CARTHAGE, Mo. —
You know how Linus so desperately waits for the Great Pumpkin? That poor kid. He tries to pull in recruits to wait for the mythical Great Pumpkin, but ends up alone, shivering and asleep in the pumpkin patch.
That's going to be my kid. She's in school now, so when she talks about the Switch Witch I can only hope other kids don't think she's a weirdo. Instead, I want them to hope the Switch Witch comes to their house.
After your little darlings stuff themselves with candy to the point they're bouncing off the walls, the Switch Witch swoops in and trades the rest of their loot for a fun little toy. Ideally, she would trade the candy for a toothbrush, but whatever. It's a win-win. Your kid gets a day of gluttony and a toy, and you get the security of knowing your kids aren't consuming processed junk for days upon days.
As I packed away the VHS copy of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," to be watched next year, I heaved a great sigh. We choose our battles, and this is one of mine. The Switch Witch and the Great Pumpkin are interchangeable. I wish it was an idea as widespread as Santa or the Tooth Fairy.
Trick-or-treating didn't become popular in the United States until the 1950s, coincidentally around the same time that packaged junk food became widely available. Instead of offering candy, consider giving out toys and trinkets to trick-or-treaters. They'll think of you as the fun people who gave out a few minutes of joy, which is better than another piece of candy lost in a sea of shiny wrappers.
Try having a small gathering of friends and kids over on Halloween. Let the kids trick-or-treat at a few houses close by, then come back to your place for a good time. Have a few crafts and games ready, make and break a pinata, set up a mini-photo booth, bob for apples and do some pumpkin painting. Give the grown-ups a warm, festive cocktail, make some popcorn for the kids, and enjoy the evening without traipsing around in the cold while your kids beg for candy from strangers.
There will be plenty of sweets around during this occasion, so try some of these savory recipes at your next Halloween bash.
Southwestern pumpkin burgers
6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped red or green bell pepper
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 (8-inch) whole-wheat flour tortillas (soft-taco size)
2 cups shredded lettuce
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in bell pepper, corn, garlic, chili powder and cumin; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl; let cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes.
Add pumpkin, cheese, wheat germ, breadcrumbs, parsley, salt and pepper to the onion mixture; mix well. With dampened hands, form the vegetable mixture into six 1/2-inch-thick patties, using about 1/2 cup for each.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Stack tortillas and wrap in aluminum foil. Place in the oven for about 15 minutes to heat through. Alternatively, stack tortillas between two damp paper towels; microwave on high for 30 to 60 seconds, or until heated through.
Using 2 teaspoons oil per batch, cook 2 to 4 patties at a time in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until browned and heated through, about 4 minutes per side. Adjust heat as necessary for even browning. Wrap the patties in tortillas and serve immediately, garnished with lettuce and salsa, if desired.
Adapted from eatingwell.com
Raisins and sunflower seeds
Toast the bread and cut each piece with a ghost-shaped cookie cutter. Slather on some whipped cream cheese and apply the raisins and sunflower seeds as eyes and a mouth.
Adapted from spoonful.com
Whole-wheat English muffins or bagels
Black olives, sliced
Mozzarella cheese sticks
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. For each mummy, spread 1 tablespoon of pizza sauce onto half of an English muffin. Set olive slices in place for eyes. Lay strips of cheese sticks across the muffin for the mummy's wrappings. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the muffin is toasty.
Adapted from spoonful.com
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