Quick, nutritious snacks for time-starved moms

Quick, nutritious snacks for time-starved moms

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These ideas for quick and easy snacks were collected from seasoned moms, experienced in the postpartum search for something fast and wholesome to munch. Send someone to the grocery store for supplies if you're not up to the trip yourself.

Quesadillas: Savory comfort food

Grate or thinly slice about a quarter cup of your favorite cheese. Put it aside for a moment. Warm a dab of butter or a dash of oil in a wide frying pan on medium-low heat. Place a tortilla (corn or flour, whatever your preference) in the pan. Sprinkle with the cheese. Add a dash of hot sauce or sour cream if desired. Fold the tortilla in half, cover the pan, and cook for just a few minutes, until the cheese has melted. Let cool and enjoy. For variety and a nutritious boost, add chopped onion, peppers, tomatoes, olives, or other favorite vegetables on top of the cheese and melt together.

Gorp: Energy by the handful

Best known as an energy-boosting hiking snack, gorp, or trail mix, can also do wonders for tired moms. Make a big batch when you have a little time and keep it on hand for quick grabbing. In a large mixing bowl, place two cups each of the following: raisins, peanuts, and chopped dates or dried pineapple slices. Add one cup of each of these: coconut flakes, sunflower seeds. Mix together to create a great snack. Feel free to play with the ingredients, following your taste buds. Almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, currants, dried papaya, even chocolate chips are tasty options.

Stuffed celery sticks: Light and crunchy

Clean and wash a bunch of celery, and cut sticks in half (into approximately 3-inch lengths). Fill with any of the following: softened cream cheese; cottage cheese; peanut butter; tuna fish (plain or mixed as a salad); egg salad. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep in the refrigerator.

Baked potatoes: Simple and filling

This old standby is easy to make. Always make extras for leftovers!

Wash a few large russet potatoes, cutting out any nubby "eyes" growing through the skin. Pierce a few times with a fork. Coat lightly with olive oil. Bake in a 400 degree Fahrenheit conventional oven or toaster oven for about an hour, until soft all the way through to the center. Test with a fork or toothpick. If you can't wait an hour, cut potatoes into smaller pieces before baking – or use a microwave. Depending on the power of your microwave and the size of the potato, it should take only five to 10 minutes on the "high" setting.

When the potatoes are done, slice one open and season with salt and pepper, butter, margarine, sour cream, yogurt, or a dash of olive oil, and dig in.

For a heartier meal, stuff with anything you crave – shredded cheese, cottage cheese, chopped tomato, minced onion, sautéed mushrooms, salsa, crumbled bacon, or leftover cooked vegetables.

Keep the leftover potatoes in the refrigerator and use them later for a fried potato breakfast. Just slice up some potato and saute in a pan with oil, chopped or minced onion, and chopped up vegetables such as zucchini or green or red pepper, seasoned with salt, pepper, and a dash of paprika. For a heartier meal with more protein, cook an egg with the potatoes. When the potatoes are heated up to your liking, make room in the middle of the pan and scramble or fry an egg.

Or, cut potatoes into chunks and dress with a quick vinaigrette, your favorite salad dressing, or a little mayonnaise and seasonings for a quick potato salad; eat as is or toss with salad greens.

Asparagus roll-ups: Meat and veggies in one

Buy 1/2 pound of roast beef, sliced thin at the deli counter, and a tub of whipped cream cheese. Break off and discard the root end of the asparagus, then steam or microwave until tender on the outside and crisp on the inside (this takes only a couple of minutes in the microwave and about five minutes on the stove or in the broiler). Spread a thin layer of cream cheese over a slice of roast beef and roll it around an asparagus stalk – a yummy meal in seconds.

Fruit cup: Cool, sweet, nutritious

When you have a moment to do some prep work, wash and slice any fruit you desire, from apples, bananas, and grapes to melons, mangoes, kiwis, and strawberries. Aim for about one cup of each fruit. Toss together in a large bowl. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice, which helps prevent browning and provides a zing of flavor. Eat plain or mix with your favorite flavor of yogurt for a filling meal. You can also add a little granola, wheat germ, or other cereal.

Cheese and crackers: Calcium and protein

Cocktail party grazing isn't a bad alternative when speed is of the essence. Stock up on your favorite crackers, from organic exotics to basic saltines. Buy several kinds of your favorite cheese, sliced from the deli counter if possible, to save time. When hunger hits, grab a handful of crackers, several slices of cheese, and arrange on a plate. Sliced cucumber, tomato, apple, avocado, pickles, and luncheon meats make great companions, if time allows.

Scrambled eggs: Not just for breakfast

The basics for scrambled eggs are pretty simple. Beat a couple of eggs in a small bowl with a fork. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in a skillet (nonstick is best) with a little butter, margarine, or oil and cook over medium heat, stirring gently and scraping along the bottom of the pan until cooked. Cooking time: a couple of minutes, at most. Great with toast, of course. Now, make it even better by adding chopped vegetables (green pepper, zucchini, onion, and tomato are particularly good), or cheese, meats, salsa, crumbled tofu, and even raisins and nuts. If you have leftover cooked veggies, warm them for a moment in the microwave or in a pan, and add them to your scramble. Or cook with potatoes (see "baked potatoes," above).;

Prosciutto and melon: Sweet-salty combo

Buy 1/2 pound of prosciutto sliced thin at the deli counter (or buy packaged thin slices) and a ripe cantaloupe. Cut the melon into bite-sized pieces, then roll each in a slice of prosciutto. Use toothpicks to hold it together for easy snacking.

Salsa: The condiment that does it all

Keep a tub of good-quality salsa handy for flavorful meals in a hurry. Look for fresh salsa in the refrigerator section of the grocery (it's usually tastier than the salsas in jars). To mix up some quick guacamole, mash a ripe avocado with some salsa; add a spoonful of plain yogurt and some minced garlic, if you like. Enjoy it with baked corn chips, or scoop it up with celery sticks, raw zucchini wedges, or rice cakes.

Fruit smoothies: Vitamins and fiber from a blender

Keep some fresh fruit on hand. Bananas, ripe peaches, mangoes, and sweet berries are great in any combination. If your favorite summer fruits are out of season, keep a few packages of frozen fruit in your freezer. Blend up right out of the freezer for a frosty drink.

Smoothies can be made with a milk, milk substitute, or juice base. Note: Milk and fortified milk substitutes such as soy, almond, and rice milks offer a healthy dose of calcium plus vitamin D and other nutrients. (Not all milk substitutes are fortified with calcium and vitamin D; check the label.) Juice is high in sugar and less nutritious.

Pour 1 cup of milk or juice into the blender. Add about a cup of fruit, any mix you like, and a bit of honey if needed, and blend until smooth. If it's too thick, add more liquid. Try orange juice with pineapple and strawberries or milk with banana and blackberries. You can add plain yogurt for a thicker and extra nutritious drink. A dash of cinnamon or vanilla extract adds flavor.

If you have ripe bananas that you can't eat before they spoil, peel them, cut into chunks, and keep in your freezer. Frozen banana in a smoothie makes a thick, creamy drink that's as good as a milkshake. Try a milk-based smoothie with frozen banana and a tablespoon of peanut butter. For added decadence, blend in some instant cocoa powder.

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