Tag Archives: healthy snacks

Summertime Snack Series: Popsicles (Chocolate Almond Cherry Edition with video)

With advance apologies to our readers who are yet to feel the stinging heat of summer, but down South, this is a timely post. The Practical Cook loves popsicles in theory, but is not a fan of the limited orange, cherry, grape ones that are readily available. A child of the 80’s, I wanted to get back to my Bill Cosby roots and have something more like a pudding pop.

Modern Day Pudding Pop

Modern Day Pudding Pop

Fast forward to modern times, and a local paleta shop call Locopops opened. It was a revelation. Their flavor combinations are limitless, and in two main categories, water and cream-based. Hurray. That will be a guiding principle here as well.

As recipes are developed, they will be shared here, so keep the suggestions coming!

Chocolate Almond Cherry Popsicle Recipe

There are some techniques that will help you reach popsicle success. For the tips and tricks, watch the how-to video here.

2 cups plain or vanilla flavored yogurt, or chocolate or vanilla pudding (if you use anything but plain yogurt, omit sweetener)
1/2 cup frozen sweet cherries
2 Tablespoons honey or maple syrup (optional if using plain yogurt)
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup toasted almond slivers
chocolate syrup

1. Put yogurt, cherries, optional sweetener, and almond butter in a blender (or food processor). Blend it!

2. Put a spoonful or so of almond slivers in the bottom of your popsicle molds (or paper cups, if you must).

3. Pour the blended mixture in the molds until they’re half-full. Add a dollop of chocolate syrup into each mold. This creates the squishy center. Fill the molds to the top with the remaining popsicle mixture.

Fill the popsicle molds halfway.

Fill the popsicle molds halfway.

4. Freeze for at least 1 hour.

5. Loosen from mold with warm water. Eat.

Are you a popsicle fan? Do you chomp or lick? Post a comment here and share your popsicle stories!

Thanks for all of the flavor suggestions so far. Send pictures of your popsicle creations to Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Like, like, like! Press “like” on Facebook today! Thank to everyone for helping to earn our very own name: facebook.com/practicalcook)

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Coming up tomorrow, the world premiere of Goaty McBeet Burgers.

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Beets and Sweets Recipe

Who is behind the powerful potato lobby? Why was it decreed early on that potatoes were the root veggie of choice to be “chipped?” The Practical Cook has turned kale into chips, why not other root veggies? Great as a side, fun as a snack, interesting to say, read on to find the secret behind Beets and Sweets.

Sweet potatoes!

Sweet potatoes!

Beets and Sweets Recipe

Unfortunately, though the thinly sliced beets are completely gorgeous, I kept failing to take a picture with my beet-stained hands pre-cooking, and they disappeared so quickly there wasn’t an opportunity to shoot the finished product. If you make them, please submit a photo!

1 or 2 beets, scrubbed, peeled, and sliced thin on a mandoline (or a food processor, if that’s all you’ve got)
1 or 2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and sliced thin
olive oil
kosher or sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Toss beets and sweets (separately, if you want to maintain independent colors) with a dash of olive oil. Place on baking sheet in a single layer (this takes at least two baking sheets at my house).

Sweets in the Oven

Sweets in the Oven

3. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate, bake for another 10 minutes or until desired crispness but pre-burning.

4. Remove from oven, sprinkle with salt, serve.

Fish and Chips

Sunday Night Dinner: Fish and Chips

Below you will see a lovely picture of nicely sliced turnip chips. The ‘Nip Chips were not well-received, even with the attempt at clever naming. The Practical Cook will return to the test kitchen for QT on those.

Root Chips

Root Chips (aka, Thinly Sliced Turnips)

If you like crunchy, salty food, highly recommend trying to make your own chips. If you must use potato, go ahead, but try mixing in a sweet potato or beet for interest.

Coming up tomorrow, Food Trucks, Super or Supertrendy? complete with video footage and a bi-coastal review.

Keep those most hated food confessions rolling in at practical cook at gmail dot com.

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Apple Smiles or Playing With Food

Sometimes seeing is believing. The Practical Cook is all for extreme food presentation, but until I researched Apple Smiles, I was in Little League. I knew the basics: apples, peanut butter, marshmallows. But how to put it all together?

Here’s how:

Smile, Apple, Smile!

Smile, Apple, Smile!

Freaky, but delicious. Which led to the creation of the literary smile, the Wife of Bath:

Wife of Bath Apple Smile (the gat-toothed woman)

Wife of Bath Apple Smile (the gat-toothed woman)

I knew memorizing that prologue would serve one day. “Whan that April . . .”

These snacks are even more fun en masse:

When Food Smiles Back

When Food Smiles Back

Admittedly, it borders on creepy. Here’s what I learned:

  • Use the peanut butter sparingly. Otherwise you’ll end up with gingivitis.
  • The redder the apple, the more realistic the look.
  • If you’re using pre-sliced apples (guilty, I was in a hurry!), cut them in half again. The voluptuous lip may work for Revlon, but creates a sliding smile.
  • Have fun with the marshmallow “tooth” placement. You can see gap-tooth above, but there are several smiles missing teeth, just like the young patrons who were consuming them.
  • Marketing works. When delivering the smiles, I asked the recipient if they thought that one was a good tooth-brusher. Great ice-breaker for the under 7 set.
  • I’m ashamed to admit how tasty these were. I’m a fan of all three ingredients, but together, magic. I won’t tell if you make some for yourself.
Apple Smile Work in Progress

Apple Smile Work in Progress

I found it simplest to slice the apple slices in half (or make them fairly thin if you’re slicing your own), smear them lightly with peanut butter, then add the marshmallow teeth and assemble, as shown above. Push the marshmallow from skin side to interior or risk unsightly peanut butter gums.

This is a great option for Snack Week if allergies are not an issue. Much fruit was consumed based on presentation and taste.

Coming up next, spring is in the air somewhere, so it’s time to think about the Farmer’s Market. Are you a Farmer’s Market fan? Join us tomorrow and tell us what you shop for (or why you haven’t gone yet): practicalcook at gmail dot com

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One Ingredient, Three Ways: Cereal Edition Continued

Thank you for your patience Gentle Readers, the Practical Cook hopes you’re reading this, cereal bowl in hand. Without further delay, the stunning conclusion of the trinity on cereal. Clearly, there will be more on this wonderfood in the future. We haven’t even covered any of the “treat” varietals! Visit the previous post: One Ingredient, Three Ways: Cereal Edition for the #1 and #2 ways to enjoy cereal.

#3 Bake It: Raisin Bran Muffins

The classic Raisin Bran Cereal Muffin, updated in the Practical Cook test kitchen. These are really, really good.

Raisin Bran Muffins Cooling

Raisin Bran Muffins Cooling

1 1/2 cup flour (I swapped 1/2 cup of this for 1/2 cup almond meal, and it rocked)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cups sugar
3 Tablespoons light brown sugar (I think dark brown sugar or molasses might be good here)
2 1/2 cups Raisin Bran cereal
1 1/2 Tablespoons flax seed meal
1/3 cup oil
1 egg
1 1/4 buttermilk (I used 1 cup buttermilk plus 1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt that needed to be used)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees (or 350 degrees, if you have dark muffin tins). Line 12-cup tin with liners or spray.

2. Mix dry ingredients.

Raisin Bran Muffins Dry Ingredients

Raisin Bran Muffins Dry Ingredients

2. Mix wet ingredients.

Mix the wet into the dry, then let the mixture sit to absorb the liquid.

Mix the wet into the dry, then let the mixture sit to absorb the liquid.

3. Add wet to dry, let sit 45 minutes. Divide batter evenly into muffin cups, bake for 15-20 minutes (lower heat may take longer).

Adjust the oven temp based on your muffin tin color.

Adjust the oven temp based on your muffin tin color.

4. When the muffins turn golden brown, spring back when lightly touched or pass the toothpick test, pull them out to rest briefly.

Cool the muffins in the tin for a few minutes.
Cool the muffins in the tin for a few minutes.

5. Remove from tin and serve warm. These muffins are hearty and sweet without being overwhelmingly branny.

Raisin Bran Muffins
Raisin Bran Muffins

Thus ends another week of Practical Cooking. Thanks as always for the amazing words of encouragement and support. And to my mom, the one and only PCM,  for the feedback and suggestions (one is never too old to receive guidance from a more experienced Practical Cook). Don’t hesitate to join her in supplying your thoughts by emailing practicalcook at gmail dot com.

Tomorrow it’s time for Weekly Menus, once again!

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One Ingredient, Three Ways: Cereal Edition

The only thing better than Saturday Morning cartoons—cartoons plus sugary cereal. Alas, this generation will never know the pleasure of getting hepped up on Booberry while watching the Smurfs cohabitate or that rascally rabbit dodge another anvil. The Practical Cook adores cereal. From the holiday tradition of receiving little boxes of the sugariest of the sugar bombs in her stocking (always trading the Frosted Flakes for her brother’s Cocoa Krispies, which he despised/s) to preschool art projects to life in a college dorm, there’s always been cereal.

Let us pause and celebrate how to get the most from this amazing innovation. Cereal: One Ingredient, Three Ways, including Eat It, Snack It, concluding tomorrow with Bake It.

#1 Eat It: Read It First, Not Just During

The Practical Cook's Cereal Warehouse

The Practical Cook's Cereal Warehouse

How many ways can you eat cereal?

  • With milk, in the traditional fashion.
  • Top a parfait with it. (Or just mix it with yogurt.)
  • Eat it dry, with milk on the side. (My eldest HATES  soggy cereal and will only abide it this way. Perhaps this is true for you, too.)
  • Eat it hot. I have tried this many times, and it’s not my favorite method, but some people swear by Grape-Nuts made that way.

There are lots of cereal options out there, and wide variation between brands of the same type. Look for sugar, fiber, and serving size:calorie ratio. I stock the spectrum, but you should know what you’re eating before you buy it. The Practical Cook does not take a hard line against magically delicious cereals, but prefers to match the cereal to the occasion.

Some favorite types:

  • Whole Wheat Chex
  • The entire Trader Joe’s Cereal Aisle: particularly the “purple” box granola and the Peanut Butter Puffins
  • Grape-Nuts
  • Kashi Autumn Wheat (aka, Hay Bales, as my brother and I named shredded wheat years ago)
  • Kashi Honey Sunshine
  • Gorilla Munch (hello, it’s called Gorilla Munch)
  • Cheerios
  • When no one is looking and there’s time to play “Radar Rat Race” on a Commodore 64 emulator, Froot Loops

#2 Snack It: Trail Mix Recipe

Trail Mix

Trail Mix

So you have 15 extra boxes of cereal around, and no ideas for snack. Hmmm, what to do? Trail Mix time! This is great for big and little people, and you can customize. Every Snack Week, this is a runaway hit. My soggy-cereal-hating eldest daughter treats this snack like gold. Could it be the marshmallow bribe inside?

Here are some tips and tricks:

  • If you’re sending this for a class snack, consider sending separate bags of each ingredient, scoops, and zipper-t0pped plastic bags for a “choose your own flavor adventure” style snack.
  • Salty ideas: Chex or Cheerios, Nuts or Seeds, Goldfish or pretzels or bagel chips
  • Sweet ideas: Chocolate or Cinnamon or Whole Wheat (or a combo) Chex, dried fruit (such as raisins, cranberries, blueberries, banana chips, mango, etc.), graham cracker pieces or teddy grahams, marshmallows or yogurt raisins or chocolate chips
  • Sweet and Salty ideas: Any cereal will do here, pretzels, dried fruit, nuts, marshmallows or yogurt raisins or chocolate chips or peanut butter chips or M & Ms.

Tomorrow,the riveting conclusion with Bake It: Raisin Bran Muffin Recipe.

Until then, what’s your favorite kind of cereal? Post a comment, send an email (practicalcook at gmail dot com) or join us on Twitter for a lively cereal discussion.

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One Ingredient, Three Ways: Oatmeal Edition

For those of you following the Practical Cook on Twitter, you know I love Mark Bittman. Even more, I love that he’s been picking a fight with the 1,000 pound gorilla that is McDonald’s, with their new oatmeal offering. Because they find a way to supersize everything and give it an acronym. Who wants some more FMO?

For the Practical Cook, oatmeal is a kitchen staple. It can serve as a hearty meal, an ingrediente secreto, or the star of the show in a dessert. One of the Practical Cook’s rules is to avoid the “hidden” brownie. In other words, if I eat a brownie, it should be a brownie, and not some fake-out instant oatmeal or yogurt that’s loaded with sugar. I want my Krispy Kremes to be caloric bombshells of Hot Now goodness, and my oatmeal to be healthy, not the other way around.

Without further delay, here’s oatmeal in three ways.

Morning Oatmeal Au Naturel

Step 1. Make some oatmeal. Try the stove, the microwave, whatever you like. Go for old-fashioned or quick, feel free to take on steel-cut or Irish, but please do not become reliant on the instant stuff without reading the ingredients. I fell prey to it recently during a late-afternoon trip with the Junior Practical Cooks. Learn from my mistakes.

Step 2. Decorate your oatmeal. Here are some options:

Medjool Dates, Courtesy of Trader Joe's

Medjool Dates, Courtesy of Trader Joe's

  • Frozen blueberries and toasted pecans (microwave them on a paper towel for a minute or so, the flavor improvement is worth the trouble). Fresh blueberries work here, too, but the frozen ones cool down oatmeal quickly to an edible temp, a bonus during a hectic morning. Finish with some milk and a dash of maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar.
  • Dates and toasted walnuts. Search for Medjool Dates in your store. They are in fact nature’s candy, and once pitted and chopped a bit, melt into oatmeal like little caramels. Walnuts provide a crunchy counterpoint, and there’s no needs for additional sweeteners.
  • Dried cranberries and toasted almonds. (Noticing a theme here with the toasting?) A natural pairing, this combo adds a great sweet/tart/crunch punch.

Oatmeal as a Secret Ingredient

Blueberry Muffins

Mrs. McGee's Blueberry Muffins

This ground has been fairly well-trodden by the Practical Cook. Try oatmeal in your Peanut Butter Powerhouse Snacks and All-Purpose Blueberry Muffin recipe. It’s an inexpensive and quick way to add whole grains, and it doesn’t have the same wheaty weightiness of whole wheat flour, if you’re not into that.

Oatmeal Cookies Recipe, Starring Oatmeal

For the big finish, cookies. This picture includes a turkey template. Pay no mind to it, you’ll be seeing it again in November. There is no call for turkeys in the springtime. And this recipe comes from the mom of a pro football player, proving that eating oatmeal will make you a professional athlete. (Note that the Practical Cook is fond of hyperbole and makes no claims to the truth of this statement.)

Oatmeal Cookies and Turkey Template

Oatmeal Cookies and Turkey Template

Measure and set aside:
2 cups old-fashioned (or rolled) oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional (the recipe says optional, the Practical Cook says not optional!)

Cream with a stand or hand-held mixer in a large bowl:
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened but not melted
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Slowly add dry ingredients to the creamed sugar mixture. Mix. Drop by 2 level Tablespoons (or bust out and buy yourself a cookie scoop and thank me later), or small walnut size. Do not press down. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 13-15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Try not to eat all of them at once. I dare you.

How do you like your oatmeal? Leave a comment, send an email, Tweet away, the hotline is open.

Coming up tomorrow, the Secret Art of Sandwiches: From Types to Presentation.

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Peanut Butter Powerhouse Snacks

What could possibly be better than peanut butter? Portable peanut butter. This post goes out to my boss, whose reverent tones regarding peanut butter match my own. Plus, he got me out of a jam this week, pun intended. Peanut Butter Powerhouse Snacks are small protein-packed pick-me-ups, perfect for whiny kids at the park, picky eaters, and exhausted colleagues.

Mise en place

Mise en place

Peanut Butter Powerhouse Snacks Recipe

This recipe can make as much or as little as you’d like, all proportions are relative and approximate.

1 cup or more cereal, pulverized in a food processor or mashed thoroughly in a plastic bag with a rolling pin (plain cereals work best for this, try corn flakes, bran flakes, corn chex, whole wheat chex, all-bran, rolled oats, etc.)
1 to 2  Tablespoons chocolate flavored whey protein powder (optional, from Trader Joe’s)
1 cup high-quality peanut butter, crunchy or smooth
1 to 2 Tablespoons of honey, or enough to make it stick
dash of molasses, optional (I love molasses, and natural peanut butter doesn’t contain any, so I like to add a few drops back in)

Other add-ins: coconut, marshmallows (minced, a suggestion from the Jr. Practical Cooks), raisins (minced), chocolate chips

1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine pulverized cereal and protein powder (if using) until well mixed.

Cereal in the food processor: Chex and Trader Joe's High-Fiber cereal

Cereal in the food processor: Chex and Trader Joe's High-Fiber cereal

Pulverized Cereal

Pulverized Cereal

2. Stir in peanut butter, honey, and molasses, mixing until combined. Add other mix-ins if using.

Add the wet to the dry.

Add the wet to the dry.

Mix thoroughly to combine.

Mix thoroughly to combine.

3. Scoop out jawbreaker-sized amounts and roll into balls. If too crumbly, add more honey. Put in fridge to firm up.

Roll into balls.

Roll into balls.

Great for peanut butter fans of all ages. And they aren’t noisy to eat, making them ideal conference call food.

Peanut Butter Powerhouse Snacks

Peanut Butter Powerhouse Snacks

Coming up tomorrow, another round of Tool Talk with 3 more of my favorite kitchen toys.

Have a favorite peanut butter recipe (or a favorite cereal recipe)? Send it in to practicalcook at gmail dot com

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