Posts tagged snacks

No-Bake Pecan Pie Balls

All the flavor of pecan pie without all the work — or extra sugar.

Energy bites_1

That’s the idea behind these pecan pie balls. Over the holidays, I was looking something lighter than your typical sugar-spiked pecan pie for dessert, so I decided to take a cue from my No-Cook Cocoa Granola Bites recipe. This vegan version has only a few ingredients and you can mix-and-match many of them to make these your own.

Evergy bites_2

I dipped my first batch into chocolate but the second time I never had a chance to — my kids polished them off first.

Energy bites_3

Recipe

Prep time: 15 minutes + soaking + chilling

Servings:14, 1″ balls

Ingredients

1 cup pitted dates

1/4 tsp. almond extract

1 cup pecans (or any combination of nuts)

1/2 tbsp. honey

1/3 cup oatmeal

2 full graham crackers or 4 tea biscuits

1 1/2 tbsp. tart juice, like cherry or use water

Chocolate candy coating (opt.)

 

Directions

  1. Soak the dates in water spiked with the almond extract for 1 hour (or overnight).
  2. Drain the dates and place in a food processor along with the remaining ingredients (minus the candy coating). Note: You may want to add more oatmeal or juice to get the right consistency — the batter will be sticky.
  3. Refrigerate for 1 hour (or freeze for 15 minutes). Form the mixture into 14, 1″ balls; I used a cookie scoop.
  4. At this point you can leave the balls plain or roll them in chopped nuts or cocoa powder. To coat with chocolate, refrigerate for another hour. Melt 1 cup candy coating in the microwave. Working quickly, dip each ball into the chocolate and then place on waxed paper to set. Refrigerate until you’re ready to start eating.
  5. Store for up to 5 days.

 

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Monkey smoothies

Our scheduled has rampedScreen Shot 2013-01-17 at 9.29.32 PM up lately with basketball games, play practices (x2), homework projects–oh, and I’m squeezing in a little kitchen renovating. To fill in the gaps when it comes to snacks (uh, and sit-down meals) I’ve been making these smoothies for my kiddos. They’ve now dubbed them “monkey smoothies.”

 

The smoothies are packed with protein courtesy of the peanut butter and Greek yogurt. I’ve found that if my kids fill up on protein it gives them the energy they need to make it through our sometimes crazy schedule.

 

Recipe

Prep time: I’ve got it down to 5 minutes

Servings: 2-3 depending on the size of your glasses

 

Ingredients:

1 cup crushed ice

1/4 cup peanut butter (smooth, creamy, take your pick)

2 tablespoons Nutella or chocolate syrup

1/3 cup Greek yogurt

1 banana

1/2-3/4 cup milk

 

Directions:

  1. For the right consistency (another way of saying “so the peanut butter doesn’t get glued to the side of your blender), put the crushed ice, peanut butter, Nutella, and banana into your blender first. Pulse briefly.
  2. Add in the milk and pulse until smooth, then add in the Greek yogurt.
  3. Finishing touch–pour in the chocolate syrup or Nutella for a little sweetness. You can add more if you’ve got a child with a real sweet tooth, or skip it entirely.
  4. Serve in a glass with a lid on the way to volleyball/piano lessons/theatre class…

 

 

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7 summertime snack ideas

Taking a breather from the hot weather, poolside

It’s been one hot summer! Normally, you can find me cooking up something in the kitchen even in 90-degree weather. Not this year! All those 90-degree days with a heat index pushing 100 add up to me looking for cool snacks for the kids.

Here’s a few of my favorite hot-weather treats:

5-minute yogurt popsicles. Yogurt + fruit + freezer = a kid-pleasing snack once they’re done with their water gun fight.

Watermelon limeade. Update your lemonade! Try using limes instead and mix in fresh raspberries, watermelon, or blueberries.

3 Grab ‘n go snack packs. We make these to pack with us when we head to the zoo.

Firefly crackers. Inspired by my kids’ fascination with catching lightning bugs.

Magic smoothies. Secret ingredient? Spinach. It gives the smoothies some heft and nutrition, but your kids won’t even know it’s in there.

Energy bites. My version of granola bites feels like you’re eating cookie batter, only they’re good for you.

Elvis ice pops. Mini frozen bananas dipped in chocolate, then crushed peanuts. Yum!

Fireflies! Don't worry, my kiddos let 'em go at the end of the night

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My favorite on-the-go snack?

Apples in lemon juice. The temperature topped 95 degrees yesterday when we went to the zoo–the humidity was nearly as bad. For a refreshing treat that’s easy to pack, apples are my go-to snack. I don’t like carrying them whole, but I slice ‘em instead. That avoids the problem of the kids grabbing a couple bites then asking me to carry the rest, half eaten.

I make thin 1/4″ apple slices then squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a freezer bag or a tupperware (above I packed them in my favorite bento box). I toss the lemon in too–sometimes one of my kids asks to suck on that while we walk. Often I’ll also pack peanut butter for dipping (and energy:). I found aluminum foil ash trays at my local party store that make the perfect-sized tray.

Your turn–what’s your favorite snack for hot summer days?

Passing out snacks at the zoo

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Fruity animal mini popsicles

After finding each of my kids digging through the freezer looking for the yogurt popsicles I made last week (they’re all gone), I thought I’ve gotta to make more of these. But instead of yogurt I poked around the kitchen for ideas. My inspiration? Yet again leftovers, along with some candy-making molds from a friend.

The fruit. Yes, leftovers inspire me. Whenever I have fruit that goes uneaten or is a little on the squishy side, I chop it up and save it in the freezer. I toss it into sauces (savory and sweet), swirl it into smoothies, make fruit leather, and now use it in popsicles.

The molds. I’ve never used candy molds before, but since I don’t have popsicle makers or ice cube trays, I figure these would do the trick. I did notice the that molds don’t seem to like the cold. Next time, I’d take out the fruitsicles as soon as they became solid instead of letting them sit. The molds cracked a little bit on the edges but not so much that I couldn’t use them again. The molds happened to be of turtles. Why turtles? I have no idea. You could also follow the same technique though from the yogurt popsicles–no candy molds required.

The recipe. Simple, I thawed frozen strawberries and raspberries in the microwave (you could also let them just come to room temperature on their own), added 2 Tablespoons of water per one cup of fruit (you could also use fruit juice) then poured it into the molds. Instead of popsicle sticks, I used little swords (maybe it was the hot temperatures outside but I was feeling silly; paper popsicle sticks are fine too). So here are our turtle pops. My girls liked playing with these as much as eating them.

Looking for more ideas? Check out these for summer fun with a twist. As part of the Motherboard crew I’ve been clicking through for inspiration myself–I’m going to have to try the tweak on picnics by doing an after dinner dessert mixed in with some stargazing.

Your turn–care to share any ideas for summer fun you’re planning on trying out as the temperatures rise?

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Easy fruit leather

Fruit leathers are so easy to make I wish I would have tried ‘em sooner! I looked through recipe after recipe to figure out my own version.

Here’s what I wanted:

1)No cooking

2)No sugar (I like ‘em tart)

3)Fast

Here’s what I learned:

1)Part of the reason you have to cook the fruit beforehand is to make it smooth and to dissolve the sugar. Cutting out the sugar helped eliminate one reason to cook. The next? A smooth consistency. A hint from purchased fruit leathers helped solve that: apple sauce (that’s my interpretation for the first ingredient–no matter the flavor it’s always ‘apple puree concentrate’). Using apple sauce makes the leathers smoother and cuts the cost. You’re going to need 5-7 cups of pureed something, mixing apple sauce with strawberries cut the amount of fresh fruit I needed.

2)Instead of sugar some recipes use honey. I wanted another option so I tried agave. It worked perfectly. (I also added in a squeeze or two of lemon juice for a sour punch.)

3)Well, there’s no real way to make fruit leathers fast. Prep fast, yes. Actual drying, nope. I did decide to up the temperature from 140 degrees (that’s what I saw listed again and again) to 170, which seemed to maybe trim the time a bit, but count on this recipe taking the better part of the day (or two). Unattended, mind you.

Basic Steps

Step #1 Cut fruit

Step #2

You need 4-5 cups for roll-ups (pictured) or 6-7 cups for thicker leathers (which will take longer to cook). I used half apple sauce, half cut up strawberries, and I recommend a 1:1 ratio.

Step #2 Blend fruit

Easy, peasy. I squeezed in a bit of agave, fresh lemon juice, tasted, tweaked, done.

Step #3 Pour fruit

Line a cookie pan with parchment (over the edges). Pour.

Step #4 Bake fruit

10-12 hours at 170. Yup, it takes time, the edges will cook faster then the center, so you can cut them off as they finish, feel with your fingers if the fruit is at the right leathery consistency for your taste. I let mine cook over a couple days so that I never left the oven on unattended.

That’s it. I kept the parchment on the leathers so they were easier to pack in lunches. These leathers were a hit with my kids–my middle daughter who doesn’t like strawberries or apple sauce (but strangely enough loves cut apple slices) downed half the pan and was the first to ask me to make more. My oven has been on non-stop since.

Along with fruit leathers, I’ve been thinking about healthy habits for my family with summer around the corner–I found these over on Motherboard.

Your turn–what are your favorite healthy snacks? Habits?

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Peanut Butter-Cinnamon Hummus with Cinnamon and Sugar Pita Chips

Ingredients for the hummus

1 small can (7.75 ounces) chickpeas (reserve 1 Tablespoon liquid)

1 Tablespoon peanut butter (smooth or chunky)

¼ teaspoon sesame oil

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Dash of salt

Directions

Drain the liquid from the chickpeas, except for one tablespoon. Place the chickpeas in a blender and pulse until the beans break into smaller chunks. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until you reach your desired consistency. Add the chickpea liquid in small increments to reach a smoother consistency and less for a chunkier hummus. Serve immediately or chill for later use.

Ingredients for the pita chips

1 12-ounce package pitas (5 loaves)

cinnamon and sugar mix (see directions)

cooking spray

Directions

Using a pizza cutter, cut the pitas into six pieces as you would with a small pizza. Lightly spray a 9 x 13” baking pan with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In an old spice container (or similar container with holes on the lid top) mix ½ cup sugar and 1 Tablespoon cinnamon (or more based on your tastes). Place the pita slices onto the baking pan; lightly coat with the cooking spray. Sprinkle the slices lightly with the cinnamon-sugar mix. Place in the oven and cook for 7 to 12 minutes or until just crisped. Enjoy.

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Kid-friendly hummus

There’s nothing like the flavor of garbanzo beans and cinnamon. Let me try that again, what about peanut butter-cinnamon hummus? Searching through recipes online it’s not hard to track down the main ingredients in traditional hummus. They are: chickpeas (also known as Garbanzo beans), tahini (which is a Middle Eastern sauce made from ground sesame seeds), garlic (lots!), lemon juice, olive oil (sometimes sesame oil), salt and pepper.

That’s it.

And the directions? Put the ingredients in the blender, pulse.

So it’s not surprising that you’ll find numberless variations of hummus, usually on the savory side—red pepper hummus, chipotle hummus, and other pairings. But I wanted to do a more kid-friendly hummus to serve alongside baked pita chips. I was looking for something that would be fun to serve afterschool. Plus, I wanted to tweak the recipe so that I could leave out the tahini. It’s not that I don’t like the flavor, but it seems I’m always buying a jar, I use a whole tablespoon or two and then within a week or so it goes bad. So what to replace the tahini with?

I figured that tahini adds a bit of healthy high fat content with all those ground sesame seeds so why not substitute it with another similar ingredient? Peanut butter. I throw a little peanut butter into all sorts of unexpected places—from chili to stirfry sauces. The roasted nut flavor adds a layer of depth; I was hoping it would do the same for my hummus.

Now I didn’t want the peanut flavor to overwhelm the more subtle taste of the chickpeas so I didn’t use a lot and I also tossed in some sesame seed oil to give it a hummus vibe. But my hummus lacked the umph that garlic would have given it. My solution? Cinnamon. I know, I know, sounds strange, but cinnamon in Middle Eastern foods isn’t a stretch so I thought it was worth a try. The flavors blended perfectly.

I’ll warn you, though, if you’re looking for the traditional hummus flavor, this isn’t it. But if you want to try something a little different that still has the satisfying texture of chickpeas but with a more snacky feel—give this a try.

Serve with baked cinnamon and sugar pita chips and apple slices. Yummy.

Peanut Butter-Cinnamon Hummus with Cinnamon and Sugar Pita Chips

Ingredients for the hummus

1 small can (7.75 ounces) chickpeas (reserve 1 Tablespoon liquid)

1 Tablespoon peanut butter (smooth or chunky)

¼ teaspoon sesame oil

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Dash of salt

Directions

Drain the liquid from the chickpeas, except for one tablespoon. Place the chickpeas in a blender and pulse until the beans break into smaller chunks. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until you reach your desired consistency. Add the chickpea liquid in small increments to reach a smoother consistency and less for a chunkier hummus. Serve immediately or chill for later use.

Ingredients for the pita chips

1 12-ounce package pitas (5 loaves)

cinnamon and sugar mix (see directions)

cooking spray

Directions

Using a pizza cutter, cut the pitas into six pieces as you would with a small pizza. Lightly spray a 9 x 13” baking pan with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In an old spice container (or similar container with holes on the lid top) mix ½ cup sugar and 1 Tablespoon cinnamon (or more based on your tastes). Place the pita slices onto the baking pan; lightly coat with the cooking spray. Sprinkle the slices lightly with the cinnamon-sugar mix. Place in the oven and cook for 7 to 12 minutes or until just crisped. Enjoy.

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Why aren’t you drinking…Ya-Cool?

A cousin to drinkable yogurt, this Mexican “cultured dairy beverage” is perfect for packing as a snack or in lunchboxes. My kids LOVE them. Plus, there’s the whole novelty of it. While they might be popular and available everywhere in Mexico, you can’t find them just anywhere in the U.S.

I usually stock up at our Mexican grocers, which is sadly a half-hour drive from our house. Ah well, it’s worth the drive–I grab fresh-made corn tortillas, lime mayo, dried ancho chiles, pinguinos (I’ll have to post about those later–think less sugary, moist Hostess Chocolate Cupcakes). Ya-Cool come in packs of 5 small bottles with an easy to peel off aluminum lid. There are several different companies that make them and plenty of varieties to choose from. My kids’ favorite are the peach and pineapple. I like the regular which has sort of a mild, indistinguishable fruity flavor and strawberry (fresas).

According to the packaging, they are supposed to aid in digestion. I’m not really sure about the health claims, I just know they taste good. Perhaps Activia for youngsters?

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Firefly snack crackers

One of my earliest memories was catching fireflies at my grandmother’s house in Iowa. Like most kids who get anywhere near a lightning bugs, I ran inside and asked for a glass jar. I just had to catch one! My grandmother helped me poke holes in the top of a Ball Mason canning jar. Back outside, I scooped up as many fireflies as I could. In the end, I think my glass jar had a total of three swirling inside. I let two go immediately, but I wanted to keep just one to light up my room.

Whether my captured lightning bug kept flashing into the night or not, I don’t remember. And, of course, since then I’ve learned that lightning bugs really shouldn’t spend too much time “indoors” no matter how many holes you poke! But what I do recall is the fascination and draw of these twinkling little creatures. It makes the outside feel magical at night–especially when all of a sudden one pops up next to you and flashes.

With summer nearly over and the fireflies making fewer and fewer appearances, I wanted to do something special with my kids. We’re having a ‘firefly’ picnic. Our plans are pretty simple–to take time to eat outside a little later at night (8pm) and to use battery-powered candles as light (granted, it won’t be that dark outside), but my kids liked that touch. Oh, and we’re eating our meal under the trees. We’re hoping a few fireflies will make a guest appearance and that the mosquitoes stay away during our “feast.”

Our meal will be a spread of peanut butter and honey sandwiches, juice boxes, chips and carrot sticks (can you tell the kids are ready for school again?), but we’re taking time to create some special firefly snacks—just in case the real ones don’t make an appearance.

Recipe for Firefly Crackers

Servings: As many as you want to make!

Prep time: Depends on how long it holds your kids’ interest

Ingredients

Circle crackers (Ritz or similar variety)

Spreadable cream cheese

Raisins

Kiwis (or pineapple rings)

Directions

Have all of your ‘firefly’ materials on hand ready for assembly.

Body—circle cracker

Wings—circle cracker broken or cut in halves

“Glow”—cut kiwis into thin slices or alternatively, use pineapple rings

Raisins—eyes

Cream cheese—glue

Add a generous dollop of cream cheese to a full circle cracker and spread. Add the kiwi to the bottom half of the cracker and carefully place a wing on either side. Add two raisin ‘eyes’ to the top of the body circle cracker. That’s it! If you don’t have kiwis available, go ahead and use pineapple rings, but you’ll have to carefully cut them in half to create a thin enough slice for the ‘glow’ part of the firefly cracker.

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