Halloween Fruit Treats


It’s finally arrived…Halloween.  I love Halloween.  This year we had our costumes particularly early as my son chose Star Wars costumes for each of us.  However there is still last minute costume alterations (thanks goodness for Nana) and all the school party festivities.  I was a bit leary of Halloween on a Sunday.  But for the school activities it was nice to spread out and celebrate on Friday.  Then we had a day to fix costumes and prepare for tonight.  Although I’m sure no one will get to bed on time, eventhough it’s a school night.

Here are some fun treats I made for my son’s Halloween party.  These were easy to do, but time consuming when doing 2 dozen.  I guess I needed something to do while enjoying the world series game (Go Giants).  I found this idea on a website and thought it was a cute idea for something festive yet healthy.  Of course I had to change the original from fruit cocktail to cut fresh fruit, so that’s why it took longer than expected.  They came out even cute than expected and were a big hit with kids and parents.

I made 24 of these, but I made 2 samples to see how they worked.  It’s kind of nice that you can do as many as you’d like (time permitting), you’ll just have to adjust how much fruit you cut.  I made way too much and would cut it in half.  Although it’s never bad to have extra fruit salad on hand.  Without the jack-o-lantern faces, I’ll plan to do this again for anytime of year.

Jack -O-Lantern Fruit Cups

navel oranges

bite size cut fruits – I used pineapple, cantaloupe, grapes, oranges, apples (figure about 3/4 cup per orange)

Cut top 1/4 of orange across the top to make a lid/top and set aside

Using a paring knife cut all the way around inside of orange from pith.  Using a teaspoon or grapefruit spoon,  dig out orange.  Reserve orange for cutting and adding to fruit cups.  Scrape inside orange to get other large pieces but be careful not to tear orange side.

Fill each orange with fruit salad.  Put lid back on.

Using a Sharpee pen, draw desired faces.  (If my kids were awake and I hadn’t started the project so late, I would’ve enlisted their help and artistry).

Scrape out orange and juice over bowl to save
Hollow the oranges and arrange in muffin tins
Color the faces and fill cups
hardest part - finding room in the fridge

Mayor Bloomberg vs Soda

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has asked the federal government for permission to bar New York City’s food stamp users from buying sodas and other sugary drinks with their benefits. Mr. Bloomberg cast his proposal as a kind of social and scientific experiment in fighting the national epidemic of obesity and diabetes. He promised that over the two-year life of the project, New York would collect data on whether food stamp users spent their taxpayer-funded benefits on more healthful choices, like fruits and vegetables. (see article here)

Interesting…on one hand it isn’t a bad experiment.  What would happen if those in need and getting food stamps (and many with diseases such as diabetes) were forced to give up something known to be unhealthful and contribute to their dietary issues.  Dr. Thomas Farley, the city’s health commissioner, agrees with the mayor that this would save lives. Health advocates make it clear that they would like to improve everybody’s diet, not just that of food stamp recipients, through measures like a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.   Thus the data could be relevant.  However there seems to be better ways to get the stats.  How about simply asking for a study group?  Getting people to volunteer, rather than taking away choice from a group that is already in need.  How about educating everyone to make their own responsible decisions?  Also let’s compare the price of soda to the price of milk.  How will the stamp recipient buy as much milk as soda with the same means? What can the mayor or the government do to make the price of healthy foods competitive with unhealthy?

According to the article, President Johnson signed the nationwide food stamp plan into law in 1964 as part of his War on Poverty. It was billed as an effort to expand the diets of needy families, expected to number up to four million, who could buy, say, $10 worth of food stamps for $6 and then use them to buy food in grocery stores. (The program now serves 41.8 million people, a record number, about half of them children; the average benefit is about $100 per person a month.)

Food stamps were designed to enlarge the choices of poor and hungry people, rather than to limit them to the most nutritious items. Alcoholic beverages and tobacco were banned. But otherwise, the stamps were to be used to buy “almost any ordinary food,” according to news accounts at the time.

I see people with means making poor food choices every day.  It’s frustrating as the choices are made not only for themselves as consumers but also for their children, who have little or no say-so.  I’ve seen middle school kids share a bag of potato chips and drinking extra caffienated sodas while walking to school at 8 a.m.  I see preschoolers with lunchboxes full of sugary drink boxes and overprocessed and over packaged foods, without a whole food in sight.  And I see coffeehouse lines out the door of parents and children waiting for high fat, sugary, caffinated drinks.  I guess these individuals and families have the right to choose to poison themselves with poor food, but those on food stamps do not.

Rather than upsetting New Yorkers on food stamps, perhaps Mayor Bloomberg could come see a workshop taught through Leah’s Pantry or visit an inner city school garden with children of all means and races learning about growing food.  New York and other cities could decide to stop spending money on studies and revamping food stamp laws and instead fund more programs to empower people of all ages, with food and nutrition information rather than take away choice and means.


Girls and Salads

Ellery and her salad

The popular opinion and picture of girls/women eating salads seems to start young.  My daughter loves to make salads.  I’ve shared some of her arrangements with you, complete with  flowers and herbs, no less.  However now my four year old wants to yield a knife and cut the ingredients for her salads.  Her knife is a dull child’s knife.  But still the first few times are a bit stressful for me.  I try to bite my tongue as I watch her little fingers get too close.  Or she misses the veggie and it goes rolling away and she tries to stab at it. 

I was surprised that this is not just my daughter who is interested in salads.  While at my daughter’s gym/dance class I overheard another mom talk about her daughter’s love as sous chef and that she makes her own dressing.  Well, we hadn’t tried that.  Of course that night after my daughter chopped (hacked) way too many cucumbers and carrots for a salad that looked like it could feed 10, I suggested she make the dressing.  Her eyes lit up as I got out the ingredients.  I immediately thought of a glass jelly jar (so easy to clean out pasta and condiment jars for special collections and little things kids treasure) instead of my usual glass measuring cup, for her to use as a dressing bottle.  That way she could shake the jar to combine the oil and vinegar, by herself, without mess.  It immediately too me back to cooking with my mom in the 70’s and the Good Seasons dressing packets that you could even buy with a glass dressing cruet.  I forgot all about those.  What ever happened to that?  Anyways my daughter was having such fun, my son asked for a turn shaking the dressing too.

Dressing fixings and jar
I had to look it up. Still sold. $6.99 on Amazon.com


Jonas shakes things up

Last night we went to some friends for dinner.  Their 8 year old daughter went to the fridge and told her mom “I’m making a salad”.  My daughter smiled and played sous chef to her big girl friend, as they made a lovely spinach salad with cucumber, tomatoes, and Parmesan.  Of course they made too much, but everyone was proud of the girls, even the brothers (who had at least a bite).


Adieu to Dad

My dad digging potatoes at last year's pumpkin patch

I haven’t been writing, as unfortuately my father  passed away recently.  He was a unique man who loved to play with his grandchildren, and talk politics and religion with the grown-ups.  He loved old cars, houseboats, yellow button down shirts, going swimming in the ocean, watching sports (only the end of the game, when it got exciting) and listening to Rush Limbaugh (yes, really).

The last few months of his life, he lived with my family.  It was fun, frustrating, happy and sad – sometimes all in the same day.  Once of the things that was most interesting was my dad’s food interests.  My dad was always a great eater and loved all types of food.  He was very appreciative when he came to visit and I’d make his old favorites and introduce him to a few new things.  However the last 6 months of his life he couldn’t taste or smell very well and relied on his sense of food memories for some meals.  By this I mean he enjoyed things more if he had already liked them as his mind could imagine the taste and help fill in for the taste buds.  One of his favorites was In-N-Out Burger.  Of course not something my family eats often (or ever), it was sometimes difficult for me to get him his request (burger with extra lettuce and tomato, fries and vanilla shake).  Standing in the long line and hearing the loud numbers being called out, I wanted to be anywhere but there.  But my dad truly enjoyed it when I brought it to him.  

Luckily there were a few other things he could enjoy eating including cherries from our trees, ripe nectarines from the farmer’s market, and my roasted potatoes.  Here’s the recipe to share with your family and maybe your dad too.  Mine liked these with ketchup.

Roasted Potatoes

I make lots of veggies in the oven this way.  It’s quick and easy and doesn’t even require measuring.  Just a pour and sprinkle to your family’s taste.  Be sure not to crowd the potatoes or they can’t brown.  The rosemary salt gives it a little kick and extra flavor.

Makes 6 servings

2 pounds small organic white new or fingerling potatoes (about 24), scrubbed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon rosemary salt

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Cut potatoes in half and place in a ceramic baking dish. Pour olive oil over potatoes and toss to coat. Sprinkle salt over potatoes and stir to mix. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until potatoes are brown on the outside and tender inside.

(If I need to speed up cooking, I precook the potatoes in the microwave for about 3 minutes before adding oil and salt.  Then put in the oven to finish and brown.  Cuts oven time in half).