October 22, 2012

Halloween for a Food Allergic Family

At our house, you know Halloween is approaching because I have furry fabric dust bunnies in every corner of the house, scraps of fabric where there used to be a chair for sitting, and the sewing machine quickly becoming a permanent fixture on the dining table.  Logan, with his obsession at counting down the days to things, reminds me daily that Halloween is right around the corner (a mere 9 days away!).

Not only does Halloween mean costumes, but Halloween parties at school, and trick-or-treating with actual candy and very few actual ingredient labels.  Although it's still one of my most beloved holidays, Halloween remains a huge source of worry and stress.

I am determined this year to not only have a safe Halloween, but a fun one.  As in, I am not going to overextend myself and do so much that I can't stop and enjoy the holiday.  No.  This year, I am keeping it simple.  Hey, that doesn't mean it can't still be special.

A few tips on how to keep it simple this Halloween:

1.  With the kids' food allergies, I just won't take the risk of letting them eat any of the candy they collect.  They've never had it, so they won't ask for it.  OK, they might ask for it; but in the end, they know it might not be safe and definitely not worth a stomachache or a visit to the ER.  Even worse, even if your child has had a particular candy, the treat-sized versions may have a different ingredient list or may be made in a different facility than their full-sized counterparts.  And of course, the ingredient list is left on the plastic bag and not on the individual wrapper.  So knowing what's safe and what's not on Halloween night becomes a risky business.

Instead, let the kids trade in their booty for another favorite treat or known safe candy, buy the candy from them (I think we used to get paid a penny or nickel per piece), or offer up a small toy or book--a small price to pay to keep safe!

2.  If you're staying at home to treat the trick-or-treaters, your lovely and helpful children are inevitably getting their hands into your basket of goodies.  Being the allergy-conscious people you are, you will probably be giving out a non-edible treat, like the old school spider rings or glow sticks, spooky stickers, tattoos, or a plethora of other stuff offered in bulk in almost every variety store from now until the 31st.  Alternatively, you could elect to distribute something from BAAAB's Top Ten Best Halloween Candy List, all free of the top 8 allergens.

3.  As much as I love doing what Martha does on Halloween, splitting myself amongst all the parties and overseeing trick-or-treating this year is enough.  I probably don't need to be creating papier mache pumpkins, hanging snake vellum lanterns, or working on some other intricate and time-consuming piece of homemade decor that I coveted so much in my pre-kids era.

So I let the kids go crazy on crayons, scissors, glue, and construction paper, and they came up with some really creative stuff (to stick all over our front windows).  To get a bit more fancy, try taking the lead on Deep Space Sparkle's Starlight Pumpkin Art Lesson, requiring oil pastels, tempura paints,  chalks (I got away with using white oil pastels instead of the chalks), and black construction paper.  Last year, we got creative with felt and other things we had around the house to spice up our home for Halloween.

This project was perfect for my 5-year-old!

Here is my 3-year-old's interpretation of spooky grass!

4.  Halloween fun doesn't always have to mean having sweets.  You can incorporate spooky goodness into healthful Halloween snacks and meals too, like the Creepy Crawly Spider Burgers we tried out last year.

5.  For past years' parties, I've made egg, dairy, and nut-free chocolate chip pumpkin muffins, courtesy of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix, Ener-G Egg Replacer, and Trader Joe's semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Even the biggest pumpkin skeptics adore these muffins!

For your kids' Halloween parties, consider bringing JELL-O this year.  I purchased these Halloween molds and JELL-O kits for just $4 at Walgreens, and they just took a few minutes to prepare, and a couple hours in the fridge.  Or, create your own orange and purple layered jello, following this basic procedure I used for our red, white, and blue striped JELL-O Squares.  You can use your own molds or cookie cutters, or just make a tray of good old orange or purple JELL-O.

Just add 1-1/4 boiling water to one 6 oz. package of  JELL-O Gelatin

Spray molds with cooking spray or grease lightly with oil,  chill in the fridge for a couple hours, and remove with a little help of your knife.


Or use the same recipe and pour layers into small cups, one by one as they chill.

Make sure you take lots of pictures, more than you or they ever wanted to take. The costumed pictures are among my favorite and most cherished of the year. They won't fit nor will they likely be interested in wearing this year's costumes again.  And as much as I hate to admit it, the magic of Halloween will someday wear off.  One day, my eldest will announce that he will not be wearing a costume and that trick-or-treating is a thing of the past.  So for the present, relax, enjoy, and snap away!


  1. Love the jello! Great tips here. I'm lazy this year for Halloween. My mum spared me stress by finding stuff for C's costume. All I need to do is get some felt for the dress part and my mum will take care of that sewing for me. J has the dress up dress already and her aunt got her the wig...LOL.

    1. OOOh, can't wait to see your cuties! Post pics of them in their costumes on our FB wall. :)

  2. Love your ideas! Very similar to what we do. My kids LOVE to have a "spooky" family dinner with everyone in costume, by candle light at our dining room table. We do the spooky jello, and this year will get them each a Halloween movie. I think my fiance is going to frost and decorate a pumpkin shaped cake (carob, with homemade frosting colored with homemade food coloring) for a surprise for them.