So I’ve been tooling along, happily enjoying summer (and being warm instead of ABSOLUTELY FREEZING COLD every second of the day) when I noticed that somehow, somewhere, things had changed. At some point, the foliage had surreptitiously begun to autumnize – the leaves had started to blush as they helped the trees disrobe, and I couldn’t enjoy the show without throwing on a jacket.
Apparently, fall is here.
And while I’m not entirely jazzed about the weather getting colder, or Nature’s naughty children leaving huge piles in the yard for me to rake up, there are some good things about autumn:
- Football (GO EAGLES!)
- Boots. New season, new shoes, yo:
- Winter squash. Yes, I know it’s kind of odd to be excited about a vegetable. But squash is a side dish of convenience. Unlike its more delicate summer cousins, who shrivel up about fifteen minutes after you get them home from the farmer’s market, winter squash will politely sit on a shelf and wait until you’re ready to give it the Gremlin Spa Treatment with a knife, a microwave, and perhaps a bit of curry*.
- Thicker sweaters, which oh-so-kindly cover the lumps and bumps of summer’s ice cream obsession and, paired with long pants (read: no need to shave) and boots, drastically cut down on your required morning hygiene time. (Unless you’re into open-toed boots. Which, frankly, are stupid. The ENTIRE POINT of boots is to forgo the pedicure, people. And to keep the snow off your foot. Neither of which is achieved when you hack a big hole in the front of an otherwise perfectly good boot. Weirdos.)
It’s also the time of year for the second-biggest commercial holiday in the United States – Halloween.
Now historically, I haven’t been a huge participant in the costume-and-candy cattle call. Don’t get me wrong – it’s super cute to see all the children in their little character impersonations, and I love the neighborhood camaraderie when everyone is walking around knocking on doors begging for treats. (Which, interestingly, we parents caution against for the other 364 days a year. Don’t take candy from strangers, kids, unless you’re dressed up as your favorite Disney character and all the other kids are doing it, too. Have fun running around in the dark with all the masked miscreants covered in fake blood!)
The problem (in addition to the blatantly mixed parenting message) is the requirement to stockpile big bags of candy in anticipation of this event.
Candy simply cannot live in my house. It’s not safe. I will eat it. All of it. Well, except these:
So my choices are either to hand out the sort of candy that moves your house right to the top of the egg-and-TP hit list, or to shut off the porch lights and hide in the basement. Since the only candy I won’t eat does the former, I’ll be lurking in the dark.
The neighbors, however, do this time of year up right. Here’s their spooky display, currently under construction:
Before the big day, they’ll add a few more ghosts, lights, a fog machine, sound effects….clearly, they’re the cool parents on the block. I bet they hand out full-sized candy bars, too. (And yes, they’re both marathon-runner thin, and if they weren’t so nice I might hate them a little.)
So let’s revisit costumes for a bit. This is the fun part of Halloween. For one day, you can shed all the expectations society has for you and be someone else entirely. It doesn’t have to be something attainable or realistic – you can be anything that you invent in your mind. Astronaut mermaid princess? Yes please.
Halloween is an opportunity to “try on” the thing you want to be…and a chance to disguise what you don’t want others to see. You literally put a mask on all that and just enjoy stepping into the role.
And speaking of disguises…don’t forget to put a costume on your food.
We’re getting ready to kick off the holiday season, folks – and that means we’re about to be surrounded by food. You know how this goes: It starts with the aforementioned candy, rolls into stuffing and potatoes with gravy, and the next thing you know, the cookies and treats have piled up faster than the snow at the end of the driveway. And the duration of the frenzied feast is punctuated with eggnog at cocktail parties and the beer, nachos, and wings that show up at your tailgate.
Since it’s not entirely practical to spend the next three months incognito in your basement, you might want to find a way to navigate the holiday spread…before YOU spread for the holidays.
My go-to? Dip.
But…wait a second. Dip is sour cream, cheese, and mayo, loaded onto delicious, carby, crunchy things. How exactly is this helping the annual belt-busting here?
Shh…it’s a disguise.
We’re pretending we’re indulging in fatty food when we’re actually not.
Let’s start with WHAT we dip. Sure, you can use chips…but since this is a costume party, let’s do something a little more dolled-up and dress it like a rainbow. Just look at this gorgeous plate that Chobani assembled:
Now it’s time to trick out your dip.
We want something smooth and creamy to fool our palate into thinking we’re eating something decadent. There are lots of options here, and if you have a halfway-decent food processor, you can make a decent dip out of chickpeas, avocado, or beans.
But if you’re looking to cut calories, there’s really no better base than fat-free Greek yogurt. It’s high in protein, tastes a lot like sour cream (especially when you add other dip flavors like caramelized onions or roasted red peppers) and you can eat quite a lot of it without blowing your calorie bank for the entire season.
And because we live in America, we don’t even have to get all fancy in the kitchen. We can head to our local Target and buy one of the concoctions dreamed up by the geniuses at Chobani. Take a look at these rich, creamy, delicious beauties:
I stumbled upon these yum cups a couple of months ago. Full disclosure: I was looking for binge food – a.k.a. something “bad.” And I walked away with the Roasted Red Pepper and the Smoked Onion and Parmesan.
ZOMG. Sooooooooooooooo good.
And the best part? Even if you just sit and eat the dip with a spoon (don’t judge, I REALLY need to buy groceries) the entire tub is only 250 calories.
By the way, this stuff also makes an amazing sandwich spread. Try the Roasted Red Pepper with some fabulous grilled chicken breast, the Chili Lime in tuna salad, or the Smoked Onion and Parmesan on a turkey burger. Adios, mayonnaise, I’m dating your hotter brother with the good hair and the washboard abs.
So while you’re strutting around in your goth-tooth fairy-unicorn getup, remember to reach for the Greek yogurt instead of the guilt and dip away, dip away, dip away all!**
What’s your costume this year? Do you “do up” Halloween? And what’s your favorite dip? Share in the comments!
Stupid good squash: Nuke 1 acorn squash (or whatever you have. Squash can’t read, so feel free to use one of those baby pumpkin-looking ones) until tender. Scrape the flesh out of the skin and mash it in a bowl with 1/2 T garlic and ginger, 1/2 tsp coriander, and 1/4 tsp turmeric, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Stir in 1/2 non-fat plain Chobani Greek yogurt and chow down on your bowl of comfort-food goodness.
And while you’re staring down the squash guts, you might as well save the seeds. You can roast ’em just like you would pumpkin seeds. Rinse them well and let them dry (I just put them on a plate and stir daily until they dry completely, then transfer to an airtight container.) To roast, set your oven to 275F. Spray a sheet with cooking spray. Toss the dry seeds with a few good splashes of Frank’s Red Hot (trust me – they’ll be seasoned, but not unbearably spicy) and a sprinkle of salt. Bake them in a single layer for 10-15 minutes, and watch them disappear like peanut butter cups from your kid’s trick-or-treat stash.
**Only 69 days until Christmas. Which means 75 days and 12 hours until your New Years’ diet resolution begins. Holly Jolly, my ever-spreading @$$.