Halloween is one of the most fun holidays for my kids, they really love it! Back in Portugal we celebrated "Carnaval" where they also were costumes and everything but it really isn't the same thing and they never felt really excited about it. With Halloween it's totally the opposite: they start talking about it way too early and always want to bake or cook something spooky or funny around these days. I also enjoy it and actually, for the first time ever, we're all going to dress up, even mom and dad!
With all this going around I try to choose easy and quick treats to do, things that won't take too much of my time because, lets face it, I also want to enjoy Halloween!
This year I chose simple chocolate cupcakes, chocolate covered pretzels, vanilla puddings and chocolate chip cookies. I'll post the directions just bellow but, as I said, they are pretty easy and I always use handy "half made" products that I can. Fun is fun so we better enjoy it with our kids while we can!
Halloween vanilla puddings
For the puddings I used a package of instant pudding (no sugar added) and the only thing I had to do was to mix it up with some milk (following the directions on the package) and whisk it for a minute or so. After that I divided the pudding between 4 bowls and started adding the food colors I wanted to make the most colorful scheme I could. I used "Color Garden Food Colors" which is a natural and safe option if you want to add some color to your food.
I just love being able to get creative and not worry about fake ingredients that can only be bad for us. I'm always looking for safe options and I really recommend this food coloring - the colors come from vegetables and fruit and you can just use them and enjoy! Find them here, at Amazon:
I also used some Halloween themed Wilton's sprinkles to make things even more fun! Who doesn't like some bats on their vanilla pudding? What about some candy corn ones? Yes, these have sugar but considering that these were the only sugary ingredient on these puddings I'm pretty happy with that!
Isn't that a colorful and creative spread? I love the red colored pudding with all the eyeballs!
I'll be trying the food colors on cakes and other recipes to see how they turn out on something baked because here they were just added to the cold puddings. I'm hoping for good results!
Chocolate mummy cupcakes
I decided to use some mummy gummy treats that I had bought specifically for Halloween. I must say that my kids didn't even ate the mummy's (it's all sugar in there and hard as a rock!), just the orange gummy that they could skilfully remove from the mummy's hands!
Anyway I though these turned out the most cute cupcakes ever, with almost no work at all. I used the Bob's Red Mill muffin mix and just added a Tbsp of cocoa powder. After baking them I let them cool down on their beautiful carton cupcake holders and then I just pipped some buttercream frosting on top: I used just butter and sugar and mixed it up on my Kitchenaid mixer until the mixture had the right texture to pipe on the cupcakes.
Pipped the buttercream on top and added the mummy gummy. Isn't that the cutest thing??
Chocolate chip cookies
I had a package of chocolate chip cookie mix on the pantry ready for a quick treat and that was what I decided to go with: chocolate chip spider cookies and bats and spider cookies! I used some Wilton's edible decorations, some Reese's mini-buttercups and some sugar eyeballs and that was all we needed for a fun and giggly afternoon by the fireplace eating cookies with the kids!
I baked the cookies and let them cool down. After that, I melted a small dark chocolate bar in the microwave (30 second intervals) and when it was all perfectly melted I used a small plastic snack bag as a pipping bag to draw the spider's legs. I used the chocolate as glue on the bottom of each Reese's mini-buttercup, pressed it on the cookie and "glued" the eyes that same way to the buttercup!
With the rest of the chocolate that was left I made the other cookies: I spread the chocolate on top and just spread the edible decorations on top so that they would stick to the chocolate. Waited 5 minutes (and that was hard!) and they were ready to be devoured!
Chocolate covered pretzels
Well, we couldn't miss the pretzels, right? A sweet and salty snack is always a good choice! This is the most easy thing ever. I just melted some candy melts in the microwave (30 seconds intervals) until they were really soft and ready to be put on a pipping bag. I used green and purple because I though those were the perfect colors for Halloween!
I spread the pretzels on some parchment paper on a flat surface and then I just started spreading the melted colorful chocolate on top, drizzling it through all the pretzels. Then, I added some cute sprinkles, some eyeballs, bats and spiders!
Mr J helped me with this task and was really committed on doing a great job on the pretzels. I sure did and I always appreciate my kids' help in the kitchen! Passing them my love for cooking and baking is one of the most precious things to me!
That was it as far as quick Halloween treats go! Now, lets get ready for Trick or Treating next Tuesday and hope for good weather and lots of fun!
The time for soups is really here and I couldn't be happier about it! Although we're still having some high temperatures this week, things will start to get cooler and that's great because we could all use some fall weather around here! I don't know about you but I don't do that well in hot weather and really prefer milder temperatures so I'm hoping this stays like this for a while!
It's pumpkin spice season and, although I'm not 100% fan I do love some squash in my fall recipes. I decided to try this soup that I've been wanting to try for a while. It combines squash with curry which is one of my favorites spices. With some pepper flakes this turns out to be a spicy, creamy and warm soup, just perfect!
Using roasted squash gives the soup a deeper flavor and it really brings out the squash. I decided to roast the squash two days in advance because I was roasting some chicken drumsticks for the kids and I just had to throw the diced squash in the baking sheet, drizzle it with some olive oil, fresh thyme and a bit of salt and pepper. I roasted it for about 35 minutes which was the time the chicken took to cook and this way I saved a bit on gas. Great thinking!
After cooking it I let it rest to cool down and I kept it in a container in the fridge for two days. It's not essential to do this ahead but I think it makes the squash even more flavorful and I really like doing this whenever I have to use roasted vegetables. I roast them and use them one or two days after that. I'm all about getting the most flavor out of my ingredients!
Now, for the recipe! I used Montana Mex avocado oil instead of olive oil and I'm really liking the flavor. Also, it's a great fat for you and what can I say? I love myself some avocado anyway I can get it!
Let's get cooking!
1 - Sautée the onion in the avocado oil until it becomes softer. Add the crushed garlic cloves and stir everything together.
2 - Add the curry powder and the pepper flakes making sure that it's well mixed in with the onion. Then, cook it for about 5 minutes to intensify the flavor and color.
3 - Add the roasted squash, the coconut milk and the vegetable broth. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Let this simmer for about 50 minutes but keep checking if you need to add more liquid to the pot so the bottom doesn't get burned. By the end, the soup mix should have this deep color, the deeper the color the more flavorful your soup will turn out.
4 - Using an immersion blender blend the soup until you get the desired consistency. I like it thick but if you want a thinner texture just add a bit more vegetable and stock until you get it to the point you like. At this point the seasonings should be on point but check it to make sure it has enough salt.
As you can see the final color turned out to be the perfect orange squash that I was going for! Add some pepitas to each bowl of soup and an extra drizzle of avocado oil to finish it up. This is a whole meal by itself because the rich texture and the bold flavor are extremely satisfying but it can also be a good starter or appetizer if you serve it in small bowls like I did for the picture.
Just look at that color! The final touch with the avocado oil is great and I think it makes a big point! Also I served myself a big bowl of this creamy soup and left the small one for tomorrow at lunch! It's also a great soup to freeze in individual containers which is great as a time saver for those busy weekdays or laze weekend when you don't feel like cooking, Just grab this delicious squash feast and heat it up!
I hope you try these recipe at home, it's totally worth the one hour of cooking time it takes to get it on the table!
Last Saturday I attended the Gluten free and allergen friendly expo in Secaucus, New Jersey. It ended up being kind of a stressful day because we were going to spend the night, upstate New York, to get the kids to see the fall foliage at the Catskill Mountains. This, the trip to the expo and an early afternoon swimming lesson for the kids made up for the whole Saturday!
Running and always trying to make the most productive visit to the expo I ended up missing some sponsors but overall I think it was a great experience and I ended up getting to know a lot more brands that are selling products belonging to these sensitive categories.
I arrived pretty soon at the expo which was perfect to get a first impression of the place. It was a big indoor event and it seemed to be pretty organized, where the stands were grouped by "sensitivity" - you had the nut-free aisle, the gluten-free aisle and so on.
The first thing that caught my attention was the big line to go in but as soon as the goodie bags were delivered each one of us could go to whatever aisle we chose. Starting to browse and to know new brands is one of the most exciting things that I love doing and, through the blog, I really enjoy doing that in a friendly environment where I can talk directly to people, not just by email or Instagram message!
The goodie bags got filled over and over because I'll tell you something: these brands are not joking around. They really prepare themselves in order to give people a taste of their products. Every brand had a great variety of samples and items to taste. Of course I got to the point where I couldn't eat anything more and I'd just accept the offers to take home and try them out later!
At the end of the day I got home with all these amazing products and, hopefully, I'll be working with some of the brands to let you know more about their products and their safe options: nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free or whatever the case may be.
At our house none of us has any allergies but my kids are always attentive if we have someone over and have safe snacks to offer them. They became very aware of the allergy situation at school where they need to have school safe snacks in order to keep their friends and teachers safe. On the other hand I always like to try everything as I'm a curious person by nature! Also, I try to have some vegetarian meals once in a while, switch from dairy to non-dairy and skip on gluten sometimes because I feel it helps me feel better and healthier!
In the picture bellow you can have a notion of the brands and products that were for grabs at the expo and I'm sure you'll find some of them that you haven't even heard of, right?
I was surprised by an offer that didn't have anything to do with food but that had everything to do with children and allergies - the children's books! I think it's the most interesting idea ever: to get kids' attention through stories and characters that they can identify themselves with. "The No Biggie Bunch" is a series of books with funny and curious characters that try to fit in the stories the allergy theme and alert children to situations that allergic kids may be exposed to. For example, in one of the books, the "Trade-or-Treat Halloween" all the children who have allergies collect the treats that they know they can't have and put them in a box in their room: in the morning they'll have something that they had chosen earlier (and agreed with the parents, of course!) given by their parents and the treats will eventually be donated. Please, check the book here (affiliate link):
My kids are loving the books and they are really well written and the illustrations are amazing! In fact, there's much more to allergies than food! There are other titles available like these:
Moving on to the food items!
I found some familiar brands that we can find in almost any supermarket, like Schar (I tried the bread samples that they gave out and they are great either just like they come out of the package or toasted!) or Hilary's. I've had one of their burgers, the veggie one, and I tried the bean burger at the expo an loved it - a spicy kick to eat and really great texture.
Surprisingly enough, maybe because I'm not gluten-free most of the brands were new to me! I found myself surrounded by new products, new snacks items, new chocolate alternatives, it was a very tasty morning, I can tell you that!
Lots of options on the BFree bread products stand. I hope to be able to show you their line of products, in the near future, through a partnership with the brand to create brand awareness. This was a busy morning and I'm betting they sold out because the line went on forever!
Gratify was also there, with their full line of snacks. The brand offers salty and sweet options and I was just really full and couldn't try all those amazing looking pretzels covered in milk and yogurt! They look amazing, though! These gluten-free snacks will probably be on the blog, as well, so you can get to know all of this great tasting snacks.
Naturalvert really does know how to choose people to represent them on a fair! These two gentlemen were the most nice people over there. Smiling to whoever was passing along and getting the word out about the brand and its products they really did a great job! Hope to get some more info on these great snacks very soon!
These chocolate based snacks are sooo good! I've tried three of the buttercups flavors and I'm decided to look them up to see where I can buy them. Certified gluten-free, non-GMO and vegan it's all I need to know to call it a "good for you" snack!
The GoMacro stand was really showing off their flavor options by sampling all of their snack bars' flavors. They also had some samples to bring home and I'm still hoping to snack on them and letting you know what I think about the product. Anything that it's in a bar shape is good for me: practical, portable and essential for any mom or dad on-the-go! I've seen these bars at the supermarket where I live so I guess they'll start to get in my shopping list from now on!
"Path of Life" is a fairly recent food brand. They offer frozen options that make our life or, in this case, dinner time easy by getting a healthy meal on the table in less than 10 minutes. I tried the quinoa with feta cheese and it really was delicious, I wouldn't say it had come out of a box! I'm really curious to know something more about the brand and they really did a great job displaying all their products so that everybody could understand what the brand was about.
These chickpea snacks are something out of this world! Really, I was truly impressed even so because when my son tried it at home he really though it was just candy, nothing good! I told him what it was and he was like "oh, I really like this healthy snack"! The chocolate one is so addictive that I'm almost afraid of buying it! Anyway, check the product here, on Amazon (you can get this variety pack with 4 flavors: chocolate covered, cinnamon, sesame and honey, hot and spicy!):
Lunderb Family Farms had a very complete stand and they were even cooking the arancini on the spot! It was delicious, hot, creamy and super tasty...I'm hoping to find it in stores but they told me it was going to start being delivered next week! Try it, it's a treat! They also have chips, rice cakes, rice and a lot of different products, all gluten-free!
Munk Pack is a gluten-free and vegan snack company. They had the oatmeal cookies to sample and the oatmeal fruit squeezes in different varieties to try out. Nothing like a bit of oats to fuel you through the day! These are very practical for on-the-go situations and the squeezes are a mess-free option which is always a plus for me!
There were a lot more brands out there and I'll drop some more pictures for you to get an idea but I was really sorry that I couldn't stay longer and talk to everyone. I had a great time and knew a lot of very nice people that are all trying to make this world a safer place for us and for out children.
What are you favorite gluten-free and allergen friendly brands?
Yummy! I love a good home made mac & cheese! It's definitely not a kid's only privilege. However, there are many ways to spruce up your own recipe and this one just shows you that a bit of spice goes a long way!
I used the Cave Man Craft Eats chicken and waffles cooked links and I wanted to get a sweet and spicy dish. In order to do that I used the Montana Mex Chile seasoning and the combination turned out perfect! You can check all their spices and condiments over the website, here.