Tag Archives: snack ideas

Snack Wisdom: Travel Foods

Gentle Readers, the irony of this post and timing is noted. Just this past week, while traveling, I almost ran out of snacks. While this may fall squarely in #firstworldproblems territory, I am notoriously cranky when hungry. I eat. I eat often. When I crash, it is hard and fast.

Snacktime Smackdown: Peanut M&M's vs Peanut Butter M&M's

Snacktime Smackdown: Peanut M&M’s vs Peanut Butter M&M’s

Thank goodness my friends know me, and one had just given me a piece of chocolate from Turin, which was still in my purse. The day was saved. TPCs Jr literally fell silent while I ate it, much like I had just seen a dementor and was receiving the cure from Honeyduke’s.

So how does one avoid such a crisis? First, don’t clean out your purse, and carry one. Barring that, here are some tips.

Snack Wisdom: Travel Foods

1. Hoard plane snacks. If they give you two packages, don’t eat them both unless you are starving. These snacks are small, unobtrusive, and right sized for emergencies. Spend them wisely.

Two packages of these Biscoff cookies are like gold in the travel bag.

Two packages of these Biscoff cookies are like gold in the travel bag.

2. Dry cereal. I can’t emphasize how useful this is. It works as breakfast for hungry Jrs on the go, and feels a little familiar in a strange situation. Pour it in zipper bags and go. What could be easier? I recommend any square cereal–they travel well and taste pretty good dry. Cheerios and round cereals are my second choice. Or create a nice blend.

Trader Joe's Chocolate Almond Granola plus Oatmeal Squares, a morning blend.

Trader Joe’s Chocolate Almond Granola plus Oatmeal Squares, a morning blend.

3. Granola bars. I’m currently completely obsessed with the Trader Joe’s Almond Bars, and we’ve blown through a container each time we have traveled. They also work well as a light breakfast, and they have both “fast” and “long” energy–you’ll feel full for a while, but you get an immediate sugar jolt, too.

Trader Joe's Five Seed Almond Bars, How I Love Thee.

Trader Joe’s Five Seed Almond Bars, How I Love Thee.

4. Parfait FTW. Though there are plenty of junky options, so many kiosks sell parfaits now. I like them because they are big enough to share, pack some nutritional punch, and they are portable. A great choice to take on the plane or take a break at the amusement park. Make them at home and you’ll have a comfort snack that’s familiar on a trip.

Mango and Blackberry Parfait (not quite a recipe, but lovely nonetheless)

Mango and Blackberry Parfait (not quite a recipe, but lovely nonetheless)

5. Peanut M & M’s. When the chips are down, this is my go-to snack. Chocolate and peanuts, it’s like a candy-coated version of the trail mix I typical carry with me. Widely available, shareable sizes, easy distribution. This is the snack that wins friends.

Don't leave home without Peanut M & M's.

Don’t leave home without Peanut M & M’s.

What are your snacks on the go? Post a comment here, or Tweet my way! All snack ideas welcome.

Send your chocolates, good ideas, and Pinkberry punch cards to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Cereal in Review: Chocolate Almond Granola from Trader Joe’s

Gentle Readers, it is time to meet your new addiction. Perhaps you think you’ve outgrown the sugary cereals of yore (great recap of dead cereals here). Maybe you only watch cartoons streaming now. It’s time to think outside the bowl. Meet Chocolate Almond Granola from Trader Joe’s.

My current cereal addiction: Chocolate Almond Granola from Trader Joe's

My current cereal addiction: Chocolate Almond Granola from Trader Joe’s

If you can’t find it, assume I bought all of the boxes in your location.

It’s both that delicious and extremely multipurpose. Dry, it’s like the best crumbled up dark chocolate oat granola bar you could imagine.

Bananas plus Maraschino cherries and walnuts? I say yes.

Bananas plus Maraschino cherries and walnuts? I say yes.

Paired with fruit (I’ve tried strawberries, cherries, and bananas) and plain yogurt, Chocolate Almond Granola is the pair of snakeskin shoes to the favorite black t-shirt and jeans. It just adds that something something.

Sliced strawberries with yogurt and a sprinkle of chocolate granola? Afternoon just got a whole lot more interesting.

Sliced strawberries with yogurt and a sprinkle of chocolate granola? Afternoon just got a whole lot more interesting.

It’s not overly sweet, relying more on cocoa powder than sugar, and the balance of crunch and almond, with enough fat to hold it together, it’s just amazing. As a cereal with milk, TPCs Junior favor a blend. This one features Oatmeal Squares.

Trader Joe's Chocolate Almond Granola plus Oatmeal Squares, a morning blend.

Trader Joe’s Chocolate Almond Granola plus Oatmeal Squares, a morning blend.

Cocoa Krispies and Cocoa Puffs hang their heads in shame near this venerable box. Yes, the milk still turns chocolatey, but you don’t get the mouth film effect. And it’s granola, it has to be healthy, right?

A Pyramid of Sugar Cereals

A Pyramid of Sugar Cereals

This is a multiple box buy situation. I’ll wait for your ingenuity in terms of application. You’re welcome. (Feel free to post your best combos in the comments section or on Twitter!)

Send milk, cartoons, and extra Saturday mornings to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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For the Love of Cheese and Jelly

Gentle Readers, it is once more time to open up the food confessional. When I was a kid, one of my favorite snacks, and please don’t ask how this came to pass, was a slice of American cheese covered with strawberry jam. Though I’ve advanced to cheddar and chutney, there is still a special place in my heart for the plasticine combo.

Afterschool snack requested by the Juniors: goat cheese with pepper jelly and wine jelly.

Afterschool snack requested by the Juniors: goat cheese with pepper jelly and wine jelly.

Enter The Practical Cooks Junior. Never have two people been more willing to combine things on their plate. The Eldest keeps everything separate simply so she can combine in the proportions and permutations of her choosing. So when we held a mini cheese tasting the other day, brought about by a sale at the local cheese shop, it was game on.

Strawberry Jam Session

Strawberry Jam Session

For those of you who are Southern, you may skip ahead. For everyone else, meet Pepper Jelly. It’s a slightly sweet and a little bit spicy concoction, best served with goat or cream cheese in my opinion. And definitely on a salty cracker.

When in doubt, taste jelly with a spoon!

When in doubt, taste jelly with a spoon!

But why stop there? Brie and chutney is a classic, so we paired a hoop cheese with red wine jelly. The list goes on. It makes for an amazing grilled cheese: white cheddar melted on good bread, schmear it with apple butter. The salty and sweet are made for each other.

Classic Grilled Cheese

Classic Grilled Cheese

Not every combo is a winner, but the fun is in the journey. Special thanks to Miss Clairol for the inspiration and the jellies. It’s good to revisit one’s culinary roots sometimes.

Are you a fan of the cheese and jelly pairing? Share your combos in the comments section!

Questions? Submit now. The question that is. Your free will is still your own. Email me: practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Bacon Popcorn, Two Ways

Gentle Readers, some recipes are simply meant to be. After attending a business function, The Practical Cook had a conversation with a fellow attendee who referenced the elusive Bacon Bacon food truck in San Francisco. (TPC was unable to score a meal there during a previous visit due to work obligations, clearly a case of mistaken priorities.) One dish he mentioned in particular was bacon popcorn.

Bacon Popcorn, Two Ways, Bagged for Mobile Deployment

Bacon Popcorn, Two Ways, Bagged for Mobile Deployment

His description sounded like traditional kettle corn with bacon, which would be awesome. This version is simpler, faster, and easy to make at home. Best eaten while hot.

Bacon Grease (or the Olive Oil of the South)

Bacon Grease (or the Olive Oil of the South)

Bacon Popcorn, Two Ways (Recipe)

3 Tablespoons bacon fat, rendered from high-quality bacon
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
salt
melted butter
brown sugar
maple syrup

1. Heat bacon fat in a 3 quart or larger pan over medium-high heat. (Hello new All-Clad purchased with redeemed credit card points, I think I love you.) Add 3 or 4 kernels to the oil as it heats.

Bacon fat with test kernels.

Bacon fat with test kernels.

2. When the test kernels pop, add the rest in a single layer, and immediately pull the pan off the heat. Cover, and count 30 Mississippis. (Or time 30 seconds if you must be precise and conventional.) Put the pan back on the stove.

3. Shaking the pan continuously, cook until the popcorn kernels have all popped, which will be just a few minutes. Better to remove than to burn.

Maple Bacon Popcorn!

Maple Bacon Popcorn!

4. Immediately dump the hot popcorn into one or two bowls, depending on if you’re making both flavors.

5a: If you haven’t melted the butter, do so with the residual heat from the popcorn pan. It takes a tablespoon or so. Add the same amount or a little more brown sugar. Mix. Toss with hot popcorn, salting to taste. Eat.

5b: Drizzle a little maple syrup over hot popcorn, and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Eat.

Brown Sugar Bits Bacon Popcorn!

Brown Sugar Bits Bacon Popcorn!

Special thanks to my crew of intrepid tasters at my favorite coffee shop. Some liked both, but there was a slight preference for the brown sugar version. Hot, they were pretty equal. A little cooler, the brown sugar was more complex, richer because of the butter. I had to bag it promptly and get it out of the house, or I would have consumed the entire experiment. Seriously, it’s that good.

Movie night will never be the same. Are you a fan of salty-sweet popcorn? Alternative popcorn? Post your comments below!

Ideas, questions, challenges? Email practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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