Halloween doesn't have to be all about sweets and unhealthy things.
With a little imagination and thought you can add some fun and delicious alternatives to the holiday. Even if you are not a baker or candy maker, a stroll through Google options will result in a surprising list of good things to eat that are not that difficult to make.
I love the idea that I found at babble.com of making jack-o'-lantern sweet potato fries.
If you are from north of the Mason-Dixon Line please do not confuse our sweet potato with a yam, botanically they are completely different.
Vardaman, a small town in north Mississippi, claims to be the "Sweet Potato Capital of the World."
It is a community of just more than one thousand people, but has more than 20,000 acres planted is sweet potatoes. Their claim is not based on the numbers of sweet potatoes harvested, but in the sweetness of the potatoes. I
f you can find sweet potatoes from Vardaman be sure to give them a try.
JACK-O'-LANTERN SWEET POTATO FRIES
2 large sweet potatoes
1/4 cup oil
A pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon (or less) cayenne
Peel the sweet potatoes and remove the ends of each so that you have a cylinder shape. Using a sharp knife, maybe a paring knife is best, cut a small "V" along the top of each, this marks the top of the head. Hold the potato in a cloth and be very careful to control the knife. Now slice the potatoes into 1/8 inch slices, try to make them as uniform as possible. Using the same knife carve a jack-o'-lantern face into each slice. Place the oil and spices in a zip lock bag, add the potato slices and toss, making sure each is coated well. Place the sweet potatoes on a cookie sheet, spacing them evenly and bake in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Remove and allow to cool before serving.
Hot apple cider
Hot apple cider is another treat that seems to go well this time of the year-- at Halloween a spicy drink just seems even better. In many parts of the nation where apples are grown, hot apple cider has been a holiday drink enjoyed for generations.
This can be turned into an adult beverage by adding a little rum, but then, technically, at least, the name changes to hard cider.
I found this recipe on the Food Network website, and it was contributed by the super chef Emeril Lagasse.
HOT APPLE CIDER
1 sweet apple
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 thinly sliced orange
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 quarts apple cider
1 teaspoon allspice
1 pinch grated nutmeg
Cinnamon sticks for garnish (very inexpensive at the Asian markets)
Optional: 1 cup of your favorite rum
Stud the apples with the cloves, evenly spacing them. In a sauce pan combine all the ingredients, leaving out only the rum if you decide to use it. Simmer for about 10 minutes, and then add the rum. Pour into mugs, if you have mugs with a holiday theme that would be best, garnish with the cinnamon sticks and serve immediately.
MONSTER MOUTH APPLE SLICES
This idea that I got from PBS's "Kitchen Explorers" is simple and should be fun for the kids. Apples are the main ingredient, but I added peanut butter for something a little different.
Chunky peanut butter
Cut the apples into quarters, cut out the core and then cut a small wedge (the mouth) into the skin side of each apple. Mix 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in 2 cups of water and dip the apples in so they will not turn brown. Place a small dab of peanut butter in each mouth (the tongue) and then insert the slivered almonds on both sides of the mouth for the teeth. Arrange on a platter and serve at room temperature.
As long as we are thinking about apples why not take the plunge and make homemade applesauce? Folks in the South have been making and eating this simple side dish for a long time, but serving it hot along with a scoop of vanilla ice cream turns it into a great Halloween dessert. The French have a variety of recipes that resemble our applesauce like marmalade de pommes, but they also bake them whole, pommes gratinnes, and they bake them stuffed with butter and sugar, pommes bonne femme. The Italians get into the act with their salsa alle mele too, so you see this is a universally accepted good idea.
1 cup pulp in orange juice
4 slices lemon peel
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup water
Peel and core the apples, then cut them into cubes. Add all of the ingredients into a pot large enough to comfortably hold everything and simmer with the lid on for at least 30 minutes. When the apples are soft remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Place in a food processor and mash, but be careful not make to them too smooth, you want to have some texture. The mixture can be mashed by hand if you prefer. Serve in small bowls, or wine glasses, and top with vanilla ice cream.
This dessert can be garnished with raisins and nuts if you like. Make sure to serve immediately as the ice cream will melt quickly.