October 28, 2013 Leave your thoughts
Happy Halloween, everyone…or shall I say, happy MEOWoween.
To tell you the truth, I haven’t experienced a true Halloween in years. In 2011, a massive snowstorm (which my friend dubbed “Snowpocalypse”) hit my town and shut off power for a week, thus cancelling school and rescheduling Halloween, too. I went trick-or-treating with my friends in town and on the first Saturday in November, but it still wasn’t the real thing. Last year, we got hit by Hurricane Sandy, once again leaving us powerless and without school for Halloween. I think I spent the night of October 31st huddled up with five jackets and a blanket in my bed, most likely reading book.
This year, it looks like Halloween might actually happen. Hooray, right? Eh, not really.
Halloween used to be my favorite holiday. Back when I was a real-food rebel, I saw Halloween as the perfect way to get away from my parents’ portion controlling and healthy meals and gorge myself on a boatload of, well, crap. My friends and I would hide up in my room and stuff our faces, eating as much as we could before our parents could get to us. It was satisfying and fun…until an hour later, after the wrappers were squirreled away in an empty box and the stomach ache set in. While all of that sugary chocolate was delicious as I was rapidly chowing down on it, I felt so sick afterwards simply from the amount I consumed. Now that I am more sensible about what I eat, the fun from Halloween is gone for me. Sure, I could dress up, but I would rather spend costume money on cookbooks
or stuffed animals.
So now, I am being the Grinch of Halloween, because really, we’re just fueling America’s rising obesity rates and big corporations who don’t need the extra money. Granted, I’m a fifteen year-old: for kids (and normal teenagers, I suppose), Halloween is awesome and magical. That’s great, but I don’t agree with it. Why can’t we celebrate National Produce Day, where children dress up as farmers, fruits, or vegetables and go from house-to-house to get apples and butternut squashes to take home?
Common, it’s a good idea, right? Am I the only one? Well, National Produce Day will be a thing. ONE DAY.
You know, when I take over the world.
Now, this weekend, I was planning on making you guys a cranberry crepe cake or gingerbread; that may happen in the future, but Saturday morning, my plans were interrupted by Giada de Laurentiis, my favorite Food Network chef. She was having a Halloween-themed party…and was making Black Cat Pops, which she immediately announced were “gluten-free.” My ears perked up: I’m always curious when a celebrity chef makes something gluten-free. Usually, it’s just making pancakes or bread or whatever with a store-bought mix, but Giada’s recipe was anything but: there was REAL food! Dried figs, almond butter, coconut oil…it was right up my alley. I immediately turned to my dad and said, “I have to make that.”
This thus began my little weekend project. I went back to the supermarket to get more figs and to Michael’s to get lollipop sticks, then dug through my pantry to find the perfect decorating ingredients. They wound up just as I envisioned: adorable and super tasty! These kitties are great for kids, especially those with allergies: they’re gluten-free, vegan, and can be made nut-free with a few decoration swaps. There’s no added sugar, either: your little one will be eating fruit instead of the refined sugar usually found in candy. What’s not to love? It’s a win-win for both the parents and the children: sweet treats, but in a much healthier way!
Did I mention they’re no-bake, too? SCORE!
You’re first going to need figs: Turkish ones, to be exact, and 16 ounces of them! (For me, that was 22 figs.) Using a sharp knife, take off the stems (they’re tough and not pleasant to eat) and cube the fruit up into small but not micro pieces. Place them in the food processor and pulse until a ball starts to form, about 30 1-second pulses.
To the figs, add 2 tablespoons of sunflower seed butter (or creamy almond or cashew butter), 3 tablespoons of apple cider (or water), 1 heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder, and a generous pinch of salt. Process until no big pieces of fig remain and the added ingredients have been full incorporated, about 3 minutes.
Line a large baking sheet (rimmed or not, it doesn’t matter) with parchment paper. Dip an ice cream scoop or large spoon in cold water, then scoop out a little more than a tablespoon of fig mixture. Drop it into your hands, roll it into a ball, and place it on the baking sheet. Repeat until you run out of figs: I made 14 decent-sized balls.
Stab a lollipop stick deep into the center of every ball. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes just to firm up a bit.
Meanwhile, in a double boiler or a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt 8 ounces of dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Stir frequently with a spatula and remove from the heat as soon as it’s melted.
Take the fig pops out of the fridge. Dunk each one gently in chocolate and use a fork to cover every nook and cranny. Let the excess chocolate drip off over the bowl, then place the fig pop back on the parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining pops, then return to the fridge for 15 minutes so the chocolate will solidify but not completely harden.
Meanwhile, prepare your decorations: use almond flakes (or pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or large coconut flakes) for the ears and blanched almond slivers cut in half (or sesame seeds, raisins, or mini chocolate chips) for the eyes. For the whiskers, use a pair of scissors to cut some dried guava (you could also use mango) into thin strips, then cut each strip into 4 segments. Make the noses by cutting two or three of the strips into little triangles or squares. You should have 2 ears, 2 eyes, 1 nose, and 4 whiskers for each cat.
To assemble your kitties, stick an almond flake on either side of the lollipop stick…
…then use a little chocolate to paste on the eyes, whiskers, and nose.
You could leave it like that, but I thought my cats looked kinda creepy, so I used some more chocolate to paint on pupils and color in some of the ear.
My black cat, Felix, was very curious about what I was making–so curious, in fact, that he resorted to near cannibalism.
Repeat with the remaining pops, keeping them as cool as possible so the chocolate won’t melt. I highly recommend keeping the pops you’ve finished or aren’t working on in the fridge or outside, if it’s cold out.
Let harden at a cold temperature for at least an hour before serving. Keep these guys in an airtight container in the fridge: DO NOT keep them at room temperature, especially if you have the heat on! I got intense about preserving my kitties at school: I invaded the world language workroom’s fridge so my cat pops wouldn’t melt before I gave them to my teachers. Bref, the German teacher wasn’t happy.
I think it was worth it, though, don’t you think?
What is your favorite Halloween treat? Leave me a comment and let me know!
Thanks so much to Giada de Laurentiis for the inspiration. <3