Satisfying snacks

JAN BILTON
Last updated 12:00 05/07/2012

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Whether it's after school or sport, during the holidays or weekends, snacks provide extra energy and warmth important during the cooler months.

Foods that taste great and nourish are the best. And all the better if they're simple enough for the family to prepare themselves.

Children may need `mini meals' to help them absorb enough calories to get them through the day. So, choosing healthy foods that add nutrients – without excessive calories – to their diets is essential. But keep portions small to prevent weight gain.

Soup is one of my all-time favourite standbys. Vegetables can be chopped quickly in the food processor, then sauteed in a little olive oil in a large saucepan, stock and herbs added then simmered for 15 minutes or until tender. For extra protein, a can of beans can be added. Served with toast, soup is well-balanced and moreish.

Popcorn is a popular snack but be sure to choose the plain variety for cooking, either in a pot or the microwave.

Researchers have found popcorn contains more of an antioxidant substance called polyphenols than fruits and vegetables. Add flavour by sprinkling the popped corn with a mixture of chilli powder, ground cumin, paprika, and a little salt.

Muesli bars are generally thought of as healthy, but they do contain large amounts of sugar, so should be kept at a minimum. You might try persuading the kids to make their own banana smoothies; or chutney-flavoured cottage cheese with corn chips; or cafe cheese rolls (see recipe).

PAKORAS

Use a wok to fry these spicy, battered vegetable snacks.

Heat the oil until a faint haze rises.

1 cup chickpea flour or plain flour

1 tsp each: ground cumin, turmeric, coriander

1/2 tsp each: ground all spice, cinnamon, chilli powder, salt

3/4 tsp baking powder

1 small onion, finely diced

About 3/4 cup water

400g prepared mixed vegetables: cauliflower and broccoli florets, finely sliced cabbage and spinach, grated carrot

Oil for deep frying

Sift the chickpea flour into a bowl with the spices and baking powder.

Add the onion and enough water to make a moderately thick batter.

Add the vegetables just before frying.

Heat about 3cm oil in a wok.

Take dessertspoons of the vegetable mixture and deep-fry quickly to prevent the pakoras from absorbing too much oil.

Drain on absorbent paper and keep warm in the oven while preparing the remaining pakoras.

Yoghurt combined with finely chopped mint makes a great dip to accompany these snacks. Serves 6-8.

CAFE CHEESE ROLLS

This recipe is a version of the cheese rolls served in coffee bars during the 70s.

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8 slices brown or white sandwich bread, crusts removed

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 cup grated tasty cheese

1 spring onion, finely chopped

A little melted butter or oil

Spread each bread slice with mayonnaise.

Sprinkle with the cheese and spring onion.

Roll up as for a sponge roll.

Secure with a toothpick.

Lightly brush with butter or oil.

Grill until lightly toasted, turning once during cooking. Makes 8.

PUMPKIN SEED SLICE

A muesli-type of slice. Great for an after-sport snack.

50g butter, chopped

1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

200g pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup cornflakes, lightly crushed

1/2 cup each: self-raising flour, rolled oats, sultanas

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line a 20cm square cake or similar with baking paper.

Place the butter, brown sugar and honey in a microwave-proof bowl.

Cook for 1 minute or until the butter is melted.

Mix well, until the sugar has dissolved.

Combine the pumpkin seeds, cornflakes, flour, rolled oats and sultanas in a bowl.

Stir in the butter mixture and mix well.

Lightly press into the prepared pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden.

Cool completely.

Cut into bars or squares. Makes 20 pieces.

SAUCY SKEWERED FRANKS

4 frankfurters

1/2 cup plum sauce or

1/4 cup tomato sauce and

1/4 cup smooth mustard

Spear the end of the frankfurters with wooden skewers pushing the skewers through to the other end.

Place on a long, microwave-proof plate.

Cover loosely with waxed paper.

Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove the skins at this stage.

Turn the franks.

Spoon the sauce over the franks.

Cover loosely with waxed paper again and continue cooking 1-2 minutes. Serves 4.

HAWAIIAN NACHOS

1 onion, diced

1 Tbsp canola oil

400g premium minced beef

420g can Mexican tomatoes

1/2 cup water

200g corn chips

2 cups grated tasty cheese

225g can crushed pineapple, well drained

125g light sour cream

Saute the onion in oil in a large frying pan, until softened. Add the mince, mixing with a fork to break up any lumps. Add the tomatoes and water. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until cooked.

Pile the corn chips and mince in layers on a large platter or several serving plates. Sprinkle with the cheese and pineapple. Grill or microwave briefly, until the cheese melts.

Serve topped with the sour cream. Serves 6-8 as a snack.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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