Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"I'm Hungry...."

Are snacks the bane of your existence? If you have a child aged 2-18, the answer may be yes. Snacks to bring to school, snacks after school, snacks on the way to an activity, snacks when their friends are over, snacks before bed. Some days it feels like all occasions demand a little morsel to eat.

These small meals often need to be quick and portable, and must be "not boring." And, as if those criteria weren't enough of a challenge, you might also want them to to be healthy. I think any snack that's a fruit, veggie, or whole grain should be in the plus column, so I do make the effort to keep the pantry stocked with some quick options: applesauce packs, yogurt, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, fruit leather, crackers and cheese. Grapes, apples, and bananas are fairly portable. If I'm on top of things, I've got cut carrots, celery or cucumbers ready to go, frozen fruit that can be smoothie-fied, and granola for a parfait.

But then there are the hall of fame snacks. These are the ones that are healthy, quick, cheap, homemade, and no one seems to tire of them (at least not yet). If I have ingredients for these three snacks on hand, I know I am home free when faced with the inevitable requests for "just a little something to eat."

Popcorn
It's taken me a while to find out what many foodies already knew: you can make your own microwave popcorn. Using an old school brown paper lunch bag, you can create the most airy and delicious popcorn in the microwave in minutes. There's really no recipe. Just place a quarter cup of popcorn kernels in the bag, fold the top a few times, and microwave until done, about two minutes (time will vary depending on your microwave). Then remove the bag, keep it shut, and melt a 1/2 T. of butter or olive oil in the microwave in a separate bowl. Pour over the popcorn, sprinkle in a little bit of kosher salt or grated parmesan cheese and shake. 


Salsa Fresca
Putting out a bowl of salsa with chips on the table often redirects the inevitable "can I have a snack?" request before it's even asked. Salsa is one of those foods (like salad dressing or marinara sauce) that is best made from scratch, not only in terms of taste but cost. Obviously making fresh salsa using summer tomatoes is best, but there are seem to be more hydroponic options in the stores year round that aren't bad.


3-4 tomatoes, chopped
3 scallions, chopped fine
1/4-1/2 c. cilantro, chopped fine
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings. Best eaten within a few hours.


Beloved Crunchy Kale 
Crunchy kale is an apparently magical concoction, compelling even the most suspicious eater to succumb to its power. My son calls it his "beloved" kale. At a class I taught recently, a mother watched in utter disbelief as her son stuffed handful after handful of kale chips into his mouth, leaving little green bits stuck to his hands, shirt and teeth. But as he was eating his veggies with relish, we forgave him his manners. 

1 bunch lacinato kale
3 T. canola oil
1 T. apple cider vinegar
Kosher salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. 

Destem the kale pieces by taking the bottom of the stem in one hand and, starting at the bottom of the leaf, slide the other hand along the leaf to remove both sides of the leaf. If the top of the leaf is still connected, separate them. 

Place parchment on two baking sheets and lay the leaves side by side. They can be close but not touching. Pour oil and vinegar into a bowl. Using a pastry brush, lightly paint both sides of each leaf with the oil/vinegar. Sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 16-20 minutes, until crispy, rotating pans if needed to ensure even cooking. Taste and sprinkle on additional salt if needed while still warm. Crunchy kale will keep in an air tight container for 2-3 days. You can recrisp the kale in a 250 degree oven or a toaster if needed. 



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