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Ghoulish Goblin Meringues; A Guilt-Free Halloween Treat!

Written for The River Current Publication, October 31, 2013

My piping skills could use a little practice; but hey, they're cute anyway...right?

With Halloween (and little goblins) upon our doorsteps, I thought it would be a good time to have a little discussion about sugar.  I know, I know…someone has to take the fun out of everything, right?  Relax. I have many fond memories of Halloween when I was a child and then later created awesome memories with my boys when they were growing up. 
I actually used to make a rather large production out of Halloween when my boys were younger.  Somehow the event turned into an anticipated, yearly tradition that always began with a festive meal which included steamy French onion soup (to ward off any ghosts or goblins), bread sticks shaped like gnarly fingers, eyeball pasta, pumpkin pie, etc.   Family and friends eagerly joined us, gathering around our table to share in this amusing dinner presentation prior to passing out lots and lots of candy!  So see, I am not a Halloween Scrooge.
As everyone knows, I find great pleasure in cooking…and eating.  I love baking, but in this last year or so, I have tried to carefully watch the sugar content of my recipes.  I try to steer clear of recipes that are heavily laden in sugar.  I am drawn to share recipes with you that are enjoyable, but also a little more gentle on your glycemic load!
Studies show that on average we eat about 15 teaspoons of sugar daily.  That is quite a bit more than the 6 teaspoons recommended by the American Heart Association.  Studies also show that too much of this zero-nutrient food, increases our risk for diabetes and heart disease.  
Even when making our best effort to limit our sugar intake, we might be surprised to learn that many processed foods today have this ‘sweet stuff’ hiding out in unsuspecting food items such as salad dressing, soups, sauces and bread.  Read your labels.  Manufactures slip sugar into their products under such aliases as agave nectar, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn syrup, corn sweetener, crystalline fructose, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, lactose, maltose, malt syrup and sucrose...among many others.
Did you know that consuming sugar triggers a response in the brain’s “reward center” in the same manner that cocaine, alcohol, nicotine and other addictive substances do?  These are the foods that we crave and/or become addicted to.   Once you become more aware and educated about what you are eating and eliminate some of these hidden sugars from your diet, you will soon lose your desire and cravings.  Ultimately you will find yourself feeling better than even you could have imagined. 
Yes, refined sugar is bad for us, but we are all human.  Occasionally we just need that prize or reward of sweet stuff.  As Julia Child said, “Everything in moderation…including moderation.”
Here’s a sweet, fun and guilt-free recipe to share with your goblins.  (Check my blog this week for pictures of these adorable little treats.)   
Ghoulish Goblin Meringues

2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons miniature semisweet chocolate chips


1. Place egg whites in a small bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Add extracts and vinegar; beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, on high until stiff glossy peaks form and sugar is dissolved, about 6 minutes.

2. Cut a small hole in the corner of a pastry or plastic bag; insert a #10 round pastry tip. Fill bag with egg white mixture. Pipe 1-1/2-in.-diameter ghosts onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets…strive for a shape similar to a Hershey’s Kiss.  Add two chips on each for eyes.

3. Bake at 250° for 40-45 minutes or until set and dry. Turn oven off; leave 'cookies' in oven for 1 hour. Carefully remove from parchment paper. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 2-1/2 dozen. 

*Variations are endless; by adding different extracts, such as vanilla, orange, peppermint, etc.  You could also add a pinch of spice such as; apple or pumpkin pie seasoning, or even instant coffee granules!  It’s a boo-tiful thing!

Nutritional Facts: 1 ghost equals 15 calories, trace fat (trace saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 4 mg sodium, 3 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, trace protein. Diabetic Exchange: Free food.





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