Trying to eat locally and seasonally seems daunting when you are feeding the picky three-year-old or the perpetually famished 13-year-old. Even trying to explain it to them (and why they don’t get cereal for breakfast) seems tough enough, let alone trying to source, shop, prep and cook local meals for your family. I’m not going to lie, it’s way easier to get the same grocery items week after week, and avoid the extra effort and drama that variety brings.
But you and I both know why eating locally is important, both for our community and our family. The question is how you can still keep your children fed and happy, especially when they need an after school snack – five minutes ago. Is there local snack food?
Glad you asked. Here is a list of some of our favorite snacks that we can source locally and/or make at home. I have left out the obvious fresh fruit & vegetables, but you already know you can serve your kids carrot sticks.
Baked apples or pears
Berries & whipped cream
Cheese & apples (cut apples into flat slices and eat it like a sandwich)
Cheese & tomato jam
Dried apple rings
Edamame (soybeans, steamed & salted)
Fruit leather (peach is our favorite)
Hard boiled eggs (or deviled eggs if you can manage mayonnaise*)
Mayo (oil, egg yolk, acid and salt. Oil and the acid would require exceptions or thoughtful sourcing)
Peaches and cream
Pickled cauliflower (fermented, takes well to any spice mix – my favorite is curry)
Pickled green beans (I ferment them in a salt/water brine, easier than cucumber pickles)
Popcorn (use lard or butter, plus salt and dried dill)
Popsicles (fruit, yogurt & honey)
Pumpkin custard (like the pie, but without a crust)
In the midst of summer days, whether yours are full or free, there comes a time when it’s too hot and muggy to move. My kids forget that stopping is an option, and they just get cranky instead. I try to help them shift the pace and quiet down by serving ‘slow snacks,’ or snacks that require a little extra effort on their part. Some assembly required, as it were.
One of our favorite summer snacks is radish slices with butter and a sprinkle of salt. I put out radish slices, a small knife, a pat of butter, and salt (my younger kid can’t be trusted with salt, so I might just put a pinch or two on the plate). They spread butter on a radish, sprinkle salt and put a second radish on top to make a tiny sandwich. I have won over radish haters when it comes in the form of a doll sandwich.
Other favorites are apples and nut butter (can be done as sandwiches as well), cucumbers, dill sprig and soft cheese (goat cheese or even cream cheese works). I know it sounds crazy to serve kids as if it were high tea, but if they can assemble the sandwiches themselves – and you have to trust them a bit to do it – it brings their focus to the food and the process. No need to get out a mandolin to prepare these snacks, just cut the fruit or veggies about a quarter inch thick, put them on a tray with a small bowl of the filling, and a knife for spreading.
Even putting out a bowl of peanuts in the shell can keep the kids busy for a few minutes. We gave my five-year-old a heavy-duty nutcracker for Channukah this past year, and the winter was filled with cracking walnuts, some of which he harvested from our black walnut tree. Yes, there was a lot to sweep up afterwards, but the process makes every nut, released from its shell, a treasure. And since we have some nuts left, my little squirrel children can move it outside for summer.