Browsing articles in "Snacks and Appetizers"

Sweet and Salty Snack Mix

Sweet and Salty Snack Mix
Have you ever had a snack attack? A true snack attack where your stomach rumbles and grumbles but it’s only three in the afternoon and there’s still hours to go till dinner? Yeah, I think we’ve all been there. Last summer (oh summer you were so long ago) I worked with my good friend Penny who has a gardening business. We started the day really early and did all sorts of crazy physically exhausting things like digging holes for trees taller than us and shoveling yards of heavy soil in and out of her truck. Usually by ten in the morning I was starving. I tried all sorts of snacks to tide me over until lunch- yogurt, nuts, yogurt with nuts, crackers with peanut butter, fruit, granola bars…and the occasional bag of chips. Except for that last one these were all pretty healthy snacks that should have gotten me through the morning. The problem is that I was always left wanting something a little more. The yogurt didn’t have crunch, the nuts didn’t have sweet, the fruit didn’t have salt. In other words, I expect a lot from my snacks. I want a little salt, a little sweet and a lot of crunch. The solution? A snack mix! And I’m not talking about the “cheese” flavored kind that you get at the convenience store.Sweet and Salty Snack Mix
This homemade snack mix is healthy and it satisfies all of my snack cravings at once. There are endless possibilities for snack mixes, but after lots of trial and error I found that this particular combination offered the perfect balance of sweet and salty. A 1/2 cup serving fits nicely in one of my glass to-go containers and seems to be just the right amount to quell any size snack attack.

Here are the sweet ingredients: Dried Cranberries (sweetened or unsweetened, your choice), Dark Chocolate Chips, and Honey Oat Cereal (I use Kashi Honey Toasted Oat because it’s lower in sugar that most brands but still has a mildly sweet honey flavor).
The salty ingredients: Pretzels (any shape you like, but small is better), Roasted Almonds, Roasted Peanuts. I like to use salted peanuts and unsalted almonds because I find that two kinds of salted nuts combined with the salty pretzels is a bit saltier that I like, but it’s your choice. You can go with one kind of salted nut, two kinds of salted nuts, or two kinds of nuts with no salt (whew…that sentence made me a little nuts).
The best part of this snack mix? How easy it is to make. Gather you ingredients, dump them in a bowl, mix it up and you’re done.
At home we like to eat the snack mix out of these colorful vintage Pyrex containers. Sweet and Salty Snack Mix
And for on-the-go glass containers with lids do the job.Sweet and Salty Snack Mix
Happy Snacking!

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Chewy Almond Granola Bars

Chewy Almond Granola Bars  Is January 20th too late to make a New Year’s resolution? Does it not count because technically we are almost a month into the new year? Am I in violation of some sort of unwritten resolution set of rules? Well I don’t care- I am doing it anyway. Right here and right now I’m declaring that my new year’s resolution is to eat less sugar. There I said it…and now I have to follow through with it. That’s the problem with resolutions, and the reason why I don’t usually make them. It’s easy enough to make a resolution, and to tell people about it, but actually committing to it, for a whole year- yikes!
The funny thing about this resolution is that I don’t have a what I would call a “problem” with sugar. By this I mean that I am not the type of person who scarfs down a whole box of cookies or polishes off an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s (I am more a whole bag of chips kind of girl- maybe I’ll tackle that one next year). Recently though I’ve become aware of all the hidden sugar that’s in the things I eat everyday. I’m talking about things that I wouldn’t normally think of as high sugar foods. Things like bread, yogurt, granola bars, crackers and pasta sauce. All these things have added sugar and some have quite a bit…twenty- two grams of sugar in one cup of French vanilla yogurt! I decided that if I really want to cut down on the hidden sugar in my diet I needed to make some changes. Chewy Almond Granola Bars
Some are easy- buy plain yogurt and add my own fruit with a tiny drop of honey, look for a bread and pasta sauce with lower amounts of sugar. The granola bars though, that was a bit harder. I’ve found that in general the kinds with less sugar tend to be dry and tasteless. I want a low-sugar chewy granola bar that doesn’t taste like sandpaper in my mouth and doesn’t fall apart and leave half behind in its little wrapper. Sounds simple right? Apparently not because I just can’t find them. So I made my own. Granola bars are actually quite easy to make. The best part is that you can customize them to your individual taste preferences. I’m giving you a recipe to follow, but please feel free to just use it as a guide. You can mix it up with different nuts or dried fruit, or even substitute the almond butter with peanut butter. Just remember to look for unsweetened dried fruit and unsalted, unroasted nuts. Oh, and please don’t use the almond or peanut butter that has added sugar and oil! I will never understand this- why does a ground up nut paste need oil added to it?

Here are the main ingredients that I used in my bars.

Granola bars consist of three separate parts. First you have the dry mix of oats, nuts and seeds. These are mixed together on a baking sheet and toasted in the oven.

Next you have dried fruit. I used a mix of cranberries and apricots because that’s what I like, but the possibilities are endless. Pineapple, mango, papaya, apple rings, raisins…you get the idea. Finally you have the glue that holds it all together. This is where the sugar part comes in. The original recipe that I used called for 1/4 cup of honey and 1/4 cup of turbinado sugar. At first glance this doesn’t sound too bad. I mean there’s no refined white sugar so it’s okay right? Well I am no dietician but sugar is sugar and this amount means that each granola bar contains 15 grams of the sweet stuff. That seems like a lot considering that the Nature Valley fruit and nut bars that I buy only have 13 grams per bar. I knew I could do better. I didn’t want to just cut the amount of honey in half though because I was afraid of messing with the dry versus wet ingredient ratio and ending up with crumbly bars instead of chewy ones. So I decided that the best solution was to substitute the honey for agave nectar. Yes, I know that there has been some controversy lately over this product and whether it really is a healthy alternative to sugar or instead an evil twin of high fructose corn syrup in disguise. I’m not going to get into the whole debate here because it could take all day, and besides I only know what Google tells me so you might as well look it up on your own. In the end, my take on it is that agave syrup has a much sweeter flavor than most sugars so you can use less of it which is always a good thing in my book. I ended up using 1/4 cup of agave syrup and cutting out the turbinado sugar altogether. After doing a bit of math (gulp) I figured out that my new and improved granola bar only contains 8 grams of sugar per bar. Not bad. The three parts are mixed together and pressed into a square baking dish (a straight sided one is best, but if you’re like me and only have a glass square dish with rounded corners it’s okay. You will just end up with some bars with rounded edges- no big deal). Chill the whole thing in the fridge for about half an hour and then take them out and slice into bars. Chewy Almond Granola Bars
There you have it.  A reduced sugar granola bar and my first step toward fulfilling my resolution. That wasn’t so bad- now I just have to keep it up for the next 11 months and 11 days.

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New Year’s Appetizers – times two!

Sometimes I am the type of person who slaves for 3 hours over delicate mushroom filled pastry dough triangles . Annnd…sometimes I am the type of person who spends 20 minutes smearing cream cheese on canned crescent roll dough and calls it a day. These two sides of me often battle it out. The first side nags at me with her instance that everything must be made from scratch, artfully arranged, and taste like it came straight from the kitchen of Martha Stewart. The latter scoffs at this ridiculous notion that time and perfection equal taste and satisfaction. Usually, I can manage to broker some sort of compromise between the two, but not today. Today, on this New Year’s Eve Eve, the lazier (and more realistic) side won hands down- she even went so far as to buy dough in a can!


So what’s the bonus to taking the quick approach? More time to do laundry? Wash the dishes? Make New Year’s resolutions? Nope, nope, and nope. How about make more appetizers? Now that’s just my style. Actually, the second app didn’t take any extra time because I made it while the crescent rolls were baking. Multi-tasking and dough from a can…I must be channeling some sort of domestic goddess today.

Well, from one domestic goddess to another, I am here to tell you that you too can make not one, but two, impressive and delicious appetizers in a mere 20 minutes. And if that little voice in your head starts screeching about homemade dough and organic goat cheese infused with herbs, you can tell her I said to shut it! Sometimes simpler is better – especially on Friday.

TAW03624-1These mushroom cheese roll-ups are so simple that they take just four easy steps to make. Ready? Step one: sauté some mushrooms and onion. Opps…forgot to take pictures of this step, but you know what mushrooms in a pan look like.

Step two: mix together cheese, herbs and garlicTAW03586Step three: Spread cheese and mushrooms on the rolled out doughTAW93547

Step four: roll up, slice and bakeTAW03596-1

That’s it. Four steps to cheesy baked goodness. And while these little guys are in the oven you can make a creamy white bean dip that I swear tastes just as good as some other dips that shall remain nameless (artichokes and sour cream you know who you are) but with none of the fat and more of the fiber. The best part of this dip – it only take two steps to make. Ready, set, go!

Step one: Combine everything in the food processorTAW03600-1

Step two: scoop into a bowl and eat with crackers or bread. Or skip the bowl part and eat it right out of the food processor…who I am to judge? TAW03630

That’s it. Twenty minutes and two appetizers. Throw in some champagne and you’re ready to celebrate New Year’s in style! Best wishes for the last days of 2011 and I’ll be back in the new year with more recipes.

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