9 Healthy Halloween Treats

posted in Lists and Leftovers by Jessica Howard

pumpkin patch

It was still summer when giant bags of Halloween candy started appearing on store shelves. Then, the bakeries and cafes upped the ante, pushing the fluorescent-orange-frosted cupcakes and cookies. You’re conflicted: the adult in you hates Halloween hype, but the 10-year-old still salivates at the sight of all that sweet stuff. The good news is that you and your kids can enjoy plenty of Halloween goodies without going into sugar shock. Here are some ideas for Halloween treats with a healthy twist.

  1. The Kitchn has a delightful and colorful Vegetable Skeleton that takes veggies and dip to a new level!
  2. Easy, queasy appetizer: For an eyeball-ish appetizer, follow startcooking’s recipe for Deviled Eggs. They can be topped with either green or black slided olive “irises”. Better Homes and Gardens took it one step further in the photo below by adding asparagus eyebrows and using really great shaped plates!  Photo: Better Homes and Gardens                                                    http://images.meredith.com/bhg/images/recipe/l_R136435.jpg
  3. Forget the Candy: We all love candy but there are so many Healthy Trick or Treat Alternatives. Including: Cereal barsSnack packets of dried fruit, baked pretzels, nut and seedsTrail mixAnimal crackers100 calorie packs of various productsSingle serve boxes of ready-to-eat cerealRaisins and chocolate covered raisins

    Fig cookies

    Mini boxes of raisins

    Individual juice drinks (100% juice)

    Single-serve packets of low-fat microwave popcorn

    Sugar-free hot chocolate or apple cider packets

  4. SOS (Save Our Seeds): If you are planning on carving a pumpkin, hang on to the seeds and roast them for a savory snack.
  5. Make Jell-O even spookier: If you whip up a package of orange Jell-O following the package directions and set some plastic spiders or other creepy crawlies on top, you’ve got a simple, non-fat Halloween dessert. If you are feeling more adventurous, try some Spooky Jell-o Jigglers!http://www.kraftfoods.com/assets/recipe_images/Spooky_JELL-O_JIGGLERS.jpg
    Photo: Kraft Foods
  6. Calling all cookie monsters: Instead of going for store-bought, try the Skinny Chef’s pumpkin-shaped peanut butter cookies.
  7. Hot spider! Ooops, that’s cider: Hot apple cider, which consists of apple juice, a few spices and orange peel, takes just a few minutes to make. For the “over 21″ crowd try one of these Creepy Halloween Cocktails.
  8. Spiced up popcorn: Rather than making the traditional popcorn balls, why not try some of Macheesmo’s Five Spice Popcorn for a real flavor explosion! Simply Recipe’s Perfect Popcorn Recipe will guarantee no seeds on the bottom of the bowl.
  9. Pumpkins, pumpkins and MORE pumpkins: Carving a pumpkin is great fun but when it comes to cooking with pumpkins, it is a lot easier to just buy a can of pumpkin puree. Startcooking’s Pumpkin Soup Without the Fuss is a snap to make using pumpkin puree. Or you might want to try Pumpkin Pie for Beginners which comes out perfect every time!http://startcooking.com/public/IMG_9327.JPG

Happy Halloween Everyone!

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Kendall-Jackson’s Sip, Bite & Blog 2011

posted in Food, Lists and Leftovers by Kathy Maister

I’m just back from having spent an amazing weekend in Napa Valley. Kendall-Jackson Winery invited 12 food bloggers (and Ruth Reichl!) to California for their first annual Sip, Bite & Blog gathering. KJ outdid themselves planning this extraordinary event!

Our first evening was a food and wine tasting, then dinner, at the Kendal Jackson Winery.

We were all totally blown away by this tasting as each wine was paired with the most delectable morsels of food heaven!

The tasting included Fried Green Tomatoes paired with AVANT Chardonnay, Buckwheat Crepe with Prosciutto, Cheese and Apple Butter paired with Vintner’s Reserve Riesling and Smoked Fennel Tomato Soup with Highland Estates Seco Highlands Pinot Noir.

Are you salivating yet?

The KJ Chef made us all swoon with the Sweet Tea Brined Niman Ranch Pork Belly Slider that was paired with a Highland Estates Alisos Hills Syrah.

But the most unexpected combination was Caramel Corn paired with late harvest Chardonnay. It was delightfully sinful!

Here is the recipe for Kendall-Jackson’s award winning caramel corn.

Much to our surprise, this tasting and food paring is available on a daily basis to the public!

Day two we headed to Alexander Valley Mountain and Stonestreet Winery.

It was crazy hot that day! About 95 degrees hot!

Our timing was perfect in that we actually got to see the grapes being harvested.

Within just a few hours of being picked, the process of actually making the wine begins.

Kendall-Jackson has a forest of oak trees in France. That is the wood that is used for the barrel-making. The barrels are used just once.

Another tasting and a picnic lunch…

took place on top of Alexander Valley Mountain.

Then we headed to Jackson Park Vineyards/Ranch. This next tasting was seriously educational. Director of Wine Education Gilian Handleman and winemaker Matt Smith’s theme was “Nature’s Blueprint – Pairing Wine and Produce”.

They had us sampling Granny Smith apples, beets, figs, tomatoes, corn, and peaches with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc. All of these tastings really were amazing in helping to encourage one’s palate and nose to distinguish flavors and scents. (Be sure to check out Kendall-Jackson’s fabulous Wine and Food Pairing Chart.)

Jackson Park Ranch is breathtakingly beautiful.

In addition to the vineyard, they are actually developing a truffle forest. Hazelnut trees, impregnated with the truffle fungus are planted in-between English oak trees. Eventually the hazelnut trees will get cut down and there will be a forest of oak trees and truffles!

Brian Malone with his planned truffle forest

Fields of lavender….

….surround the Matanzas Creek Winery where the Local Artisan Food Purveyor Dinner was being served.

It felt like walking through a Monet painting!

I loved the look of these trees just outside the window of the dining room.

Dinner was a joint effort between the Kendall-Jackson Culinary team and Liberty Ducks, Gourmet Mushrooms, Drake’s Bay Oysters, Whole Vine and Redwood Hill Farm Cheese.

The appetizers were both delicious and educational. I particularly liked the Organic Mushrooms.

Our last day was spent at Arrowood winery.

We worked in teams, photographing a plate we had designed, with advice from a professional food photographer and food stylist.

Our plate of scallops won!

Justin, Marc, Adam (Adam) and me!

Then onto a walk through the Kendall-Jackson “scratch and sniff” garden with Ruth Reichl.

Ruth’s pre-dinner speech was delightful! She is so charming and gracious. In fact during dinner, she visited with each table and signed books as well.

Needless to say, this dinner, served with amazing wines, was astounding! My favorite course was the Glazed Local Cod with Corn Pudding and Cherry Tomatoes. It was served with Kendall-Jackson Highland Estates Camelot Highlands Chardonnay. It was a combination to die for!

During the past few days I learned a heck of a lot about growing grapes, wine making, wine styles, tasting wines and pairing wines with food. I discovered that Kendall-Jackson really is a family-run business that cares about its people and the environment. I met some extremely talented food bloggers. It was delightful to share the weekend with Grace, Nicole, Rebecca, Maryse, Adam, Marc, Cathy, Adrianna, Jessica and Gina.

Best of all I experienced wine country like everyone should, at least once in your life!

Thanks, Kendall-Jackson!


P.S. I was delighted to be Kendall-Jackson’s guest for this amazing event. They paid for my food, lodging and airfare but they neither asked me nor paid me to write about this adventure.


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posted in Lists and Leftovers by Elizabeth Somer

I would like to welcome nutritionist Elizabeth Somer to startcooking.com. You may have heard me mention phytonutrients in my Apple Snack Attack and Super-foods Salads videos, both sponsored by Fresh Express. Elizabeth is here today to explain a little bit about what phytonutrients are, why we need them and what foods are rich in phytonutrients. Thanks Elizabeth!



Phyto What?

Phytonutrients: They’re possibly the most important ingredients in your diet, since they help explain why colorful vegetables, fruits, and other unprocessed foods help boost immunity, promote eye health and provide antioxidant protection.

Phytonutrients are naturally-occurring compounds found in real foods – from fruits and vegetables to legumes and nuts. They are lost when foods are processed. Every vegetable and fruit contains thousands of these chemicals that protect plants from harmful effects of the environment, such as heat, bugs and disease. They may also help human cells stay healthy by blocking one or more stages of cancer development, stimulating the immune system, protecting the heart against disease and helping to prevent cataracts … possibly even slowing the aging process.

While scientists have long known that vitamins, minerals, and fiber in fruits and vegetables are beneficial, more recent evidence shows that certain phytonutrients in these unprocessed foods are particularly health-enhancing and disease-preventing.

A common class of phytonutrients is carotenoids. Lutein is a well known phytonutrient within this class and is found in spinach and other richly-colored lettuce and produce. This phytonutrient is an antioxidant and also helps slow the progression of macular degeneration of the eyes, a leading cause of blindness. A mixture of carotenoids, such as lutein, lycopene, and beta carotene, also protect the skin (along with sunscreen!) from sun damage caused by ultra-violet light.

Are you getting enough phytonutrients? Increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables to be sure. The USDA recommends a minimum of 3 servings of veggies and 2 servings of fruit each day.

Below is a sample of phytonutrients and where you can find them:

Carotenoids Food Source Flavonoids & Polyphenols Food Source





leafy green and yellow vegetables (e.g. broccoli, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots)


Fruits & Vegetables


leafy greens such as kale, spinach, turnip greens


Fruits, vegetables, tea and wine


tomato products, pink grapefruit, watermelon, guava



*Sourced from the United States Department of Agriculture

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