Category Archives: Snacks

Sea Salt Fennel Chips

Fritz and I did a ridiculous amount of shopping today.  Something about cool weather just makes me want to spend all of our money as fast as humanly possible–combine that with the fact that we redeemed some points from our credit cards that we forgot about (thanks Cait and Jeff for the reminder!) for $250, and it was a done deal. 

It was only through sheer willpower that I didn’t go adopt a fluffy orange kitten.  Next year, Lauren.  Next year.  Maybe as a graduation present?

Since we are good kids, most of the points money will go towards our new iPhones and phone plans, but I did get an amazingly cute dress from Gap for $12, some clothes for Fritz, and the making for a DIY project (a light over our kitchen table).

If that wasn’t enough, my BFF’s mom called to say she was cleaning out her DVD collection, and she just handed us tons of DVDs to look through and claim for our own–it was like Christmas in September!  Thanks, Liz!

Clearly, not much cooking happened today…but I did find a few minutes to make fennel chips.

Sea Salt Fennel Chips

  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 1-2 t olive oil
  • sprinkle of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Trim the stalks off the fennel (you can save or toss, I don’t care!), and cut off the ends.  Divide each bulb in half, then peel the leaves from the core.  Toss them on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.

When baking chips from veggies, it’s best to be conservative with the salt.  The leaves shrink as they dessicate, and the salt taste can quickly become overpowering if you were too heavy-handed.

Remember, you can always add salt, but you can’t taketh away.

Bake on the middle rack, stirring them occasionally, until dry.  You will probably have to remove the smaller leaves before the thickest ones are done, otherwise they will burn.  It should take about 20 minutes to a half an hour.

I actually couldn’t resist tasting them as I checked on them, and didn’t finish baking them because they were just so good as is.  With some moisture still in the middle of the big ones, they tasted kind of like fennel fries rather than chips.

Delicious either way.

Baked veggie chips are also great with kale or chard–see here for the recipe.

Baking the chips was a really great way to make the strong anise taste of fennel a lot more mild.  You could still taste it, but it wasn’t overwhelming.

And yesterday I went apple picking with Fritz and some really lovely ladies:

We ate apple cider donuts, apple cider, and of course, tasted about a million apples on the orchard.  I plan on making apple butter using what we picked, but since I’ve never made it before I want need to find a recipe I like that doesn’t add pounds of sugar.  Any suggestions?

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A Peck of (Really Hot) Pickled Peppers

Hello, friends! 

It feels so good to be able to cook and blog every day.  I will never, ever, ever take having power for granted ever again until probably this weekend when I get used to everything running smoothly without any effort on my part.

But I shouldn’t take it for granted, because it is so awesome to have power.

To finish up my fall prep by canning the rest of the goods from my parents’ garden, I decided to make pickled banana peppers.  We’ve been eating a lot of sandwiches (brown bag lunches at school, ya know), and I thought a sweet and spicy pickled pepper would be perfect to jazz them up through the winter when veggies are a little lackluster.

I also discovered that what I thought were harmless banana peppers were actually super HOT banana peppers, and now my poor innocent hands are burning like fire since I wasn’t wearing gloves when I cut them.  Word to the wise: wear gloves.  You could use this recipe with mild or spicy peppers–doesn’t matter one bit.

Pickled Banana Peppers

  • 25 banana peppers
  • 2 C water
  • 3 C white vinegar
  • 1/2 C apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/4 C salt
  • 2 T whole peppercorns
  • 1 T caraway seeds
  • 1 T dill seeds
  • 2 t ground allspice

These are getting canned into four pint-sized jars, so get all that canning stuff ready–big stock pot of boiling water to sterilize the jars, smaller saucepan to simmer the lids in, big tongs, and dish cloths and potholders to protect your sensitive mitts.  Especially if you’ve already burned the crap outta ’em with hot pepper juice.

Start by slicing the peppers–I cut off the tops, removed the core and as many seeds as I easily could with a knife, and then sliced them into thin rings.  Soak all the peppers in a giant bowl of ice water with a T or so of salt in it for at least an hour.  I’m not sure exactly what this step is for, but since everyone else is doing it, I’ll do it too.

Once the peppers are ready, sterilize the jars by boiling them in water for at least ten minutes.  While the giant pot of water is coming to a boil, bring the remaining ingredients (water, vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices) to a boil as well. 

Once the jars are sterilized, pack them full of peppers and cover with the vinegar mixture.  Careful with all the hot stuff–no burns, please!

It might be helpful to strain the liquid through a strainer as you pour it in the jars, and then you can evenly divide the spices among the four jars.

Put the lids on the jars, screw the tops on (not too tight, just a gentle closure), and return them to the boiling water to process.  Boil the jars vigorously for 40 minutes, then remove from the liquid and set on a dish towel to cool.  If the lids pop and don’t spring back when pressed, the jars have sealed properly and you are good to go.

Don’t they look gorgeous?

I’d let them pickle in the vinegar for a few weeks before eating them.

I’d also be careful about eating them if you used the same kind of death-in-disguise super-hot banana peppers that I used.

Winter sandwiches have officially been jazzed.

I leave you with a few pictures from a trip downport that Fritz and I took the other day with our good friends Cait and Jeff:

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Filed under Side Dishes, Snacks

Seeded Crackers

What a relief to finally be home!  We began our travels yesterday at 8:00 in the morning and finally arrived home to Long Island at almost 9:00 at night.  Super long day.

Needless to say, we were super exhausted when we finally made it home–but very, very excited to see this face:

He’s been cling-wrapped to us all day and I think he’s finally starting to get that when we leave, we won’t be gone for another two weeks.  Oh–except that I’m catching a flight tomorrow night for Syracuse to see my side of the family (but Fritz is staying here, since his classes are starting tomorrow).

So, it was nice to have a bit of a normal routine today, including weekend baking.  I decided to attempt making crackers for the first time ever today, using this recipe from It’s Not About the Recipe for inspiration.

Seeded Crackers Printable Recipe Card

  •  1 C whole-wheat flour
  • 1 C rye flour
  • 1/4 C poppy seeds
  • 1/4 C sesame seeds
  • 1/4 C sunflower seeds
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 3/4 C water

This was a super easy recipe.  In the mixer, combine all the dry ingredients.  Mix in the olive oil, then the water, until a dough forms.  Let it rest for 15 minutes.

After resting, break the dough into four pieces (the original recipe said eight–not sure why, since it was not necessary and a bit more time-consuming).  Roll out the dough until very thin, using extra flour to prevent sticking (I stopped rolling only when I had to–when the thickness of the sunflower seeds prevented me from rolling it out any thinner).  Using a pizza cutter (or a pastry roller if you are lucky enough to have one), cut off the rough edges and slice the crackers into squares.  Place them close together on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and stick ’em with a fork a couple of times for those cute cracker dots.

Bake in a hot oven (450 degrees) for 7-10 minutes until light golden brown.  You gotta watch these guys carefully, since they’ll burn fast and the only thing worse than the smell of burnt sesame seeds is the taste of burnt sesame seeds.

Let them cool completely and store in an air-tight container for about a week.

I wasn’t a huge fan of these crackers at first, but I posted the recipe anyway because I think that it’s a personal preference–I’m just not a huge fan of toasted sesame seeds.

Fritz enjoyed the crackers just fine.

Oh, and when I tried them the way I used to eat Ritz crackers in my youth (with strawberry jam), I was totally won over.

Yum.

Double, triple, crunchy seedy cracker yum.  These guys might just be those crackers that really work best with toppings.

My next cracker attempt (because these were so fast that I will definitely be making more crackers soon) may have to be sweet.  Or cheddar.  Or herby.  Either way, we need more crackers.

Back at the homefront, Henry has been peering out from behind our television (the one place he’s not supposed to go and is therefore his favorite place), daring us to have the gall to yell at him after we abandoned him for two weeks.

World’s worst cat.

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Popcorn Snack Bars

Today without a doubt felt like the longest day of class I have experienced in a long, long time.

It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but I think I’ve just been a little more tired and run down than usual from being out of my normal routine all weekend.  We even watched a movie (The Sea Inside) during my first class, which I really liked, but it didn’t help move the day along any faster.

In fact, the only thing that kept me from passing out on my plinth from exhaustion was probably these popcorn snack bars.  Since I knew we were watching a movie, I wanted to bring in some theater treats that would be delish and hopefully leaning towards healthy for some of my friends to enjoy.

Orville Redenbacher to the rescue!

Popcorn Snack Bars Printable Recipe Card

  • 8 C popped popcorn (preferably the plain, healthy, non-butter-flavored kind, if you can)
  • 2 C old-fashioned oats
  • 1 C almonds (or any nut)
  • 1 C raisins (or any dried fruit)
  • 3/4 C honey
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 t salt

First, pop the popcorn.  You can use regular bags if you don’t have a fancy-smancy Whirly-Pop that you received as a wedding gift from your awesome older sister and her hubs (thanks, Erin and Bruce!).  I used about 1/2 C unpopped corn in 2 T of vegetable oil to pop this batch.

While it’s off popping (not popping off), combine the honey, salt, and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Stir until all the sugar is dissolved, then remove from the heat.  Next time I make this recipe, I’m going to try using straight honey with no added sugar.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

In a gigantic bowl, combine the popcorn, oats, fruit, and nuts.  Make sure to pick out all the unpopped or partially popped corn so none of your friends or family break their teeth (but if they do, I know a dentist-to-be…).  Pour the honey syrup over the top, and stir it all up.  Use a giant spoon (and let’s be honest, it’s going to get all over your hands), to make sure everything gets covered in the sweet stuff.

Grease a 9″x13″ pan (I used spray canola oil), and dump the popcorn mixture right in.  Use your hands to press it down firmly (you may have to get your hands the slightest bit oily to do this without sticking).  If you are crazy like me, you can press some white (or regular) chocolate chips leftover from your zucchini brownies into the top of half this mixture.  Yum.

Refrigerate for an hour or two before cutting.  That’ll make it easier to slice ‘n’ dice–but the bars themselves don’t have to be served cold.

These are kind of like a fiber-filled and nutritious version of a rice krispy treat.  Even without the marshmallow, they still have that admirable sticky and pull-apart texture of a rice krispy treat.

The honey flavor is definitely the best part of these bars.  With the slight crunch of popcorn, the chewy and honey-soaked oats make these totally hearty.

And delicious.

Definitely delicious.

Also, check out our CSA box number eight!  I’m super excited for the content of this week’s box–looks like I get to have some fun with flavor and get away from salads for a little while. 

Driving home from picking out the box was amazing–the dill and garlic was so aromatic even from the back seat that I know I’ll be dreaming up soups for at least a week.

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Filed under Desserts, Snacks

Hot and Spicy Nachos with a Cool Cilantro Sauce

As my test anxiety was building this week, I developed a very intense need for nachos.

A need for nachos.  Not just your average, “oh, I want nachos”, but a need for nachos.  You can’t ignore those kind of things.  When your body tells you that chips, beans, cheese, and chili powder must be in your belly in 15 minutes or you might die, you listen.

Just like when my body tells me I need to watch Christmas movies even though it’s the middle of June.  I listen and I listen well–and I’m currently watching The Family Stone.  (Please don’t judge me–times of high stress make me do weird things).

But back to the nachos.  I wanted to use up some more of my cilantro, so I decided to spice up my nachos and then cool it back down with a yogurt sauce.  Sound good?

And if you don’t like yogurt sauce, or if the smell/taste/look of cilantro makes you die a little bit inside (hi Fritz!), then you can just skip it.  Fritz enjoyed the nachos quite nicely without it.

Hot and Spicy Nachos with a Cool Cilantro Sauce

  • 8 small corn tortillas, sliced into quarters (or corn chips)
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1/4-1/2 C jalapeno slices (depending on how much you love your spice!)
  • 1/4-1/2 C Mexican cheese blend, shredded
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1/2 lemon (about 2 T lemon juice)
  • 1/4 C plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • small bunch cilantro (about 2-3 T chopped)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and arrange your corn chips.  Since I had tortillas in the freezer, I microwaved them for a few seconds, sliced ’em in quarters with a pizza roller, sprinkled with a little salt, and baked them until they were crispy, about 15 minutes.  Obviously you can skip this step if you have some chips handy.

These were vegetarian chips, so I used an entire can of refried beans, but you could easily use half or less and add some meat to make them more hearty.  Once the chips are crisp, add the beans on top.  (By the way, I’ve made refried beans from scratch before, and they didn’t quite taste as yummy as the good ol’ canned version.  Reason why?  Third ingredient on the canned kind is lard.  Yeah.  Maybe not so good.)

Sprinkle with jalapenos and cheese.  Be generous.  With both.

Sprinkle on the spices and pop in the oven for a few minutes until the beans are warmed and the cheese melted.

Meanwhile, process the yogurt, cilantro, and lemon juice (lime would probably be even better if you had it!) until smooth.  Drizzle over the top and enjoy!

We both love, love, loved this dinner treat of nachos.  I definitely would have eaten these with some spicy salsa on the side, but we didn’t have any and there was no way my tummy was allowing me to hold off on the nachos.

Experiment with the spices–if you are the hot and spicy type, some cayenne might be just the thing you need.  And if you haven’t already jumped on the smoked paprika bandwagon, now is the time.

Really.  That stuff is good.

In other good and exciting news, we got our fourth CSA box yesterday!  Check out the goods for this week:

I’ve had a lot of variety in my green monsters lately–using kale, chard, and beet greens instead of only plain ol’ spinach.  For those new readers, I am a first-time CSA user from Golden Earthworm Organic Farm on Long Island–read more about their CSA program here.

Plan for tomorrow–up early for the gym, then a doctor’s appointment and spending a large majority of the day reading (for pleasure!) and definitely baking!  I feel like I haven’t baked anything in ages and I absolutely miss having it around. 

Have a great night!

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Filed under Appetizers, Snacks, Vegetarian

Our CSA Box, and Crispy Chard Chips

After months of excited anticipation (I know, I’m such a dork), we finally got our first (and second) CSA box!

Because Fritz and I are idiots, when I was out-of-town last week, I forgot to call and remind him to pick up our first box.  Major bummer–but part of the fun of buying from a small farmer is that you can call them and figure out a solution to your own stupid mistakes.  Maggie, the farmer’s wife, offered to give us a few veggies that we missed last week so we wouldn’t feel like we wasted a week’s worth of money.  Isn’t that nice?  Not to mention that the box we forgot to pick up got donated to someone else who needed it (you’re welcome!).

So this is really about a week and a half worth of veggies:

And yes, they are as vibrant and green and delicious as they look.

Here’s the issue, though.  Now I have an entire tableful of greens–and I refuse to waste any of them!  You’ll be seeing a lot of greens-based recipes this year.  Between the green monsters (they use up a lot of greens, really fast) and salads, I’m not too worried about getting through them.  I also blanched and froze the beet greens, and I have some other fun things planned for the next few days.

Fritz is out-of-town for the weekend with his dad, though (and he took my camera!), so that is going to make cooking, blogging, and eating those greens a lot more difficult.

Our first recipe?  Crispy chard chips.

Crispy Chard Chips

  • 1 bunch chard (or kale, or any hearty green)
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Rinse the chard leaves and tear them into pieces–they can be as large or small as you want–I went pretty large.  Drizzle two cookie sheets with the olive oil and divide the chard pieces between them.  Using your hands, toss the leaves with the olive oil until they are evenly coated.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper (and other spices if you want–garlic salt, paprika, chili powder…go crazy!).

Place on a middle rack in the oven and bake until dry and crispy, about 20 minutes.  Once they are cool, they shouldn’t stick to the bottom of the pan (thanks to the olive oil) but they may need to be gently loosened to remove them.  You can store these in a Tupperware container or plastic baggies, but trust me, they’ll go pretty quickly.

The crunchy, salty satisfaction of potato chips with all the health benefits of leafy greens.

I took these to school for a snack during my long days of lectures.  It was so nice to have a snack that feels like potato chips, since I try not to eat them but I really, really love them.

Really, really, really love them.

So far, the CSA has been a success–but I’ll update you again next week.  Hope you get a few minutes today to enjoy the weather (if you live near me) or just have some time for yourself.  Au revoir!

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Filed under Snacks, Vegetarian

Banana Whole-Wheat Rusks (South African)

It’s amazing how much the weather affects my mood.  When I woke up this morning it was gray and rainy out.  I did my usual Friday morning thing (straightened up, made a giant breakfast, did the dishes, and sat down to read) and even though that routine usually fills me with a huge sense of peace and relaxation, I felt weirdly…melancholy.  An hour or two went by, and as the rain stopped and the sun came out I was back to my regular baking, errand running, procrastinating, happy self.  And it was 100% due to the sun.  It was gorgeous enough to open the windows while I baked–and that is probably my favorite thing ever.

It also might have had to do with the green-themed care package that arrived in the mail today stuffed with goodies from my parents.  Thin Mints really just have a happy way about them, and my mom told me she has a new problem called she can’t stop buying me cute and functional things for my kitchen.

Mom and Dad found this scarf for me in Chinatown last time they were in NYC for business

Now that is a problem that I can live with.

I’ve mentioned before that the hubs is South African, and he has begged me for rusks for a few weeks now.  Rusks are a hard, twice-baked bread that is like biscotti in that it is dipped in tea or coffee to soften before eating.  Usually rusks are a little less refined than biscotti, too–salty buttermilk or rough bran often flavor these amazing snacks.

I have become a huge fan of rusks in the last few years, and since Fritz has also been asking for banana bread (he gets excited when he spies a few spots on a banana), I decided to go out on a limb and combine the two!

Start off with banana bread:

Whole-Wheat Banana Bread (you could use any banana bread recipe you like, but I’d aim for a hearty, less sweet version like this one I adapted–you want to complement your tea, not overwhelm it)

  • 2 C whole-wheat flour
  • 2 T ground flaxseed
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 C brown sugar (I used Indian maple sugar)
  • 1/2 C milk (I think these would be even better if you substituted buttermilk here)
  • 2 t vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350.  Start by combining the dry ingredients, then adding the wet ingredients and mixing until a smooth batter forms.  Like I’ve said before, I like to slice the bananas into the mixer and then let the beater mash them a bit–then there are some chunks of banana left for discovery.

Pour into a greased loaf pan–I topped it with a crushed granola bar for some extra texture, but that’s optional.  Bake on the middle rack until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 50 minutes.  The top and edges will be a nice, dark brown because of the whole-wheat flour.  Let it cool for at least 15 minutes before you turn it out and slice it.

If you are just making banana bread, stop here.  Otherwise–turn the oven down to warm/200 degrees and get ready for rusks!

Banana Whole-Wheat Rusks

Slice the bread into thick slices, and divide each slice vertically into four pieces for thin, rectangular shapes.  Place the rusks on a dry baking sheet and dry out in the oven, rotating every hour or so to prevent them from burning.

It helps to keep the oven door propped open a bit to let the moisture escape.  The drying should take 3-6 hours for one loaf, depending on how hot your oven is and how thinly sliced the rusks are.  Once they are dry, cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.  Serve with tea or coffee.

Fritz nearly fainted with happiness when he discovered what was cookin’ in the oven all day.

Even Henry couldn’t wait for these rusks to finally be finished:

You’ll notice that Henry is seated on a scratching pad that he has decided is better suited as a throne–he sits on it all day long.  Gotta love that catnip.

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Filed under Breads, Snacks