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10 Last-Minute Healthy Snacks

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tuna-white bean-bruschetta
It happens to all of us. You’ve been running around all day and suddenly you’re starved. So starved that you could take down a bag of potato chips, eat a frozen pizza, or—say it ain’t so—find yourself rationalizing a fast food drive-thru. There’s no time to cook—you’d eat a dish towel before the food is ready. Drop that towel. Here, 10 of my favorite snacks that can be made in minutes. (Remember: these are best achieved by always keeping certain products on hand in the pantry and refrigerator.)

Winter Bruschetta: Tuna and Cannellini Beans
This recipe is inspired by the mackerel and white bean amuse-bouche that Esca serves in NYC. I’ve been meaning to recreate it, and I finally have! Any leftover tuna-bean mix could be thrown on top of farfalle or penne for a summer pasta salad.

Serves 2

1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1/4 cup red onion, roughly chopped
2 anchovy filets (optional)
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
1/2 tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
Sea salt
Freshly cracked pepper
7 oz cannellini (or Great Northern) beans, drained and rinsed
7 oz canned tuna in olive oil, drained and roughly chopped
4 1/2-inch slices of whole grain bread

Toast the bread slices.
In a food processor, combine the first 10 ingredients (but reserve 1 tablespoon of basil for garnish) and pulse to combine until it forms a chunky vinaigrette.
In a large bowl, mix beans and tuna together. Add the vinaigrette and mix to combine.
Spoon tuna mixture over toasted bread. Drizzle with olive oil and chopped basil and serve.

Summer Bruschetta: Tomato, Garlic, Basil
It says “summer” because this recipe is only meant for July through September. Fresh tomatoes are not seasonal in winter, and if you’re buying them in winter then someone is picking them green halfway across the world for you. Plus, they taste so much better in summer!

3-4 plum tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped into 1/4-inch dice*
1 clove garlic, whole
1 clove garlic, minced
Handful of fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
Sliced country bread, toasted

In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, the minced garlic clove, basil, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
Rub the toasted bread with the whole garlic clove. Top with tomato mixture and serve immediately.

*Cut the tomato into fourths lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh with your knife and discard. Cut the remaining outer flesh lengthwise into 2 to 4 strips depending on its width and then cut crosswise to produce small squares.

greek-salad

Greek Salad
This recipe can vary depending on what’s in the refrigerator. In summer, I usually keep a good Greek feta cheese on hand for a last-minute salad. Plus, feta pairs so nicely with summer-ripened tomatoes. I throw some green onion in there, maybe some cucumber or celery, half a bell pepper, kalamata olives… add whatever you’ve got, including fresh herbs like basil or dill. If there are no fresh herbs, add some dried oregano. Hey, feta and tomatoes can be satisfying by themselves too. Make a dressing that is 2/3 part extra virgin olive oil and 1/3 part red or white wine vinegar. Add sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste and serve with toasted bread.

Sautéed Garlic Spinach
Sautéed spinach is one of my favorite vegetable sides, but if you don’t like spinach you can substitute it with something else, like zucchini or chard (but these will need a bit more time to cook than spinach). My first choice is baby spinach in bulk (its texture is softer and it’s easier to clean than wild spinach*; you want to buy it in large quantities since it cooks down to such a small amount). Over the next few days, I can use spinach in scrambled eggs, a hearty bean soup, or (below) as a snack or side dish with garlic and red hot pepper flakes. I toast some whole grain bread on the side, drizzle it with evoo and salt, and I have a quick and healthy snack.

Whole grain bread (optional)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnishing bread
4 oz baby spinach, washed and dried in a salad spinner
2 garlic cloves, cut into large chunks
A pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Sea salt

Toast 1-2 slices of bread, if desired.
In a pan big enough to hold the spinach, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Add garlic and red pepper flakes (if desired) and cook them in the olive oil for 1-2 minutes.
Add spinach and stir as it wilts, 1-2 minutes. Add salt to taste (careful—a little goes a long way here).
Set aside off heat.
Drizzle toasted bread with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

*If using wild spinach, it can carry a good deal of hidden dirt. To clean it, tear the leaves from the thick stems and place them in a large bowl of water with at least an inch of water at the bottom (so the spinach is not packed in and can move around). Let the spinach soak for 10-15 minutes, jostling the spinach with your hands a couple times to release the dirt, which will collect at the bottom of the bowl. Carefully remove the spinach and dry it in a colander. Discard dirty water.

Melted Cheese Toast with Tomatoes
Is anyone ever too old for grilled cheese? But rather than putting a processed Kraft single on white bread that’s been slathered with butter and fried in a pan, we can make a healthier alternative. You could also add some turkey slices underneath the cheese for more protein.

2 1/2-inch slices of whole grain bread
Your favorite cheese: Cheddar, Swiss, Gruyère, provolone, fontina…
Cherry or plum tomatoes, sliced (optional)
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (or preheat a toaster oven).
Lay desired amount of cheese on bread. Add tomatoes. Sprinkle with a little salt.
Bake on wire rack until cheese is melted and bread is crisp, 5-8 minutes.

Scrambled Eggs with Green Onion and Tomato
Chop 1 green onion, including the green part (or a bit of regular onion/shallot…). Dice a handful of tomatoes. In a nonstick pan, sauté the onion and tomato in 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter for two minutes until onion is soft. Add 2 beaten eggs and scramble with a rubber spatula. Season with salt and pepper and serve with toast. (Hot sauce optional… guilty as charged!)

baked-eggs-tomatoes-herbs

Baked Eggs with Tomato and Herbs
Click here for Baked Eggs recipe.

Aglio Olio Peperoncino
As a student in Italy, “garlic, oil, red pepper flakes” over spaghetti was the go-to pasta after a long night of Sangiovese swilling. Ideally, there was a little fresh parsley to garnish it with, too. Everything’s done in the time it takes to cook the pasta.

Serves 2

3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to garnish
1-2 cloves of garlic, halved or roughly chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Sea salt
1/2 lb spaghetti
Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Heat the pasta water. When boiling, add two small handfuls of coarse sea salt to the water. Stir to dissolve and add pasta.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt. Cook until the garlic turns golden, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
When pasta is al dente, drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and return the pasta to the pan. Add the garlic-oil mixture to the pasta. Stir to combine with parsley and a generous pour of extra virgin olive oil.

Yogurt with Grape Nuts or Granola
This one’s easy. Scoop good Greek yogurt (or any yogurt with active cultures) into a bowl. Top with Grape Nuts or granola. Add fruit and/or honey if you’d like.

Cereal
Yes, cereal. Whenever I want something sweet and there’s no chocolate or ice cream to be found in the house, I can usually satisfy my craving with milk and cereal. But please, something good—no Trix or Lucky Charms or something with a plastic prize at the bottom! (Make sure to check the ingredients for synthetic imposters, and check both the sugar and the sodium content—you would be shocked how much hidden salt goes into cereal.)

Jun. 09 2010 |
  1. Theresa First

    Jane, your recipes sound so delicious. I look forward to trying them. I especially like and second your good advice on when to eat tomatoes! Great work!

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