Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Back from hiatus in time for a snack

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.”
- St. Francis de Sales

It's been a while since I posted here; just over five months in fact. I could go into a number of reasons that I've been so negligent: computer troubles, work issues, as much of my summer free time spent on the water as I could manage, etc. They are all just excuses though and those only get in the way.

I like to think that my time away from the blog wasn't totally wasted though. I did have time during the many hours I spent trying, and more often than not failing to catch salmon, to think about what I want to accomplish here and how I want to go about it. Hopefully that will show with future entries.

Right now, I figure my best approach is to handle this the same way I do if I fall off the exercise or proper eating wagon. I don't beat myself up too much, I simply get back on track & move forward.
So without further ado, let's talk about snacking.


There is phenomenon in catering I call “the crudite effect”. Simply stated it means that although many people don't usually crave raw vegetables, when they are presented in front of them those raw veggies become surprisingly popular. Of course caterers love the crudite effect because having the guests fill up on partially vegetables and not just the more costly hors d'oeuvres, is good business.

However the crudite effect can not only be used to help the bottom line, it can also be used to effect your bottom, and in a good way.
Snacking is a big issue some people struggle with when trying to cut those excess calories from their diets. A helpful solution is to keep some raw vegetables on hand. It can be whatever you like; carrot & celery sticks, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, radishes, whatever.
Sure, when those snack cravings hit it's probably for something else, usually something sweet or salty. However if you can get ahead of those strong cravings & have those veggies already in front of you, you can curb those urges before you reach for a Snickers bar or bag of Doritos.

If you think about it, I bet you know when you tend to get those cravings for a snack. Perhaps during work around 2 or 3 in the afternoon or in the evening while watching Law & Order? Try setting out a small dish of vegetables for yourself before you get the urge to eat something else. When it's in arms reach you're going to find yourself crunching on a radish before the need for sweet overtakes you.
Trust me, it works. :)

Of course the best option would be to buy some nice, organic vegetables preferably at your local farmer's market and cut them up for yourself but if you need something more convenient, there are plenty of pre-cut veggies available at just about every supermarket. Those are fine options.

However, as good as raw vegetables are for you, the is a caloric dark spectre hanging over the crudite effect, the dip issue.
Some people just refuse to snack on raw vegetables unless they have something to dunk them into and one of those fatty, mayonnaise-y, high caloric condiments can quickly turn your healthy vegetable snack into something every bit as fattening a serving of chocolate pudding.

It's OK, if you need some dip to go with your raw veggies then all you need to do is choose which dip carefully and of course, don't over portion.
There are plenty of fine options for healthy dips, here is one that has been a favorite of mine recently.

Roasted Carrot & Harissa Dip

Roasted Carrot & Harissa Dip

2 lbs carrots, peeled & cut into chunks *
1 tbs light olive or canola oil
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 tsp harissa**
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil***
2 tsp sherry vinegar
3 – 4 garlic cloves
salt & pepper – to taste
1 – 2 tbs chopped cilantro : optional

~Toss carrots in light oil & pepper and roast until tender. I did mine in a 325 degree oven for 30 minutes. That left them with a nice touch of color and perfectly soft.
~Allow carrots to cool to room temperature & puree in food processor or blender along with harissa, olive oil, vinegar & garlic. Note: you may need to add a little water to get the mixture to puree smoothly.
~Adjust seasoning with salt & pepper and stir in cilantro if desired.

Certainly this recipe is great with crackers and flat breads but I encourage you to enjoy it with vegetables. Some of my personal favorites to have with this dip are cucumbers slices, sticks of jicama and split cherry tomatoes. It's even really good with apple slices.

* Use organic or “fresh from the farm” if possible. Carrots are near the top of my list of vegetables that have a huge flavor difference between organic & the typical supermarket variety.

**I pride myself on not being an extra virgin olive oil snob but this is one of those recipes that really benefits from using a high quality EVOO.

***I used Mustapha's Moroccan Harissa for this recipe. I bought it from The Spanish Table but it can also be ordered from

Finally, keep in mind that this is a dip not an entree. There is a good amount of olive oil in this which is good for you in moderation but you don't want to eat a soup cup full of this in one sitting. Remember to keep the raw vegetables as the bulk of the snack and limit the dip to a condiment portion size.

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