Here's the thing about bites and nibbles:
They're deeply comforting. And they complete every almost-perfect picture. What is a sky-full sunset drink on the beach without that ultimate bite of something salty crisp? What is the 4-hour super-soundtrack scenic road trip without the half-way surprise emergence of a packet of fresh chewables for all? Edible gifts are often a welcome substitute for actual face-to-face verbal expression of gratitude or condolence or commendation or affection (hello chocolate industry). Snacks have a magical transformative power also: Any proper, awkward situation is instantly softened into a warm-hearted familial gathering as soon as someone pulls out a box of homemade cookies or a packet of sour worms to share with the group. The ice breaking is almost as audible as the communal lip-smacking and suddenly everyone is best buds, "Wow, so sour! Thank you! Here, try some of my beef jerky. In Africa we call it billtong. Like the tongue of a bull. No? okay".
I'm not here to shun the snacks that clearly serve as butt-savers (ironically) in many a tongue-tied, thumb-twirled situation. I totally get your need to chew (who else tripped hard on sugar at age 5 from marathon eating 38 bubble-gum chappies all at once while watching The Magic Schoolbus at 7am on a Saturday?! No? okay).
We're all adults now and can calmly accept that The Snack is here to stay. But our recent regard for the wellness of our insides proposes an all new challenge. My sister recently asked me, "What super easy healthy snacks can I have?" I was like, "Uhm, how about carrot sticks with hummus!". To which she replied, "Carrot sticks? Like, I have to cut normal carrots-that aren't-sticks into stick shapes to eat them?! OK, no. What else?"
So here, for my sweetest sibling, and any other semi health-aware, busy as balls, lazy as butts, modern working peeps out there, I present to you 10 lesser evil snack ideas for your sharp tongues and ever-empty tums.
1. A small-ish whole wobbly carrot, washed not cut, dipped in hummus before each bite.
I have, finally, mastered the art of dipping anything into hummus. Raw cauliflower mini-trees (super detoxifiers!), radishes, apple slices, peppadews, endive leaves, cherry tomatoes (yes, it's messy) and then, when the crudites are all out, my index finger. Hummus is a flavour-dense, all natural plant-based dip made from high-protein chick-peas, making it the perfect spread. Where there is protein, there is satiety, stable blood sugar, and hope for humanity! I make my own hummus because its easier than pie, and cheaper than... buying anything already made . But you can buy yours next time instead of reaching for the mayo or cream-cheese or dressing. (The fewer ingredients in your hummus the better e.g. chick peas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, maybe chili)
2. Banana bites with dollops of nut butter on them.
Not much more explanation needed here. Just again, "protein for president!". I prefer almond butter these days. Apples work real nice too. So do strawberries! (peanut butter and jelly/jam sandwiches sans the sticky stuffy bread).
3. Fancy popcorn.
Microwave all natural, non-flavoured, popcorn and then whilst hot, carefully open and sprinkle garlic-salt, onion powder, and a sprinkle of truffle oil in there. Also add some finely grated parmesan or a few shakes of nutritional yeast (for a non-dairy/ vegan option) Then hold the top closed and SHAKE HARD!! serve.
3. Parmesan crisps
Who likes melted cheese that cooled a bit and got hard? Right? Pile and press small circular heaps of grated parmesan (or any cheese really) and bake on a baking sheet in a pre-heated oven 400 degrees F (200*C) for 3-5 mins until melted and golden almost-crispy. Sprinkle with some dried herbs (thyme, rosemary, pepper) if you feel fancy, and let them cool before you package or serve. Dip them in hummus! No?! Okay.
4. Crispy chick-peas.
You must get on this already. Drain and rinse a can/jar of cooked chickpeas, pat them dry and toss them in some coconut oil (preferable)/ olive oil/ ghee, then spread them on a baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated oven (400F/200C) for about 30-40 mins until super golden crispy. While they're warm, sprinkle with sea-salt and any spice blend you like (Cajun/ Garlic) or grate over some lemon zest for a surprising side-kick flavour. Let them cool and then dig in to crunchy, nutty low-carb high protein saltiness.
5. Avocado nori roles
These are killer and vegan and silky and fancy. Not the fastest on the list but worth it. Mush 2 avocados in a medium sized bowl. Add to it: the juice of a lemon or lime; 2 palm-fulls of finely-chopped chives or shallots; some freshly grated horseradish (or a tablespoon of wasabi paste); some grated cucumber/raw zucchini; half a cup of roasted pine-nuts; sea-salt and black pepper to taste.. Then spread this almost-guacamole onto 2 nori sheets and roll into sushi-like rolls. Cut into bites with a super sharp knife! (Wet the blade with water after every slice to cut through the tough Nori). Then make a dipping sauce of Tamari /Soy sauce with fresh ginger juice and some chili flakes (add a spoon of melted honey for sweetness).
6. Hard-boiled eggs and hot-sauce avocado spread
I know, a literal mouthful. Hard-boil a bunch of free-range farm eggs. (boiled eggs are always to be found in my fridge, for you just never know) then cut them in half and serve with a dollop of the following creamy spread: Avocado mashed with a few shakes of your favourite hot sauce (Tabasco/ Tapatio/ Huy Fong Chili Garlic/ Cholula), lots of fresh black pepper and a dash of tamari (saltiness). If you want to be fun and ridiculous soak your boiled eggs in tamari sauce over-night so they get brown and salty and zingy (One of my favourite bars in Paris Le Mary Celeste does a similar thang).
7. All of the round things.
This is an ode to all of nature's round pearls of nurture. Grapes, berries, cherries, cherry tomatoes. I like to throw these glorious little balls into one pretty bowl and serve them ice-cold to my self and/or non-annoying others. Toddlers and elders alike love this situation. And unless you've been hiding in a cave with your sleeping mask over your eyes and new Hot Chip in your ears, then you will certainly know by now that berries are basically the healthiest things on earth, just ahead of red grapes (resveratrol please) and cherry tomatoes (lycopene thanks). So there's that. Up the fancy (and protein content) by adding tiny mozzarella balls or cubes of special mild hard french cheese)
8. Leftovers that once were warm.
Never underestimate the accumulative flavour of yesterday's dinner, now served cold with some avocado or rucola to garnish. I'm talking sliced steak, fish, cold grilled mushrooms, peppers, eggplant, onions,crispy grilled green beans, sweet potato fries dipped in a garlic mustard sauce?!
I'm sorry but I really can't resist adding the super-star of nutrition here because 1. who doesn't like a creamy sweet milkshake and 2. what else gives you so much fulfilling wellness in 3 minutes? The base of any successful smoothie is a sliced frozen banana, a handful of green leaves, some water and non-dairy milk (almond/rice/hemp) a spoonful of nut butter and then whatever else you want to play with (berries, matcha powder, a date, chia seeds).
10. The darkest chocolate.
Cacao is enjoying worldwide fame all over again after the breaking news that it is in fact so full of health that we just don't know what to do with ourselves. Now unfortunately some idiot a long time ago decided that the perfect compliment to the world's healthiest natural antioxidant aphrodisiac, would be cow's milk (intended for baby cows) and toxic sugar (intended for no one) and voila! "Chocolate" as we know it was born. Not ideal. Stick to dark dark dark for extra beneficial bitterness. You'll get used to it and you'll end up being satisfied with much less. And do, for goodness sake, ENJOY every melting mouthful.