Thursday, August 9, 2018

How To Build A Pantry Snack Station

Confession: I am a ravenous snacker. All day, every day, I'm a woman who loves her snacks! For someone who works at home a lot, this can be a dangerous thing. When the urge to snack hits me, and boy, oh boy, does that ever happen often, I will turn to the first snack that I can find that interests me, which can often mean some less than healthy choices. It was a few years ago, while working on my Food Hacks campaign with Kraft Canada that I came up with the idea of creating a snack station in my home. A snack station is a dedicated area for purely snacks that I fill with a variety of different options, so that when my urge to snack hits, I have somewhere to turn for quick, easy, and healthy ways to satiate me and curb any naughty food cravings. 
While a snack station has been incredibly helpful for Chris and I to help steer us away from the candy, ice cream, and other junk that's way too convenient for us to snack on, I also love the idea of making a snack station for kids! A few years ago I was taking care of two amazing young girls after school, and while they rarely ever fought or even disagreed, the one thing that they would sometimes tiff over was their after-school snacks. They would occasionally disagree about which items they were allowed to eat after school, creating an unnecessary heated moment in the midst of what was usually a lovely afternoon. This type of disagreement can be totally avoided with the help of a snack station. A snack station allows parents to curate exactly which snacks they would like their kids to eat after school, while also giving the kids the opportunity to have variety and begin making choices for themselves. 
The key word in creating a successful snack station is "variety." It's important to have variety in a snack station that covers all forms of different cravings so that there is always at least one option in the station that you could be in the mood for. This means including different types of dried fruit, nuts (both raw and salted), crackers or melba toast (I like the individually wrapped ones to control portion size and preserve freshness), granola bars, and fruit. Having variety like this means having different flavours (both salty and sweet) as well as textures, which is particularly important for kids who may be finicky with certain flavours and textures on any given day. 

If a parent wants to give their kids a special treat one day, it would be a cute surprise to have that in the snack station when they get home. I like turning to treats that are on the healthier side such as chocolate dipped dried cranberries, so you're still giving kids something special (hello, chocolate!) without spoiling their appetite or giving them junk. This can also be useful to use as a check-in spot for your kids. Leave notes for them at the snack station on things you would like done (homework, clean room, set the table, etc.), or to give guidance on other snacks that may be available in the fridge. 
How To Build A Pantry Snack Station - What To Include:
All items/ingredients listed are a guideline for you to use to create your own, but, as usual, I encourage you to use your imagination and your own tastes to create your own with what you and your kids like.
  • Nuts, both salted and raw - ex. almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds
  • Granola bars
  • Fruit - ex. apples, peaches, pears, plums, cherries
  • Apple sauce - I like the Metro Irresistibles Life Smart Fruit Snacks for reduced sugar and portion control
  • Crackers or Melba Toast - I love the Metro Irresistibles Melba Toast as a vehicle for dips, spreads, or topping with fruits or veg. I love their versatility, crunch, and the fact that they are individually wrapped.
  • Dried Fruit - ex. cranberries, cherries, apricots, figs, apples
  • Metro Irresistibles Dark Chocolate Covered Cranberries (my new favourite sweet treat! All it takes is a small handful of these to curb my sweet cravings).
Tip: Make a salad building station too to help you make quick and delicious, restaurant-worthy salads for weeknight meals!

This post was created in partnership with Metro Ontario. 

Listening To:
Lemon Glow - Beach House

Back To School Essential: Sandwich Kabob Packed Lunch

Once you've said it, there's no turning back. It's out there. So here I go, about to say those fateful words that I used to curse my Oma for saying that first week of August every year growing's almost back to school time. There. I said it! It doesn't feel good, but I said it! Even though I'm not preparing to go back to school this September, and as much as I love the Fall season, I really do dread the end of Summer. Though I'm not looking forward to scarves, boots, and the constant feeling of shivering, I do like looking at September as a fresh start, and one of the best fresh starts the Fall season brings is reinforcing good habits.

There are a lot of good habits that I try and commit to all year long, but there's nothing like taking advantage of a fresh season to jumpstart good patterns and routines. A habit that I am always looking to improve on is to commit to doing a daily fridge dive and clean to make use of any and all ingredients that need to be used up to reduce food waste in our home. For Chris, I know a habit that he wants to improve on is committing to bringing a homemade lunch into work every day. With these two goals in mind, I came up with a solution that allows me to use up different types of ingredients that need to get eaten, as well as give Chris tasty packed lunch ideas that he can rotate and customize every day.
Introducing the Sandwich Kabob! Essentially a charcuterie board on a stick, sandwich kabobs are a quick and tasty way to use up any leftover deli meat, cheese, vegetables, bread, pickles, and more to create an easy to transport and eat lunch, that your co-workers will be envious of! I like to lay out all of my ingredients that need to be used up, and pair them up as though I was building flavours in a sandwich. From there, simply skewer them on your kabob stick or spear and pack them up. While we're sure to be seeing a lot of Sandwich Kabobs in our very adult household over the coming months, I also love this idea for parents preparing lunches for their kids!

Sandwich Kabobs are a fantastic way to provide your kids with variety in their lunches, as well as giving them an opportunity to get involved to help mom and dad make their lunch, and start playing around with creating their own flavour combinations. More than that, I also think this welcomes a great opportunity to introduce new flavours to your kids palate. Try skewering on new types of meats, cheeses, and vegetables that they may have previously shied away from. While a pickle may ruin an entire sandwich for a kid who may not like pickles, if you try skewering a pickle on a Sandwich Kabob, they have the opportunity to try it, and if they don't like it, it can be easily removed without impacting the other ingredients.
As I often say with my recipes, I encourage you to play around with this one! As you can see in the photos, I used an assortment of different types of meats, as well as skewering on some simple sliced wraps. This is a particularly good idea for kids who tend to like having options in their lunch, and may get sick of any one particular flavour, as I often did growing up. You can also play around with creating more fancy sandwich kabobs, using more gourmet ingredients and serving them at your next gathering with friends and family as an appetizer or hors d'oeuvre. I'd love to know what types of flavour combinations you and your kids create in your own home! Tell me about it in the comments, or share a photo with me on social media! You can find me on Instagram @gingerrosefood.

All ingredients listed are merely suggestions to inspire you to create your own!
Metro Irresistibles Artisan Seasoned Angus Roast Beef, sliced
Metro Irresistibles Artisan German Salami, sliced
Metro Irresistibles Artisan Oven Roasted Seasoned Turkey Breast, sliced
Metro Irresistibles Canadian Lactose Free Swiss Cheese, cut into chunks
multigrain bread, cut into large chunks
aged cheddar cheese, cut into large chunks
Metro Irresistibles Traditional Prepared Dijon Mustard
flour tortillas
cherry tomatoes
cucumber, sliced or peeled into ribbons
kabob sticks or other form of spears

  1. Lay out all of your ingredients that you intent to use (I prioritize ingredients that I know need to get eaten up first) and start building flavour combinations.
  2. Skewer your ingredients on your kabob sticks or other form of spears and pack up for lunch!
  3. Prepare small containers on the side for dips such as mustard, mayo, or aioli. 
This post was created in partnership with Metro Ontario. 

Listening To:
Ben's My Friend - Sun Kil Moon