Halloween brings visions of witches and goblins, Jack-o'-lanterns and black cats. But it might be best known for getting all dressed up in your favorite superhero costume or your most ghoulish creation and going door to door, getting as much candy and treats as your basket will allow. After all, Halloween is the perfect excuse for snacking on chocolate and lollipops to your hearts content without getting funny looks from your friends and neighbors.
Halloween is sugar central when it comes to treats, but you can put the brakes on high-calorie and high-fat feasting with a few clever but sensible munchies. In these modern times of counting calories and childhood obesity, there are other options for Halloween that will let the excitement linger without adding on unwanted pounds. These five categories of treats contain some easy and fun snacking options that are horrific, hideous and just plain fun. They won't take all afternoon to fix, either. With just a few minutes of prep time for most of these sensible treats, snack time at your house will be simply spooktacular. And if you're preparing these creepy treats for your monster bash, you don't have to spend your entire party in the kitchen. Well, unless your guests gobble everything up so fast you have to make more. They're just that good!
Ghastly Fresh Fruit
Sure, you know you can slice up some apple wedges as an easy and nutritious alternative to candy, but the world of scary Halloween fruit design can be gruesome, creative, and best of all, quick. How about:
- Frozen banana ghosts - White coated frozen bananas are ghostly Halloween treats that are easy to make. Peel and slice bananas in half, insert wooden sticks and freeze them on a sheet of wax paper. Roll frozen bananas in softened ice cream or yogurt and refreeze. Add eyes with icing gel or sprinkles. As a variation, sprinkle with shredded coconut before refreezing. If you want to make some classic chocolate covered frozen bananas while you're at it, this recipe will get you started: Frozen Chocolate Covered Bananas
- Stuffed orange pumpkins - Now that you mention it, oranges do look a little like pumpkins, and you can hollow them out and decorate them just like pumpkins, too. Once you've made your orange/pumpkin masterpieces, stuff them with trail mix, fruit salad or anything else that seems appropriately gruesome.
- Fruit brains - The classic fruit brain is a peeled and carved watermelon. If you have the time and talent, it makes a dynamic centerpiece for a party. If that sounds like too much work, invest in a brain mold (yes, you can buy them). Add fruit cocktail to your kid's favorite flavored Jell-O and mold it to make a brainy Halloween fruit salad.
Hideous Veggies, Dips and Molds
Hiding good-for-you foods in your kid's meal has become downright trendy, but for Halloween, you can keep those healthy options in plain sight.
- Jiggle gelatin swamp - Green Jell-O with Gummi fish and snakes floating in its depths looks swampy and appropriately horrid. Add some parsley leaves for realism, and don't forget to serve your swamp in a clear glass bowl.
- Corpse fingers - String cheese cut to finger length and marked with crescents for knuckles make a nutritious but fat-conscious snack that isn't a veggie but works very well on a veggie tray. Press a blanched almond into one slightly hollowed out end for the fingernail, and your corpse finger will look ghoulishly realistic.
- Skeleton veggie tray - If you know your anatomy, serve vegetable treats formed into the shape of a skeleton, cat, bat or other iconic Halloween favorite. Some likely anatomical features: green beans for ribs, celery sticks for leg bones, zucchini slices for the spine and radishes for knee and elbow joints. For a realistic face, use a round bowl of dip to which you've added olives for eyes and a sliced pepper mouth.
- Spider dip - Make a big bowl of your child's favorite dip and fixings, and serve it up in a black dish garnished with eight black licorice sticks slightly bent and positioned like spider legs. Add two olive slices or raisins for eyes.
Frightening Crackle and Crunch
You can add some crunch to your Halloween treat table with imaginative baked and microwaved eats. You can whip up a popcorn crumble while you have some hideous breadstick bones baking. The house will smell wonderful, and the treats are sugary, salty and as appealing to the grownups as they are to the kids. They aren't all that bad for you either.
- Breadstick bones - Form refrigerator breadstick dough into bone shapes and bake according to the manufacturer's instructions. A quick look at a typical dog bone treat will give you the general idea. You can also tie each end into a quick knot.
- Graveyard crumbles - Make a variation on rice cereal squares by substituting low calorie marshmallows and air popped popcorn for the cereal. The instructions and proportions will be about the same. Mix in a variety of colorful ingredients, like orange and brown M&Ms, crumbled cookies and even Gummi snakes. Spread the mixture on a greased cookie sheet to cool before serving. This one is filling, and a little goes a long way.
- Cornucopia crunchers -These cornucopia shaped cookies make the perfect containers for your child's favorite candy. They're an indulgence, but heck, it's Halloween! You can find a great recipe for these fall treats here.
To dress up almost any beverage, buy specialty ice cube trays in Halloween shapes, such as bones, brains, pumpkins and skulls. They add drama to your glass, and will surely frighten your guests -- in a good way. You can also freeze juice in them to create a treat that can be enjoyed all by itself. For some added fun, place a Gummi fish or worm in the mold and it'll wriggle free as the ice cube melts in the glass. Horrifying ice cubes make a simple, low-calorie beverage an occasion to celebrate.
When you're serving a crowd, try some Ghastly Glow Punch. It's has a blood red cranberry sheen and lots of interest with fruit cutouts. It's gruesome, tasty and good for you. In your punch bowl, you can also add some plastic spiders, gummy worms, ice in the shape of eyeballs or any number of other creepy decorations. Just make sure you wash everything before you placing your picks in your punch bowl. While you do want to surprise your guests with your playful punch, you certainly don't want to make anyone ill.
When your Halloween horde needs more than a veggie platter or a bag of popcorn, make a pizza with mummy appeal. You can craft pizza out of almost anything these days, and opting for low-sodium sauce, and low-fat cheese and lean meat will help balance out some unavoidable candy indulgences later.
Halloween is a perfect time to drag out those specialty cookie cutters in the outline of witches, pumpkins and spooky ghosts for shaping single-serving pizza crusts.
Try draping diagonal strips of white cheese across mini pizzas leaving an open wedge toward the top for eyes made of olive slices. It'll be a mummy face pizza to remember. For quick crusts, use refrigerated dough, English muffins, pita bread or even French bread slices.
Every Halloween, bags of triangle-shaped, yellow, orange and white candies fill trick-or-treat bags. HowStuffWorks finds out what's in candy corn.
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