Appetizers & Snacks

‘Twas the week before finals… (snacks on snacks on snacks)

Last time I checked, it was January and the quarter had just started.

Yeah, time went by really fast these past few months. Is it seriously time for finals already?

Needless to say, I’ll be spending the next week and a half procrastinating until the last minute, not getting everything done that I should, and staying up way later than necessary because I started watching Parks & Rec on Netflix instant and now I can’t stop.

When I do manage to buckle down and get some work down, snacks are always helpful. There’s nothing worse than having to read Medieval gender theories on an empty stomach. Okay, there are definitely worse things, but still.

Anyways, for those of you dealing with the onslaught of finals, best of luck. Fingers crossed we make it out alive. In the meantime, here are some of my favorite study snacks and ways to make basics a bit more exciting.

1. Add instant espresso powder to hot cocoa. 
You’d be surprised how handy it is to have instant espresso powder in your pantry! It’s not just for baking, I add it to smoothies, yogurt…you can even use it in savory dishes (although I haven’t tried it yet). As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, my favorite brand is Cafe Bustelo. It’s available in a variety of sizes, but I got the 1.75oz size at a Latin foods store near Pike for about $4.50. One of my favorite uses for instant espresso is to add it to hot cocoa: add a half tablespoon (or more or less, depending on your preference) to your cup of cocoa (I just usually use Swiss Miss and water, not the most gourmet but it does the trick and Grocery Outlet had a deal on a 60-packet pack a while back…yes, 60 packs). It gives a rich flavor to the cocoa, and it’s something different than my usual additions of cinnamon and nutmeg.

2. Buy trail mix in bulk.
I try not to buy trail mix, because it’s a bit of a danger to me (it’s way too hard not to eat the whole container at once). Trail mix can be a really healthy snack, but only in moderation, and with the right ingredients. I used to buy individual ingredients to make my own trail mix combinations, but I realized it’s actually more cost effective to buy the trail mix they sell in bulk at grocery stores. I really like the ginger mix that QFC sells; it has nuts and candied ginger and papaya and cranberries, so you get sweetness without candy pieces. Whole Foods also has awesome trail mixes, but they are a bit pricier (like pretty much everything there). Try to get mixes that have natural ingredients and avoid ones with things like candy or crackers. I like to stick to ones that are just nuts and dried fruit, but I also sometimes get kinds with dark chocolate pieces.

3. Stock up on graham crackers and make an easy, healthy dessert.
For a relatively healthy snack/dessert to satisfy a sweet tooth, I like to add banana and a bit of peanut butter to graham crackers and make a mini sandwich. It works best if the banana is semi-frozen, then it almost has the consistency of an ice cream sandwich. It’s good with cinnamon or honey graham crackers, just don’t go overboard with the peanut butter.

4. Add Sriracha to popcorn.
While I used to just get individual-sized microwave popcorn packs, I switched over to buying plain kernels and air-popping it this year. It’s a lot healthier and doesn’t have all the junk that’s in the microwave packs, plus it’s still really easy; I just add 3-4 tbsp of kernels (depending how hungry I am) to a brown paper bag, roll over the top and seal it with tape, and microwave it for about 2 minutes. Sometimes I just eat it plain, but let’s be honest, that’s kind of boring. One of my favorite ways to spice up plain popcorn is by adding Sriracha. There’s a great recipe by Bake Your Day for sesame ginger popcorn that’s worth checking out, but I tend to do things the lazy way: I just mix about 1/4 tsp of olive oil with 1/4 tsp melted light butter and about 1/2 tsp Sriracha, then add a dash of ground ginger and garlic salt. After that’s combined, I add it to the popcorn and toss to coat.

5. Mix peanut butter with Greek yogurt to dip apple slices in.
This isn’t really anything new, but it’s good nonetheless, and it’s definitely a healthier option than those cookies eyeing you in the pastry case at Starbucks. I always have nonfat plain Greek yogurt on hand, so it’s easy to whip up this as a snack: just combine 1/4 cup yogurt with 1/2 tbsp peanut butter (to save calories, you can use Better’n Peanut Butter). You can add more peanut butter, but I like my mixture to still be kind of tart and not super sweet. If you’re using natural peanut butter that isn’t sweetened with plain yogurt, add a bit of honey or agave for some sweetness. Then, dip apple slices (I like granny smith the best because they’re tarter) or just eat the yogurt plain, if you so choose.

6. Make a mug of miso soup.
While it isn’t the most substantial snack, instant miso soup can satisfy a salty craving. Rather than the powder-form that comes in the pouches, I prefer Marukome Instant Miso, which is a paste form and comes in a plastic pouch. It’s available at most Asian supermarkets (I get mine at Uwajimaya). Just add the packet to a mug of boiled water and sip away. If you want something a bit heartier, add ramen noodles and serve it in a bowl.

7. Slice up jicama and toss it with chili powder and lime juice.
Jicama is perfect for when you’re craving crunch. Just slice it into strips (so that it kind of resembles fries or those rectangular carrot sticks). Adding the chili and lime gives it more of a flavor; it’s even better if you add some mango slices to the mix!

8. Make a sweet “quesadilla” with banana and peanut butter.
If you’re wanting something sweet, this is surprisingly tasty. Mash up one small banana using a fork or the back of a spoon, and spread it on half of a whole wheat tortilla (even better, use one of the low-carb 50 calorie tortillas). Then spread 1/2 tbsp peanut butter on the other side. You can also add dark chocolate chips, jam, or a bit of cinnamon…or you can stick with just peanut butter and banana. Fold your filled tortilla in half and place your “quesadilla” in a pan on medium-high heat that’s been sprayed with a bit of nonstick cooking spray. Let cook a few minutes on each side until warmed through an the tortilla starts to brown/crisp. (You can also just heat up your quesadilla in the microwave for about 25 seconds if you don’t mind it not being crisp. Or you can use a toaster oven).

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 11.07.35 PM9. Put tuna on apple slices.
Okay, I know this sounds totally gross. But I swear it’s actually really good! This is an easy, protein packed snack that doesn’t have the carbs of a normal tuna sandwich. I mix light canned tuna with a bit of Greek yogurt, a tiny amount of lemon juice, and some dill. You can also add relish, but I usually skip it when I’m eating it with apple slices. Just cut up a small apple and spread tuna on each slice; I like gala apples best for this because of their sweetness.

10. Make muffins in advance and store them in your freezer.
Although I try not to make a bunch of baked goods all the time (it’s incredibly difficult), making homemade muffins isn’t that bad of an idea. It’s probably cheaper (especially if you usually get those $3 blueberry muffins at your favorite coffee shop) and it can be a lot healthier. Make a small batch (one dozen) in advance, and then store them for future consumption when the craving strikes. Once your muffins are cooked, make sure they cool *completely* before storing. I wrap mine individually in plastic wrap, then store them in an airtight freezer bag. When I want to eat one, all I have to do is remove it from the freezer, defrost it in the microwave, and then pop it in the toaster oven for a bit (or just heat it up in the microwave).

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 11.20.40 PM11. Make healthier (and vegan!) macaroni & cheese.
Okay, so this one is a bit more effort, but only if you don’t normally have the ingredients on hand. As guiltily delicious as those Easy Mac instant macaroni and cheese cups are, they’re not so fantastic for you. Instead, make a much healthier version of macaroni and cheese using spaghetti squash, nutritional yeast, and a bit of butter and oil. I know, it sounds boring and healthy and gross, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! Nutritional yeast lends itself really well to this, and it gives the squash that cheesy flavor without all the calories. Add 1 tbsp nutritional yeast to about 1 cup of cooked spaghetti squash (if yours is already cooked and stored in the fridge, just heat it up in a pan for a minute or so). I like to use butter spray (about 5 sprays) for this, but to keep things vegan, you could spray either vegan butter or a bit of olive oil. Stir everything together and enjoy! For a bit more color, I like to add sun-dried tomatoes or fresh tomatoes. I also usually add a bit of salt and pepper, or a bit of garlic salt.

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