One Dark Spooky Night

Halloween, 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!

Chocolate Additions

In my last post, I shared the basic recipe for making raw organic chocolate. Very easy to do, it is a healthy and delicious way to enjoy chocolate without the guilt!

Now here is the fun part! Once you have the basic chocolate made you can add all kinds of things to your chocolates that not only make them delicious, but also add vitamins and nutrients that are good for you! You can ‘soup up’ your chocolates and no one will even know what’s in there.

I make peppermint Christmas trees and add E3 Live to them, which is a form of algae, very high in protein and minerals. It darkens your chocolates but does not alter the taste, no one would ever know it’s in there. And Matthew loves them and as a result asks me to make them all the time!

chocolate additionsMatthew even helps me make chocolates; as it is very easy for kids to do. He loves to experiment so we have made a variety of kinds of chocolate. We make our base chocolate, which is a combination of cacao butter, cacao powder, vanilla bean and sweetener of choice, (see my previous posts for the basics on how to make it and natural sweeteners), then we add different ingredients depending on the kind of chocolate and flavor we want. We make peanut butter cups, caramel cups, orange ginger and peppermint; and this is only what we have done so far – there are many ingredients that can be added to your chocolates to achieve the flavors that you want.

When adding ingredients to chocolate this can be done in a few ways – mix it in, usually with essential oils or powders, you can pour the ingredients on top of the chocolate, after you have poured it onto a cookie sheet, for instance with nuts and seeds, berries, coconut or you can make/ use a filling. The ingredients you add depend on what type of chocolate you want and personal preferences. Here are some ingredients to try.

Nuts such as almonds, brazil nuts, cashews.

Goji berries

Seeds such as hemp seeds, sesame, sunflower or pumpkin.

Berries such as goji, incan or mulberry.

High quality essential oils such as peppermint, wild orange, cinnamon bark, etc. to flavor your chocolate. Use only a few drops and use the highest quality oils you can – they are better for you and could alter your chocolate if they are not.

Spices, such as ginger, cayenne, cinnamon, allspice.

Algae such as E3 Live, Spirulena or Chlorella. All are very high in protein, minerals and a variety of vitamins.

You can create combinations using ingredients that are high in vitamin C like coconut nectar and spirulena, or a high content of magnesium and calcium using ingredients such as mesquite and carob powder with any algae.

Some people even add medicinal mushrooms to their chocolates, which might sound distasteful, but the neat thing is is you can’t taste it, so would have no idea that it is in there if no one told you. We have recently discovered banana flakes as an addition to our chocolate making. They are quite yummy on their own and are delicious in chocolate.

The amounts you add will depend on the size of your batch of chocolate, how strong a taste you want and also depends on the herb/ spice that is being added (some are stronger than others). A good rule of thumb is to start with half a teaspoon, taste it, and then decide if you want to add more. The great thing about making your own chocolate is that there is lots of taste testing to get it just the way you want it!

Once you have what you want you can set your chocolates in a number of ways. I buy silicon ice cube trays in a various shapes and fill those up to set. (tip – you don’t have to fill these all the way up as your chocolates can be quite thick if you do, but you want to fill them up enough so they are not too thin and break when you pop them out of the molds). There are lots of shapes to choose from; squares to hearts and around the holidays stores usually carry fun shapes related to that holiday. I have snowmen, trees and Halloween pumpkins. You can also use any of the candy molds that stores like Michael’s sell, this is where I found the mold to make peanut butter cups, they also have a variety of themes and shapes.

Of course you do not have to set your chocolate in shapes, you can just pour it onto a cookie sheet, let it set, then break it into pieces. You can also make clusters simply by mixing everything together and then dropping them by the teaspoon onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

For chocolates with fillings, make or find your filling (I use unsweetened peanut butter for my peanut butter cups and make the caramel filling using dates, vanilla, mesquite and lucuma powder), pour some chocolate let it set for a few minutes til firm, then drop or spread the filling over the chocolate, then add more chocolate on top and let set completely.

There are lots of things you can add when making chocolate. Many different flavors and combinations, depending on what you want and what you like. It is also fun to experiment with different combinations, flavors and shapes and it is easy to get the kids involved – they’ll love it. So get in there and try stuff out, worse case scenario is it does not turn out the way you want it and you might have to eat it yourself!