What We Spent and What We Ate: Halloween Grinchiness

I fully intend to give trick-or-treaters Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups this Wednesday and then I will stay up late, watch The Daily Show and eat the rest of the bag (along with purloined selections from the boys’ orange buckets).  But I’m still going to promote some alternatives to sugar for Halloween.  Since many kids don’t go trick-or-treating these days (even though the razor blade in the apple was long ago declared urban legend), parents must attend events designed to take the place of this age-old tradition.  These include such euphemistic gatherings as “fall festivals”  and classroom “celebrations” (maybe to make Jehovah’s Witness children feel less like Halloween pariahs).  Several mandatory parties make their way to the family calendar as well.  At every function, kids are met with a barrage of candy the likes of which we couldn’t have imagined as children.  At tonight’s fall festival, an annual fund-raiser, the kids supported their own educations by buying sugar in every conceivable form, including, but not limited to: soda, syrup, powder, floss and various polymers.

I think most developed nations use tax dollars to pay for education.  But who am I to rethink the federal budget?

We could, however, re-think school fundraising.  One local rancher provides grass-fed beef for PTO raffles.  The Vig does fundraising nights and Khalsa Montessori Schools provide an amazing spread of local vegetarian cuisine at their functions.  I’m sure other local businesses would be willing contribute.

In addition to fall fundraisers, many classrooms have parties.  Despite legislation designed to eliminate junk food in schools, parents and teachers still provide candy and baked goods on many occasions throughout the year (one of my children’s classes celebrated every birthday with a sugary treat from parents).

I don’t want to ruin Halloween, but maybe we could limit the candy to just one night–Halloween night.  For classroom functions and parties, we could provide healthier options.

Here a few ideas from one of my favorite web sites, peachsf.org and from foodday.org:

What We Ate:

Saturday: Pat and I had a date night for my birthday.  Luckily our favorite place, Little Saigon, is also one of the cheapest places to eat out.  The back room has a little romantic vibe going on and they have the best Pho (with Pho Thanh a close second and Maxim maybe third) in Phoenix.  It’s all about the broth and their broth is sublime. I always get the Pho with the ox tail broth, but I’ve tasted the chicken, vegetable and pork broths too and they’re almost as good.  My birthday is usually the first time it’s cool enough to eat soup.  This time of year is extraordinary–the city comes alive and there’s suddenly people everywhere and a million things to do–festivals, markets, food trucks, parties, concerts.  The best part, though, is getting to eat comfort food again.  Comfort food=Pho.


Sunday: birthday burritos

My mom and dad had a little family birthday party for me.  My mom made her green chile burritos and Spanish rice.  She promised she’d run through the recipe with me so I could post it–maybe next week.  Her green chile is loved by all–it’s mild and flavorful, with perfect little cubes of browned pork. Then there’s the fact that it’s wrapped in La Purisima tortillas and deep fried.  When you put a little sour cream on it, you feel like your life could not possibly be any better.


Monday: watermelon gazpacho, venison tacos

On Saturday I got what was to be our last watermelon of the year.  We thought we should have a little farewell to summer (or F-YOU Summer.  Take that!) party.

So I wanted to do something special with our ginormous watermelon.  Gazpacho sounded good, since it will be too cool for that sort of thing in a few weeks.  Pat got ground venison at Sprouts and made amazing tacos.  It was a nice send-off if I do say so myself.

Watermelon Gazpacho that I should remember to make next summer:

4-5 large heirloom tomatoes (blanche and peel first, then remove seeds)–use your ugliest ones

¼ watermelon (cut in chunks) with juice

4 peeled diced Persian cucumbers (I removed most of the seeds, but you don’t have to)

1-2 cups watermelon diced in small, neat cubes

¼ cup minced green onions

one Serrano chile very finely minced

1 TBS minced basil

1 TBS minced cilantro

1 TBS balsamic vinegar

juice of one lime

salt and pepper

In a food processor, puree tomatoes and chunks of watermelon.  Add vinegar, lime juice, chile, salt and pepper.  Then, in a large bowl, combine puree, watermelon, cucumbers, onions, basil and cilantro.  Chill for at least an hour.  Serve with a drizzle of crema on top.

The tacos were easy, too.  Pat carmelized onion and sauted them with diced green chiles and minced garlic.  Then he added roasted, diced pasillas.  Then cumin, chili powder, oregano and the ground venison.

Cook it slowly until meat is browned.  Serve with tortillas, Cotija cheese, avocados, diced tomatoes, lime wedges and hot sauce.


Tuesday: pumpkin gratin, brussels sprouts (I know I don’t have to tell you) with bacon (for the boys) and greens for us

The pumpkin gratin tasted like quiche.  It was really good–but if I’d wanted quiche, I’d have made quiche.  So I’ll try again.  In the meantime, if you’re interested in pumpkin quiche, here’s the recipe:

Pumpkin Gratin that tastes like quiche:

1 sugar pumpkin (remove seeds, roast at 425 in an inch of water, then scoop out the squash–or read this)

4 eggs (maybe if you only used 3 it wouldn’t taste like quiche?)

½  cup cream

1 cup shredded gruyere

1 minced shallot

some grated parmesan

some ground nutmeg

salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender, pour mixture into a buttered casserole, sprinkle with paremesan and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.  After the first 10-15 minutes, you can sprinkle ½ cup of dried fresh breadcrumbs (tossed in melted butter, of course).


Wednesday: parsnip and apple soup and baked salmon

I am no great maker of soups.  But I nailed this one.  One of Pat’s patients gave us enough parsnips to feed the free world, so I’ve been stretching my culinary talents trying to use them up.  The soup was subtly sweet and delicately flavored.  Pat ate three bowls.

I think what really made it was that I used the broth I’d made and frozen a few weeks ago.  It was a chicken broth, but it also had a lot of celery, parsnips, carrots, bay leaves and onion.  A good broth always makes a good soup.

Parsnip Soup that you will love:

About 10 parsnips, peeled and chopped

2 pears, peeled, cored and chopped

3 medium/large apples, peeled, cored and chopped

3-4 TBS chopped ginger

1 chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, sliced or crushed

2 TBS apple cider vinegar

salt and pepper




Sauté onion and garlic, then parsnips, apples, and pears, ginger and seasoning in butter, add to stock pot with 8 cups broth.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until parsnips are tender.  Work in batches pureeing soup in a food processor or blender.  Then strain mixture into a pot.  Add about one cup cream, bring just to simmer and serve (with a little parsley on top).


Thursday: I thawed dal and naan from a few weeks ago for a crazy busy night of homework, piano practice, chores and Boy Scouts


Friday:  Fall Festival at Madison Heights!  Dinner was a hot dog, chips and a soda.  Maybe we can do better next year.


What We Spent:

We only spent about  $145 this week.  $105.90 plus $10 for venison at Sprouts.  Then we spent another $40 at the farmers’ market.  My mother in law went to the Wednesday market for us and got us tomatoes, apples and tiny little cute pears.  Yes, I am lucky to have her.

Related articles:

Study: Junk Food Law Help Curb Obesity (www.azcentral.com)


4 Comments on “What We Spent and What We Ate: Halloween Grinchiness”

  1. Since my oldest child has reached trick-or-treating age (she is turning 5 in a month) and last year was her first time out, we have had to figure out as a family how we want to do Halloween. At her first daycare, the school had a strict policy of no Halloween at school (no costumes, no parties, etc.). They came at it from the perspective of how commercialized childhood has become and Halloween falls squarely into that picture, being the second biggest grossing holiday next to Christmas. I appreciated their perspective then, and appreciated it even more when we switched preschools and the new one did do Halloween celebrations. Here we were with celebrations happening when we as a family hadn’t even figured out how we were going to celebrate the holiday. The barrage of candy can be overwhelming.

    We very much limit sugar, especially candy intake and are always the house that gives out pencils (LOL). This year though, I opted for honey sticks from a local bee keeper. For some reason I couldn’t see your images of the alternatives. I will go to the links.

    • I loved your comments. Also, I never thought of of the honey sticks. My kids love “the honey lady” at our farmers’ market. I let them get the honey sticks a few times a month and they get really excited.

      I like Halloween here because we also celebrate El Dia de los Muertos, so the kids get a dose of Mexican cultural heritage with all the wonderful things to eat like pan de muertos. We’re Catholic, so I observe All Saints and All Souls day with the Mexican community.

      I think you can avoid much of the commercialization if you stay away from stores. It just bothers me when it comes into the classroom. At their Montessori schools holidays were wonderful-in public schools, not so much.

      • I got the honey stick idea from another blogger ;). I thought it was a great happy medium. The fun of sweet stuff, but keeping it pure and natural.

        Yes, I have a problem with Halloween coming into the classroom too. Where I taught, we didn’t do Halloween, or any other holiday for that matter. Instead there were four all school events that happened throughout the year. My favorite was Stone Soup Day. Every child/family brought ingredients for a pot of soup to be made in each classroom. Parents made extra pots in the school’s kitchen. Families and community members got invited, and everyone had soup together for lunch. The best part was walking around the school in the morning with the smell of soup wafting out of each classroom. Really great community building event.

  2. […] What We Spent and What We Ate: Halloween Grinchiness (phoenixfoodfighters.com) […]

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