Frosty Rainbow Bits

I don’t know about you, but in the Northeast things have been getting pretty toasty lately. We’ve been lessening the blow by eating as many local strawberries as possible and lounging excessively.

The picture of the precious little frozen fruit bits above was taken last year. In a couple weeks it will be reappearing in our freezer. It was a delightful little healthy snack for the kids last year. Nothing beats a frozen treat on a hot summer day. And this one has no added sugar or anything other than fruity goodness. It looks like I used green apples, blueberries, raspberries, nectarine, and sweet plum.

The only problem with this snack is that it requires a little planning in advance as the fruit needs at least four hours, preferably over night, to harden. Spread them out on a tray in a single layer and place the tray in your freezer. After the fruit  freezes completely, store it in an airtight container.

Also, I wouldn’t feed this to a kid under three years old. The young ones should probably stick with larger frozen items like chocolate-covered banana pops, orangsicles, or frozen fruit on a stick.

Maple Kettle Corn

[donotprint]Thank goodness I write a food blog or I never would have taken the leap and bought a little container of maple sugar for what seemed like way too much money. But for you, my dear readers, I forked over the $4.00 and got busy making some maple kettle corn.

We picked up the sugar at the Hebron Maple Festival after we sampled maple ice cream, frothy maple milk (yum!), and maple cotton candy. The line for the maple kettle corn was too long. A long line is always a good sign. But at that point we’d eaten so much we didn’t see the point of waiting it out even if maple kettle corn was a life-changing event. So I went about making some a couple days later with my trusty maple sugar.[/donotprint]

Maple Kettle Corn Recipe

Kettle corn made with maple sugar is more prone to burn than regular kettle corn. So don’t go anywhere while you’re making it. Get all the ingredients ready ahead of time while your pot is heating. Things can move quickly, but the pay off is worth it. Imagine crunchy-salty-sweet goodness with undertones of molasses. Or is it caramel? I’m not sure, but it’s definitely tasty.

1/4 cup canola or safflower oil
3/4 cup popcorn
2 tablespoons maple sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat a large non-stick pot over medium high heat. When it is nice and warm, add the oil, popcorn, and sugar. Stir well to make sure that the sugar is well distributed. Place the lid on the pot. Shake the pot with increasing frequency once the popping begins to make sure that the corn and sugar do not burn.

After a few minutes, the popping should subside. Remove the pot from the burner (a little too early is better than too late) and stir the popcorn with a wooden spoon while you sprinkle on the salt. Stir a few more times to make sure none of the sugar burns on the bottom of the pot.

Serve immediately or store for up to a couple days in an airtight container. Be sure to give the popcorn a little extra cooling time if you’re serving youngsters. The sugar bits can be very hot.

Yield: 10 cups – serves 3 -4
Prep-time: 10 minutes

Note: My kids didn’t start eating popcorn until they were three years old. Make sure you’re up to date on current recommendations as far as choking hazards and feeding before serving this snack to children.

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Eton Mess On A Stick

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Eton Mess (a traditional English dessert consisting of strawberries, whipped cream, and crushed meringues) is my kids’ new favorite reason for livin’/snack. This afternoon they were happily introduced to meringues. Then we smashed them into bits! It was great.

I even put them to work making their own snack. Here they are whipping some cream and smashing meringues.

They are very focused.

But the pay-off for all their hard work is deemed worth it.

A sure sign that a snack is a winner is when my children, who are usually nice enough to humor me, refuse to stop eating so I can take a couple photos. [/donotprint]

Eton Mess On A Stick Recipe

This recipe actually works best with huge industrial-strength California strawberries. The beefy berries hold their own on skewers better than I imagine delicate local berries would. They also have more square footage for the whipped cream and meringue to cling to. For the meringues I took the easy route and used Trader Joe’s Vanilla Meringues, but feel free to make your own, especially if you have a ton of egg whites and sugar waiting to be used.

1 pound strawberries, washed, hulled, and halved lengthwise
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 medium meringue cookies

Pour the cream and vanilla into a small bowl. Whip the cream mixture until peaks form. Set aside.

Place the meringues in a sandwich bag or under a towel and gently smash the cookies into tiny bits with the flat side of a meat tenderizer.

Stab the berries with a small bamboo skewer. (Cut off the pointy tips if your little ones can’t be trusted not to poke themselves in the eye.) Dip the berries into the crushed meringues, the whipped cream, and then maybe the crushed meringues one more time. Consume immediately.

Yield: 3 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes

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Shiny Happy People

Here’s another one to add to the simple yet brilliant category. My five-year-old thinks they’re the bee’s knees. Any snack that can momentarily distract her from her seemingly constant fixation on sugar is a winner in my book.

I think I’m going to save you from my blather and not post a recipe for this one. It’s obvious from the picture right? All you need is a slice of apple, peanut butter, and raisins and you’re good to go. I do the apple and peanut butter prep and let the child go to town with the raisins. We really know how to live it up here.

These remind me of Apple Flying Saucers which I wrote a recipe for back in 2009.

Kettle Corn

[donotprint]You must make this snack as soon as you possibly can. It is brilliant simplicity.

Today when the kids were munching happily on kettle corn I told them I didn’t want to hear any more whining about how they never get Oreos in their lunch like all the other kids at school. As long as they get to snack on homemade kettle corn, I can do no wrong.

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Kettle Corn Recipe

I like to get all the ingredients ready for this snack while the pot is preheating. Things happen quickly once the pot is ready and the popcorn needs all of your attention while it is popping. But then 4 minutes later you get to experience a snack trifecta: crunchy, sweet, and salty.

1/4 cup canola or safflower oil
3/4 cup popcorn
2 heaping tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat a large non-stick pot over medium high heat. When it is nice and warm, add the oil, popcorn, and sugar. Stir well to make sure that the sugar is well distributed. Place the lid on the pot. Shake the pot with increasing frequency once the popping begins to make sure that the corn and sugar do not burn.

After a few minutes, the popping should subside. Remove the pot from the burner (a little too early is better than too late) and stir the popcorn with a wooden spoon while you sprinkle on the salt. Stir a few more times to make sure none of the sugar burns on the bottom of the pot.

Serve immediately. Be sure to give the popcorn a little extra cooling time if you’re serving youngsters. The sugar bits can be very hot.

Yield: 10 cups – serves 3 -4
Prep-time: 10 minutes

Note: My kids didn’t start eating popcorn until they were three years old. Make sure you’re up to date on current recommendations as far as choking hazards and feeding before serving this snack to children.

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Romesco Dip

The people of Spain who originally came up with this concoction are clearly culinary geniuses. I’m in love with this dip right now. I usually have all the ingredients on hand and it takes no time at all to make. Plus it’s vegan and doesn’t feel as heavy as the usual diary-heavy party fare.

Romesco Dip Recipe

This recipe is minimally adapted from Allison Fishman’s You Can Trust a Skinny Cook. Love this cookbook. Everything I’ve made from it has kicked some major arse.

1 slice bread, whole wheat or otherwise
1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup jarred roasted red pepper, dried with a paper towel
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons water

Place the bread, almonds, and garlic into the bowl of a food processor and whiz until the almonds are finely ground – about 30 seconds.

Add the red pepper, vinegar, salt, red pepper flakes, and olive oil and process until smooth. Add the water in a steady stream through the feed tube with the processor running.

I find that this dip thickens up nicely if refrigerated overnight in an airtight container. Serve at room temperature with bread or vegetables. Spread it on sandwiches. Serve it with grilled chicken, fish, or vegetables.

Yield: 2 cups
Prep-time: 12 minutes

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Jammy Fruit Leather

[donotprint]The sad specimen pictured above is the result of one of my first attempts at jam. Apparently, I was going for broke with my first batch because I always manage to find another jar of it in the cupboard even when I thought I finally used it all up.

I remember that the jam recipe was pretty high in sugar (like most traditional jam recipes). After this batch I started using Ponoma’s Universal Pectin. In addition to the oxidization (browning on the top), the jam never really set so it’s more of a thick sauce. It’s great for yogurt, but I needed more than one way to use up all the jars we have. So I made some fruit leather. And even though my kids are probably going to have a mouth full of cavities the next time they go to the dentist, I still love this snack because it is easy easy easy.[/donotprint]

I still have about six jars of this stuff. I’m all ears if you have any other ideas for using it up.

Homemade Jammy Fruit Leather Recipe

3 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 pint of jam (scant 2 cups)

Mix the applesauce and jam together in a medium bowl until well blended. Divide between three 15-inch square dehydrator trays lined with lightly-greased plastic sheets. Spread the mixture over the sheet to about 1/4-inch thickness. My favorite tool for this job is a large offset spatula. Run your dehydrator according to the manufactuer’s directions. Mine was set to about 135 degrees Farhienheit for about 10 hours.

When it is done, the leather may be slightly tacky, but should not be gooey or sticky. Peel the leather off of the liners. Slice into desired widths and roll up with wax paper. Store in an airtight container. They should last for a couple months, if not longer, as long as they have been dried out properly.

Note: If you’d rather use your oven, a good looking tutorial/recipe can be found at Simply Recipes – How To Make Fruit Leather.

Yield: 18 3-inch wide strips
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Drying-time: 10 hours

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Black Raspberry Rockets

I used to think that raspberry rockets was the best snack I’d ever thought of. But now there’s a new kid in town… and she’s knocking my socks off.

My new life goal is to find some super high-quality white chocolate to use for this snack. The waxy aftertaste I’m getting from the cheapo Nestle chips we’re using is getting in the way of an otherwise perfect culinary moment.

In other news, we still don’t have anything resembling an Internet connection. We’re getting closer, but still not there yet.

Salted Chocolate Almonds

Meet my ‘it’ snack of the moment. It’s crunchy. It’s simple and easy to prepare. It’s salty and sweet. And last but not least, there’s the chocolate! We all love these little nuts. I have no idea why oh why it’s taken me so long to pull this together. If I had come up with it three years ago when I started thinking about healthier kid snacks, I might have considered the case closed and never started this blog of mine.

Salted Chocolate Almonds Recipe

This recipe is easily doubled. It would also probably be insanely good with smoked salt if you happen to have any on hand. If you don’t have almonds, use cashews!

1 cup roasted unsalted almonds
1/2 cup (3 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)
1/2 teaspoon (give or take – more is more) kosher salt

Melt the chocolate chips gradually in a double boiler or in the microwave. If using the microwave, proceed with caution and set the power level to 20% for a minute at a time. After a few minutes, the chips should not appear melted, but should be soft enough to stir into a semi-smooth mass with a silicone/rubber spatula. Stir for a good thirty seconds or more. The warm bits of chocolate will gradually melt all of the firmer chips as the heat is redistributed. If you heat the chocolate too much, it will turn into a coarse chalky mass (from which it is impossible to recover). Melting it gently and keeping it away from moisture of any kind will allow the chocolate to keep its temper and be shiny when it cools.

Once the melted chocolate is ready, add the almonds to the bowl and stir to coat. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread the nuts into a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and allow to dry. This should take about ten minutes. Break apart any huge clusters of almonds and serve. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: 1 1/4 cups
Prep-time: 15 minutes (including drying time)

Chunky Guacamole

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It’s a tragic day at the Rowland household. Our eldest decided to taste the guacamole. She was hungry and desperate and tired of waiting for her mother to finish taking photos. She went for it.

“Yum!” she said, “I like guacamole!”

My heart sank. My husband and I have enjoyed exclusive access to the the guacamole bowl for several years now. Apparently, those days are over.

She’s lucky I love her so much. Sigh.[/donotprint]

Chunky Guacamole Recipe

I insist, the avocado must be Haas, preferably ripe but not too ripe. And the lime juice must be from a real lime. I’m a big fan of convience, but quality fresh ingredients make a big difference in this recipe. 

2 ripe Haas avocados
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 – 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from one half of a lime

Slice the avocados in half. Discard the pits and remove the flesh from the skins. Place the flesh in a small mixing bowl. Add the garlic, cumin, salt, cilantro,and lime juice. Mash it all up with a fork. Serve with tortilla chips.

Store any leftovers (!?) in an airtight container in the refrigerator placing a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the guacamole in order to prevent browning.

Yield: 1 1/4 cups
Prep time: 10 minutes

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