Halloween is a precarious time for the health-conscious/ plant-based/ sugar-free among us.
Thankfully, a solid foundation of healthy habits gives us some flex room for occasions and events that are a little, erm, harder to manage.
A quick look at the candy aisle of any store uncovers all kinds of non-foods: corn syrups, binders, preservatives, emulsifiers, genetically-modified ingredients (although they won't come right out and tell you that), food dyes, flavoring agents... it goes on and on. Luckily, with a little bit of creativity, we can work some whole foods into the holiday that feel positively decadent (and aren't quite as Franken-food like).
This quick caramel apple recipe is a great way to work some sweetness into your Halloween festivitating without jumping entirely off the clean-eating wagon. Bonus: they're entirely plant-based! Who needs milk chocolate when you can have cacao? (Have you tried it?! So yummy! I have a little pinch of it most mornings in a smoothie. Hello, antioxidant goodness!)
Because we're using dates in place of butter and brown sugar caramel, we get the added benefits of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber of the whole fruit (potassium, phosphorus, and Vitamin A, namely), instead of the empty calories of white sugar. Keep in mind that it's still a form of sugar (and sugar is sugar is sugar), but this is an example of one of those 'making the best of the choices we have' situations.
This recipe is also a great way to involve kids in the kitchen: it opens up an opportunity to talk about whole food and what some of the benefits of these 'treats' can be. It's hard to captain an imaginary pirate ship on Snickers and M&Ms... real food means real fuel. (:
- 6 small granny smith or red gala apples, washed well + dried
- 2 cups dates, soaked for at least 3 hours in warm water, drained
- ~1/2 cup each of a few of the following (whichever you like): cacao nibs, goji berries, shredded coconut, chopped almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.
- 6 meat skewers or popsicle sticks
- 1. Process dates in blender until smooth. They should become paste-like; add a little water to smooth out if needed. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- 2. Divide 'toppings' into their own individual bowls.
- 3. Pierce each apple with a skewer and rotate in the date paste to coat evenly, followed by a dip into the toppings of choice. (As picture, one topping per apple tends to work best.)
- 4. Lay on parchment or foil-lined plate and set in the fridge for 15 minutes until date paste hardens.
- Store extra date paste in an airtight container in the fridge.
Have a very happy Halloween!