways.

The Easter Egg Hunt is a tradition that many children participate in all over the world every Easter. It is a simple activity of finding colored eggs and putting them in an Easter basket. No matter how the hunt is conducted children get excited about this yearly activity.

Easter Egg HuntHistory of the Easter Egg Hunt

Easter originated as part of the pagan spring celebrations with both the egg and the rabbit as symbols of rebirth and fertility. The egg specifically was a symbol of the rebirth of the earth in the spring. These celebrations of spring and rebirth were adopted by early Christians as a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In my search I learned that there is no known date as to when the Easter Egg Hunt originated, but that the Easter Egg itself has been around for many centuries. In Medieval Europe eggs were forbidden during the Lenten season and therefore were a prized gift when received on Easter Sunday. Eggs were often given wrapped in gold leaves or boiled with leaves or petals of certain flowers to create brightly colored eggs. This tradition eventually evolved into what is known as Egg Rolls and the Easter Egg Hunt.

Variations on How to Set Up an Easter Egg Hunt

There are many different ways to set up an Easter Egg Hunt. Depending on the ages of the participants and what is used in the hunt. All variations may be set up inside or outside.

You will need:

Easter EggsEggs – colored hollow plastic eggs, chocolate eggs, hard-boiled colored eggs, paper eggs on colored paper (you could color your own eggs with the kids earlier in the week and hide those)

Baskets or fun container for collecting eggs (you could do an Easter craft making your own decorative container or basket)

  1. For each child that is hunting have them choose one color of egg (green, yellow, pink, etc.) Whatever color they choose is the only color egg that they are to retrieve. Hide the eggs inside or out, clearly outline the boundaries and let them hunt! This is great when kids of a variety of ages are hunting because it makes it fair. Older children will not take all the eggs because they are hunting only for their color and it gives the younger children an opportunity to hunt and enjoy themselves.
  2. Set up like a treasure hunt; hide paper eggs with clues on them. For young children, one can simply write the name of the place they need to go to next, like “living room” or “kitchen”. For older children one can develop clues or riddles that they have to solve in order to figure out where to go next. Make as many clues as desired. The last clue will lead the child to his Easter treat.
  3. When doing a hunt for a large group, hide only the colored plastic eggs. Children may use an Easter basket to collect their eggs and may collect as many as they can find. When they are done hunting children then return to the start and trade in all their colored eggs for an Easter treat.

I’m also a firm believer that adults can participate too! All adults need to play and I have watched countless adults enjoy games and treasure hunts. In fact last year I set up a hunt for my friend and he loved it. His eyes lit up and he was so excited as I watched him zoom around finding clues. And of course that is one of the reasons I love that I get to share Easter with my family this weekend. Both my parents and sisters love to play and love to celebrate the holidays, so tomorrow morning there will be a hunt for all of us. And I am sooo excited!!!

The Art of Appreciation

IMG_2699Well Valentine’s Day is around the corner and even though it is one of my favorite holidays, it often tends to sneak up on me! Each year I find that February starts and then all of a sudden we are in the week before Valentine’s Day and I have not done much at all.

All of a sudden we have Valentine’s to buy for the kids classes, treats to make and some kind of plan to celebrate this fun loving day. See though I love the romance and having someone treat me royally on this special day, I also love to make it special for my kids. I believe that Valentine’s is not just for lovers but is a day to celebrate love in general and there are all kinds of love.

So I usually make a nicer dinner that night, I make heart shaped chocolates for treats that day. This year I made heart shaped cupcakes! as I found a heart shaped cupcake pan at Superstore. I also saw heart shaped ramekins but didn’t buy them when I saw them and missed out 🙁 They actually sold out within the week!

8095938392_66f01dc36d_bI also like to have the kids do a craft of some kind, yes it’s usually heart shaped, so today we did something really simple. We made heart shaped pockets. We cut out two hearts the same size decorated one and then glued the two together leaving the top open so we could put things in it. Then each day from now until Valentine’s we are going to put a nice note in everyone else’s heart. Something we like about them, enjoy doing with them, etc. I am also a believer in extending these holidays, why do they have to only be one day? Especially when there is such a nice message attached with Valentine’s in particular.

5973578-heart-shaped-chocolates-isolated-on-white-backgroundBesides we could all use a little pick up during the day. A reminder of the good in us and in the world. My intention is not only to do this this week but see if we can’t start something like this on a more regular basis, Valentine’s day or not. I think we often forget to tell people in our lives how much we appreciate them and mean to us. We shouldn’t just save it for birthdays, Valentine’s or other holidays. You never know how a kind comment or an act of love can make a difference in someone’s day.

So maybe after Valentine’s is over we’ll make new ‘pockets’ out of paper bags and continue the warm fuzzies, encouraging comments and notes of appreciation to each other. And I have a feeling it will not only make a big difference in our home but in our lives and the lives of others that we touch on a daily basis.

Valentine’s Pockets


Red, pink, white and purple construction paperIMG_2696

pom poms (variety of colors)

Valentine stickers



glitter glue

white glue



Select color of construction paper that you desire. Fold paper in half. Trace a heart on one half of construction paper. Cut out heart through both halves  – you will end up with 2 hearts the same size. Young children may need help tracing and cutting the hearts, while older children can do this on their own.

Decorate one of the hearts with stickers, markers, pom poms, glitter glue, etc. Allow the child to create whatever decor they would like. Once they are finished decorating glue the two hearts together leaving the top open so that it creates an opening to put things in.

Allow glue to dry. Once dry hang hearts in a prominent spot where everyone can access them to put in their notes to each other.

Sun Dried Tomato & Goat Cheese Bruschetta

I love appetizers! They are small bite size morsels full of flavour and delight! You can sample many different ones without feeling full, guilty or like you’re overindulging. And there are so many good, delectable recipes out there, I’m never at a loss for variety or a recipe to choose.


Mushroom Turnovers

Of course I have my favorites, like Mushroom Turnovers and good old fashioned meatballs in a sweet and sour sauce, but like with everything else in food I like to branch out and try new things. A couple of years ago I found this recipe in a magazine at the gym. It looked good so I copied the recipe and tried it. It was an instant hit with everyone! Matthew, my spouse and dinner guests. So much so that my dinner guests asked for the recipe.

I loved it too and made it often over the next few months, sharing it with different guests or enjoying it ourselves. Then I went for a while without making it, until recently when I hosted a wine and cheese with friends and decided to pull it out and dust it off.

Tragedy struck though when I realized I could not find the recipe! A little while back I was organizing recipes and putting them onto my computer. When I did, I would throw away the paper copy. I thought I had done this with this recipe but I hadn’t. What I had done was post it on my first blog which I could no longer access, and then thrown it away, thinking that I would be able to access it forever. I was wrong and completely saddened that I no longer had this recipe.

But you know what they say, nothing on the internet is ever lost if you know where or how to look. It took a bit of figuring and looking but I found it. I was overjoyed to have it once again. I quickly copied it onto my computer and now keep it safe and sound in my files.

cold-platter1It also inspired me to have appetizers at my Christmas party this year. I will make some of my own and asked guests to please bring one to share. It’s a great way to discover more great appetizers and share some of my favorites with friends.

So if you’re an appetizer lover and looking for something new, I highly recommend the Sun Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Bruschetta. Sugar and dairy free, you won’t be disappointed.

And for all fellow appetizer lovers 5 Minutes for Mom is hosting a Twitter party tonight at 8 pm Eastern where everyone will share their favorite go to holiday recipes. Go here for details.

Sun Dried Tomato & Goat Cheese Bruschetta

1/3 c. sun-dried tomatoes, coarsley sliced

1/3 c. roasted peppers (bottled), patted dry and coarsely diced

1/3 c. artichokes (canned or bottled in water)bruchetta 1

1 large garlic clove, finely minced

6 medium leaves fresh basil, thinly sliced

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

Pinch ground pepper

12 thick, sturdy crackers or slices of whole wheat baguette

1/3 c. goat cheese

1/4 tsp. salt

In a medium bowl, gently fold together sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, artichokes, garlic, basil, olive oil balsamic vinegar and ground pepper. Spread each cracker or baguette slice evenly with goat cheese. Top with vegetable mixture. Sprinkle bruschetta with grains of salt, if desired.

Makes 12 pieces

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


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

Leprechaun’s, Shamrocks and More – St. Patrick’s Day Crafts for Kids


Chloe and Luke making their Shamrock Man

St. Patrick’s Day is one of those fun unique holidays that you can really get into if you choose to. I’ve always loved the concept of green beer, (as an adult of course), shamrocks and leprechaun’s and pots of gold. And it is the one day that you can never get too sick of the color green!

I always find holidays like this so much more fun when you can celebrate with kids, whether it be your own, nieces, nephews or children you work with. As usual there is a plethora of St. Patrick’s Day crafts that are fun and colorful to make surrounding this holiday.

I had planned to make a couple of these crafts with the kids only to find when I went to our craft supplies that we were missing a few things. No matter, tomorrow a trip to the dollar store will remedy that. We were able to make Shamrock Men, which is one of my favorite crafts due to the accordion arms and legs (I have done a similar heart man for Valentine’s Day).

Luke and Chloe enjoy making crafts and as soon as I announced that we were making one they ran into the kitchen and sat down at the table. I had precut the shamrocks and strips of paper but I let them do all the folding and glueing and Chloe even drew a face on her shamrock’s by herself. Chloe was very into it, while Luke though interested got easily distracted with trains and playdoh, but he did finish it.

Both Luke and Chloe squealed with delight when they were done and started making their shamrocks dance and sing. It was pretty cute to watch. Tomorrow I would like to make the pot of gold which will probably end in a lot of glitter everywhere, but that’s ok we can all sparkle for a while.

I love the make your own Blarney Stone idea as well (below,) but we needed to gather a few supplies to do that one and could easily get away with making it after St. Patrick’s Day. I myself, have been to Blarney to kiss the Blarney Stone, set high up in the castle of Blarney; and it is quite a unique experience. I am not going to spoil it by telling you what happens as I think half the fun is experiencing it for yourself, but let’s just say it was not what I expected! Needless to say if you have the chance go and do it, it’s worth it. In the meantime you and your little ones can enjoy your own little Blarney Stone at home.

I imagine the kids will love creating their own and will be kissing them in no time (reminds me of kissing frogs for some reason – ha ha).

St. Patrick’s Day Crafts

Pot of Gold

black and green construction paper

white glue

gold glitter


paper plate

something small and round to use as stamper to make gold coins

Draw and cut out pot on black construction paper. Glue the pot onto a piece of green construction paper, centering it and leaving enough room at the top to make the ‘gold coins’.

Pour glue on paper plate, dip stamper into glue and press it onto paper above pot. Pour gold glitter on paper until glue is completely covered. Gently tap the back of paper to remove any excess gold glitter. Tip – tap it onto another paper plate or piece of paper so you can use excess glitter for future crafts. 

St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Man

green construction paper

white paper

googley eyes



black marker

Draw a large shamrock on green construction paper and cut it out. Draw 4 small shamrocks on green construction paper and cut them out (these will be for hands and feet).

Cut 4 strips of white paper about 1 inch wide. Fold the strips back and forth like an accordion. Glue 2 strips either side of large shamrock for arms, glue the other 2 at the bottom for legs.

Glue small shamrocks on the ends of each strip for hands and feet. Glue googley eyes on large shamrock and draw in mouth with black marker.

Blarney Stone

Blarney Castle, Ireland

smooth clean river rock


green paint



glitter, sequins, jewels, bits of yarn

Make sure rock is clean and dry. Paint it green. Let dry.

Once paint is dry decorate with glitter, sequins, etc. When glue is dry from decorating draw on face using markers.

Luke folding his accordion arms

Voila! Your own kissable Blarney Stone.



3 Easy Steps to Healthy and Nutritious Eating (The kids will LOVE it!)

Eating well is something that is on many of our minds at this time of year. After the overindulgence over the holidays of food and especially treats, many of us look to make changes in what we eat come January. Whether the goal is to lose weight, feel better or just have the entire family eating well balanced and nutritious meals, here are some quick and easy things you can do to make changes right away.

healthy dips for kids

Veggie Cheese Tray

1.Have nutritious snacks on hand. I often find it is not our meals that get us but the snacks we have in between. I have found that my kids will eat what is put in front of them (I have even noticed this for myself as well). If there are veggies and dip out on the counter then that is what they will grab when they are hungry, but if there are cookies near by and accessible then they’ll go for those. So I have started putting together a veggie tray and setting that out afterschool. I like to include variety such as grape tomatoes, mushrooms and snow peas; include your kids faves and watch them disappear. I have some yummy dairy free dip recipes that are easy to make and great with vegetables. You can also do a fruit tray as well with this yummy healthy caramel dip.

2. Provide sugar free sweet treats. There are lots of great recipes out there for sweet treats that do not contain the refined sugars and use natural sugars instead. My kids love banana candy, which is easy to make ahead and have on hand. Or raw chocolate truffles and chocolate pudding (my mouth is watering already!) We all love our sweet treats, it’s in our nature. By providing healthy ones, we satisfy our cravings for something sweet and can feel good about it – not only for ourselves but for our kids to.

Raw chocolate truffles

3. Plan the menu for the week. If you plan out ahead of time your meals (especially dinner) this will not only reduce your trips to the grocery store and save you money but it will reduce stress and the “I don’t know what to make for dinner so I will grab this quick easy (and often unhealthy) option” -whether it be the frozen dinner or the scrambled eggs.

Starting with these 3 easy steps to healthy eating will put you on the road to eating a healthier and more balanced diet.

Tip: I have found that it is easiest to start small and break things down into steps that you can achieve easily, one at a time. If you take on too much at once and try to radically change everything not only are we more likely to give up because we are so overwhelmed, but those changes probably won’t stick. Aim for easy, aim for success!

Christmas Carol Challenge

Last year Matthew and I decided to see if we could sing a different Christmas Carol each day on our walk to the school bus. I was finding that instead of the morning walk being a pleasant and happy time I would use it to discuss issues and then the poor kid would often get on the bus upset or mad, and I didn’t feel so good myself.

So when December came I decided to make things more fun and told Matthew that each day we would choose a Christmas carol and sing it as we walked to the bus from December first until school was out, around the 20th. The challenge was that we could not repeat the same Christmas carol.

Jingle Bells

This may seem like an easy task but once we got past Jingle Bells, Joy to the World and Santa Claus is Coming to Town we had to start racking our brains for new tunes. Either that or we had to look up the words to the carols as we could only sing the first few lines.

It is amazing how many Christmas carols there are out there and how few we actually know. So it became a study, as we would look up a Christmas carol print out and learn the words for our trip the next morning. It turned out to be a lot of fun. We were both happy and smiling by the time we got to the bus stop and it was a great way to start the day. We were feeding our spirits and playing together. It was great for our relationship and ourselves. Singing is a great way to feed your spirit and open your heart, not only at Christmas time but year round! Now we know lots of Christmas carols with all the words, some new, some old.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

It was so fun that when I recently told Matthew that we would do it again this year, his eyes lit up and he smiled. I think this year we will make more of a plan in advance, choosing our carols earlier and learning the words if we have to (as many mornings last year we were holding song sheets in our hands and trying to sing and walk at the same time. It was also tough to read the words as this time of year in Calgary it is still dark when we head for the bus).

Some of my favorites are All I Want for Christmas Are My Two Front Teeth, I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas and Matthew’s –Do You Hear What I Hear. I am looking forward to seeing what we come up with this year and how many new carols we will learn.

I can save the “talks” for another time, a time when it is more appropriate to do so and he is not heading off somewhere after.

So here’s my challenge to you. I am inviting you to join us in our challenge. You may not have a walk to the bus each day with the kids but find a time, the same time each day, where you can sing a Christmas Carol, from December 1-24, a different one each day, and see what you can come up with. You’ll find that it is lots of fun, a great way to connect with the kids and get into the holiday spirit. You’ll also learn a lot too!

Then come back and post the songs that you sang in the comment section and share with everyone how much fun you’re having! I’m interested to hear about your experience and perhaps learn some new songs from you. I’ll post our songs as well and we’ll see how many different Christmas carols we can come up with.

Enjoy! Have fun!

I'm dreaming of a White Christmas...

Mmmmm… Chocolate Brownies (and oh yes sugar free)

Usually at this time of year I start preparing for Christmas, decorating and transforming the house into that cozy little sanctuary that is filled with love and laughter, children screaming in delight, sharing meals and good conversation with friends and family.

It is also the time of year that we are bombarded with sweets and treats and many of us tend to overindulge (a little) because there are so many good things to choose from. I usually start baking about now too, getting the treats ready and putting them in the freezer ready to take out when I need them, when company arrives or if I’d like a little treat myself:)

The challenge over the last year has been making some of my favorite recipes, which are full of sugar, and finding the appropriate sugar substitutions still getting the same taste and result. One of the absolute favorites in our house has been Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal squares, which after a year of figuring out how to adjust it, I perfected the recipe. It was quite challenging as there were a lot of required ingredients that I had to find sugar free replacements for, such as cereal. The recipe calls for both cornflakes and rice crispies which are sweetened with added sugar. But more on that recipe next week when I post it. (Yes I am going to make you wait for that one)

Today I am going to share with you a delicious and very easy brownie recipe. It is a recipe from my Grandma that I used to make all the time, but hadn’t yet figured out what the appropriate substitution for brown sugar was. I had tried date sugar, and though sweet enough does not melt, so does not work in a lot of recipes where you require the sugar to actually melt. My mother was the one who actually found and tried coconut sugar and said it was a great substitution for brown sugar.

I had heard of coconut sugar but for whatever reason had not picked it up and tried it myself. In the summer when my parents took Matthew camping, my Mom was on a mission to adapt a good old camping recipe that we make on the coals of the fire, called a Cinnamon Apple. Delicious, it’s a baked apple with raisins and cinnamon and the brown sugar creates this wonderful sweet syrupy delight. Mmmmm. Anyway, she had found the coconut sugar and tried it in the Cinnamon Apple and it turned out perfectly; because the coconut sugar was not only sweet enough, it melts just like brown sugar. In fact, when you look on the package of coconut sugar, it says right on the package that you can substitute it for brown sugar.

So I started using coconut sugar in more of my recipes and all the ones that I had been ‘waiting on’ a brown sugar substitute. My first trial was with the chocolate brownies. Not only did they turn out, I found them to be more delicious, lighter and fluffier than the original recipe. In fact they are so good that you don’t really need to put icing on top of them, they are delicious all by themselves.

If you would like to put icing on them I am including an easy chocolate icing recipe that will do the trick. So make, enjoy, eat and freeze (so that you don’t eat them all! though that does not always stop me as I Know they are in the freezer).

Chocolate Brownies

1 c. coconut sugar 

1/2 c. melted Earth Balance

1/2 c. flour

2 tbsp. cocoa

2 eggs, beaten

Mix dry ingredients. Add butter, then beaten eggs. Grease 9″ square pan, pour batter into pan and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.

Chocolate Icing

1 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup Earth Balance

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup 100% pure maple syrup

Process all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy.

Happy Baking!

Coming soon… Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal Squares

A Horribly Healthy Halloween – Tips for Sugar Free Halloween

sugar free halloweenSince eliminating sugar from our diet holidays have taken on a very different look for our family (yet we still enjoyed pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving! -sugar free of course). There is so much sugar and sweets that come with each holiday that it can be challenging to get around. The key is to find alternatives that meet the child’s needs without making him feel different or like he is missing out.

Halloween is no exception, in fact I would venture to say that it is the worst holiday connected to candy and treats. I remember Matthew asking me shortly after we eliminated sugar if he would be able to go trick or treating for Halloween. Thinking ahead, I already had an answer for him and told him yes he would be able to and then I told him the plan.

These are the things that we will be doing this Halloween to ensure it is sugar free and still enjoyable.


Tips for a Sugar Free Halloween

Go to a Candy Buy Back (or do the Switch Witch)

sugar free halloweenMatthew will go trick or treating this year but he will take all of his candy to an event called the Candy Buy Back, put on by a local dentist here in Calgary. It is the day after Halloween and they give the kids $1 for each pound of candy that they bring in. They have all kinds of prizes and they wear their Halloween costumes again.

We have done this for the past couple of years and he uses the money he receives to buy a book. So he still gets to participate in the “main activity” of Halloween and get something that he wants and is able to have.

Now some people may be upset by this as they go out and spend money on candy to give to kids and then they go and sell it. I do see their point but it is a choice and once you give it away who knows what happens to it. You could buy something else that is non candy and give that out (and people are starting to do that), decide not to hand anything out, or be ok with it. If we as a society want things to change then it has to start somewhere and the method may not be preferred but at least it is a start.

Have a Healthy Fun Supper

sugar free halloweenThere are also other things that you can do to eliminate or reduce the amount of sugar your child ingests this Halloween. Nina Manolson of Healthy Yummy Kids, suggests that for supper that night you prepare a full healthy meal that the kids will enjoy with a nice healthy yummy sweet at the end (you can make the cookies, cakes and treats without the sugar- check out some of my sugar free recipes). I take it one step further and make it a fun Halloween themed supper. This is basically taking healthy foods and getting creative and making them spooky. In the past we have done Monster Face Pizzas, Monster Brains and Skeleton Veggie tray.

This will not only satisfy their craving for sweets but they will also feel full, and therefore when offered candy to eat, they won’t eat it because they are not hungry. (Nina also suggests this strategy for afterschool outings and birthday parties).

Attend a Halloween Community Event

sugar free halloweenIt is also important to remember that there is more to Halloween then just the candy; there are many events and activities around it. If you look at the history of Halloween it originally had nothing to do with candy -it is society that has added the “treats” over the years.

When attending an event, the kids still get to dress up, and there are usually games, crafts and other activities. There are many special events in the community (for instance in Calgary, we have the Boo-roofic Bash, Ghouls’ Night Out, Haunted Houses, etc). There are dances and classes that you can wear your costume to with other activities. Yes there are likely candy and sweets available but there are more to these events than the treats and it is easy enough to skip the treats if you choose to.

Decorate your Home for Halloween

There are loads of Halloween crafts that the kids can make and then use as decorations to put up. You can also add in things like Halloween soap dispensers and towels, spider webs on mirrors, a graveyard and skulls in your front yard. You can get really into this (just check out Pinterest for great easy ideas!) That is all part of the fun and demonstrates another fun aspect of the holiday that is not candy related. My son is already asking me if we can put out the Halloween decorations (and has been since September).

I feel that Matthew will have a very enjoyable and healthy Halloween this year and I don’t think that he will feel like he missed out at all. It really is easy to do and I encourage you all to give it a go yourselves. You will eliminate all those wired and moody kids the next morning!

As for the twins, we dressed them up last year, but did not go trick or treating. So they are familiar with the event and love to dress up! We might take them out this year to a few neighbors, and we’ll contribute their candy at the Candy Buy Back, because for them it is all about the costume!