Monday, July 19, 2021

Fun and healthy after-school snacks

When I was a kid, one of my favorite parts about finishing the school day was getting an after-school snack. I usually just had fruit or vegetables or some type of granola bar, but sometimes I went home with a friend from school and raided their pantries for "the good stuff." I'm talking Dunkaroos, Fruit by the Foot, and the holy grail, Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies. Obviously, I know now the reason my mom never purchased those snacks was because they aren't very healthy, but no one can deny they certainly are tasty!

Food presentation is very important when kids are deciding what to eat. Bright colors, fun shapes, and familiarity are often the biggest factors when it comes to their willingness to try foods. That's why I wanted to transform some of my favorite healthy snacks into creative creations.

Hummus has become a fairly popular snack in recent years, and for good reason—it's packed with protein, iron, potassium, and plant fiber. But did you know with a little red cabbage and some baking soda, you can turn your favorite hummus blue? That's because red cabbage is a pH indicator and turns blue in a basic environment (hence the baking soda in the recipe). The key is you cannot use any lemon juice or other acid in the hummus because then it won't work. I added an orange bell pepper, candy eyeballs, and carrot slice "tentacles" to the hummus bowl to make it look like an octopus in the ocean.

Guacamole is another great snack. Avocados have lots of healthy fats and fiber to refuel kids' energy levels and keep them satisfied until dinner. But instead of serving the guacamole in a bowl, put it back in the avocado skin and use cucumbers, candy eyes, and carrot sticks to make it look like a crocodile!

Octopus hummus (Octomus)

Yield: Makes about 1 cup hummus


For the hummus

  • 1/4 cup (64 grams) tahini, stirred
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 milliliters) extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt, to taste (I used around 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (I used around 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup (45 grams) chopped red cabbage, boiled 1 minute
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 milliliters) cold water

For the octopus

  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 candy eyeballs


For the hummus

  1. Add tahini to bowl of food processor and run for 1 minute until tahini is lighter in color. And more creamy.
  2. Add the garlic, olive oil, salt, and black pepper to the food processor, and process for another minute until well-blended.
  3. Add half the chickpeas and process for 1 minute before scraping the bowl, adding the other half of the chickpeas, and processing for another minute.
  4. Add the red cabbage and the baking soda to the bowl and process for another minute.
  5. With food processor on, slowly add water until hummus reaches smooth consistency.

For the octopus

  1. Turn pepper on its side and cut about 1/2 inch below the stem. Use a paring knife to cut out the seeds and the pith from the inside.
  2. Slice carrot into thin circles.


  1. Transfer hummus to large, shallow bowl or deep dish plate.
  2. Place pepper in center and use carrot slices to create 8 tentacles stretching from the pepper to the edge of the plate. Arrange the wider slices so they are closest to the pepper, and the slices should progressively get smaller as they get closer to the edge of the plate. 
  3. Spread a dab of nut butter or honey on the back of each eyeball and stick on the pepper.
  4. Serve with vegetables and crackers.

Crocodile guacamole (Guacadiles)

Yield: Makes 4 “guacadiles,” or the equivalent of 2 cups of guacamole


For the guacamole

  • 2 ripe Hass avocados
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeño, no seeds, finely chopped

For the crocodiles

  • 1/4 cup matchstick carrots, cut in thirds
  • 8 cucumber slices, not peeled
  • 8 candy eyeballs


  1. Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits. Save the avocado skin and set aside.
  2. Scoop the flesh of the avocados out of the rind and place in a medium bowl.
  3. Pour lime juice and salt in bowl with avocados.
  4. Mash it all together until just combined (don’t over mix!)
  5. Fold in the red onion, cilantro, and jalapeño and mix well.
  6. Taste the guacamole and adjust seasoning if necessary.

For assembly

  1. Place 1/4 of guacamole back into each of the 4 avocado skins
  2. Add 2 cucumber slices sticking straight up at the back of the wider portion of the avocado. Repeat for each of the 4 avocado skins.
  3. Stick 1 candy eyeball in front of each cucumber slice.
  4. Arrange carrots around inside edge of avocado skins.
  5. Serve with vegetables and chips.

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