Ghoulishly Good Practices for Halloween

Ghoulishly Good Practices for Halloween

Make Halloween a fun and safe night for children and adults alike.

From candy to pumpkins to the costumes, Halloween is a fun-filled time for kids and adults alike. However, it can pose dangers. To help make this year’s trick-or-treat a safe and fun time, follow these simple safety tips compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure shoes fit well and costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement, or contact with flames.

Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.

Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes. The makeup should be tested on a small patch of skin ahead of time to ensure there are no unpleasant allergies on the big night.

When shopping for costumes, wigs, and accessories, look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are “flame resistant.”

If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or long. A child may be easily hurt by the accessories if he/she stumbles or trips.

Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. While the packaging on decorative lenses will often make claims such as “one size fits all,” or “no need to see an eye specialist,” obtaining decorative contact lenses without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.

Review with children how to call 911 if they ever have an emergency or become lost.

Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Then adults can do the cutting.

Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.

Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and not on a porch or any path where visitors may pass close by. They should never be left unattended.

To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes, and lawn decorations.

Adults should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.

Wet leaves and debris should be swept from sidewalks and steps.

Restrain pets so they do not jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.

A responsible adult should always accompany young children during their neighborhood trick-or-treating.

Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and adults.

If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.

Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.

Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or-Treaters to:

  • Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
  • Remember reflective tape for costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
  • Carry a cellphone for quick communication.
  • Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
  • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
  • Never cut across yards or use alleys.
  • Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out of driveways.
  • Do not assume the right of way. Motorists may have a hard time seeing Trick-or-Treaters.
  • Just because one car stops does not mean others will!
  • Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.


A good, healthy dinner prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage children from filling up on Halloween treats.

Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books, stickers, or pens and pencils.

Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.

Try to ration treats for the days and weeks following Halloween to prevent overindulging, which will lead to a stomachache and ruin the night’s fun.

Make sure the Halloween night is fun and safe with the suggested tips above.  These tips will help guarantee you all a ghoulishly good time.

Source:  American Academy of Pediatrics


Spring Showers?  Use Whole Grain Flours

Spring Showers? Use Whole Grain Flours

Wedding showers, baby showers, graduation parties – let’s face it, about half the celebration is based on the food that is served. Trays and plates of tasty morsels include a variety of colors, textures, sizes, and tastes. Why not include some healthy, whole grain options to join in on the fun?

Whole grain foods contain the whole edible part of the plant – the bran, endosperm, and germ. Consuming whole grains offers many health benefits like reducing risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Look for 100% whole grain on a package or “whole” as the first item in the ingredient list. Think of whole grain party foods as an extra “present” to give new moms, graduates, and engaged couples a healthy boost.

Try serving whole grain crackers topped with your favorite cheese and herb, whole grain pancakes or French toast with fruit, oatmeal cookies, ham and grainy mustard on mini whole grain rolls, finger sandwiches on whole grain bread cut into festive shapes, or popcorn (a whole grain) with a dash of chili powder, cumin, and garlic. Click kingarthurflour for even more whole grain party ideas.

Here’s a light spring side salad with a whole grain sure to please guests at your next shower.


Spring Grain Salad

1      Cup cooked brown or wild rice or whole grain barley, bulgur, couscous, or other grain

6     Cups spinach or kale, stems removed

1/4  Teaspoon each salt and pepper

1/4   Cup fresh mint leaves

1/3   Cup lemon juice

1/4   Cup olive oil

1      Garlic clove, finely chopped

1      Pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2   Chopped cucumber (preferably seedless)

3/4   Cup mozzarella cheese, small dice (optional)

  1. In a food processor, combine the spinach and mint and process until finely chopped, scraping down sides of the bowl, if necessary.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add the whole grain of choice, spinach mixture, tomatoes, cucumber, and cheese. Toss to combine.

To incorporate whole grains into your shower days and every day, go to MakeHalfYourGrainsWhole.

And the next time you get the whole gang together, go whole grain!


February is National Snack Food Month

February has been designated National Snack Month by the Snack Food Association of America, and the National Potato Promotion Board.

As Americans, the one thing that we can all agree on is our love of snacks. Snack sales in the United States top $60 Billion annually. The snack foods that we tend to reach for can be loaded with calories, sugar, sodium and fat.  However, snack foods do not have to be unhealthy to satisfy your cravings.  When you need a little boost of energy during the day, a healthy snack can do the trick.

According to University of Florida’s Karla Shelnutt, Associate Professor and Extension Nutrition Specialist, and Julie Martinez, healthy snacking is an important part of a child’s daily intake. The key is to learn how to make healthy snack choices and to avoid consuming too many snacks high in sugar and salt, and low in healthy nutrients ( ).

The key to healthy snacking is to plan ahead. Keep a variety of tasty, healthy snacks on hand to help to tide your family over in between meals. When shopping for your family, remember to select healthier items such as fresh fruits and vegetables and make sure to read food labels when selecting pre-packaged snacks.

Additional healthy snacking ideas:

  • Cut back on the high-calorie snacks. Choose fruits, vegetables and whole grains, like popcorn.
  • Snack when you are hungry, not when your are bored or stressed. Know the difference!
  • Eat sensible portion sizes; use single serve containers for snacks.
  • Quench your thirst with water, instead of high sugar drinks.

Healthy snack suggestions:

  • Ants on a log — Peanut butter filled celery sticks, topped with raisins.
  • Healthy ice pops — Pour 100% juice into ice cube trays and freeze.
  • Slices of apple with peanut butter
  • Smoothies with fat-free milk and frozen strawberries
  • Yogurt and fresh fruit
  • Crackers and cheese sticks

For more information on the importance of healthy snacking, contact your Family and Consumer Science Agent at your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.


Raising Healthy Children: The Role of Snacking. Julie M. Martinez and Karla P. Shelnutt. UF/IFAS EDIS, FCS8902/FY1154.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


Satsuma Oranges, North Florida’s Cold Weather Fruit

satsuma-1It’s the fall season, and Satsumas are hitting the shelves at your local grocery store. Satsumas are a seedless variety of the mandarin orange, and are harvested during the fall and early winter. Satsumas are grown in the cool, sub-tropical areas of California, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Because of their thin skin, satsumas are sweet and easy to peel. Whether you are buying satsumas from your local grocery store, farmers market or roadside stand, it is very important to purchase all of your citrus from a reputable vendor.

Satsuma Trees:
Satsuma trees are small to medium in size, and can easily tolerate the cooler fall temperatures that the Florida Panhandle is known for. Satsuma trees are relatively easy to grow and make an attractive addition to your home landscape. Picking fresh fruit off of your own tree provides a much fresher, and cost efficient treat. Satsuma trees are best started in a container and then transferred into the ground. When choosing a spot to plant a satsuma tree, remember that citrus trees need full sun.
sat-2“Before planting any new plants, you should always conduct a soil sample, to determine if there are any issues in the soil where you will plan the satsuma tree” said DJ Wiggin, Small Farms Agent with the Florida A&M University Extension Program in Gadsden County. If you would like to request a soil sample test kit, you should contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.

Fruit Bearing Season:
Satsuma oranges have a relatively brief fruit bearing season, between October and December. This short season give the satsuma oranges their rich flavor. A few nights with temperatures that drop into the 40s, help improve their sweetness. However, the fruit of the satsuma tree should be picked promptly when ripe, because the heavy fruit could cause damage to some weaker limbs of the tree.
According to DJ Wiggins, “When properly stored, satsumas have a shelf life of several weeks”. Satsuma oranges can be juiced, eaten as a snack, or used in recipes, including Orange marmalade.
Recipe Source: Adapted from So Easy to Preserve, from the Cooperative Extension at The University of Georgia.

Orange Marmalade
Yields about 7 half-pint jars
• 4 cups thinly slices Orange Peel (about 6 large oranges or 32 Satsumas)
• 4 cups Orange Pulp, cut up (about 6 large oranges or 32 Satsumas)
• 1 thinly sliced Lemon (about 2 medium)
• 6 cups of Water
• Sugar (about 6 cups)

To Prepare the Fruit- Add water and fruit together in a saucepan. Heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Cover and let stand 12 to 18 hours in refrigerator. Heat and cook over medium heat until peel is tender, about 1 hour. (Note: When peeling citrus fruits for marmalades, be sure to include some of the white membrane found just under the skin. This is where most of the pectin is located.)
To Make Marmalade– Sterilize canning jars. Measure fruit and liquid. Add 1 cup sugar for each cup of fruit mixture. Bring slowly to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly to the jellying point (25 minutes), stirring occasionally. Pour hot marmalade into hot, sterile ½ pint jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe jar rims with a dampened clean paper towel and adjust lids. Process 5 minutes in a Boiling Water Canner.


Interested in Learning More about Canning Fruits and Vegetables? The Gadsden County Extension Program offers Water Bath Canning Classes throughout the year, to learn more, call us at (850) 875-7255.

University of Florida IFAS Extension. The Satsuma Mandarin, Peter C. Andersen and James J. Ferguson, Revised November 2015

University of Alabama Extension, Satsuma Season: Enjoying the Christmas Orange, James Miles and Emma Sager, November 10, 2014

University of Georgia Extension: Citrus Fruit for Southern and Coastal Georgia, Krewer and Powell, Extension Fruit Specialists.

Recipe: Reynolds, Susan, Paulette Williams, Judy A. Harrison, and Susan J. Reynolds. So Easy to Preserve. Athens: Cooperative Extension Service, U of Georgia, College of Family and Consumer Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, 2006. Page 218

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.

Laurie Osgood, Family and Consumer Science Agent, UF/IFAS Extension, Gadsden County

DJ Wiggins, Small Farms Agent, Florida A&M University Extension, Gadsden County

Healthful Treats? You Betcha! Surprising health benefits of favorite seasonal treats

As we head into the season of overindulgence, it’s good to know that some holiday “treats” can actually be nutritiously guilt-free if we eat them in moderation. Read on to find the hidden health benefits of some classic favorites.

Sweet Potatoes: Sure, it’s a no-brainer that sweet potatoes are a source of vitamins, but these super veggies may be even better for you than you think! Your body converts the alpha and beta carotene from sweet potatoes into Vitamin A, helping keep your eyes, bones and immune system in top shape. Choose firm sweet potatoes with tapered ends and a uniform shape and color.

healthful-treatsNuts: Even though nuts are high in calories and fat, they are loaded with vitamins and minerals. The fat in nuts is heart-healthy. In fact, research suggests that eating just a handful of nuts a few times a week may lower heart disease risk. Nuts are also a great source of antioxidants, energy and protein. You might consider nuts a Christmas gift to your body!

Cocoa: Who doesn’t love a steaming cup of hot cocoa? Now, we know that its health benefits give us even more reason to love it. For example, cocoa contains antioxidants called flavonoids that may lower the risk of heart attack or stroke. Dark chocolate with a high percent of cocoa solids may help lower blood pressure, improve blood vessel health, and regulate cholesterol levels. So, give in to your craving – in moderation, of course!

Cranberries: With their rich red color, cranberries add a festive touch to any holiday table. Beautiful cranberries contain only 45 calories per cup while offering a healthy dose of benefits. They’re a good source of vitamin C and fiber, and they outrank nearly every other fruit and vegetable in the amount of disease fighting antioxidants they contain. Buy cranberries fresh in fall and winter and store them in a tightly sealed bag in your refrigerator to keep them fresh longer.



 EatingWell. Surprisingly Healthful Seasonal Treats.

 Hendrick, Bill. Cocoa Rich in Health Benefits. WebMD Health News. March 23,2011.

 Lerch Davis, Jeanie. Cranberries, Year-round Superfood. Web MD Feature. 9/29/2009.

 Mayo Clinic Staff. Nuts & your heart: Eating nuts for heart health. 9/15/2016.