Easy and Healthier Snacks

I often feel challenged when I am asked to bring a snack or appetizer to a party or if someone comes over on short notice. I need to come up with some easy snack that doesn’t keep me in the kitchen or that travels well.

I love to serve “out of the box appetizers” to get away from the normal Nachos or Cheese Spread or Artichoke Spinach dip. I don’t mind cheese but many appetizers have too much, so I try to find recipes that have just a little cheese. I also try to avoid the heavy fare that makes you feel like you ate three times your calories and fat allowance for the week!

Let’s face it, people snack on crap a lot of times. It’s easy, it’s fast, it’s filling and you can pick most of it up at the store without much preparation. Well that is just not my style, so I would like to share with you some fairly easy choices that are “out of the box”. I have tried to remember where I found these ideas and listing them if I know them.

Puffed Wild Rice
Heat a frying pan over medium high heat. You can spray it lightly with cooking spray or keep it dry Add a handful of wild rice and heat, shaking the pan like you are making popcorn, until the wild rice puffs. Sprinkle with salt or garlic salt and serve. You can also add this to the next recipe for popcorn and serve them together. I have also served them mixed with toasted nuts.

Italian Seasoned Popcorn
Buy a jar of popcorn instead of buying the prepared Microwave popcorn. Put ¼ cup of popcorn into a brown paper lunch bag. Fold to close and put in the microwave fold side down. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until you hear the popping slow down.

Remove and carefully open because there will be steam in the bag. Pour into a bowl and top with a light spray of butter or margarine, Parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of Italian seasoning. Mix together and serve.

There are lots of seasoning variations so be creative.

Yogurt Cheese with Pita
Bon Appetit Magazine May 1995
This comes from the Israeli port, Caesarea


4 cups plain yogurt (not low or nonfat)
1 tsp sesame seeds
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp dried summer savory
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp ground cumin
2 tbl extra virgin olive oil
Toasted Pita bread triangles

Set a strainer over a large bowl but make sure it is not touching the bottom. Line the strainer with 4 layers of cheesecloth that overlap the edges by about 4 inches.

Spoon yogurt into the strainer. Gather and fold the cheesecloth over the yogurt. Refrigerate for 8 hrs or overnight. The liquid will drain and the yogurt will thicken.

Combine sesame seeds, salt, summer savory, cayenne and cumin in a small bowl. Open the cheesecloth and using a rubber spatula transfer the drained yogurt to a nice serving bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over it. Sprinkle on some of the sesame seed mixture then serve it with the Pita Triangles. You can add some cured olives too if you like.

I buy the natural yogurt or Bulgarian yogurt at Whole Foods Market. You can also lightly grill the Pita with just a bit of garlic butter brushed on it before serving.

Asian Guacamole with Wonton Crisps
Sunset Magazine
Alot of Groceries carry these ingredients now

1 tbl black sesame seeds or regular (the black ones I found at World Market or Asian Stores)
1 large ripe firm avocado (3/4 lb) The Florida Avocados might be best. They are bigger and are not as high in fat
1 tbl shredded pickled ginger
3 tbl seasoned rice vinegar (or 3tbl cider vinegar with 1tsp sugar)
½ tsp wasabi powder
Won Ton Crisps (recipe follows)

Fry sesame seeds in a frying pan over medium high heat until the seeds start to pop. Set aside and cool.

Peel, pit and dice avocado into a bowl. Add ½ tsp sesame seed, ginger, vinegar and wasabi and mix it together gently. Transfer it into a pretty serving bowl and serve with the Won Ton Crisps

Won Ton Crisps

4 tbl butter or butter flavor cooking spray
20 wonton skins
Any seasoning you might like, you could use the sesame seed and a little kosher salt for this use.

Preheat oven to 375degrees
Melt the butter and brush some on a rimmed baking sheet (or spray the cooking spray). Cut each wonton skin in half to make a rectangle. Arrange closely together on the baking sheet, but don’t overlap. Brush the tops lightly with butter or spray with the cooking spray.

Sprinkle on the sesame seeds and kosher salt if preferred. Bake at 375 for 5-6 min until golden and crisp. Repeat until all are done.

You can also make these as a stand-alone snack by brushing with butter then topping with Italian seasoning and Parmesan before baking.
I haven't tried this but you could try sprinkling it with chili powder and a sharp cheddar for a Mexican crisp
Another variation:
For a sweet crisp, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before baking.

Cherry Bruschetta
BHG Magazine

Mix 1 cup coarsely chopped, pitted light or dark sweet cherries with 2 tablespoons red or green jalapeno jelly. Mound on slices of lightly toasted French bread or leaves of butterhead lettuce. Top with a little crumbled blue cheese and sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of toasted slivered almonds.

They suggest you can use a paper clip to pit the cherries if you don’t have a cherry pitter.

Ok, this one is my favorite. My friend Wade showed me this.
Fresh Radishes with European Butter and Chervil

Get a bunch of pretty colored radishes or just the red ones if that is all you find. Slice them a little thick. Buy some European butter (you can find Danish butter at Whole Foods) and put a little of the cold butter on each radish slice. Top with fresh chervil if you can find it (this is really good!) or if not a little minced chive. Serve with salt or sprinkle a little kosher salt on each.

Stuffed Mushrooms
This is a cinch to make:

Buy a package of Herbed Boursin Cheese. (I think it comes in light). Use it to fill 6 canned mushroom caps then put a sprig of parsley on top.

Here is my addiction:

Sweet Spiced Pistachios
Lebanese Cooking by Susan Ward

2 ½ cups shelled salted pistachios
2/3-cup superfine sugar
1 tsp ground mace
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Place the nuts in a skillet without any oil, and heat until they are golden, stirring frequently. This takes about 5 minute. Sprinkle over the sugar, then the spices and continue to stir until the sugar is melted and the nuts have caramelized.

Take off the heat and spoon the nuts onto foil or a baking sheet to dry. They may clump but if you want you can break them up once they are cool.

Lasts a couple weeks in an airtight container. It doesn’t last that long in my place!!

Peaches and Red Wine Sauce
Food and Wine Magazine

I usually make this sauce with leftover Red Wine, so I end up making a half recipe. The sauce is wonderful on fresh peaches with a little not too tangy goat cheese or maybe even ricotta on the side. Of course it is great just with the peaches.

1 bottle red wine
1 cup sugar
¼ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp pepper
½ tsp allspice
1 4 inch cinnamon stick crushed
Fresh peaches (or Nectarines)
Optional: Goat or Ricotta cheese

Mix it all together. Bring it to a boil then simmer until it is reduced to syrup. Remove the solids, cool and refrigerate. Slice some nice juicy peaches and drizzle a little syrup over each. Serve with picks.

You can make this a terrific dessert by putting the sauce over ice cream and adding any berries or fruit with it. The peaches, vanilla ice cream and red wine sauce make a nice and tasty presentation.