Afternoon Snacks to Keep You Going Till Dinnertime
By Catherine Newman
Snack ideas with fewer carbs that are easy to make!
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Snacky hunger is, for me, like nothing else. Yes, you can see dinner on the horizon, but it’s not time yet. And you’re in a rush, perhaps, or suddenly too starving to think clearly when you walk past the vending machine. I say this as a person with a not insignificant Cheez-Its addiction. I say this as a person whose family is far more likely to eyeball the cookies and chips than the plain yogurt and kale. We all want to eat healthy snacks, we really do – the kind that give more than they take, the kind with fewer carbs and more protein, the kind with colorful nutrients instead of crinkly plastic packaging, but we kind of need to have a plan, or it doesn’t happen. One plan is to get invited to a wedding every day so that I can just eat hors d’oeuvres for the rest of my life-long meals. But that’s not a very practical plan, and maybe I would eventually get sick of the mini quiches and stuffed mushrooms and crab cakes, although I seriously doubt it.
The other plan is this: to have healthier snacks readily available – either already made, or a minute or two from getting there. So, yes, these are recipes. But they also add up to an approach, a way of thinking about how to prepare to eat a quick bite so that it will be a better bite than a not-very-good bite, if you know what I’m saying. You’ll prepare by boiling some eggs, roasting some nuts, and cutting up some vegetables so that, when the snackies strike, you’ll be ready. A great dip will encourage the eating of those veggies you cut up (recipe below), and yes, there’s some salami here too, but I’ll get to that in a second. With the exception of the glorious Quesadizza – which is just what it sounds like – these are instant, transportable snacks that can go with you in a Tupperware to school or work so that you’ll have something delicious and full of nutrients to grab when you need to grab something. Even if it’s not actually in the afternoon.
Click to jump to a recipe!
Makes: 4 servings
Total carbohydrates: 1 gram
Hands-on time: 1 minute
Total time: 15 minutes
I initially called these salami chips, but the truth is that they’re more crispy-chewy than straight-up crisp: kind of like beef jerky – and just as addictively, salty, meaty, and delicious. Plus, one serving has about 6 grams of protein, which is pretty good. You will make some for your kids’ (or your own) lunchbox, but then you will eat them all and you will have to make some more. Be sure to experiment with different kinds of salami to figure out what you like best.
4 ounces thinly sliced salami (ideally something Italian and/or dry-ish)
Heat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper for easy cleanup.
Arrange the salami on the sheet so that it’s not overlapping, and bake until it’s just barely beginning to brown and the edges are curling up, around 12-15 minutes.
Cool on a paper-towel lined plate, then blot with another paper towel. Eat right away (I like to dip them in a blob of yellow mustard), or store the cooled chips in a zipper-lock bag in the refrigerator. You should keep them in the fridge, but also know that it’s fine to keep them at room temperature for a couple hours, if you’re bringing them to snack on at work or school.
Variation: I’m lazy, so I mostly make these in the microwave, but it’s kind of a trial-and- error proposition: Arrange non-overlapping slices of salami on a paper towel on a plate (I do about 4 at a time), cover with another paper towel, and microwave until the salami just starting to brown, around 30-45 seconds. The chips will crisp more as they cool.
Sidebar: Healthy-ish Snacks at the Convenience Store
If you end up stopping to put gas in your car – and you’re hungry – you are in danger of Convenience Store Syndrome, which varies by person, but can involve anything from Twinkies and Slurpees to garbage-can-sized sodas and fruit “pies.” Resist! There are healthier options, but you have to look for them:
- packaged nuts and seeds (make sure they are not covered in honey or sugar)
- beef jerky
- hard-boiled eggs
- yogurt (look for no- or low-sugar varieties!)
- cheese sticks
Makes: 1 serving
Total carbohydrates: 4-20 grams (depending on your tortilla and salsa)
Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes
This versatile snack has the open, round look of a pizza, the cheese-and-tortilla ingredients of a quesadilla, and the topping opportunities of nachos. It’s a gooey, melty, and excellent low-carb alternative to all of them, especially because it’s too cheesy to feel like a compromise. Please note that if you make one, everyone will gather in the kitchen suddenly, and then you will have to make a couple more.
1 to 2 teaspoons butter or oil
1 low- or reduced-carb tortilla (this La Tortilla Factory low-carb option is sold in most stores and online)
Heaping ¼ cup (aka 1/3 cup) shredded cheese (Monterey Jack, cheddar, mozzarella, or a blend)
Hot sauce or salsa (if you like spicy things)
Turn on the broiler to let it heat up. In a smallish ovenproof skillet (ideally cast iron), melt the butter over medium-low heat. When it is bubbly and hot, put the tortilla in the pan.
Sprinkle the cheese over the tortilla completely, being sure to extend past the edges so that there is even a little cheese right on the pan. This will make a delicious, crispy edge. Cook the tortilla until the bottom is crisping and browning, using a spatula to peek underneath.
Pop the pan under the broiler and cook just until the cheese is bubbling and brown. This will only take a few seconds—definitely under a minute. And honestly? If your skillet isn’t oven-proof, so you need to skip this step, that will work too.
Move the quesadizza to a cutting board and use a pizza cutter or a large knife to cut it into wedges. Serve with hot sauce or salsa, if you like.
If your pan isn’t ovenproof, or if you simply prefer, you can fold the tortilla in half over the cheese and brown it on both sides, thus making a regular old (but still very delicious) quesadilla.
For a “loaded” quesadizza, add a spoonful each of sour cream and guacamole.
For an even pizza-ier quesadizza, use the back of a spoon to swirl 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce over the tortilla before sprinkling on the cheese. This will add about 2 grams of carbs to your finished snack.
Makes about 8 (1-ounce) servings
Total carbohydrates: 4 grams per serving
Hands-on time: 5 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Nuts are my family’s main snack. We eat tons of them right out the bag: bittersweet walnuts, classic roasted peanuts, extra-crunchy marcona almonds, bacon-y smoked almonds, decadent macadamia nuts, and fun-to-shell sunflower seeds (okay, those aren’t nuts, but still). These are special, though, and, considering how special they are, incredibly easy. They’re great make-ahead snacks, of course – perfect for popping into a school bag or briefcase – but they’re crazily good when they’re still warm from the oven, so plan to eat some then too.
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (if you like spicy things)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (or 2 teaspoons dried)
8 ounces raw pecan halves (or walnut halves, if you prefer)
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
Heat the oven to 350 and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment for easy cleanup.
In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the butter, cayenne, and rosemary, then add the pecans and stir to coat.
Arrange the pecans on the baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and bake 10-15 minutes, until they’re very fragrant and a shade darker (they’ll crisp as they cool).
Store the cooled nuts in an airtight container at room temperature.
Sidebar: Nuts About Nuts
For high-protein, low-carb snacking, there is pretty much no better choice than nuts. They’re filling and full of nutrients, and if you roast and salt them (or buy them roasted and salted), they offer all of that same crunchy satisfaction as chip-based snacks.
That said, nuts vary in carb content.
Pecans, macadamia nuts, and Brazil nuts are super-low-carb, with 3 or fewer grams of carbs in a 1/8 cup serving.
Hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, and almonds are still a great choice, with 6 grams of carbs or less in a 1/8 cup serving.
Pistachios and cashews are higher up there, with 8 and 9 grams of carbs, respectively, in a 1/8 cup serving.
Makes 6 servings
Total carbohydrates: less than 1 gram per serving
Hands-on time: 5 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
If true deviled eggs were a practical snack, I would eat them every day. But they don’t actually keep well enough to be a go-to, and they’re too fiddly to make fresh daily. These, however, are entirely practical, and I do eat one most days. The idea is that you hard-boil some eggs (perfectly) and whisk up some deviled-egg-style dressing, and then you keep both in the fridge. Come snack time, you simply cut open an egg and top each half with a spoonful of dressing (you can also pack some up this way to take to work or school). So delicious and satisfying that you will almost not notice that you cheated. (The eggs shown here are made with curry powder and yellow mustard, which is one of my favorite combinations of add-ins.)
¼ cup Hellman’s or Best Foods real mayonnaise
½ teaspoon kosher salt—or more to taste
1 teaspoon white vinegar
6 Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs (see below)
½ teaspoon curry powder, celery seed, or smoked paprika
1 teaspoon hot sauce, horseradish, or yellow, Dijon, or grainy mustard
1 tablespoon capers or finely chopped dill pickles or pickled jalapenos
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill, celery leaves, or parsley, or snipped chives
In a small, lidded container, whisk together the ingredients and any optional add-ins you like.
For each Cheater Deviled Egg, peel a boiled egg, cut it in half, and drizzle each half with a spoonful of the dressing mixture. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika to disguise the fact that you cheated.
Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs
I used to think I didn’t like hard-boiled eggs, but it turned out I just didn’t like badly hard-boiled eggs – the kind with rubbery whites separated from chalky yolks by a creepy green ring. These, however, come out perfect every time (unless you’re at a high altitude, and then I think you need to boil them).
Put some number of eggs in a pot where they fit in a single layer, then cover them with water by an inch or so. Bring them to a boil over high heat (I put a stone or glass marble in the pot if I’m likely to forget them; it will rattle when the water starts to boil), then cover the pot, turn off the burner, and let the eggs sit for exactly 9 minutes. Now dump the eggs into a colander and run cold water over them until they are no longer warm to the touch – this prevents that green ring from forming – then, if you’re planning to use them right away, peel them. Very fresh eggs are notoriously difficult to peel: if yours are, then try cracking them all over and returning them to a bowl full of ice and cold water for a few minutes before peeling.
Makes about 6 (1/4-cup) servings
Total carbohydrates: 3 grams per serving
Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes
We like to make dips with protein-rich ingredients such as cheese, beans, and nuts, because then you can eat something fun, filling, and wholesome at the same time. This dip is especially tangy and lovely because of the combination of sharp feta and sweet peppers. If you have it, the smoked paprika will add an extra kick of smokiness. But even if you don’t, the peppers will still give the dip plenty of smoky flavor.
6 ounces crumbled feta (or 6 ounces feta, crumbled)
6 to 8 ounces jarred roasted red peppers, very well drained (this is all of a smaller jar, or half of a bigger jar, or about 1 ½ peppers, if you’re the kind of person who has home-roasted peppers kicking around)
1 garlic clove, peeled
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika (if you have it)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (if you like spicy things)
¼ cup olive oil
White or sherry vinegar
Put all of the ingredients except the olive oil and vinegar in a food processor or, better still, a high-speed blender, and process until very well blended, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl or jar with a rubber spatula.
With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil and blend until very creamy. Now taste the dip. If it needs a little oomph, add a splash of vinegar and blend to mix. If it’s thin or grainy, add a splash more olive oil and blend some more. (The dip will thicken in the refrigerator.)
Serve with raw vegetables for dipping. (I especially like to serve it with cut-up red peppers, but maybe that’s weird.)
If peppers aren’t your thing, try increasing the olive oil to ½ cup, and add the juice and grated zest of one scrubbed lemon along with some mint, either dried or fresh. Skip the smoked paprika.