Help a health-conscious snacker bake!
June 21, 2009 8:28 AM   Subscribe

Please suggest me some snacks, light or portable dishes that are both healthy and involve baking or cooking.

I love to cook. I especially love to cook recipes that involve lots of chopping, stiring, mixing, frying or baking. I don't like recipes that are just an assembly of ingredients, or which only take 2 minutes. I like to be in the kitchen! That said, I'm not looking to spend hours in the kitchen, so something that takes 3 days isn't really an option!

I cook a lot of meals like this in the evenings, but I'm looking for snacks that I can bake or cook. - Things that I can take to work in my lunchbox, snack on after work, or leave in the fridge and graze on for a few days.

However, I'm also pretty health-conscious and trying to, if not lose a few pounds, definately not put any on. This rules out the normal things that I think I would find fun cooking - cookies, cupcakes, muffins, quiche, samosas, breads, etc. That list seems biased towards sweet things, but savoury are just as welcome, if not more.

The kinds of things that I am looking for, and have experimented with already are: falafels (baked, not fried), healthy lo-cal dips (would welcome more of these!) and glazed nuts (not the most low-fat of snack but at least has health benefits). I would love any and all suggestions for things along these lines. I would also welcome low-calorie versions of the things that I don't bake - cookies, cakes, etc.

So - give me your recipes for low-fat, low-cal or just plain healthy snacks and light dishes which involve cooking or baking.

I have searched previous posts, and while there are many on health snack ideas, none that meet my particular criteria! Thanks in advance!
posted by schmoo to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Cracker breads sound like they'd fit your criteria. Our go-to place for all things baked is the King Arthur Flour blog/website, and they have a recipe there.
posted by jquinby at 8:33 AM on June 21, 2009

Best answer: In the falafel vein, but not falafel: I love to keep a covered plate of these red lentil kibbeh (or, as we usually call them around the house, "lentil snacks") in the fridge for snacking. They're based on a recipe from Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Two notes on ingredients: I've cut down the amount of water called for in the original recipe because the variety of red lentils we've been buying seem to cook extra quickly, which means that less of the water has a chance to cook off or be absorbed, making the final mixture too wet. You can add more water as necessary while your lentils cook, so why not start on the conservative side and add as needed? Second, we weren't able to find fine-grain bulgur in our local shops, so I bought ordinary coarseish bulgur and give it a quick whirl in the second coffee grinder I keep for spices.

1. Put 1 cup hulled red lentils (masoor dal) in a saucepan with 2 1/2 cups of salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat and skim off the foam that collects on the surface. Turn the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are yellow and very mushy, 20-30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, put 1/2 cup of fine-grain bulgur (see above) in a sizeable bowl.

3. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons of tomato paste (I like to buy the kind that comes in a metal tube) and the same amount of hot red pepper paste (there is a Hungarian brand of "paprika mix" in a jar that I've been using). Turn the heat back up to high and bring this mixture to a boil. Once it's boiling, turn off the heat and pour it over the bulgur. Stir well and set aside for half an hour.

4. Meanwhile, chop one large onion quite fine and saute it in two tablespoons of olive oil. When it begins to get golden brown, add two minced cloves of garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Cook about two minutes more.

5. Once the bulgur and lentils have sat for their full half hour, add the contents of the skillet, oil and all. Mix very well, kneading everything together. Add 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh tarragon, a pinch of dried red pepper, and a little lemon juice. Mix again and adjust for salt.

6. Preheat the oven to 350. Use wet hands to pick up what Paula Wolfert calls "plum-size pieces of the mixture". She seems to have in mind the very small plums sometimes called sugar plums or prune plums. Think something about 3/4 the size of a golf ball. Shape each piece into an oval and arrange these on a baking sheet, preferably one lined with parchment. You only need to leave a tiny bit of space between them. Better cooks than I would make smoother, more beautiful, and more consistent ovals, but mine still taste just fine.

7. Bake for 10-15 minutes. They shouldn't get brown, just form a bit of a firmer crust. Let them cool on the sheet, then transfer to a plate. Make sure they are completely cool, then cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

I think these would be great with some kind of yogurty sauce, but we always wind up just eating them all out of hand.
posted by redfoxtail at 8:42 AM on June 21, 2009 [13 favorites]

Homemade hummus and bagel chips. You can make both or just the hummus (lots of garlic chopping).

I have about 500 recipes for hummus, but my go-to is from McSherry's More Than Salt and Pepper, p. 34. (UK link since you're in England).

This Asian Coleslaw is healthy and it's chop heaven, but it's not really a snack. I just thought I'd mention it because it's chop, chop, chop...and then chop some more. It's so good I nearly pass out on the first bite. The peanut sauce is a must as is the cilantro.
posted by foooooogasm at 8:47 AM on June 21, 2009

Beans and rice. They go together in so many delicious ways, and they're both terribly good for you (especially if you opt for brown rice, or long-grain/wild rice).

Here's a recipe from the Mayo clinic, of all places, and it looks delicious.

You can also make a healthy dip for your veggies or pita chips by making a bean puree. Here's a French recipe for a white bean puree you can use as a jumping-off point.

(Just remember, when they say "can", they =really= mean "one cup of dried beans, sorted, rinsed and soaked overnight." Yes, you can very much taste the difference, and yes, it's worth the effort.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:02 AM on June 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

These Sugared Spiced Nuts are not complicated at all, but you asked for glazed nuts. They're very popular with my family and friends and I've gotten to the point where I bring a few copies of the recipe when I take them anywhere. I love tinkering with the spices, so no two batches are quite the same.
posted by contrariwise at 9:15 AM on June 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Quinoa salad? quinoa is easy to make, just rinse well, boil water, add quinoa, take off heat and allow to absorb for 5 - 10 mins. Just like cous cous. The packet of quinoa I have has a recipe on the back which includes chopped scalions, tomato, fresh mint, garlic. Maybe a few other herbs and spices, I'm not near it now.

Also, I like to make cous cous with mix-ins, because cous cous is so easy to make. Usually, I'll mix in a can of chopped tomatoes (using the tomato juice from the can +water for the cooking liquid). I also stir in a can of beans (chickpeas work well), a jar of drained capers and/or greek olives, a bag of frozen veggies (I used french cut green beans last time and was happy with the result), one chopped onion, some garlic and seasoning (I like the flavored cous cous but I've been using whole grain cous cous with flax to be healthier and it's a bit plain). Add all those things to the liquid while it's boiling, then add the cous cous, cover, take off heat, let sit for 5-10 (with all the mix-ins, it take a bit longer than it does on its own), stir. This makes a ton and lasts for days of meals or grazing, also, I'm sure you can form into patties and pan fry (not deep fry, just a light coating of pam or olive oil in the bottom of the pan). You can probably do the same with the quinoa, too.
posted by necessitas at 10:53 AM on June 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Stuffed grape leaves are healthy, delicious, great snacks and ohhhh yes, there is chopping. They seem to keep quite a while in the fridge, especially if you make them meatless. Yum! You can get bottled grape leaves in middle eastern groceries, if you don't have a supply of fresh ones.
posted by fish tick at 2:12 PM on June 21, 2009

I love this recipe for granola bars. I make them in a silicone pan so they're easy to get out. Hint: it's important to really compress the mixture in the pan before baking, otherwise you end up with something more crumbly, like granola rather than a granola bar.

Also check out the blog Cheap, Healthy, Good. Lots of ideas there.

Happy baking!
posted by nadise at 5:02 PM on June 21, 2009

Breakfast cookies? Something like this, though this is just for illustration. My mother sent me a bunch of recipes, and I found the idea to be very versatile because it's really easy to substitute ingredients. Premise is more like a granola or energy bar, so load up on the complex carbs, and add in fruit, nuts, etc for flavor.

Another tip for baking in general: use applesauce (or mashed bananas, other fruits, veggies) in place of fats in recipes for cakes or muffins. To prevent horrific texture, only replace up to 2/3 of the fat called for with applesauce. Use unsweetened applesauce whenever possible, and even then, think about reducing sugar called for as well. Finally, replace at least half (more is a matter of taste) of all purpose flour with whole wheat. Doing this makes recipes like banana or zucchini bread much more healthful.
posted by dormouse at 9:31 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your answers - I delayed marking best answers to give myself a chance to make some of your suggestions! I have marked fish tick and redfoxtail as best answers because they are things I would never have thought of making - and they were yummy! But thanks to everyone else too.
posted by schmoo at 11:36 AM on July 27, 2009

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