Monsters, Ghouls, and New Halloween Rules

It’s a year for monsters, ghouls, and new Halloween rules! At this time last year, I was anticipating a neighborhood Halloween extravaganza with live music, potion mixing, slime making, witch-hat ring toss, a haunted pirate ship, and tons of treats. (And I’d be remiss if I failed to mention a real fire truck manned by very real, very muscular LAFD firemen!)

This year, we’re all scrambling to find a way to provide a fun Halloween experience in a safe manner. Obviously, this may require some new rules. It is still possible to find some health department approved haunted houses in my state, but the safest experiences will be at home without guests or outside with masks, gloves, and distance.

Traditional trick-or-treating is allowed here, but I have no idea whether the neighborhood kids will show up. Nonetheless, I plan to be prepared.

Normally, I’d keep everything gluten-free. This year, I’m focusing on providing something filling along with the candy. There are many families nearby who have been affected by unemployment. A more substantial snack may keep a child from going to bed hungry.

What should I buy?

For parents to be comfortable, I’ll stick with individually packaged, store-bought snacks. It’s not the time for homemade. I won’t go so far as to choose things kids won’t like, and not everything will be nutritious. After all, Halloween is all about treats!

The first item I’m considering is Monster Pop!™ by POPCORN INDIANA® that comes in single-serving purple bags. All flavors are gluten-free and contain no high-fructose corn syrup. They’re also kosher.

Each bag is adorned with a cute monster that corresponds to the flavor. Bud is a yellow jokester who likes Big-Time BUTTER™. Cas has bright orange hair and a no-nonsense preference for Cheeserific CHEESE™. Kute purple Kit likes the Sweet‘n Salty Kooky KETTLE™ flavor. And finally, devilish Pip with his red tongue and lips prefers Finger Lickin’ PIZZA™.

Popcorn is whole grain, naturally filling, and high in fiber. It’s a treat you can feel good about serving!

They won’t make the gluten-free list, but Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Boo Packs and Cheez-It Halloween Fun Packs are kid favorite cheese cracker options. If you want something even more substantial, Lance ToastCheeR or ToastyR Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers can fill the bill and the belly.

Sensible Portions™ Garden Veggie Chips™ come in bags of ghosts and bats. They may look a little ghoulish, but at least they contain vegetables. They are also salty and crunchy and easy for toddlers to chew.

Welch’s offers Halloween Fruit Snacks in a variety of package sizes. These snacks are made with real fruit and contain no gluten, preservatives, or fat. They come in multiple fun shapes like bats, witches, ghosts, haunted castles, and pumpkins. If your kids like gummies, they’re sure to like these.

Of course there are hundreds of candy choices to accompany crackers, chips, and fruit. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups offer some nutrition as do PAYDAY bars.

If your budget allows, you may want to skip the candy and offer nuts, trail mix, beef jerky, granola, or protein bars.

How should I deliver the treats?

During this pandemic, handing out treats in person is more risk than I want to assume. That means I need a contactless delivery device. I’ve seen some of the crafty things people are building for this purpose, but I’m fresh off constructing a mailbox stand and I don’t want another construction project right now.

I found some really great plastic cauldrons that can sit outside at the bottom of my steps. They’ll function as both decoration and delivery device. Trick-or-treaters can help themselves and when the stock is gone, I can refill or just be done.

I haven’t decided whether I’ll dress up ghoulishly and watch the festivities from behind my storm door, or wait until late in the evening to check the inventory. Once I have everything I need in hand, I can make that decision as the day gets closer.

Either way, I’m ready for monsters, ghouls, and new Halloween Rules!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Super Bowl Party Food That’s Good for Your Vision

As we count down the days to the big game, let’s explore some Super Bowl Party Food that’s good for your vision. If you saw the Rams/Saints game last week, you know how important vision can be.
When you think of food that’s good for your eyes, you probably think of carrots. I’m pretty sure that’s the only food my parents and grandparents touted as vision enhancing. Carrots are high in beta-carotene that your body turns into vitamin A that is essential for good vision.

Preformed vitamin A or provitamin A carotenoids can also be found in red bell peppers, broccoli, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, pistachios, cantaloupe, mangoes, grapefruit, kale, spinach, egg yolks, tuna, and beef liver. My grandmother thought I should eat liver, but she said it was for the iron.

Since you’ll want a clear view of the plays, calls, and commercials next week and next year, Super Bowl Sunday is the perfect time to create a menu high in vitamin A. Here are five items to consider adding to the menu:

Melon Kabobs
For a light touch, skewer cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon balls with fresh mint leaves in between. If you want something more substantial, add balls of fresh mozzarella and folded pieces of prosciutto and drizzle with basil vinaigrette. If you prefer no dressing, alternate leaves of basil and mint between the fruit, cheese, and meat on the skewer.

Greyhound or Salty Dog
If you can find good grapefruit in the winter, serving up vitamin A is no harder than shaking a cocktail. I always use fresh grapefruit and I rarely bother to squeeze them in advance. I just squeeze the fresh juice right into my martini glass. I prefer mixing with Grey Goose® Vodka, but you can use gin if you prefer. The addition of a salted rim turns these Greyhounds into Salty Dogs.

Deviled Eggs
Deviled eggs are already popular Super Bowl fare, so you can’t go wrong serving them. Everyone has a favorite version. Whatever yours is will provide vitamin A so there’s no need to vary.

Mango Salsa
The great thing about choosing mango salsa is that it can include red bell peppers to make it even higher in vitamin A. You can dip it with the same tortilla chips that are on the table to dip into cheese dip, guacamole, or layer dip.

Chocolate Pistachio Popcorn
Popcorn is fast, easy, and cheap. Add pistachios, dried apricot and/or dried pineapple pieces and a dark chocolate drizzle and you can add decadent to the description.

If you don’t like dark chocolate, use white chocolate. Just melt the chocolate and drizzle over the top of popped popcorn, dried fruit, and nuts that have been spread out on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Place in the freezer a few minutes to let the chocolate harden then break into chunks and serve.

Any of the five can be served along with the ever-popular chicken wings. No need to upset your party guests by eliminating a favorite before an emotionally charged game.

I can’t really predict who will win or even who will have the most effective commercial. I can predict that I’ll be having a good time and some good food! I hope you do as well!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I Finally Learned How to Pop Popcorn!

I may have ruined a pan in the process, but I finally learned how to pop popcorn! Now, I don’t mean I just learned how to put a bag in the microwave or work some kind of popcorn popper. I mean I learned how to take a bag of kernels and pop them in a pan on top of my stove without using a ton of oil.

Why is this a big deal? It’s not, but it does give me a filling, crunchy, high-fiber, low-calorie, gluten-free snack that I can keep handy in the pantry. Okay, I must confess that it sometimes feels like a big deal when I’m craving chips, but know I’ll be satisfied by a bowl of popcorn topped with salt.
Popcorn is a healthy snack so long as it doesn’t have lots of oil and chemicals added. That means you’ll need to avoid microwave popcorn, movie theater popcorn, and even pouring a bunch of oil into the bottom of your pan when popping at home. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with tasteless, less toasty air-popped corn either.

What’s wrong with microwave popcorn?

That wonderful smell microwave popcorn generates comes from a chemical called diacetyl, a synthetic buttery flavoring. Diacetyl causes “popcorn lung” in popcorn factory workers, and can generate lung problems for those who make it frequently. Another chemical that lines microwave popcorn bags can cause thyroid issues, high cholesterol and bladder cancer.

In addition to the chemicals, standard microwave popcorn has added fat that boosts the calories to 413 per 2.5 oz bag. You have to eat less of it to reduce the calories or switch to low-fat popcorn that still has 300 calories per bag. And if you have to eat less of that, your crunch craving may not be satisfied.

Movie theater popcorn is better anyway.

As far as taste goes, movie popcorn is delicious. I’ve never liked to add butter because it makes the popcorn soggy and I just don’t like it, but even without added butter, a small movie popcorn has about 400 calories. A large can have as many as 1200 and most of those calories come from saturated fat.

What about air-popped?

Air-popped popcorn is great if you have a hot air popper. It drops the calorie count to 31 calories per cup of popped popcorn. A cup of popcorn contains 1 gram of fiber and less than 1 gram of fat. It’s also contains protein and is high in antioxidants. It sounds like air-popped ideal.

The problem is, I used to own one of those air poppers. Not only did I find the popcorn less tasty, I don’t like having a bunch of electronic gadgets in my kitchen. For me, air-popped is not ideal. I went looking for other options, remembering my previous failures using oil and a pan.

In my research, I read that you can pop popcorn in a pan on top of the stove without any oil.

I tried it. I ruined my pan.
burned pan
I also read you can microwave popcorn in a brown paper bag. I don’t happen to have any brown paper bags lying around my house. I wonder if a white bag would work, but I don’t have one of those either.

I approached the problem like I would any recipe variation. I took a moment to think through the problem. I knew I needed a little something to keep the popcorn from sticking and burning into my pan, so I pulled out my olive oil cooking spray. A .25 second spray has no calories or fat. That sounded promising. I formed a new corn popping plan. Luckily, it worked.

My popping plan.

Spray the bottom of a 6 quart cooking pot with olive oil spray. Turn a large burner on medium. Place the empty, sprayed pot on the burner and allow it to get warm. Get out a timer that will count in seconds. Once the pan is hot, place one-third cup of unpopped popcorn in it and put on a lid. Gently shake the pan a few times every 10 seconds. Yep, again already – every 10 seconds. Do this before the corn pops. Do this while the corn pops. Do it until the popping slows.

When the popping slows, turn off the heat. Leave the lid on for a few seconds. A few kernels may pop after the heat is turned off so if you remove the lid immediately, it may pop right out of the pan which is kinda cool, but startling. Pour the hot popcorn in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. I know it seems like no salt will stick, but enough will hang on.

You’ll end up with about 8 cups of popcorn. That’s a snack with about 172 calories, 2.02 grams of fat, 5.76 grams of protein, 6.5 grams of fiber, and tons of crunch. The same volume of potato chips would have 1096 calories. Obviously, popcorn is a better snack choice than potato chips.

With this easy popping plan, you can enjoy popcorn at home with no special equipment. You’ll save money, calories, and pans while avoiding the toxic chemicals in microwave popcorn. Now you can have ice cream more often. I call that a win!