Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Getting Ready for a Healthier Easter

It’s almost Easter weekend. Which means it’s almost time for me to rush to the store in a panic looking for healthy-ish things that fit in to plastic Easter eggs. Usually I find myself wandering around Target on the day before the day before Easter, fighting off my cravings for Cadbury Crème eggs (which are displayed on EVERY endcap in the store) while consumed by guilt for buying in to the whole consumer-fueled Easter spectacle. Still, my kids expect something inside those plastic eggs.

When they were little we filled them with “loopy loops”. Fruit loops were the greatest treat they could imagine, so each year I bought one box and we stuffed the eggs with them. Easter morning they were thrilled to find plastic egg after plastic egg filled with loopy loops. But then they discovered chocolate and sour patch kids and jelly bellies, and those hideous peeps. They are kind of grossed out by my Cadbury Crème Egg fixation (as am I), but other kinds of chocolate eggs figure in to their plans.

This year I’m trying to get a jump on the holiday by making a list of alternative treats for the eggs that won’t cause my youngest to sigh as he says thank you or my oldest to roll his eyes and close the egg back up. I’m thinking money might be good, so I’ll stop by the bank and see if I can get some gold dollars. I hide a stash of yogurt covered malted milk balls in the back of the cupboard for my own sugar fixes, but the kids know about them and sneak in to my stash on a regular basis. I think the yogurt covered malted milk balls (purchased at the health food grocery store) must be healthier than snickers eggs, so I’m going to stock up on those too.

I can’t get around the chocolate, but at least I’ll be sure it’s the best I can afford and preferably hand made. There’s a new hand made candy store in town, so I’ll check it out to see if any of the goodies are made on the premises. At least then I’ll feel good that I bought local. Easter eggs were much less complicated and stress-inducing when I didn’t know better.

I’m also thinking of making up some great coupons like “you pick the dinner menu” or “one night excused from chores” or “you pick the movie night movie”, but I’m not sure how to word it so that it’s not so completely obvious that I’m in cahoots with the Easter Bunny. If you’ve got some great ideas for Easter treats, I hope you’ll add a comment to this post and help us all out!

One of the best things about Easter is the giant crème filled eggs made by the nice ladies at the Methodist church. Of course, those eggs have enough calories for the rest of the year and enough chemicals, colorings, and non-organic ingredients to put my kids in bed with a tummy ache, so last year I figured out how to make them myself. Granted mine weren’t quite as big and I didn’t really decorate them, but still they were AMAZING. The calorie content was probably almost as high, but at least I recognized all the ingredients. If you want to make some of your own, I’ve included the recipe in this post. I made vanilla cream and chocolate cream eggs using organic cream cheese, organic confectioners sugar, grass-fed dairy products, and grain-sweetened chocolate chips mixed with traditional semi-sweet chocolate baking chocolate. I’m hoping to make a little icing this year to decorate the eggs. Just so you know – you don’t have to eat them in one sitting, they freeze great. I found a pack of them this past September when digging in the freezer and not wanting to risk anyone’s health on expired candy eggs, I ate them all myself. WOW. Still good.

Easter Baskets have evolved in our house each year. I’m working very hard to reduce the “junk” (my term, I’m sure my kids wouldn’t agree) in our house by not buying plastic, crappy, cheap toys simply because I have to get something for their baskets. Beginning the day after Easter I always find myself repeatedly picking these toys up off the floor where they’ve been abandoned by incredibly illusive resident, Not Me. Eventually I will throw what’s left of them away because they are so junky and broken even Goodwill won’t want them. Not this year! This year the Easter Bunny will fill my kids baskets with mostly useful things – books, CDs, hair accessories, and school supplies. I’m sure you have as much pull as I do with the rabbit in charge of the holiday, so you might want to exert your influence on the baskets too. Kids like almost anything that arrives in a basket filled with plastic grass.

I hope you have a wonderful Easter Weekend, no matter your tradition. Enjoy the break in the routine and splurge on some really good food. And try to think outside the egg this year for some healthy changes in the definition of “treats”.

Chocolate Covered Easter Eggs

½ cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
2 ½ lbs confectioners’ sugar

1 cup creamy peanut butter (optional)
1 cup flaked coconut (optional)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
2 cups semisweet chocolate pieces
2 tablespoons shortening or vegetable oil (optional)

1. In large bowl, mix together the butter, vanilla, and cream cheese. Stir in confectioners’ sugar to make a workable dough. For best results, use your hands for mixing.

2. Divide the dough into four parts. Leave on of the parts plain (vanilla cream eggs). To the second part, mix in peanut butter. Mix coconut into the third part, and cocoa powder into the last part. (or skip the coconut because it makes your kids go ‘eww’ and peanut butter because you know too many kids with allergies and just make half vanilla and half chocolate like I did. Do what you like, they’re your eggs.)

3. Roll dough in to egg shapes, and place on waxed paper lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate until hard, at least an hour.

4. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler (or a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water). Stir occasionally until smooth. If the chocolate seems too thick for coating, stir in some of the shortening or oil until it thins (only if you have too since shortening and vegetable oil are not healthy ingredients!).

5. Dip the chilled eggs in chocolate, and return to waxed paper lined sheet to set. Refrigerate for ½ hour to harden.

6. Try not to eat them all at once – even organic cream eggs make your tummy hurt.

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