Sometimes during a busy week or month, I’ll suddenly come to the realization I am eating mostly processed foods and pre-made type meals. When this happens, I will purposefully revert back to eating more fresh produce and limited ingredient snacks; the truth is, my body and mind feel better when I do. With fresh fruits and vegetables, I’m able to worry less about the allergens contaminating them, since there are no facilities or shared lines when “making” them. I just wash and scrub them really well, and voila! Perhaps a blessing in disguise, having food allergies sets you up perfectly for food experiments.
Who says your snacks have to look like others’? Since you may not be able to eat what they are eating, you can go all out in making new creations. There are no limits to creativity. Experimenting with different ingredients can be really fun if you aren’t afraid to make mistakes. (Sometimes combining flavors just does not work out, no matter how much you want them to.) Overall, fresh food is an incredibly forgiving medium and with its bright colors, is easy to turn into a work of art! In this act of getting back to whole, fresh foods, I’ve accidentally, but also happily, stumbled across a few simple snacks that bring me so much joy that I wanted to share them with others.
There’s a certain nostalgia of childhood I feel when I think about the snacks I’ll be sharing here. And hey, if you find that you want to arrange these snacks into the shape of a smiley face on your plate, like I sometimes do, all the more power to you! Happy food = happy belly! I invite you to have fun with your food this month, and I hope these ideas spark some joy in you and your family:
1. Raspberry-Chocolate Bites
Anyone else find raspberries adorable, or is it just me? Pick up a fresh raspberry in one hand, and a safe allergen-free chocolate chip in the other, and put the two together, my friend! These cute and easy snacks always leave me smiling and savoring each burst of a bite! Take a moment to admire how the raspberry perfectly hugs the chocolate chip, and it almost never seems to fall out, meaning, you can take this snack out and about with you easily. They won’t keep long if the temperatures are high, but I’ve never had a problem. I usually eat half my bowl of them before I even get out my front door!
2. “Ants on a Log”
Ah yes, the classic ants on a log is here, but with a few new versions! This is a yummy, naturally sweet snack that feels decadent with any allergen-safe nut butter substitute. You can do this recipe a few ways – use the classic celery, apple slices (cut to be wide) or I recently started exploring whole medjool dates, and I found them to be extremely delicious. Cut the celery/apple/or dates to size and fill with your nut-butter-alternative of choice. Try to not overfill, but make sure there’s enough in them that you’ll taste it. Enjoy as-is, or take a moment to artfully top these with raisins, and if you want a sweeter option, you could also drizzle with honey, add toasted coconut flakes, or allergen-free chocolate chips.
3. Bell Pepper Pizza Bite Snacks
Once you try these, you won’t want to go back to a standard crust. Halve and core a couple bell peppers of any color. These will be used as a little vessel to hold your toppings. Add a few spoonfuls of marinara sauce, or sliced tomato, and fill with your cheese of choice. You can also leave them without cheese if you don’t do dairy.
Next, top your mini pizzas with any desired additional ingredients (look below for some ideas) and bake for 10-15 minutes at 375°F. Watch closely for doneness, which depends on how many ingredients you used. Remove when the peppers are still crisp but getting tender, and the cheese is fully melted. If you went cheese-less, a favorite topping of mine to sprinkle on the fully cooked pizza is nutritional yeast.
For the toppings, I like to go veggie heavy and top with any green veggies. Broccoli, finely chopped kale, and thinly sliced zucchini are especially yummy. If you like goat cheese, you can add it along with thinly sliced potato and beets, in addition to your regular cheese of choice! If you eat meat, you can top these pizza bites with pepperoni or sausage as usual! Maybe you want to have these mini pizzas with a kale and beet side salad? There are no rules!