From Candy to Cuddlies, Easter Basket Bounty You Can Feel Good About
Easter is my favorite holiday. You get to eat candy for breakfast, and it’s an excuse to buy a dress—even if it’s just to wear while eating candy for breakfast, if you’re not of a churchgoing persuasion. As a parent, the Easter Bunny gig is so much less stressful than playing Santa, but with the same squealing-delight payoff. The essential Easter basket innards for us are 1) a bunch of sweet somethings, 2) a plush something, and 3) a book. Always a book. That way a kid can wake up at 2 a.m. and read by flashlight under the covers, eating jelly beans, then fall back asleep with every cranny of their tiny and pristine teeth spackled with corn syrup, yellow 6 and titanium dioxide. While I’m not going to be a killjoy and suggest swapping out the sugar for, I don’t know, carrot-shaped carrots, here are a few slightly less icky versions of the classic oral-decay-inducing Easter basket booty.
First, though, I need to give a shout-out to the one-stop Passover candy stop: Illinois Nut & Candy Company. Its online store offers a bounty of pareve swag for Seder. (In fact, the entire manufacturing facility is overseen by the Chicago Rabbinical Council.) And as the site attests, “What better way to make the Passover Seder a more enjoyable experience than with the Chocolate Ten Plagues?”
Back to Easter, we’re all about recycling (the basket, not the candy. Unless you count eating the chocolate foil eggs found tangled in last year’s faux grass). Our story, and we’re sticking to it, is that “If we leave the basket out from last year, the Easter bunny will fill it. Which is why he brings the same basket used to collect eggs from the chicken coop the rest of the year”… the symbolism of which has been lost on your mother until this very moment. Ditto on the cellophane grass—I’ve been reusing the same Day-Glo green tumbleweed for years. A few sheets of pastel construction paper run through a paper shredder do the trick, too. Now on to the important stuff:
1) For Eating
Surf Sweets organic jelly beans are vegetarian, flavored with fruit juice, and GMO- and corn syrup-free. They have that satisfying crunchy exterior, and even deliver a good dose of vitamin C.
Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates has the non-milk milk chocolate thing down, and their solid “milk” chocolate bunny is pretty cute. It looks all the world like a grinning Buddha, but with taller ears, and at around $6 is less crazy-expensive than some of its vegan hutch mates from other chocolatiers.
Do you remember those sugar eggs with little windows and diorama scenes inside? They might have been edible, or not—they were so fairy-tale lovely it never occurred to me to eat them. The Realist Mermaid has a few of these available, along with other vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free treats including — brace yourself — a lavender white chocolate rabbit! That tastes like blueberries! But you have to order right now (or yesterday, really) to score these in time (and then bookmark the page and put a reminder on your calendar for next February, which I just did).
Known for their multitude of horn- and hoof-free marshmallow treats, Sweet & Sara gets the taste, texture and nostalgia factors just right with their Skippers & Sunnys vegan peeps (or Veeps). I can’t verify if they’re better when left unwrapped for a month to get stale, like the originals, because I haven’t been able to keep them on hand (and out of mouth) long enough to find out.
2) For Cuddling
Herbal Animals are darling, dreamy-smelling inhabitants for your little one’s basket. These eye- and neck-pillow critters are filled with flax and fragrant organic herbs, and made in the U.S.—apparently sturdily, as my 5-year-old daughter has treasured her Eartha Cat since infancy (and by “treasure” I mean chewed on, offered to the dog to chew on, gripped while learning to crawl, worn in her waistband or over her shoulder like a chamomile-scented sidekick, and draped across her face for an aromatherapeutic timeout. If sticking with the theme, there’s a rabbit named Rudi; other pals include Harry Elephante, Monkeyshine, Mary Tiger Moore, Puppy Longstocking and Whaley Nelson.
3) For Reading
The extraordinary details of Jan Brett‘s illustrations make all her books a win with prereaders, and her sweet storylines appeal across generations. An obvious choice is The Easter Egg, in which all of Rabbitown is preparing unique (painted, carved, confectionary and even mechanized) egg offerings for the Easter Rabbit. Hoppi frets over not having his own specialty (though his neighbors offer to teach him theirs)—until he’s called on to play guardian to a robin’s egg for the duration. Cooperation, generosity, and the celebration of good deeds make for themes as lovely as the drawings in this tale.
How to Be a Cat is the just-released picture book from E favorite Nikki McClure. With her signature cut-paper illustrations and single-word descriptions, this is a (forgive me) purrfect story especially for early readers.
For middle grade readers, Carl Hiaasen delivers eco-themed, fast-paced novels with scrappy, resourceful, young activism-prone protagonists, and the signature satirical humor and wit of his adult novels and Miami Herald columns. Hoot, Flush, Scat and Chomp are available in a just-released box set.
P.S. Y’know, cavities are no joke. The EB just decided to tuck one of these in the basket this year. Plus, they match the jelly beans.