Superbowl Snacks

I don’t know about you, but my kids are more excited for the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet than they are for the big game. It’s safe to say that I’m not terribly excited about any of it. The snacking possibilities will have to carry me through. Woe is me.

Some of these snacks are healthier than others. May the force be with you and may your team win.

Kale Chips

Kettle Corn

Mini BLTs

Mini Meatball Sandwich

Bumstead Sandwich


Potato Skins

Also here are some other fun looking recipes that I would happily gobble up on Superbowl Sunday:

Three Layer Dip from Choosing Raw

Low Fat Dip Recipes from Simple Nourished Living

Bacon wrapped chicken bites form Skinny Taste

Avo-dilla from Healthy Happy Life

Mexican Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing from Noble Pig

Spicy Pumpkin Seeds from Jane Spice

and last but not least, Chex Soctcheroos from Yammie’s Gluten Freedom

Potato Skins with Crispy Cheese

When we rolled out of bed this morning the outdoor thermometer told us that it was -1 degrees. Minus 1. Having lived  in Connecticut for a while, I’m always a little shocked when it actually gets cold in January. We’ve had some warm spells and it was looking like we might have another mild winter. But apparently it was not meant to be. I am slightly comforted by the snowman recently built by my six year old.

Today was not a day to serve up the usual crudities after school. Today we are having soup for dinner while sitting as close to the wood stove as possible. Anything other than a warm snack was not an option. So I decided to put some leftover baked potatoes to use.

I’ve posted a  potato skins recipe before. But I’ve since been educated by the likes of America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook and Simply Recipes. These are better. They could be made in advance too and the glorious melting of the cheese could be saved for the last minute.

Potato Skins Recipe

This healthy (ha!) baked potato skin recipe is as good as its restaurant counterpart because of the crispy cheese. While your sprinkling the cheese on the potatoes to bake, don’t be sad if a big clump misses a potato. That’s the best part.

4 medium leftover baked potatoes
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups grated cheese such as mozzarella, cheddar, and/or parmesan
Fresh chives, for garnish

Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the majority of the inside of the potato. Set the potato insides aside for another use. Cut the potatoes up into child-sized pieces.

Arrange the potatoes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a pastry brush to douse the potatoes with the melted butter. Bake the potatoes for 10 minutes or until they have browned on the edges. Sprinkle the cheese over the potatoes and bake them for another 5 – 10 minutes or until the cheese is properly melted.

Yield: serves 3-4 as a hearty snack
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes


Bumstead Sandwich

Don’t let me be a bad influence on you. I’m pretty sure deli meat is the devil incarnate. But…well…let’s talk about the olive tapenade. What else can one make with olive tapenade? This is all I ever use it for and it seems a terrible shame.

Bumstead Sandwich Recipe

This recipe is adapted from The Last Minute Party Girl by Erika Lenkert.

I love this recipe for parties because I can do almost all of the work ahead of time and we still get to eat a satisfying warm sandwich.

1 large whole grain baguette, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons black olive tapenade
1/3 cup goat cheese
1/4 pound of thinly sliced turkey
1/4 pound of thinly sliced salami
5 slices of pastrami
1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, rinsed, patted dry, and sliced into strips
1 cup spinach, washed and dried

Scoop out the innards of the baguette leaving the crust intact. Feed the innards to the kids.

Slather the butter on the top half of the baguette. Slather the bottom half with the olive tapenade and goat cheese. Load the meats, red peppers, and spinach onto the bottom half of the baguette. Cover it with the top half of the loaf.

Wrap the sandwich tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until it’s party time (up to 48 hours).

Preheat the oven to 300 degree Fahrenheit. Place the unwrapped sandwich on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

Slice on an angle into about ten 2-inch wide segments. Hold the sandwiches together with a toothpick and serve immediately.

Yield: 10 sandwiches
Prep-time: 15 minutes
Bake-time: 15 minutes


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



These crostini are the backbone of dip and cheese plates that I find myself putting together in the winter months.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut a baguette  into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange the slices onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Pour 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil into a small bowl. Brush a bit off the oil onto each slice with a pastry brush. Bake until golden and dried out, approximately 30 minutes.

As far as I can tell, these will keep for months in an airtight container, if they are completely dried out. I always make way more than I think I’ll need because the kids devour them and we can always save them for the next get together.

Yield: variable
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Bake-time: 30 minutes

Cheese Straws

[donotprint]Lord knows why, but I’d never made a cheese straw until recently. Since I’ve been wanting to make them forever and we were having a bunch of people over I decided to make three different kinds and see what we liked best. It turned out to be a crazy amount of work that I’m not anxious to repeat anytime soon. But once I’m rested, I assume I’ll be happy to have a promising cheese straw recipe under my belt.

I started with the Lee Brothers‘ cheese straw recipe which I believe Smitten Kitchen has taken a crack at. In fact, I made a batch a few days beforehand planning on storing them in the freezer, but they mysteriously disappeared so I was forced to make a second batch. This recipe is brilliant, easy, and simple. The dough handles relatively well. The red pepper flakes are perfect. But, in my opinion, they are a tad too rich.

Next, I tried a recipe from 101 cookbooks. I used spelt flour instead of the buckwheat flour that is called for. My youngest liked these cheese straws the best, probably because they’re flavored with thyme instead of cayenne or red pepper flakes. But I found them a tad weak on flavor and the dough was hard to work with. 

Last but not least, I tried the cheese straw recipe in the New York Times Cookbook. I was a little unsure about this one because bread crumbs are a major ingredient. But I dove in anyway because a) I couldn’t find any other recipes for from-scratch cheese straws in my humble cookbook collection and b) how could Craig Claiborne steer me wrong? The recipe turned out well and was happily gobbled up by all of our guests.[/donotprint]

Cheese Straw Recipe

Adapted from The New York Times Cookbook.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) of unsalted butter, softened
3 cups soft homemade whole wheat bread crumbs
2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cayeanne pepper
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Dash of paprika
Grated Parmesan cheese

Combine all the ingredients except the Parmesan cheese in the bowl of a food processor. Process for until the dough starts to come together, about 30 seconds.

Remove the dough from the processor and form it into four equal-sized discs. Wrap the discs in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farhenhiet.

Remove one disc at a time from the refrigerator. Unwrap it and set it on wax paper or a silicone baking mat. (I highly recommend the later.) Roll it out until it is about 1/8 inch thick. With a pastry cutter or pizza wheel, cut the dough into 1/2-inch by 6-inch strips. Seperate the strips slightly while transfering them to a parchment lined baking sheet (or you can use your trustly silicone baking mat). Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until light brown and slightly crispy. They should crisp up a bit more once they cool.

Yield: 4 dozen
Prep-time:  30 mintues


Mini BLTs

Most of my family is engaged in a love affair with the fresh summer, vine-ripened, field-grown tomato right now. Even our youngest has decided she might actually like the taste of home-grown grape tomatoes picked fresh out of our garden, which is pretty major. 

Mini BLTs Recipe

Heavy duty toothpicks or cocktail forks come in handy with this snack. Once you cut the sandwiches into quarters, they tend to fall apart without them.

Mayonaisse is an essential component in this recipe. Embrace the mayonaisse. Also embrace the white bread. Of course this sandwich would still be delicious if you went light on the mayonaisse and used whole grain bread. Make it your own and I’ll try my best to keep quite.

8 slices white bread, toasted to a golden brown
Mayonaisse, to taste
8 – 10 slices cooked bacon
1 large ripe tomato, preferrably heirloom, sliced
4 leaves of bibb or romaine lettuce, rinsed and dried

Lay out your bread slices on a clean counter or cutting board. Slather the top and bottom slices for each sandwich with mayonaisse. Layer on the tomato, bacon, and then the lettuce. Each sandwich gets 1 1/2 to 2 slices of bacon. Top with another slice of bread. Cut each sandwich into quarters (preferably triangles). Spear with a large toothpick or cocktail fork. Serve.

Yield: 16 mini sandwiches
Prep-time: 10 minutes (not counting cooking the bacon and toasting bread)


Grilled Bruschetta

My approach to bruschetta is one I made up a while ago without referring to anything or anyone. I figure I’ve read enough cookbooks that I should know how to make bruschetta with my eyes closed. Feel free to educate me in the comments if I’m commiting some bruschetta sin of the highest order.

Grilled Bruschetta Recipe

Feel free to mix it up based on whatever abundance of summer produce you have on hand.  The kids love to “paint” the olive oil onto the bread prior to grilling.

For the bread:
1 large loaf of rustic crusty white bread
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the tomatoes:
16 grape tomatoes
1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves, chopped
Pinch kosher salt

For the summer squash:
2 to 3 yellow summer squash and/or zucchini
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground pepper
Goat or feta cheese, for garnish

1. Fire up your outdoor grill to medium heat. Somewhere around 400 degrees Farienhight is nice.

2. Slice the loaf into 1/2 inch slices. Combine the olive oil 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl. With a pastry brush, coat one side of each slice liberally with the olive oil mixture. Set aside.

3. Cut off the ends of the summer squash/zucchini. Slice them lengthwise to 1/4 – inch thickness. Spread the slices out on a plate. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. Place the prepared squash, tomatoes, and bread on the grill. Watch the bread closely and flip it once grill marks appear and is starting to brown. Flip the vegetables when grill marks start to appear. Remove from heat and allow the vegetables to cool slightly.

5. To assemble, cut the bread slices in half, if they are large. Spread the bread out on a large serving plate in a single layer. Chop the tomatoes and mix them with the basil. Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt. Next, chop the grilled summer squash and mix with the thyme and parsley along with pinches of salt and pepper. Heap the vegetables onto the prepared bread slices. Garnish with goat or feta cheese, if desired. Devour immediately.

Yield: 16
Prep-time: 25 minutes


Birthday Party Planning for the Lazy Parent

One of my first and clearest memories is running around my house with my friends during my fifth birthday party. Therefore, with both of my kids, I felt a bit of extra pressure to make extra sure that we had a super cool fifth birthday party. Unfortunately, I always seem to forget that all the kids want is to play with their friends and drown themselves in frosting.

This year I didn’t have as much time on my hands as I usually do. We had recently moved their were many boxes still waiting to be unpacked. And to further distract me, we had a guest who is allergic to nuts. At first I thought it would be no problem to keep things safe for him. But if you spend enough time reading ingredient labels and worrying about whether or not your mixing bowls are clean, you start to get a little loopy. Lucky for me, the child’s mother was a real rock star helping me through the menu and responding to all the crazy little questions that came up at the last minute.

What I’m getting at is that the move and a guest’s dietary needs helped to keep me in check and compared to the some of the super high-stress, non-stop, cram-it-all-in parties I’ve planned, I was downright lazy. And you know what? I think it was the best party we’ve ever had.

I’ve made a list of tips to remind myself how to throw a non-crazy kid’s birthday party next time:

Keep the guest list short. We had a total of five kids, including my two girls.

Encourage any older kid(s) in your family to contribute heavily to the party’s decor. At the very least, make some tissue paper flowers together a few days before. Thank you Martha Stewart.

Steal cute and simple food ideas from genius bloggers.

Make exceedingly simple food and make of as much of it ahead of time as possible. We served crudities and deviled eggs as appetizers. Then the kids sat down to eat popcorn, fruit, and cheese strombolis before the cupcakes descended. More than one of the recipes came from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook which I love.

Keep activities and games to a minimum. We did a pinata and that’s it. The two hours flew by. Most of the time I was hanging out with the grown ups. The kids were running amok all over the house.

Have the kids decorate their own cupcakes! This saved me a ton of work. Best of all, it was the birthday girl’s idea. We stuck a candle in her creation and she could not have been more pleased.

Feel free to add your genius ideas for making kids’ birthday parties easier and more pleasant in the comments below. : )

Chunky Guacamole


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