Category Archives: Snacks

Monday Menu: Go Nuts

Almonds, a favorite nut of mine, are rich in plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols. But the health benefits are lessened, when if like me, you call peanut m&m’s  protein and eat candied almond by the handful.

Over the holidays, I decided to swap out the store bought for an equally delicious and healthier version of cocoa dusted almonds – sans butter or oil – that still satisfies a salty sweet tooth.


Cinnamon Cocoa Almonds
3 cups of raw almonds
1.5 tbsp of agave syrup
3 tsp of Dutch-processed cocoa
1.5 tsp of cinnamon
.5 tsp of nutmeg
sprinkle of salt

This couldn’t be easier to make or more delicious!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium size bowl, combine almonds and all ingredients.  Stir so that almonds are fully coated.  Taste and adjust for a more chocolatey or cinnamon-y flavor.  
Scatter on a parchment paper covered pan.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven; almonds will have a glossy sheen and feel slightly sticky.  Sprinkle with salt and allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes.

Pre-Game Snacks

I really do love football, but this weekend’s “big game” is not really luring me in.  I am not into the teams, and I’m not into the location being a snowy Dallas…

In any case, I am into making food for the “big game”.  Did you know that only NFL and the network broadcasting the game are allowed to use the term Super Bowl in a marketing context… little known fact!

If I was having a party for the Big Game I would serve up some of these healthy favorites!
Candied Pecans!
Stuffed Mushrooms!
Sweet Potato Chips and Spicy Arugula Pesto
For more inspiration and to honor the teams playing, The Greenbay Packers and The Pittsburgh Steelers, how about these recipes:

A New Twist on a Traditional Favorite

We cook at home just about every night, and we do so for a lot of reasons: it’s cheaper, it’s healthier, it’s easier and often it’s just as good.  The trick however, become making home cooked meals interesting and fun.

This weekend I took a seasonal favorite, sweet potato and upped the ante.  
Sweet Potato Coins with Arugula Pesto
2 Sweet Potatoes (I used 1 yam – that’s the lighter color)
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt, Pepper, Paprika to taste (just a light sprinkle)
We do homemade fries a lot, so this was a nice change.  Cut the potatoes into 1/4″ coins.  I put all of them in a colander and drizzle with olive oil so that all of the coins get an even coating.

Sprinkle the salt, pepper and paprika over the coins on a tin foil covered cookie sheet.
Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.  You could go longer, but 30 minutes gives the coins enough time to be crispy and golden brown.
You could stop now, and eat.  You’ll be happy, I promise.  Or… you can take it up a notch.

Arugula Pesto
2 handfuls of arugula
1.5 tbsp of pine nuts
1 tbsp fresh grated parmesean cheese
1/2 tbsp of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and Pepper to Taste

In a food processor blend all of ingredients, using a spatula to scrape down the sides.  This is a dish that you can’t really screw up, because you can continue to taste to check your flavors. I like it garlicky, maybe you want a bit less, so it is very easy to adjust.

A traditional pesto features basil, I went with arugula because we had a lot on hand and it no longer had the crisp bite that I would want for a salad.  No wasting in our house, and this new use for salad greens was a huge success, and a delicious dip for the sweet potato “chips”.

Candied Pecans and Bleu Cheese Bites

This originally was featured on the DC Ladies Blog but the recipe was too easy and too good to not share!
Earlier I posted savory bleu cheese and pecan cookies, which were awesome and easy and fun to eat for breakfast, if that’s your thing (which, evidently it is mine). Anyway, those cookies were the round 2 to this even easier, and also quite charming, appetizer.  Because the whole thing takes about 8 minutes to prepare and assemble this might be perfect for when you have surprise company or perhaps need reinforcements at a cocktail party.

Candied Pecans and Bleu Cheese Bites
French baguette
Candied Pecans, recipe here
Bleu Cheese crumbles
Your freshly made, or store bought pecans get a good chop and are set aside.
Cut a French baguette into thin slices and toast lightly.  (This isn’t really necessary, but generally speaking there are few things better than warm bread).  With the back of a spoon “spread” the crumbled bleu cheese on top of the baguette slices. 
Sprinkle on top of the bleu cheese and the chopped candied pecans and a light drizzle of honey.

Each bite is like a divine sampling of a cheese platter at the most divine wine bar, and easy to do and made with ingredients that are probably in your pantry!

Happy Holidays – wishing you delicious entertaining!

Stuffed Mushrooms for Last Minute Appetizer

Stuffed Mushrooms are the kind of appetizer that takes no time to make, you’re likely to have all of the ingredients in your refrigerator and pantry, and they are delightful bite full of flavor.

Stuffed Mushrooms Ingredients:
15 medium Baby Bella Mushrooms (a whole container)
2 tbsps of Olive Oil
1/3 cup of Italian Bread Crumbs
1 tbsp of Skim Ricotta Cheese
2 tbsps grated parmesean
2 tsps of italian seasoning
Dash of Red Pepper Flakes
Salt and Pepper to taste
Add chopped basil, or parsley, chopped garlic
First rinse and rub all of the mushrooms and let them dry.  Remove all of the stems and reserve.  Take the stems and chop them to a small chop.  

In a small bowl add all of the seasonings, cheese, bread crumbs and olive oil.  Add to that the chopped mushrooms.

With a fork mix all of the ingredients.  This recipe is sort of the exact opposite of baking; you can swap out other ingredients, you can change the seasoning, want more spice, less spice, no cheese, more veggies, this is a great clean out the pantry in a flash recipe.

Prepare the oven to 400 degrees and put parchment paper on a cookie sheet.  Turn the mushrooms cavity down and lightly oil the outside of the mushrooms, and sprinkle to taste with salt and pepper.  With a small spoon, or of course your fingers, stuff the mushrooms to the top.

Bake for twenty minutes.  Allow to cool, just long enough so that when you pop an entire mushroom in your mouth and it’s not so hot that you have to do that “it’s too hot” dance.  Enjoy!

Fresh Salsa, almost like Vacation

This past weekend we had friends over for linner, late lunch/early dinner.  Since we were prepping the food, and they were supplying the drinks, I got started on planning out a themed menu.  The weekend before I  reminisced about the amazing food we ate on our honeymoon to Mexico, and so the theme developed on it’s own, we’d be doing a Latin inspired meal.

We served up salsa fresca, chunky guacamole, mango coconut fish and pulled pork tacos, roasted tomatillos, out of this world tostones, cilantro rice and garlicky black beans, watermelon and lemon, and Mexican s’mores.

The Salsa was a huge hit, and it turns out it is actually America’s most popular condiment – who knew?!  
3 cups of Cherry Tomatoes
1/2 cup of Red Onion
1/2 cup of White Onion
1/4 cup of Cilantro
1 Jalapeno, with seeds removed and sliced
The Juice of 1 Lime
A sprinkle of salt to taste

I think salsa is a dish where you sort of know what you like.  Want more onions? Throw in more onions.  Hate cilantro?  Skip it.  

One tip I practiced was something I learned from Chef Rick Bayless, which was to wash the onion in a bit of cold water to reduce their bite.  I guess if you wanted that onion-y bite you could skip that too.

Here is a trick that we created out of necessity, and it worked like a charm: we didn’t want soupy salsa.  So as the tomatoes were being chopped they were dropped into a colander so that the extra tomato juice could drain out.  

Then all the ingredients go into one big bowl, and they get to know each other, they mingle, they dance and then they meet a chip and fall in love. No chips?  Yikes!  Also amazing with rice and beans, over grilled chicken or eggs.

If you have a bounty of summer tomatoes, this is a simple, low calorie way to use them up, and transport yourself to a beach vacation getaway. 

Melon Lemon – A Good Mix

So, this isn’t really a recipe – but it is a must, must, must do.  

See that bowl of watermelon you chopped up the other day?  It’s sitting in your refrigerator.  Maybe you grab a few pieces every now and then as a refreshing snack.  Oh, you don’t have a gigantic bowl of watermelon in your fridge?  Can you please go get one?  It’s a primary ingredient in this non-recipe recipe.

Continuing on…  Remember how you bought a bag of lemons for homemade lemonade, or to throw in a bottle of Corona (depending on the type of weekend you had)?  Take that lemon, cut a wedge and squeeze all of the sour, lemony juice over the chunks of watermelon.  

That little squirt transforms the watermelon.  No joke, like Cinderella style, a “She’s All that That transformation.  The watermelon is no longer simple, juicy fruit, it is now exotic, tart, and full of flavor.  The natural sugars concentrate and it’s like you’re eating chunks of summer, if your summers are spent on the beach in Mexico. 

I have to give credit where credit is due.  This trick – which pretty much changed the watermelon eating portion of my life – came courtesy of my sister’s boyfriend’s housemate.  And now you have it via me.  You can tell your friends you learned this from your favorite blogger’s sister’s boyfriend’s friend. 

Zucchini in bloom?

I like my vegetables, but I by no means have a green thumb.  Prior to shopping more frequently at farmer’s markets I was fairly accustomed to seeing my produce displayed at Whole Foods, wrapped in plastic, or dare I say it in the frozen foods aisle.  Yikes!  

Anyway, the joy of the market is getting to see all parts of the produce at their peak.  Let me introduce you to the part of the zucchini most people never meet: 
Image by Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, via Virtual Gourmet
I’ve always heard of these prepared battered and fried (like a very delicate onion ring) or stuffed with a ricotta based filling.  After walking the Bloomingdale Farmer’s Market with my Italian born mother-in-law we brainstormed on how to best use these little flowers.  She made a risotto, and I made up my own, crispy, light recipe – and if you can still find these guys, it’s worth taking 10 minutes to make.

First you have to rinse and dry the flowers, and remove the pistil.  I am sure there is anatomy lesson somewhere here, but I am not going to bother.  Basically picture the flower like the colored Christmas lights – you are going to cut off what on the light is the black part and pull out the bulb (or the pistil).  If this analogy hasn’t confused you enough onto step 2.

The ingredients for this impromptu experiment could not be more simple.
I was trying to keep it light so I splashed some Extra Virgin Olive Oil and then dipped in a mix of Italian bread crumbs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper.  
Then I put the lightly coated flowers in a shallow pan with olive oil over medium heat.  I really just aimed to brown them slightly and crisp them up.  Because I did not use a traditional batter, when they were “done” was more of a personal estimation.
When they were all done I patted them with paper towels to remove any excess oil and sprinkled on freshly grated cheese.  Again, bread crumbs, oil and cheese are hard to screw up so any extra cheese just means it’s extra amazing.

And, what do you know – all gone!

The zucchini flowers probably taste more authentic when eaten on an authentic Deruta table, special thanks to my mother-in-law again!