The last time I went trick-or-treating was as a preteen in the mid-1960s. In my younger years, the costumes were easier: the usual witches, ghosts and the like. I think there was a cowgirl in the mix.
But here I was in unfamiliar territory, feeling a little too old for those kinds of getups but not wanting to let go of Halloween fun (and candy). Who to be and what to wear?
At the time, I thought it was a stroke of genius: foreign aid.
You see, foreign aid was a topical issue back in those days. And, because my parents took both the morning and afternoon newspapers, a lot of “foreign aid” was passing before my eyes. Not that I fully grasped the concept.
So, I put on my sister’s riding boots (English), a poncho (Mexican?) I found in the closet, some sort of hat that represented another country, and other odds and ends of garb to achieve an “international” look.
From the reactions received from folks in the neighborhood, I may as well have been from another planet.
What a way to go out. I succeeded in making an absolute fool of myself.
Anyway, Halloween 2012 is almost here, and trick-or-treating options are on the agenda. Nancy and Jim Gouse emailed in September in search of a more conscientious approach to treats for the young goblins that come to their door.
So we asked for recommendations for treats that would be healthy (or at least healthier than most candies) and would still appeal to children.
Sharon Cook of Charleston offered a thoughtful response:
“I applaud anyone who tries to inject healthy foods/snacks/treats into our children’s daily diets. On Halloween, however, I think it is OK to hand out the traditional candy treats. When I was young, the only time we had candy in our house was at specific holidays, but we were more active than children are today, and fast and junk food were not nearly as available to us.
“There are a few edible treats that are fairly healthy and that kids will embrace — individuals packs of 1) dry roasted nuts, 2) yogurt-covered dried fruit bits, pretzels, raisins or nuts, 3) Goldfish snack crackers in a variety of flavors and colors, 4) sugar-free candies (there is a huge selection available now) or sugar-free gum, 5) string cheese, 6) popcorn balls, 7) trail mix (check the nutrition label and ingredients carefully) and 8) roasted sunflower/pumpkin seeds.
“Nonedible treats are often the Halloween equivalent of getting socks on Christmas, but there are a few things that kids will go crazy for: 1) temp tattoos and 2) mini bottles of bubbles. Miniature books, toothbrushes, fresh fruit and the like may seem like a good idea, but you may find yourself on the ‘trick’ end of retaliation, like toilet paper all over your house and lawn or worse.
“I did not submit any recipes because most parents will not allow children to consume anything they receive on Halloween that is not presented in individual commercial packaging. If you want to hand out homemade treats, it would be a good idea to include your name and address on the packaging. If you go this route, you can give out individual snack-size baggies that contain 1) veggie sticks or fruit slices with dips (our favorites are celery sticks or apple slices with peanut butter); 2) flavored popcorn (such as chili, cheese, cinnamon sugar, etc.), 3) homemade cookies that contain dried fruits instead of chocolate chips, and 4) homemade trail mix made with low-fat crunchies and dried fruits and nuts.
“I have left toys with the exception of the bubbles and tattoos out of the mix because of the wide array of age groups that comprise trick-or-treaters and the ensuing safety concerns.
“Personally, I think the best way to make Halloween a bit healthier is to set a limit of how many ‘treats’ can be consumed on Halloween night and the days that follow and set a time limit as well, after which unconsumed treats will be donated to a local food pantry, school, etc., for use as treats at special events or on other holidays.”
I think Sharon made some good points. Parents are leery of homemade treats, but if you know your neighbors and they know you, they can be a viable option.
Here’s an easy recipe that can be made to suit with any number of dipping variations. You also can use twists or pretzel rods, depending on your preference. The recipe likely would need to be doubled or tripled, depending on your expected Halloween visitors, and the number you put in individual baggies.
1 handful of unsweetened coconut flakes
1 handful of chopped walnuts
1/2 of Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate bar
20 small, low-fat pretzels (gluten-free is an option)
Put sprinkles, coconut and nuts into little bowls to make it easier for dipping pretzels.
Place dark chocolate pieces in a bowl and melt chocolate in microwave for 2 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir. Place back in microwave for 25 seconds.
Dip pretzels halfway in chocolate and then dip into coconut, walnuts or sprinkles. Put them on a parchment paper-lined plate or cookie sheet and refrigerate or freeze until chocolate is set.
Betty Chittum of West Ashley is looking for a black bean and corn salad recipe.
Maria Link of Ridgeville seeks a couple of copycat recipes, for Red Lobster biscuits and ginger salad dressing.
If you’re looking for a recipe, email food@postandcourier or call Features and Food Editor Teresa Taylor at 937-4886.