Friday, October 4, 2013

Snack Culture

Let me be the first, no, one of the many, to say that the American Snack Culture (hereby referred to as ASC) is out of control.
Teddy snacks and studies
And I got caught up in it. I have created two little snacking machines. I buy bunnies and goldfish in bulk. My kids ask for them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and, oh, snack time. What is this snack time? I think we have at least two per day, right? One around 10am, regardless of the timing of breakfast; and one around 3 or 4pm. My favorite snack application must be when they are used as a side dish, as in, "Mommy, may I have some crackers to wash down this bulgur?" Sam says that crackers help him to swallow anything offensive that I prepare. It's kind of comical to watch him take a teensy bite of dinner, then a big chomp on a cracker as the chaser. Meanwhile, Teddy is turning into a bunny, as in cheddar.

But, I am nothing if not a DIY-er, so guess what. I'm making snacks from scratch! I have a book out from the library called "Real Snacks." I also bought "Salty Snacks" and have scoured my cookbooks for cracker recipes. I figure that it would be nice to fill my kids with homemade carbs that have only pronounceable ingredients. I do ascribe to Pollan's caution that if you can't pronounce the ingredient, put the product down. To paraphrase: If your grandmother wouldn't recognize the food product and/or its ingredients, do not purchase or ingest it.
Goldfish, which were "too big"
How did we get here? Are we to blame Mr. Kellogg? Were his corn chips the very first Snack? They were actually meant to be a vegetable accompaniment, you know. Corn chips as a side dish! (Perhaps the Kellogg children needed to wash down their bulgur.) What does Dr. Graham have to say for his "crackers" and what they have become? Would he decry the blue box as an outrage?

What is clear is that we snack too much and suffer for it. I am currently suffering. I feel that I must develop a Snack Philosophy. A Snack Stance. A Snacking Manifesto.

Step one: Identify the dilemma. My two sons LOVE snacks and HATE the food I cook. Perhaps it is the mere idea of the food I cook. I know that I have brought this upon myself, BUT I would also like to blame the crazy, out-of-control ASC for perpetuating it. Here is but one example of how the madness spreads.

Monday, August 5: I drop Sam off at Lego camp - a 3-hour camp - and overhear other moms saying, "And here is your snack." What? My kid just had breakfast and I will pick him up at lunchtime. Why a snack? I immediately feel guilty, then silly, then irate. But my Sam is very in tune with his tummy and declares that he had a big breakfast and therefore needs no snack.

Tuesday, August 13: Teddy, Sam, and I arrive at the park. A mere two minutes into play, Sam declares that he is soooooo thirsty and would also like a snack. This cues Teddy to ask for goldfish. Whining ensues. Irate Mommy further ensues. And Sam, the smarty that he is, looks around the park to see other children snacking and uses this as evidence for why he also needs a snack and a beverage and, gosh, I am a poor planner and provider because what was I thinking, trying to make it all the way to the park with no beverages or carbohydrates. Kids gotta fuel up!
Pop tart with homemade jam filling
I am convinced that my children think that they don't have to eat dinner because they can hold out for a snack the next day. I really believe they have figured out that they can coast on their 4pm snack all the way through the night. Ugh.

So what should the manifesto contain? Step Two: Find a solution.

1. No more store-bought snacks. You want a graham cracker, well, you will wait just as Dr. Graham himself intended, for two hours while I bake them.

2. No more eating in the car.

3. No more snacking in between breakfast and lunch. Please, people, it's like three hours.

4. The 3:30/4pm snack is small and wholesome and homemade and, most importantly, does not ruin dinner.

That's good for now. What is your Snack Philosophy?
English muffin
Pop-like Tart. 
The big shocker for me on this recipe was to realize that, duh!, a pop tart is nothing more and nothing less than a hand pie! Cue angels singing, I mean really. So, if you have a pie or tart dough that you already work with, by all means, bust it out, make it into squares the size that you like, fill with jam of your choice (or fig butter from Trader Joe's!), cut some vents, and bake. I have had success with both pate brisee dough and a standard American pie dough. But I do quite like the "Real Snacks" approach, as follows.

2/3 cup each of whole wheat pastry flour, AP flour, and millet flour
1T sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
8T unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled
1/4-3/4 cup iced water
1 egg
jam of choice
optional glaze at the end (powdered sugar with milk or water or even lemon juice)

In a food processor or by hand, whisk together the flours with the sugar and salt. Add the pieces of butter and cut in until you have eensy pieces of butter coated in flour all over. It is important that the butter does not melt or get very warm - cold butter creates flakes in the oven. If doing by machine, pulse 8-10 times; if by hand, use a fork or pastry blender to sort of smash and break up the butter. Now add your water, 3T at first, either with the machine running or stirring with a fork. Add more, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough just comes together. You want a hydrated dough, but not a wet, sticky one. Put the dough mass on plastic wrap and use it to press the dough into a rectangle, mushing the corners so that they are smooth and not dry and shaggy. (Leslie, maybe you should come over and bake with me one day!) Wrap your rectangle up and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes to hydrate, or leave it for a few days.

Lightly flour a rolling surface. Cut your dough into four pieces and roll them out one by one into a rectangle that is 1/8" thick. Trim the edges so that you have a neat rectangle. Then cut the size you want for your tarts. Set them up so that you have your top and bottom. Mix the egg with 1T water and brush the bottom tart piece with a light coating. Place an appropriate amount of jam for your size tart (probably 1-2tsp.) on the egg-washed side, in the middle. Place on the top, seal by making those cute fork marks all around the edges, and cut three slits. Repeat with all the dough. Use the rest of the egg wash to brush the tops of the tarts.

Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes OR move to the freezer on something flat then, when frozen, transfer to a labeled bag and then you can make tarts whenever you want. When you want to bake, preheat to 350 and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on tart size and if they were frozen or not. Watch for golden brown deliciousness.


  1. Hi Jen--this is great. Could not agree more. Have recipe for poptart?

  2. Yes! I will update the post with a recipe for the pop tart, which is way easier than it seems. At least, it seemed a bit hard to me looking at the end result.