Tips for making spicy roasted chickpeas, a trendy and tasty snack

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Odd couplings using savory and spicy flavors in unexpected places are trendy these days, from pairing sea salt with chocolate and caramel, to sriracha-flavored popcorn and almonds. Dried legumes eaten as snacks is also trending, although the idea has deep Mediterranean roots, particularly for chickpeas.

Roasted ChickpeasI first encountered the surprise of roasted chickpeas for munching at a Middle Eastern grocery store on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. In the 1970s, a gang of us – single and adventurous – were regulars at the Lebanese, Yemeni and Turkish restaurants lining Atlantic Avenue. After feasting on grilled kebabs, baba ganoush and warm pita, exotic eating at that time, we wandered into one of the neighboring food stores, drawn by the fragrant aroma of cumin and coffee beans wafting from its narrow aisles lined with bins and barrels. Read more… “Tips for making spicy roasted chickpeas, a trendy and tasty snack”


    How Home-made Cornmeal Crackers Can Help You Burn Calories

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    “With all the cooking you do, how do you stay thin?” I am not thin but being on my feet in the kitchen, moving constantly, does benefit my weight. Writing is when I tend to gain weight. To help minimize this, my laptop is set up so I work on it standing up. Still, I start every piece and write the first draft for recipes while sitting down, pen in hand, facing a yellow pad.

    Like most writers, I feel anxious looking at the empty page. To get past this anxiety, munching on something savory with crunch works best. Yes, it is a bad habit. I wish celery sticks worked but they do not. Limiting my choices to foods with some health benefits, I rely on nuts, baked corn chips, and lightly salted crackers to comfort me until words start flowing.

    Recently, I found a whole-grain cracker recipe that I have adapted here; munching on them helped me get this post going.

    Cornmeal Crackers_06Making these herb-flavored crackers takes some concentrated, calorie-burning work: after you cook stone-ground cornmeal to make a thick, gritty polenta and mix in all the other ingredients to make a dough, you must roll it out by hand until it is very thin, almost thin enough to see through. Like making pasta, this takes effort. It produces crackers that snap nicely.

    While making the dough, handle it as little as possible or your crackers will be tough. Rolling the dough out on baking parchment is fantastic. The non-stick paper lets you lift and release the dough easily so you can roll until it is even thinner than 1/16th-inch. The dough is forgiving—simply press tears together. For the final rectangle, this means you can cut pieces off where the sheet of dough bulges out and press them to fill in where it is narrow. After cutting the dough into neat, two-bite-size crackers, toss out any trimmings; rerolled, they make a sticky dough and tough crackers.

    Using a light colored baking sheet is important. If you do not have one, line a dark sheet with baking parchment and allow a longer baking time. The crackers color unevenly, giving them a rustic look. They get crisper as they cool, so it is ok to take the colored crackers from the oven when they are still a bit soft.

    These crackers are excellent with cheese, dips, or soup as well as for snacking.

    Here’s the recipe: Cornmeal Herb Crisp Crackers.


      Study: Half the Cookie, Save the Calories

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      If you give a kid half a cookie, will he want more? The answer, somewhat surprisingly, is no, suggests a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

      Yesterday, Alice wrote about snacking – the good and the bad of it. For many people, including kids, snacking is a part of the day. The researchers in this study looked at whether reducing a snack’s size would change how much children ate. In this case, the snack was a cookie.

      In the study, researchers presented 77 first and sixth graders with an abundance of wafer cookie at their afternoon tea – yes, the study was conducted in Europe. About half of the children were offered full size cookies; the other group was served half-sized cookies. (The cookies were rectangular so it wasn’t as obvious they were halved.)

      Kids helped themselves, and there was no other food or drink offered at the tea break. Researchers noted the weight of the cookies at the beginning and those of the leftovers.

      The children offered the smaller cookies ate more servings, but in total, they ate 68 fewer calories than those served the larger wafers. That worked out to about 25 percent less gram weight. And both groups reported similar ratings on hunger and how much they liked the cookies.

      The study is one of many that suggests, what we see, is what we eat. Small plates and portioning out foods are a couple strategies people use to help eat healthy portions.

      Any favorite portion strategies? Please share.