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Epicure: Time for after-school snacks ... again!

Growing up in Miami, my after-school snacks were often something juicy plucked from a backyard tree - a mango, banana, guava or such. To get more formal, my mother - who was rarely there when I arrived home from school, usually working - gave me clear instructions about what was allowed before dinner and what I could safely make on my own.

My favorites were Saltine crackers with a piece of torn bologna on top, Ovaltine and milk in my favorite Howdy Doody glass or Kool-Aid popsicles made-ahead together. But that was long before nutritionists deemed most of these things as not very nutritious. Back then, they managed to provide that extra spurt of energy (read: sugar) to fuel riding my bike, jumping hopscotch or playing jacks.

My own children, raised as vegetarians, bemoaned many of the healthy (and not always flavorful) snacks I made them. However, their favorite after-school snack was "Ants on a Log," not just because it tasted so good but because they got to make it themselves. Even now, the snack is popular among children and grandchildren for those very reasons. And, by any measure, it is as nutritious as a snack can be.

It's that time of year again- to fill your refrigerator with foods that will satisfy your kids' needs for energy-boosters during that super-busy time between school and dinner while satisfying your desire for them to eat healthy.

This year, consider the list of "super foods" that pack a nutritional wallop and provide essential elements in healthy diets to create their after-school snacks. "Super foods" are nutritionally dense; that is, they contain more nutrients per calorie than other foods. Also, they have been proven to contain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that prevent disease.

For example, vitamin-C-filled fruits like oranges, avocado's brain-building essential fatty acids, the anti-oxidants of blueberries, sour cream's probiotic cultures, nuts and seeds for their "good" MUFA's (monounsaturated fatty acids), etc. A diet incorporating a variety of "super foods" will help your children have more energy, maintain their weight, fight disease and live healthier.

Individual super foods have unique health benefits so read more about them if you want to target certain areas. However, they all have one thing in common: Every super food is going to be an unprocessed food. Go over a list of super foods (see below) with your child to select his/her favorites. Then go find snack recipes using those nutritious foods, maybe some of which your children can make themselves. That's what I call a Win-Win! Go, Snack Team!

Super foods

Acai berry

Alliums (garlic, leeks, onions, etc.)

Apples

Apricots

Avocado

Barley

Beans & lentils

Berries

Blueberries

Broccoli, cabbage, bok choy

Buckwheat, seed & grain

Cinnamon

Citrus

Dark chocolate

Eggs

Figs

Grapes

Green grasses

Herbs, e.g., basil, mint

Honey

Hot peppers

Mushrooms

Nuts & seeds; nut butters

Oats

Olives, olive oil

Pomegranate

Pumpkin

Red wine

Salmon

Spinach

Sprouts

Sweet potatoes

RECIPES

Ants on a Log (serves 1-2)

2 stalks celery, medium length

1 Tbsp peanut butter

2 Tbsp raisins, seedless

Wash celery, then fill the center of the celery sticks with peanut butter; place raisins over peanut butter. Note: Be sure children who eat this snack do not have allergic reactions to peanuts!

Easy Dip for Veggies (makes 1 cup)

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Blend ricotta, yogurt and lemon juice in a food processor or blender until as smooth as possible; season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Serve with raw vegetables, e.g., asparagus spears, carrot, cucumber and celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, etc.

Lumpy Guacamole (makes 3-4 cups)

2 large, ripe avocados

16 oz. low fat sour cream

3 medium green onions, snipped into tiny bits

1-1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

1-2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes

Sea salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, optional

1. With a butter knife, cut the avocados in half, remove the pit and extract the fruit from the skin. Place the fruit in a medium mixing bowl and mash avocado with the back of a fork, until it is somewhat smooth. Add sour cream to the avocado mush and mix.

2. Rinse the green onions; snip them into tiny bits with scissors and mix again. Add the small tomatoes and gently fold them into the avocado mixture. Add lemon juice, cilantro (if desired), sea salt and black pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Serve with baby carrots, celery sticks, more cherry tomatoes or healthy chips. Note: The mixture can also be used as a sandwich spread or as a topping on other foods, e.g., baked potato, burgers, salad, etc.

Turkey Apple Roll (makes 1 wrap)

1 taco-size tortilla

2 Tbsp low-fat whipped cream cheese

2-1/2 oz. turkey breast

3-4 leaves, baby spinach

1/2 tart apple, cut into matchstick pieces

1. Spread cream cheese over tortilla; evenly lay turkey on tortilla. Add spinach leaves, then apple pieces evenly.

Roll tortilla up from one end. Serve as roll or cut into bite-size pieces lengthwise.

Smoothie (serves 2)

2 cups orange juice, no pulp

1 large banana, frozen

3 large kiwi, peeled and quartered

1 tsp honey

ice cubes (as needed)

Puree the juices and fruit in the blender for 2 minutes. Slowly add honey while blender is whirling (or it will sink to the bottom). Add ice cubes (if desired) for a slushier mixture and try other fruit combinations. Note: The mixture can also be made as a frozen treat.

Sunflower Mix

2 cups raw sunflower seeds

1 cup pine nuts

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1 cup raisins

1 cup sweetened, dried cranberries

Measure the ingredients into a paper bag, fold over the top of the bag, and shake to mix. Store the mixture in an airtight container.

Treasure chest of snacks

Let your child choose his/her favorites from this list of finger foods. Pack little piles of "coins" and "nuggets" into a rectangular plastic container to maintain an after-school treasure chest of snacks:

Coins: String cheese, cut crosswise into rounds; cucumber slices; green/yellow zucchini slices; sliced radishes; carrot rounds; hot dogs or sausage (turkey, chicken or beef), cooked, cooled and cut into rounds; pepperoni; sliced dried bananas; dried apricots; sliced kiwi; oyster crackers; small, round pretzels and corn tortilla chips; round ravioli, cooked and cooled

Nuggets: Garbanzo beans, peas, blueberries, grapes, etc.

Jacqui Love Marshall lives in San Ramon with her pug, Nina Simone, and volumes of cookbooks and recipes. Her column runs every other week. E-mail her at jlovemarshall@yahoo.com.

Comments

Posted by Parent of a high school student, a resident of Danville
on Sep 2, 2009 at 7:23 am

The challenge of getting kids to eat well continues into high school. What suggestions do you have for bag lunches (with no insulation) for foods that will not spoil before lunch? This is a special challenge for kids with nut allergies!


Posted by Sharon, a resident of San Ramon Valley High School
on Sep 2, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Hi Parent - I have the same problem with my kids and lunch! I packaged frozen fruit (pineapple, blueberries and peaches) in smaller bags and slip one in their lunch next to the sandwich to keep it cool. It does a pretty good job for awhile, and the fruit is defrosted by the time they eat. Hope this helps. My son is older and can go off campus so often ends up with sushi or a sandwich from Trader Joe's.


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