Better Bites

My experiments in healthy eating, cooking, and living

Archive for the tag “Healthy snacks”

Raved About Healthy Blueberry Scones Made with Spelt Flour

Blueberry scones 1

After reading the title, you already know these blueberry scones have been raved about. I made them twice in one weekend when I went up to Boston with my family and they were promptly gobbled up each time. I was also asked for the recipe multiple times, which I take as a good sign, but watch out, if you make them once you are bound to be asked to make them again (and again – and for good reason too).

This recipe produces light, fluffy scones that you don’t need to feel bad about eating. With only 1/3 of a cup of oil and 1/3 of a cup of agave nectar per recipe these are fairly guilt-free. The whole spelt flour produces a lighter scone than white or all purpose flour would and unlike wheat flour these scones don’t have the heartiness or the taste of being a whole grain (which I find as a plus when it comes to baked goods). They are also incredibly moist and a few anti-scone family members even enjoyed them (and came back for seconds). My dad (who sometimes acts like a foodie, but isn’t – but is still full of “helpful” criticisms) even said they were the best scones, which is what I consider a huge accolade coming from him. The word “best,” is uttered very sparingly by him.

I found the recipe on Shannon’s amazing blog (which you should check out if you haven’t – it’s full of wonderful recipes, musings on running, book reviews, and more), Move Eat Create, and only made a couple of changes. I used vegan buttery spread by Earth Balance instead of using hazlenut or coconut oil, which I found to produce a more flavorful and lighter scone (as I have used coconut oil in making these scones in the past, but I can’t speak to using hazlenut oil, as I haven’t used it). I also used fresh blueberries, which I felt made all the difference in the world. They just added this little pop of sweetness, as they are now in peak season in New England. Read on for the slightly altered recipe below.

Blueberry scones 2

Healthy Blueberry Spelt Flour Scones: 

*Recipe from Shannon’s blog titled Move Eat Create (find the link to the recipe in the paragraph above)

*Makes about 9-10 scones

Ingredients:

2 cups whole spelt flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp of fine grain sea salt

1/3 cup of Earth Balance buttery spread, melted (sub with butter if you aren’t trying to make them vegan, and if you want to be a bit healthier but still not have them be vegan, you can use 1/6 cup melted butter 1/6 cup vegetable oil combination)

1/3 cup of light agave nectar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup hot water

3/4 fresh blueberries

Method: 

1- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2- Meanwhile, mix the dry ingredients and stir with a whisk to ensure they are well combined.

3- Then, after melting the 1/3 cup of buttery spread, combine the melted buttery spread, agave nectar, and vanilla extract. Stir once and then pour over the spelt mixture. Gently mix together.

4- Add the hot water and again gently mix until it’s combined (try not to over mix spelt flour).

5- Gently fold the fresh blueberries into the batter. Use a 1/4 cup measure to spoon batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (to ensure that the scones will be the same size). Bake the scones for 15-20 minutes or until they are golden brown on top. These kept well in an air tight container for 3-4 days. I stored mine in the fridge and heated them in the microwave or toaster before eating.

If you missed my other scone recipes here are the links for my raspberry chocolate chip spelt flour scones and my ginger peach spelt flour scones. Enjoy!

Spice Up Your Weekend with Chili Spiced Sweet Potato Fries and Spicy Chipotle Ketchup

Chipotle Ketchup

Admit it, back in the 90’s you listened to the Spice Girls’ music or if you’re a man, maybe you had a crush on one of those platform-wearing ladies.  Sadly, I’ll admit I used to listen to them too, but I took it a little farther than that.

As a preteen girl, I looked up to the Spice Girls. I went to one of their concerts, I used their signature peace sign in photos, and I even bought some of their apparel (which I wore to the concert). This is where it gets [more] embarrassing.

My cousins and I formed a girl “band” group based on the Spice Girls. I will not divulge the name of this so called “band” (if you could even call us that) because if you already weren’t in hysterics, you would be once you found out the name. As a “band” we combed through each others closets looking for outfits to wear to the lone photo shoot we had, which was basically just us getting together and having my grandma take pictures of us as we posed on her lawn (sad, but true). Oh we had it bad. We had the Spice Girl bug and it wasn’t going away.

We even held performances for our family during birthday parties or special occasions. Yes, I know this just keeps getting worse. We didn’t really sing, unless you count some bad lip syncing. We were more of a dance group. One of my cousins had been dancing for years and she made up all of our routines.

Looking back on those memories, I can laugh about the poses we made for the camera, the over-the-top outfits we wore, and the smooth (or lack there of) moves we made while grooving to the Spice Girls’ music. These are memories my cousins and I will share and laugh about for many years to come. 

In honor of those memories and of going to my first concert ever (yes, it was a Spice Girls concert) many years ago, I’ve made some tasty, chili-spiced sweet potato fries and a spicy chipotle ketchup to serve alongside the mild-flavored fries. I found the recipe for the chipotle ketchup on Shae’s blog titled Hello Homebody. She also recently featured a recipe for a cooling coconut, vanilla, and lime drink, which I may have to try. Here is a link to the recipe for the ketchup recipe (the only changes I made were to use 1/2 the sugar and to use coconut sugar instead of brown sugar). I didn’t feel the need to rewrite it because I made only very minor changes to her tasty recipe. This is one recipe I will surely use again and the leftovers from this last batch will last for the next few weeks, which means I’ll be making sweet potato fries again promptly.

Chili Sweet Potato Fries 1

Getting ready for the oven.

Chili Spiced Sweet Potato Fries: 

*Serves 2

Ingredients: 

1 large sweet potato, peeled, then sliced to 1/4 inch thick slices, then sliced lengthwise to make fries

1 tbsp of olive oil

1/2 tsp of chili powder

1/4 tsp of garlic powder, smoked paprika, and freshly ground pepper

1/4 tsp of salt

Method: 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Then, slice the sweet potato into fries (after peeling it). Place the fries onto a baking sheet. Drizzle about half of the olive oil on the fries and mix them around on the baking sheet. Then add all of the spices except for the salt. Add the rest of the olive oil and mix around again. Arrange the fries so all of them are laying flat on the baking sheet. Pop them into the oven for about 20 minutes. Then stir them around or flip them and pop them back in for another 20 minutes to crisp up even more (they should be golden brown when done). While they are in the oven make Shae’s recipe (from Hello Homebody) for chipotle ketchup (find the recipe here). Her recipe was fantastic, which is why I didn’t rewrite it here. The only changes I made to her recipe were to use coconut sugar and to use half the amount of sugar. Enjoy!

Oil-Free Banana Walnut Granola

Banana Walnut Granola

Lately, I haven’t been one to eat conventional boxed cereal. I’ve been leaning towards alternative breakfast ideas like breakfast quesadillas with peanut butter and bananas, green smoothies, stove-top oatmeal, and homemade granola (my personal favorite, aside from pancakes that is).

I love the crunchiness of granola, as well as its sweet flavor, but I find that most store bought granolas are full of sugar and have many grams of fat. I sought out to make granola without using any oil. Instead of using oil to bind the mixture, I used mashed banana, which gave the breakfast cereal a lightly sweet flavor. Luckily, it was a success. I made it everyday this week  for breakfast. I fully expect to make it tomorrow morning too. It tastes like banana bread topped with toasted walnuts.

Oil-Free Banana Walnut Granola: 

*Serves 1

Ingredients:

1 banana

1/4 tsp of vanilla extract

1/4 tsp of cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp of maple syrup

1/2 cup of rolled oats

1 tbsp of unsweetened coconut flakes

2 tbsp of walnuts chopped (plus more for after baking)

Method: 

1- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Then cut the banana in half and add one half to a mixing bowl. Mash it with a fork or potato masher. Then add the vanilla, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Stir well.

2- Add the rolled oats, the coconut, and the chopped walnuts. Mix all of those ingredients together. Then, slice up the other half of the banana and add it to the bowl. Stir once more before spreading the granola onto a baking sheet.

3- Bake for about 12 minutes or until the granola begins to turn golden brown. Top with extra walnuts (if desired). Serve immediately or let it cool a bit and it will crisp up even more. Some serving suggestions would be to add cacao nibs, ground flax seeds, or raisins before serving with the milk of your choice. Enjoy!

Kale & Avocado Hummus Served with Paprika-Spiced Pita Chips and a Social Eating Weakness

Kale, & Avocado Hummus

When I think about going to college, I think about how much fun I had with my roommates. One of my roommates, Tanya, and I always had tons of laughs when we were together. At one point we also made Spongebob and Patrick shaped pancakes for breakfast.

One of the things Tanya used to make fun of me for was my social eating habit or at least that’s what we called it. I was never one to enjoy the cafeteria food and I always had a decent-sized stash of food in the apartment (though at that time I was famous for making English muffin pizzas and breakfast for dinner more than I was for making healthy meals).

A social eating weakness, for those of you who are wondering, is when you drop what you’re doing (at all costs – you could be writing an important paper or talking on the phone) to eat and chat with people. For me, this problem really made itself known while I was at college during my sophomore year living while with three roommates in a tiny apartment with white-painted cinder block walls (if you’re visualizing it now and thinking it looked like a prison, you would be half right – the other half was filled with mismatch college decor). While discovered this urge to eat with others while in college, I think it stemmed from my Italian roots (those people are always forcing food on you, whilst yelling usually).

I didn’t start college as a social eater. No, this problem developed when I moved into the apartment with a small kitchen-living area. As we were in college, we all had different class, work, and eating schedules, but if anyone went into the kitchen and was making a meal I was there too. I just couldn’t resist eating and socializing with others. I did this even if I wasn’t hungry. The act of eating and talking just came so naturally to me (the two seem to go hand in hand).

My social eating habits brought me to share this recipe because it is perfect to eat with others. The dip’s creamy texture and mild flavor balance out the spicy, crisp pita chips. I brought this kale and avocado hummus to a July 4th party and it was devoured by the many guests at the party, as well as by me. Appetizers are my weakness, as are desserts (as is social eating). Does anyone else have this problem or am I alone in this?

Kale & Avocado Hummus 2

Kale & Avocado Hummus:

Ingredients:

1 can of cannellini beans or garbanzo beans (I used cannellini)

1 avocado, halved and diced

2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1/2 lemon, juiced

salt and pepper to taste (roughly 1/4 tsp of sea salt and freshly ground pepper, or more to taste)

3-4 leaves of kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped (you could try another green like spinach or arugula)

Method:

Add all of the ingredients except for the kale into a food processor. Blend on high until the mixture is well combined and fairly smooth. Then add in the kale. Blend again on high until the kale becomes chopped into tiny pieces or is not visible at all. Serve alongside the spiced pita chips or for a gluten-free option serve with corn chips.

Paprika-Spiced Pita Chips:

Ingredients: 

1 package of pita bread, about 4-5 thick pitas

2(+) tbsp of olive oil (or more depending)

1 tsp of smoked paprika

1/2 tsp of garlic powder

1/4 tsp of sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1/8 of a tsp of cayenne pepper

Method:

1- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then slice your pita bread into triangles by cutting each pita in half and than slicing triangular shapes by cutting from the middle out to the edge of the pita with a knife.

2- Once the pitas are cut, add them to a mixing bowl. Then drizzle the olive oil over the pitas (making sure not to only pour it in one spot). Sprinkle the spices over the pita. Then mix the pita with the olive oil and spices, making sure each pita piece is evenly coated.

3- Bake for about 15 minutes and then flip each pita piece. Bake for another 15-20 minutes (or until both sides are golden brown). Taste a pita chip and add a little extra salt and pepper if necessary. Serve alongside the avocado hummus. Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Crackers that have Multiple Personality Disorder

peanut butter crackers 1

They looks delicious because they are. How can you go wrong when you combine the flavors of peanut butter and chocolate? You can’t, unless you’re allergic to peanut butter.

Is it a cracker or is it a cookie? Who knows? I sure don’t. This cracker recipe has taken on multiple identities. On its own, it is undeniably a cracker, yet when topped with peanut butter, it reminds me of the Nutter Butters I used to eat as a child. As you can see, I didn’t just stop there with topping the crackers with peanut butter. I turned this healthy snack into a full on dessert-vehicle. Soon all the ideas of toppings that popped into my head, found their way into my eager fingertips and soon into my mouth.

These crackers are lightly sweet with the flavor of peanut butter. They are oil-free and fairly healthy, until you start experimenting with all of the unhealthy topping possibilities, as I did. I’ll just chalk it up to doing good old fashioned research. I mean, what kind of food blogger would I be if I didn’t test ALL of the suggested topping ideas I listed? I think it would be terribly irresponsible of me. Read on for a tasty cracker recipe.  I mean, how many opportunities will you get to make gluten-free crackers with a personality disorder? You should take this opportunity. Really, you won’t be disappointed (especially since they are very simple and take almost no time to make).

peanut butter crackers 2

My Nutter Butter imitation creation.

 

Gluten-free peanut butter crackers: 

Inspired by Angela’s easy and gluten-free cracker recipe found on Oh She Glows

*Makes about crackers

Ingredients: 

1/2 cup of brown rice flour

3/4 cup of almond meal

2 tbsp of ground flax seed

1/2 tsp of sea salt

1 tbsp of agave nectar (for more of a cookie like flavor add 2 tbsp of agave)

1/4 cup of water

1/2 cup of salt-free peanut butter (I used freshly ground peanut butter) *taste the batter before baking and add more peanut butter if desired

peanut butter crackers 3

Method: 

1- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the dry ingredients. Then add all of the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir with a rubber spatula. Make sure the mixture is well combined and form into a ball using your hands.

2- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put the dough ball onto the parchment. Press it down firmly. Using a rolling pin or your hands continue pressing down or rolling out the batter. Roll until it is the desired thickness (as the dough won’t rise when it’s in the oven).

3- Slice into 1.5 by 1 inch strips using a pizza wheel or knife. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Watch them at about the 12 minute mark and take them out when the edges begin to brown.

4- Gently separate the crackers and let them cool for 15-25 minutes. The cooler the are, the crispier they will be when you eat them. Eat alone or top with the toppings of your choice. Store in an air-tight container for up to 2-3 days.

Suggested Toppings:

  • Melted chocolate
  • Melted chocolate and strawberries
  • Peanut butter mixed with a tad bit of agave nectar for sweetness, which creates a cookie reminiscent of Nutter Butters
  • Banana slices
  • Hazelnut spread

Get crazy with the toppings or don’t, either way these crackers are tasty and versatile.

Green Smoothies Three Ways

smoothies

 

Over the years I’ve gone through boxes of Cheerios, Trix, Fruit Loops, Quaker oatmeal, Kashi cereals, and more. I’ve also had enjoyable weekend breakfasts that consisted of eggs over-medium with toast or fluffy, fruit-topped pancakes. This week, I decided to make a radical change to my normal breakfast, which is usually cereal with fruit. I made green breakfast smoothies. These frothy concoctions contained heart healthy flax seeds, potassium-rich bananas, iron-filled spinach, and nondairy milk, as well as a few other feel-good ingredients. Whether it was a banana, blueberry, or mixed berry shake, it filled me up and kept my energy levels high until lunch time. I can not say enough about how amazing I felt all week after consuming these green drinks. I am a convert! I was inspired by the recipe I found on Radiance, which is also full of good-for-you ingredients. I have been feeling happier and more lively lately. I attribute some of those good feelings to these deliciously-smooth drinks. They take a bit longer to make than cereal and milk, but it is more than worth it.

Not only did I help lower my cholesterol by consuming nutty flax seeds, but I also had a two servings of fruit and one of leafy greens before 9:00 am. On top of that, these smoothies tasted lightly sweet, with a fruity finish. I have the power to change the course of my high cholesterol. Why should I sit by and consume butter and other unhealthy foods, when I can make lifelong changes to improve my health? We all have the power to change how we feel. Why not take the chance on your health? Make a healthy adjustment. See if any positive results come your way. I doubt you will regret it.

Lately, I’ve been more aware of my body and whether it feel s good, bad, or right (if you haven’t read Gretchen Rubin’s post on happiness and feeling good, feeling bad, or feeling right, I highly recommend it!). I have noticed how much better I’ve been feeling – I attribute it to all of the positive things I’ve been doing for myself. To that – I raise my green smoothie-filled glass. Cheers! Find the smoothie recipes below.

smoothies 2

Ingredients for blueberry banana smoothies (my personal favorite):

1 cup of almond milk (*look for a brand without carrageenan, which can have negative health effects – I used Whole Foods 365 brand)

1 tbsp of flax seeds, ground

1 tsp of green SuperFood by Amazing Grass (*not necessary if you don’t have it on hand)

1 – 2 handfuls of spinach, washed

1/2 of a banana (frozen if you like)

1/2 cup of frozen or fresh organic blueberries

Ingredients for banana spinach smoothies: 

1 cup of almond milk (*look for a brand without carrageenan, which can have negative health effects – I used Whole Foods 365 brand)

1 tbsp of flax seeds, ground

1 tsp of chia seeds, ground

1 tsp of green SuperFood by Amazing Grass (*not necessary if you don’t have it on hand)

1 – 2 handfuls of spinach, washed

1/2 of a banana (frozen if you like)

Ingredients for banana berry smoothies: 

1 cup of almond milk (*look for a brand without carageenan, which can have negative health effects – I used Whole Foods 365 brand)

1 tbsp of flax seeds, ground

1 tsp of chia seeds

1 tsp of green SuperFood by Amazing Grass (*not necessary if you don’t have it on hand)

1 – 2 handfuls of spinach, washed

1/2 of a banana (frozen if you like)

1/2 cup of frozen or fresh berry mix

Directions: 

1- Pour in the liquid first. Then add the chia and flax seeds, as well as the green superfood.

2- Add the handfuls of spinahch. Then top the spinach with the berries and banana (to weigh it down).

3- Blend until smooth!

What positive changes have you made lately? As a result, how do you feel?

*Recently I discovered Oh She Glows – what a phenomenal blog! I linked to her green monster smoothie recipe, which I’d like to try next!

Sweet Sunday: Nearly Crisp Banana Chips

My first try at banana chips!

My first try at banana chips (pre-flip).

I was in need of a healthy sweet Sunday afternoon snack, I looked no further than the ripe (but not bruised) bananas on the counter. On a whim, I decided to try to make banana chips based a recipe I pinned on Pinterest. The first time, the chips were a little moist, even after letting them cool. They were slightly sweet, with hints of nutmeg. The second time I decided to cut the slices thinner and look up more information about making banana chips. Apparently I needed to put them back in the oven for another 2 hours after I flipped them the first time. This second time I made them, they came out more crisp. I also added cinnamon and enjoyed the warm spiced flavor paired with the mellow flavor of the baked banana slices. Next time I will cut the slices even thinner to ensure that all of them are crisp. The verdict: if you cut the slices thin they will come out as light and delicious banana crisps (with a slight caramel flavor and color).

The unbruised bananas ready to become chips.

The ripe bananas that became a delicious snack.

Ingredients and directions for banana crisps: 

*Serves 1 (1 banana per person – the slices shrink down as you cook them)

*Cook time: 2 hours per side

1 banana

1/2 of a lemon, juiced

1/4 tsp of cinnamon, nutmeg, or both depending on your preferences

Ready for the oven (for reference - this size is still too thick, as I found out on my first attempt).

Ready for the oven (for reference – this size is still too thick, as I found out on my first attempt).

1- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Then slice the banana very thin (less than 1/4 of an inch thick – maybe an 1/8 of an inch).

2- Coat the slices in the lemon juice. I poured the lemon juice in a bowl and tossed the slices with it. Then sprinkle with the spice of your choice.

3- Cook the first side for about 2 hours, then flip the slices. Cook for about 2 more hours. Take the chips off of the pan to air out on a cookie rack for about 15 minutes (or until moisture is gone). Enjoy!

Ultimately, this was an easy and enjoyable snack that tasted great when the chips were crisp!

Crispy Baked Kale Chips Three Ways

Parmesan garlic kale chips just out of the oven

Parmesan garlic kale chips just out of the oven

After seeing bags of baked kale chips in the aisles of Whole Foods, I decided that it was time to arm myself with a fresh bag of organic kale and try it for myself. I only first ate kale earlier this week, but I was ready to experiment with it. For my first batch of kale chips I went with ingredients that I knew would complement each other and the leafy green vegetable. I made baked kale chips with garlic and Parmesan cheese. Personally, I’m not sure how anything covered in Parmesan cheese could taste bad. Then after baking, me and my fiancee ate the entire tray of baked kale chips (while standing at the stove mind you). I decided to use the extra kale I had to make two other versions of these crispy, melt-in-your-mouth chips. I made a spicy smoked paprika version, as well as Parmesan rosemary kale crisps. Each version was just as crispy and delicious as the next. The paprika and cayenne version packed some spice. I know that this may lower the amount of vitamins that you take in from eating the kale, but it certainly is worth trying! These chips are best eaten that day and not stored for later use (as they will get slightly soggy. If you have any tips for keeping them fresher let me know!

Baked kale chips three ways: 

*Serves 2-3 people per recipe

Parmesan garlic chips:

2 cloves of garlic diced

1 tbsp of olive oil

1/8 cup of Parmesan cheese

1/8 tsp of sea salt

3 cups of washed and dried organic kale

Parmesan rosemary kale chips: 

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary or 1 teaspoon of fresh rosemary, sliced in half (fresh is preferred

1 tbsp olive oil

1/8 cup of Parmesan cheese

1/8 tsp of sea salt

3 cups of kale, washed and dried

Smokey paprika kale chips: *please note that these kale chips are spicy

LESS than 1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper (or they will be super spicy as some of mine were)

1/8 tsp of smoked paprika

1/8 tsp of cumin

1/8 tsp of garlic powder

1/8 tsp of salt

1 tbsp of olive oil

3 cups of kale, washed and dried well

Directions to cook kale chips: 

1- First preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then, if your kale didn’t come prepackaged and already cut up, remove the ribs from the kale. You will also need to chop the kale into bite-size pieces. You may have to do this even if it did come prepackaged. If you don’t, then the chip will still be moist and the rib won’t cook through all the way.

2- Wash and thoroughly dry the kale. Drying the kale ensures that the chips will be crispy as soon as you take them out of the oven.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Then spread out the kale. Evenly distribute the oil over the kale. Add the spices (by sprinkling them over the kale) and Parmesan cheese. Then mix the ingredients to ensure that the spices and cheese have evenly coated the kale. *For the rosemary and paprika versions I added the spices to the oil before putting them on the chips. The mixture was better combined that way.

4- Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes in the oven or until the edges of the kale begin to brown. Enjoy!

Feel free to post any recipes to your favorite healthy snacks!

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