According to the "Encyclopedia of Food and Culture," the only holiday Americans spend more money on than Halloween is Christmas. Halloween is a time of spooky costumes, trick-or-treating and parties. This year, have a happy and healthy Halloween by serving your ghosts and goblins a combination of traditional and contemporary foods.
Halloween began with the ancient Celts, ancestors of the Irish, Welsh, Scots, Bretons and Cornish. They celebrated Samhain, or the new year, on November 1st. They believed the spirits of the dead traveled towards the Otherworld, the Celtic afterlife, on the night before. Historians believe celebrations involved dressing up in costumes and leaving out food offerings for the wandering spirits. In the sixth century, November 1 became the Christian holiday Feast of All Saints, or All Hallows, while the night before, October 31, became All Hallows Eve, or Hallowe'en.
In the 19th century, Americans celebrated Halloween as a harvest festival with pranks, parties and games.Try bringing back some of Halloween's harvest festival flavor by serving dishes made with traditional autumn foods. Some of these include apples, pumpkins, turnips, kale, nuts, potatoes and cabbage. For example, dinner might include traditional Irish fare such as champ, boxty and colcannon. Champ is a variation on mashed potatoes flavored with leeks and topped with a pool of melted butter. Boxty is an Irish potato pancake made from a mixture of mashed potatoes, cabbage, onion and grated raw potatoes. Colcannon is a mixture of mashed potatoes and cabbage. Transform these traditional Irish dishes with modern, kid-friendly flavors by mixing in a ranch-flavored seasoning mix. Follow up dinner with pumpkin pie, apple tarts or taffy apples.
For parties involving children and teens, try serving a Halloween themed dinner. Some ideas from the Home and Garden Information Center at Clemson University include mini-pizzas with jack-o-lantern faces made from toppings such as olives; burgers topped with cheese slices with jack-o-lantern faces cut into them; piles of mashed potatoes shaped like ghosts with olives for eyes; and spaghetti disguised as "brains with blood and pus" with marinara sauce and shredded cheese. Or make mini-pizza bloody ghost faces by spreading creamy dressing on an English muffin. Use olives for the eyes and diced tomatoes or red pepper slices for bloody scars. Instead of soda, serve "blood" punch made from a combination of cranberry juice, orange juice and apple cider.
Candy has been a standard Halloween treat since the late 1940s, but with problems such as obesity becoming a major concern, experts such as those at the Center for Science in the Public Interest suggest giving kids healthier Halloween treats. At the party, serve healthy snacks and hors d'ouevres such as pumpkin muffins, roasted pumpkin seeds, dried fruit, apples, fruit cups, carrot sticks with a creamy dip, tortilla chips and salsa, orange slices, and popcorn seasoned with ranch-flavored dry mix. Instead of giving trick-or-treaters candy, fill their bags with healthier pre-packaged snacks such as trail mix, crackers and cheese, graham crackers, pretzels, mixed nuts, raisins, and fig cookies.
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