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Cooking for Special Diets: Preparing for Fright Night

Have a little fun in the kitchen and plan ahead to scare away any apprehension about holiday treats.

Editor's note: Check back Monday on Patch to see where you can find Halloween treats for special-dieters.

Halloween can be a little tricky for special dieters.

All the doughnuts, candy and frosted cookies that find their way to the picnic table at the apple orchard, the streamered buffet at the costume party and other festive food trays are hard to avoid. It is enough to scare off anyone who has to keep an evil eye on the things that pose a risk because of allergies, health or lifestyle choices.

For those who need to read labels, there is no telling what will haunt the insides of treat bags. But never fear, with a little advocacy and pre-holiday fun in the kitchen, there's no need to be frightened.

My oldest son, who has celiac disease, has recently started advocating for himself and it couldn't come at a better time. He seldom unwraps or bites into anything without asking first if it has gluten. Since many traditional Halloween treats contain the protein, which is found in wheat, barley, rye and sometimes oats, I am proud that my little monster is thinking before gobbling up anything that would make him ill.

To be proactive, I have been creating a treat bag of Enjoy Life candy bars, organic lollipops and Mike & Ikes. This candy list was provided by the Gluten-Free Dinner Divas, a group of local “divas” who have formed a support group and e-mail string. It includes a lot of information about all kinds of trick-or-treat possibilities.

Also, I am planning on having a little fun in the kitchen with my little ghouls in anticipation of a fun-filled holiday without any frightening food repercussions. We will be coming up with ways to dress up special diet treats in time for the graveyard smash.

Here is what is brewing:

  • On the lookout. I will be scouring , Celiac Specialties, , and for the easy fix: Pre-made holiday goodies.
  • Jell-O. It's quick, the kids love it and it's gluten-free. We find making Jell-O is a fun family activity and it easily can be made into a spooky treat. I even found a natural brand at Ferndale's that works!  See recipe for wiggly hands here.
  • Fun with crispy rice. I use the traditional Rice Krispies recipe to make this kid-friendly treat, but use Earth Balance to replace butter, Kraft marshmallows and a gluten-free cereal. Instead of letting them harden into little squares, however, we have a some fun. My nieces made some fun "lizards" last year by shaping the treats into the little reptiles and adding Starbursts and Skittles for eyes and spikes. I'm thinking there are a lot of fun possibilities, like making them orange (maybe by adding a little pumpkin puree or colored marshmallows) and shaping them into pumpkins.
  • Baking up a little fun. We will get out the recipes and start being creative. I recently made some graham crackers with Jules Gluten Free Graham Cracker Mix. We put our thinking caps on and made little tombstones to top store-bought cupcakes. The kids wrote R.I.P. on each using a toothpick and some melted Enjoy Life chocolate. Marshmallow ghosts also would make festive additions to store-bought or homemade cupcakes!
  • Chocolate candy. Check out for spooky Halloween molds or click here. Melt some Enjoy Life chocolate chips over double burner (add a dab of shortening if you want a runnier chocolate) and pour into molds for a quick (and not-too-difficult) Halloween treat.
  • Save the seeds. On the big day, which falls on a Monday this year, we like to carve pumpkins. While the resulting jack-o'-lanterns look great for trick-or-treating, I plan to save the seeds for snacking later. Pumpkin seeds have a nutty flavor and satisfy salt and crunch cravings. They are a good energy-packed snack to munch on while you're on the go. I even have experimented with some cajun spices, as well as cinnamon and sugar.

How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds

1. Scoop seeds and pulp from a medium to large pumpkin and separate into a large colander. Rinse under cold water, picking out additional pulp and strings.

2. Place the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil and roll seeds around pan with hands to coat. You can also spray with Pam (the nonbaking version is gluten-free).

3. Sprinkle with salt or desired spices and bake at 325 F until toasted, about 25 minutes, checking and stirring after 10 minutes.

4. Let cool and store in an air-tight container or large plastic bag.

Melanie October 15, 2011 at 09:22 PM
Don't forget Holiday Market which has an always growing selection of gluten free foods and goodies!
Alissa Malerman October 16, 2011 at 02:24 PM
Thanks, Melanie! I also like the gf beer selection :)

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