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Spicy African Peanut Slow Cooker Stew

I’m taking a short little break from my four part dairy-free series.  I will be back soon (promise!) for my fourth installment in the series where I show you how to make dairy-free banana ice cream (some called it “banana whip”).  If you haven’t had a chance and want to explore the first three parts of my dairy-free series, here are part one, part two, and part three.

Everything I cook and bake is dairy-free these days.  And, boy, the food is good! Maybe my palate is not as sensitive as others.  I can say with certainty that I’m not a supertaster, but if family members asking for seconds and thirds is any indication I’ve got to be doing something right. (Or perhaps they are just starving.  Harrumph.)

Tonight we had an asparagus and red pepper noodle dish from Robin Robertson’s Quick Fix Vegetarian.

On Halloween night, we had a most delicious Spicy African Peanut Slow Cooker Stew (over whole wheat couscous) from the hilarious Peas and Thank You (love this book full of bold and colorful vegetarian/vegan food).  This was the perfect tasty and warm plant-based meal to fill bellies before trick or treating.

I do love Halloween, I do.  Creative, funny costumes – pumpkins to carve – community trick or treating where everyone walks away from daily schedules to go outdoors to share the excitement of fall and …….. candy.

Yeah, eventually, I’d have to get to the candy part, right? Isn’t that what Halloween is all about? The candy? That’s what I was led to believe all my years, but somehow things are changing course – at least for our family.

A couple years ago I was inspired by an amazing lady to live what I believe in.  She wasn’t telling me to do that, oh no…she wouldn’t tell you what to do or think.  But, she shared how she raised her family and expressed how her actions were consistent with her values.

I’ve been thinking about this concept for years and even though I always thought I lived by my values, I actually didn’t.  I would say one thing, for instance “candy isn’t good for kids’ bodies”, then I’d let my kids have a couple pieces for Halloween, and many other special occasions (doesn’t there seem to be a special occasion every week?).  Sure, you may be asking why can’t they have candy every now and again.  I guess they can if they want, but in this case I think it’s my job to impress upon them that there are other things that can make them happy.  They don’t need candy to find excitement and happiness in Halloween.

So, where I land is that even though I used to say that we didn’t eat much candy, now I can say with conviction, “we don’t need candy to make us happy”.  I can leave it at that and move on.

Don’t get me wrong…we love our sweet treats.  Raw brownies, banana ice cream, pumpkin muffins, dark chocolate dipped in homemade almond-cashew butter…oh, yes, we love our sweet treats and my kids are far from deprived.  But that chemically-colored stuff wrapped in plastic? Nah…it’s not for us and we’re OK with that.  (It doesn’t even taste good anymore.)

I couldn’t have planned this next part better if I had strategized for a year on how to get my kids to not eat candy on Halloween.  We ran out of our non-candy treats mid-way into our Halloween evening (it was a super-duper busy night on our street) and so I casually asked if my daughter would like to pass out her Halloween candy to our neighbors approaching our door.

Without hesitation, she grabbed her ghost trick or treat bag and gave it to my husband who handed every last piece out.  Wow.  And no remorse at all.  No discussion afterwards.  The candy didn’t matter to her.  Phew.  (Even I was surprised.)

This experience has led me to think even more about how we, as adults, treat holidays/birthdays/special occasions/etc. when it comes to food.  If we know something is not good for us, why do we think that “treating” ourselves to it is really a “treat”? Isn’t it more that we are “treating” ourselves poorly?

Do we create the idea that certain things are more attractive to kids than they really are? Or, is it just that some kids love candy bars more than others? Or, was she just trying to please others by doing what she thought we wanted her to do?

I don’t have all the answers (actually more questions than answers), but in the end I was proud of my girl.

I leave you with my version of hot cocoa.  I’ve made this recently when the temperatures dipped.

Dairy-Free Hot Cocoa

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 T raw cacao powder
  • 1 pitted medjool date (or 2 if you prefer it sweeter)
  • splash of vanilla (optional)

Blend until warm and drink.  Or, heat on stovetop.

Note:  If you are not using a high speed blender, you may want to soak your dates in warm water for a little bit for ease in blending.  Medjool dates are the softest I’ve found.  You can use other varieties but they will be harder and probably need to be soaked.

When I’m feeling particularly decadent, I add a gigantic heaping tablespoon of peanut butter.  Oh, yeah.

Do you partake in traditional Halloween activities? What is your favorite part?