Category Archives: Positive Snacks

No Guilt Nutella: Chocolate for Breakfast Goes Legit

You say Nutella, I say…ain’t happening for breakfast in this house.

I grew up in a pre Nutella-For-Breakfast world. We had plenty of heinously unhealthy food, like pop tarts and cocoa puffs. But putting frosting on toast and calling it breakfast wasn’t a thing. Even if it happened (looking at you, chocolate Easter bunnies), it wasn’t sanctioned, let alone encouraged.

My kids grew up in a post NFB world, thanks to brilliant marketing from the Italians, who needed a real game-changer to dress up their melba toast and give their people a reason to get up for breakfast. Still, I did not serve Nutella to my kids. That may help explain why they so easily, dare I say eagerly, transitioned to sleepovers, camp and really any opportunity to leave home. There’s no need to get into my reasoning unless you really want a buzz-kill. I think we can all agree that commercial Nutella is not a solid foundation for the most important meal of the day.

But WHAT IF Nutella was made with no added sweeteners, fat or scary ingredients? What if it was made with the holy trinity of healthy treat ingredients—dates, nuts and cocoa—and nothing much else? Now that would be something I could get behind. And don’tcha know, I have. It’s not just for breakfast of course—it’s for any time you damn well please.

No Guilt Nutella soars past the teenage boy test, the teenage girl test, the man test and the “gimme that spoon I just need a chocolate fix ” test. If you are a Nutella connoisseur you will not be fooled by this, but the concept of a chocolate spread you can eat by the spoonful without a shred of guilt or secrecy may win you over nonetheless. Vegans, Paleos and Gluten-free peeps? Yeah, this is your jive too.

As with last week’s treats, your food processor earns its keep making these. It’s pretty foolproof though, as long as you make an honest attempt to skin the hazelnuts* and then process those babies until they really turn to butter. Be patient. It will happen.

No Guilt Nutella

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hazelnuts (or a mix of hazelnuts and almonds)
  • 1 packed cup medjool dates, pitted (or more, see notes)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp flavorless oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup almond milk

Method:

  1. Roast hazelnuts at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Transfer onto a kitchen towel and roll with your hands to remove skins. (no need to remove skins on almonds, if using)
  2. Puree hazelnuts in a food processor for 8 to 10 minutes until a butter forms. Take the time to do it right! You’ll know when you’ve crossed from ground nuts to butter.
  3. Remove hazelnut butter, and scrape out food processor as best you can. Add dates and water. Puree until smooth and creamy.
  4. Add hazelnuts to date paste and pulse a few times.
  5. Add cocoa, vanilla, oil, and salt and blend. 
  6. With food processor running, slowly pour in almond milk. Scrape down the sides and pulse a few times to blend into creamy goodness.
  7.  

Notes

*To completely remove hazelnut skins (for the smoothest possible spread), boil nuts in a pot of water with few tablespoons of baking soda for 4 minutes. Immediately strain and place nuts in ice water for a minute or so, until the skins peel off easily. You still need to roast the nuts to loosen up all the oils and bring out the flavor. Google will not corroborate this, but I find this process takes a little mojo out of the nuts. I prefer the less perfect/more flavorful roasting and rolling technique. You will stain the dishtowel, but such are the sacrifices we make. See here for a THOROUGH demo.

If your dates are hard, or you are using Deglet dates, soak them in warm water for an hour or two before pureeing.

…and furthermore, depending on the sweetness of your dates and the strength of your cocoa, you may need to add more dates at the end to find your sweet spot. 

I swear the notes are done.

Store leftovers in the fridge, and put your guilt in the rear view mirror!

Breakfast in America, reimagined.

The real thing, at the breakfast table, on the dreaded melba toast, in its homeland.

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Cocoa Nutty Balls

This is the first of two posts featuring the holy trinity of healthy treat ingredients: dates, nuts and cocoa. Why so holy? If you can get your Vegan, Paleo and Gluten-free friends at the same table, eating the same thing and loving it, there’s some divine intervention going on.

I’m posting them separately so they each get full credit, and you can find them more easily when needed. Both recipes are quick, easy and 100 percent free of added sweeteners, dairy, or grains. This first one is slightly more labor intensive because, well, balls require some care. (sorry, couldn’t resist). Neither recipe requires one bit of cooking, but they both will give your food processor an honest workout.

First up, are these cocoa nutty balls. (If you do the highly recommended pro move and roll them in toasted coconut when you’re done you can call them coconutty balls. See how that works? ) These are well known and loved in the paleo world and for good reason. They get sweetness and smoothness from dates, heft and texture from walnuts and chocolatey goodness from cocoa. The pinch of salt gives them some sass and the optional coating lets you add your own customized cha-cha.

But wait there’s more! These can hang out in the freezer until you need them. They transport well for hiking, picnics, lunchboxes, road trips or any eating on the fly. I offered these to a bunch of burly ski racers between their runs and they inhaled them. Either the lodge had run out of cheeseburgers or they actually liked them. I hope you’ll like them too!

Cocoa Nutty Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts (or a mix of walnuts and almonds or skinned hazelnuts*)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup pitted dates (Medjool if you can. Deglet if you must)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • (Optional for pro version) Toasted unsweetened coconut—or whatever added crunch you like—for coating.

Method

Add walnuts and salt to a blender or food processor. Mix until the walnuts are finely ground.

Add the dates, vanilla, and cocoa powder to the blender. Mix well until everything is combined. With the blender still running, add a couple drops of water at a time to make the mixture stick together. (If it really won’t stick together in a ball, add another date or two)

Slacker version: Using a spatula, transfer the mixture to a small (8″x 8″) pan and smoosh it flat, sprinkle optional topping/coating evenly on top and press it into the surface. (A layer of parchment paper makes this easy.) Let cool in the fridge and cut into whatever sized bites or bars you want. 

Semi Pro Version: Transfer the mixture into a bowl. Using your hands, form small round balls (I aim for walnut sized), rolling in your palms. They’ll come together and feel a little greasy, making them perfect for the…

Pro Version: Toast raw coconut flakes or shreds in a 350ish degree oven a few minutes (until just golden) and let them cool. If flakes, whirl them in the food processor until finely ground, but not yet buttery. Add a pinch of salt is that’s your jive (it’s mine).** Remove the blade from the bowl and drop in three or four balls at a time, rolling them around to coat.

You can store bars or balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for a looooong time.

*Skinning hazelnuts will be fully discussed in the next post. If you just can’t wait for this fascinating discussion (I know, you’re only human) check out this treatise on the topic.

**store leftover toasted coconut in a jar to sprinkle on yogurt, oatmeal, fruit, etc.

Just us fruits and nuts here, keeping our cool

 

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Seed Bark Granola

Nutty, grainy, and way better tasting than bark. I promise!

January is not for sissies. In looking back on January posts just for this blog, there are some common themes: soups, breads…and a lot of complaining about the general bleakness all around. I’m not going to entirely break with tradition—I’ve had a perpetual pot of soup (any variation of Sugar and Spice Squash Soup is my fave) and have ditched all pretense of gluten-free living because, a girl’s gottta dunk something! But, I’ll skip the bellyaching this time.

This year’s January challenges come with an ongoing healthy eating quest, fueled by eating advice that ranges from confusing to Draconian. As discussed in November, when trying to eat for maximum brain and heart health there is a lot of conflicting info to navigate. As part of this mission, I’ve made things that look like dirt and some that taste like dirt. I’ve crammed way more vegetables into every meal but also “jumped the shark,” by putting kale in dishes where it has no business, thereby ruining my kale cred. I brought a peanut dip to a party that was pretty delicious but looked like baby poop, which turns out to be a significant enough deterrent.

At a certain point, you have to do the best you can, in a way that will be sustainable. As I forge though January I’ll post the best of what I find. Every recipe won’t meet everyone’s standards of “healthy” or “clean” eating. But my promise to you is that they will all be good enough to bring outside your home, and give with pride.

This granola/topping/snack comes straight from Engine 2 cookbook, which is a fantastic resource to have around. The Esselstyn tribe are Vegan, oil-free wizards. This granola reminds me of my beloved Bread of Life “Dirt” Bread, as well as the PITA lifechanging crackers. The good news here is that it’s a whole lot easier to make than either of them, and with no grains whatsoever it comes close to satisfying all versions of clean eating. The only debatable ingredient is maple syrup, but it doesn’t call for much and c’mon people—live a little!

Seed Bark Granola

From The Engine 2 Cookbook, with some pro tips

Ingredients

1 ½ c raw pumpkin seeds
½ cup raw sunflower seeds
¼ cup raw sesame seeds
¼ cup flaxseed meal
2 Tbsp chia seeds
2-3 Tbsp maple syrup (2 Tbsp was perfect for me)

Method:

Preheat 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, ending with the syrup. Mix it up well. Pour it all on the baking sheet and press it out to 1/4 -1/3 inch thick (no thicker than an almond). Pro tip: To make this easier and more uniform lay another sheet of parchment paper on top of the mixture and press down hard on it with another baking sheet.

Bake 18 minutes until fragrant and lightly browned on top. Rotate the pan halfway through if you are inspired and watch to be sure it does not burn.

Remove from oven and leave it to cool. As it cools, it will speak to you by crackling. It’s saying, “Leave me alone–I’m getting crispy, baby!” After at least 20 minutes, you can be dramatic and lift the cookie sheet a few inches then drop it. Or, break it up it yourself into whatever sized bits you want.

When completely cool, store it in an airtight container. It lasts 10 days or so they say. I would not know. I do know it is delicious, and is a healthy gift to anyone you love.

Bark, ready to bite

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Holiday Favorites: Stay Sane, Go Nuts, Be Happy!

Fluff up your marmots and break out all things sparkly, the holidays are here. This is the season for many things: fake fur, sequins, fizzy drinks, warm everything. This is not the season for experimentation. We’re keeping our heads above water here, which means sticking with what we know. tried and true meals that make us happy, and treats to give that make others happy.

Maple oat breakfast bread

With that in mind, in my own kitchen I’m revisiting whole lot of Bring It tried and trues. That means soups like Thai Coconut Corn Soup, or Sugar and Spice Squash Soup. And yep, that means a crock pot full of Chicken Taco Chili that feeds a crowd with about 6 minutes of prep. All of the above, of course, beg for People’s Choice Cornbread or No Knead Challah or a honkin’ slice of Maple Oat Breakfast Bread to dunk in there. That is, UNLESS dirt bread is your thing…you know who you are, you little hemp seed eating chia pets. I’m with you there.

You might be needing some holiday entertaining staples like pomegranate everything (along with a genius pomegranate wrangling technique). What’s winter without fondue, and the easiest in the world Guinness Fondue at that? And what’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” without snacks? I highly recommend a batch of Nootch Popcorn or a bowl of Hail Mary Coconut.

As far as gifting and hostess offerings, you will never go wrong with crackle and its intriguing, slightly sophisticated dark cousin, pretzel and beer Crackle 2.0. And cookies? Yeah we’ve got those, basics like my faves—champion chip cookies—as well as totally slacker kiss my crust cookies, made from refrigerated pie crust and whatever chocolates you have around. If you need to scare up a snowstorm, or a reason to start a sweet family tradition make up a snow ghost pie.

Snow Ghost pie ad

And lest this be a pure re-hash of deliciousness we have an actual new recipe. I realize this blog has a somewhat extensive nut treatment, including honey thyme walnuts, spicy rosemary maple walnuts and an entire holiday nut anthology. But it turns out you really do need one more way to make roasted almonds. These are very similar to ginger glazed almonds (see anthology above), but without the ginger and with a coating of sesame seeds. You can choose a mix of sweeteners for your preferred flavor dimension (honey and sesame were pretty much born for each other), but for the best texture and glaze use at least some brown sugar.  

We’re talking nuts here, not rocket science, so be bold and mess around with flavorings, spices, herbs, types of nuts etc. Above all, enjoy the madness of the season and, like James says, remember “Shower the people you love with love.”

Sesame Almonds

Makes 3 1/2 cups almonds

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar (or sub out up to 2 tablespoons with honey or maple syrup)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or your healthy oil of choice)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 pound raw almonds (a scant 3 ½ cups)
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) white sesame seeds

Method:

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet and 2 wire cooling racks with parchment paper and set aside.

Pour the almonds into a mixing bowl. (If you keep your nuts in the freezer, warm them up in the oven for a few minutes first). In the microwave or on the stovetop stir together the brown sugar/honey/syrup, oil, salt, paprika, and vinegar over low heat. Pour mixture over the almonds and toss until the almonds are thoroughly coated. Transfer the almonds to the prepared baking sheet and spread into an even layer.

Bake, stirring every 5 minutes, until the almonds are brown and fragrant, 12 to 15 minutes total. They should be a rich brown color and just start to smell toasted as you open the oven door.

Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the hot almonds and stir to evenly distribute the seeds. This is where I go a little overboard, and try to get as many sesame seeds as possible to coat the almonds. Divide the nuts between the 2 prepared cooling racks and use a spatula to spread the nuts out so they do not touch. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Break apart any nut clusters that are stuck together if needed.

Bringing It:

Pour these babies into a treat bag, jar, tin or a cardboard takeout container lined with festive tissue paper, and store them in the fridge until you are ready to give them or devour them.

 

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Bringing It With Heart: Peacemaking Pepitas

Bringing on the love, and healthy debate.

You can’t please all the people all the time. This is true when it comes to food, and especially when it comes to what people consider “healthy” food. For various reasons, I’ve been flirting lately with both Vegan and Whole 30 ways of eating.

For those of you oblivious to food trends, Vegans avoid all food that comes from something with a face—meat, fish and all dairy, including eggs. The most vigilant Vegans also avoid honey, to protest the enslavement of bees. Whole 30 basically lines up with the Paleos, who embrace “high quality” protein, and especially animal protein. They make the sign of the cross to all grains, beans, processed foods and soy, which means tofu, tempeh, seitan and the like. Paleos blame life’s ills on inflammation, which come from the body trying to deal with sugar, a whole lot of which comes from grains. Vegans embrace grains and beans because without all that Verboten animal protein they get darned hungry.

Vegans are among the most creative eaters, making cheese from nuts, milk from hemp and mayo from chickpeas. The paleos get crafty points too, making pancakes without flour, oatmeal without oats and pizza crust from cauliflower. Martha points for all! Vegans get smug when the topics of obesity and high cholesterol come up; Paleos get smug when the Vegans look wan and tired; and the topic of bacon will polarize a mixed crowd faster than you can say Trump. All of this explains the popularity of the Mediterranean diet, which cuts right down the middle. Mediterranean eaters sit back and watch the show, enjoying a little bit of everything. They snack on olives, guiltlessly savor their dark chocolate and red wine and think, “Ah, yes. Life is moderately good!”

We had a recent health scare in our house, which prompted a close look at nutrition. People showed up bearing delicious, heart-healthy meals, as well as plenty of dark chocolate. It reminded me of how much I love our community and inspired me to tweak Bring It towards the healthier end of the spectrum. Like many of our friends, we lead pretty healthy lives, but there’s always room for improvement.

As discussed above, “healthy” means different things to different people; but, we’ve all got to try to get along in this world, especially at the table, and especially while we striving towards our own healthy, realistic, sustainable way of eating. Most of us just want good, healthy food that won’t break the bank, or take all day and an advance culinary degree to prepare. Fortunately, there are a few things on which all zealots agree, and I like to picture them as overlapping areas of a Venn diagram. The overlapping area of foods to avoid or seriously limit includes sugar, processed foods and, sadly, cheese. The overlapping area of acceptable foods includes greens, colorful veggies and roots, nuts, avocados, fruit (more or less) and coconut in its many forms. So we’ve got a starting point for common ground.

Of course, there will be many things that are beyond the universal overlap of all “healthy” diets. There are also times when you just have to go off the reservation. I’ll point you to those recipes with gusto, even if I’m not making them myself for a while. Case in point are these bronzies that a friend brought over recently. They totally raise the dessert bar, and WILL make you MVG (Most Valuable Guest).

For today, we’re keeping it simple and healthy: Pepitas roasted with sweet/salty coconut aminos. Coconut aminos are soy- and wheat-free, and while they are still a form of sodium, it’s less than straight up salt (a Tablespoon of coconut aminos has 300 mg sodium, the same as in 1/8 tsp salt). Even better, the Paleos turn a blind eye to the main ingredient, coconut sap, which sure sounds like a form of sugar to me. Shhhh! Let’s just enjoy this.

These pepitas are great sprinkled on salad, soup (like this one!) or roasted vegetables or as a snack any time of day.

Peacemaking Pepitas

Tweak the amounts up and down, but for best results don’t crowd your baking sheet. 1½ cups of nuts at a time per sheet is about the max.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw pepitas
  • 1 Tbsp coconut aminos (or more if you’re feeling it)
  • ½ -1 tsp chili powder (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pour pepitas on the parchment lined sheet, drizzle with aminos and stir them around to coat. Sprinkle with chili powder if using.

Bake for 10 minutes. Stir and check them for doneness. Return to over for 5 more minutes.

Let cool on baking sheet. Store in an airtight container (they get soggy otherwise).

Bringing it:

Warp ’em up! These make an excellent hostess gift or contribution to any feast.

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Furikake Fireworks Popcorn

Weird as hell? Yes. Delicious? Yes, yes and more yes!!!

Weird food on the weekend. It’s a thing. Ok, maybe it’s not a thing, but it’s a thing this weekend if you make this. Spoiler alert: you won’t be sorry! You will, however, have to get a few things you might not have in your pantry. And you will have to suspend your disbelief that this bizarre mix of ingredients can combine to make a snack that is not only edible but also addictive.

Now for a little background. I’ve been meaning to make this ever since I saw it on Joy the Baker nearly three years ago, but I got stuck at Furikake—both the pronunciation and the procurement. As for pronunciation, say Foo-ree-kah-kay, and you are close enough. Say furry cocky and you are either a teenage boy or an adult who can’t help yourself. You know who you are.   

As for procurement, Furikake must be having its moment because the day I finally broke down and got it on Amazon, I found it at our awesome Coop. Only later did I discover that there are several flavors of furikake. Mine from the Coop was yasai fumi— “vegetable” flavor.” The yet-to-be used one from Amazon—Nori Komi—is seaweed flavor. Scary? A little.

Honestly, even harder to find than Furikake were the Corn Pops. Props to the Coop for taking the high road and not carrying Corn Pops, but in this case it sure would have helped. I considered buying two packs of mini cereals at the mini mart just to cobble together the cup of Corn Pops but dang—that’s a lot of surplus Fruit Loops and Apple Jacks.

On to the recipe. You’re going to cook up some bacon—good and crispy like you mean it. You’re going to chop it up fine. You’re going to make your own kettle corn—in your Whirly Pop, your big covered pot or your cracked Mickey Mouse popcorn maker. You’re going to brown some butter. Then you’re going to marry it all together with some additional weirdness including chopped up dried pineapple, corn pops and the precious furikake. And you’re not going to substitute anything for anything, because Joy said not to. After seeing this popcorn disappear with both kids and adults, I trust her on this.

So here you go. I hope this brings you and your people joy and weirdness this weekend.  

Roy Choi’s Furikake Kettle Corn

Ingredients

For the Kettle Corn

  • 3 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 cup corn kernels
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • salt to taste

For the Mix

  • 4 heaping cups kettle corn
  • 1 cup Corn Pops (the cold cereal)
  • 2 tablespoons furikake, plus more for topping if desired
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped dried pineapple
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped crisp bacon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and browned
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives

Instructions

  1. To make the kettle corn, in a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid (or your weapon of choice), heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add the corn kernels and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Place the lid over the pan, keeping the lid slightly ajar. 
  2. Allow popcorn to begin popping. Once or twice, cover the pan completely, and use pot holders to lift the pan and shake it. When popping slows, remove from heat and sprinkle lightly with salt. Shake into a large bowl. 
  3. Add Corn Pops, furikake, red pepper flakes, pinch of cayenne, diced pineapple, and diced bacon. Drizzle the melted butter over the mixture and toss to combine. Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle with more furikake and minced chives. 
  4. Serve and enjoy! 

Bringing it: 

Shovel that good stuff right into a ziplock bag and take it where you will. I’m talking to you hikers, road trippers, party hoppers, fireworks watchers, Drive In goers…

 

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Strangely Awesome Buckwheat Granola

Buckwheat granola is a roasty toasty taste of fall

Buckwheat granola is a roasty toasty taste of fall

So here it is mid October, and where’s the apple post? Apples rule my life in the fall. They beg to be picked. Their fermented scent spikes the air when I step outside. They pile up on the ground until they are weaponized by the lawnmower. I can’t pick them, eat them or cook them up fast enough. So I was feeling badly about not doing an apple post…until I realized we did a pretty complete one last year. In case you missed it, here it is. It’s got you covered on apple scones, pie, soup, cake, sangria, sauce and a few more apple inspired extravaganzas.

That frees us up for something different, even weird, on this Columbus Day. It involves buckwheat groats, which sound sufficiently scary. I’ve always loved their rustic, earthy taste, even though I never really knew what to do with them. Now I know!

I fully admit that I have weird food tastes (my sister even advised I seek medical advice on the particular quirk at one point), so before posting this granola I tried it on many people. Even those with mainstream tastes either loved it right away or quickly warmed up to its sneaky, crunchy addictiveness. It’s good, it’s good for you, it’s super easy, it’s different and it’s indestructible. All that makes it wayyyyy Bring It worthy.

And here’s the October bonus: you can substitute applesauce for the mashed banana. So you get to try something new while staying seasonal and plugging away on that apple stash.

Buckwheat Granola

Very slightly adapted from Food52

Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw buckwheat groats
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed seeds and nuts (I use sunflower seeds and either almonds or pecans, roughly chopped)
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ripe banana, or ½ cup applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or coconut oil or almond butter)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

Method:

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a bowl, stir the buckwheat groats together with seeds, nuts, coconut, and spices.

In a separate small bowl, smash the banana with a fork and add it (or the applesauce) to the groats mixture, along with olive oil and maple syrup. Stir until everything is nicely coated. Spread across a baking sheet (lining it makes for easier clean-up) and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until fragrant and golden. Let cool before storing in a glass container.

Some for you and some for a friend. Granola is always the right thing to bring.

Some for you and some for a friend. Granola is always the right thing to bring.

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Potato Bites—Get Your Tail (gate) in Gear

Score! A sackful of potatoes turns into road ready snacks.

    Score! A sackful of potatoes turns into road ready snacks.

It’s tailgate season. This is no time to mess around with overly fancy, delicate or time-sensitive creations. This is the time to bust out your EZ Foil pans with their plastic lids and put together bombproof snacks that can withstand half a day on a table (like the fine one below made in an afternoon by local boy Charlie), or many too many hours in a battered crock-pot. We’re talking about snacks that can be eaten standing up. Plates—and utensils beyond toothpicks—are a bonus but not a requirement. Think Peoples Choice Cornbread, game day pulled pork, buffalo meatballs, bruschetta galore, nootch popcorn, nuts, bars etc etc etc…tailgate2

If all that sounds a little unhealthy, it’s because it usually is. But it is totally possible and appreciated to throw together healthy fare that is more creative than hummus and carrots. Case in point: The roasted Brussels sprouts (intended for dinner) I brought to a recent tailgate was happily gobbled up. So were these hastily conceived baked potato bites, born out of desperation and a glut of purple potatoes grown by my neighbor.

They were inspired by the sweet potato recipe (below), and the basic concept of using potatoes—vs bread slices, chips or crackers—as the snack canvas. They can be doctored up with condiments and whatever fancy dips, sauces, garnishes or spreads are on hand. And of course bacon.

Some of you will be open to the daring weirdness of sweet potatoes. You will have miso in your fridge and procure black sesame seeds (rather than burning white ones and calling it good). Others of you will look in your potato drawer, breathe a sigh of relief and proceed. You all know who you are. I love you on both sides of the divide.

This first offering is more method than recipe, so we can work on relaxing our need for perfection and control WHILE making a crowd-pleasing appetizer. Win Win! The second recipe comes from the Kitch’n, so it is actually precise, though I suggest taking license with toppings. Just make sure you have some savory going on so you don’t double down on sweet. Bacon would be awesome here as well, or Hail Mary Coconut as a sassy Vegan stand-in. So here’s your two-fer, and here’s to happy tailgating.

Straight-up Baked Potato Bites

Ingredients:

  • Purple, red or yellow potatoes, peeled if desired (or excessively earthy)
  • Olive oil to coat
  • Kosher salt
  • Sour cream
  • Green onions, sliced
  • Toppings of choice… Corn salsa? Guac? Have I mentioned bacon?

Method:

Preheat over to 375 (fudge on this if you are baking the sweet potatoes at the same time)

Cut potatoes into ½” thick (or less) rounds. Toss them with oil and a generous sprinkle of kosher salt. (Rogues may prefer to do this straight on the baking sheet). Arrange potato slices in one layer on a baking sheet.

Bake potatoes for 25 minutes or so. Turn them over and bake another 10 minutes. Use your judgment here—you know how you like your taters. Remove potatoes to paper towel lined plate and let cool a bit. Arrange on serving dish and top with a small dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkle of green onions.

Bringing it:

Load them onto a covered travel platter (or foil pan) and position them next to fancy condiments and salsas so people can create their own potato masterpiece.

Miso Sweet Potato Bites

From the Kitchn. Makes approximately 30 rounds depending on potato shape

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds unpeeled sweet potatoes (for the most attractive presentation, select sweet potatoes that are fairly uniform in diameter and shape)
  • Oil for baking sheet
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (the vegan kind if that matters to you) 
  • 2 tablespoons white miso
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
  • Small pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 4 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (preferably black for contrast) 

Method:

Preheat oven to 400°F and lightly oil a baking sheet. Slice the sweet potatoes into 1/2-inch-thick rounds and place in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are brown on the bottom and tender but not mushy. 

To make the spread, whisk together the mayonnaise, miso, tahini, lemon juice, ginger, and cayenne. Taste and adjust any ingredients as desired. 

To serve, spread the miso mixture on top of warm (not hot) or room temperature sweet potato rounds. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds.

Bringing it:

Same as above, but move them closer to the vegetarians.

 

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Triple Crunch Sesame Peanut Coconut Snack Bars

Sweet, salty, crunchy goodness to ease you into fall. No bridge tolls or taxi rides needed.

Sweet, salty, crunchy goodness to ease you into fall. No bridge tolls or taxi rides needed.

Boom! And just like that it’s fall. A week ago we were in oppressive humidity, and now we’re looking for anything orange to wear. Not blaze orange just yet, but something subtler to ease our transition and go with all the pumpkin ale and pumpkin lattes they’ve been forcing on us since mid August. We’re supposed to be putting away the linen, and the white, but let’s do that slowly to ease the pain. How do we ease out foodwise?

First of all, we eat up all that watermelon in the fridge. If you need ideas, how about one more batch of watermelon lemonade, one ingredient watermelon sorbet , watermelon gazpacho or Joy the Baker’s groovy, spicy watermelon wedge salad that uses watermelon as the plate (it’s really good, but it was too much of a leap for my people).

What else? Keep eating corn like it’s your job. If you haven’t made the Colorado corn souper chowder please do so before I have to have a word with you in private. Charred and raw corn salad is also a good call as is this super quick and easy raw corn and radish salad from Food and Wine . And beets! We’ll be dealing much more with those soon, but in the meantime don’t forget this awesome beet salad. What else? Take that John Boy Peach Crostata recipe and substitute pears and walnuts for peaches and pecans. Transition, done!

If all that clicking and looking tired you out, you may need a salty, sweet, satisfying, easy-to-make snack that will hang out and wait patiently for your eventual cravings. Look no further. These sesame peanut bars (from Bon Appetit), remind me of the ones by the cash register at virtually every Korean deli in New York City…the same ones that taunted and tempted me at every transaction. These bars are softer (and easier on your dental work), healthier (they have coconut fergawdsakes), and do not require a trip to New York City, though that is another darned good thing to do in the fall.

One final note…ok three: I used maple syrup instead of honey for local flavor. An 8” pan makes thicker bars than what you’ll see at the deli counter. You may want to try adjusting pan size and reducing baking time for thinner bars. I haven’t tried it. Do use parchment paper like the recipe says. It may work without it but that’s not a risk I’m willing to take.

Ingredients

Servings: Makes about 16

  • Unsalted butter (for pan)
  • 1¼ cups white and/or black sesame seeds (slackers be assured, all white is fine)
  • ¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ¼ cup unsalted, roasted peanuts
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup honey (or maple syrup or a mix of both. c’mon New England…show your stuff!)
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter an 8×8″ glass baking dish (or larger you want thinner, crunchier bars); line with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang (I mean it) on all sides. Mix sesame seeds, coconut, peanuts, and salt in a large bowl. Mix honey, peanut butter, and vanilla in a small bowl. Add to sesame seed mixture and mix well.

Scrape mixture into prepared baking dish; press firmly into an even layer. Use that generous overhang of parchment paper to really tamp down on the mix so it’s good and dense and holds together. Bake until golden brown around the edges, 20–25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool until firm, 30–40 minutes. Lift out of baking dish (if it starts to crumble, let cool longer) and cut into 16 bars. Let cool completely.

Bringing it: Bars can be made 3 days ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature. They do just fine in the fridge too (and last longer).

 

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Banana Berry Smoothie

Banana Berry SmoothieThis recipe is really cool – both temperature cool and hipster cool. And just in time for the start of summer which is only a couple days away!  It is simply frozen bananas and berries in a blender with a touch of almond milk (or whatever milk you have on hand).  Yes, that’s right – bananas, berries, milk, blender. That’s it!  It’s smooth and frosty, light and healthy.  Not to mention good for all ages and can be served any time – breakfast, lunch, snack, or dessert.  What are you waiting for-  get that fruit in the freezer asap so you can make this smoothie soon.

And, wait, there is a bonus, you can add in anything like.  The frozen bananas are merely a vehicle for anything else that floats your smoothie boat.  You can add coconut, chocolate, cherries, strawberries, ginger, nuts, sprinkles, cinnamon, mint, cacao powder, vanilla, almond, Nutella, caramel, sprinkles, whipped cream, blueberries, carob, and oh gosh, I almost forgot – peanut butter (how could I almost forget peanut butter – shame on me!). The list goes on…  

And so, here you go, the recipe (although you don’t really need one -just throw the stuff in the blender, it practically makes itself!).

Rah, Rah Summer!

Ingredients

2 ripe bananas, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 cup berries (I used a mixture of raspberries and blueberries)
1/4 cup almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk or any milk of your liking (more as needed)

Method

Place bananas and berries in freezer for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Take bananas and berries out of freezer and let thaw for approximately 45 minutes to an hour (they need to soften a bit before you put them in the food processor but you still want them to be somewhat frozen – you may have to experiment a bit to get the right consistency).

Place bananas, berries and almond milk in food processor and pulse until desired consistency. You will need to stop and scrape down the sides intermittently. Add more milk as needed.

Stir in any add ins such as chocolate chips or nuts, OR blend in any add ins such as peanut butter or vanilla extract.

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