Photo of Golden Butternut Squash soup

Snacks for the season

Turn summer’s bounty into at-the-ready snacks
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There comes a time in the day when you feel a little peckish — mid-morning or -afternoon, perhaps, or in the evening. You crave a little something. Sometimes an apple will do, but other times you’re after something a little more satisfying.

Photo of Golden Butternut Squash soup

Golden Butternut Squash Soup with Extras

From the fridge, or freezer:

A golden bowl of soup, chunky with squash, beans, the last of the corn, even a hit of spinach, is guaranteed to satisfy that craving. For a vegetarian/vegan version, replace chicken stock with vegetable stock.

1 large onion, diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

3 tbsp (45 mL) canola or extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp (10 mL) chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp
(5 mL) dried, crumbled

1 tsp (5 mL) smoked or unsmoked sweet paprika

1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cumin

1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt

1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper 

4 cups (1 L) cubed, peeled and seeded butternut squash 

1/2 cup (125 mL) each diced sweet red bell pepper and halved cherry tomatoes

4 cups (1 L) chicken stock, approximate

1 can (19 oz/540 mL) cannellini or navy beans, drained and rinsed

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) yellow corn kernels, scraped from 1 large cob

1 cup (250 mL) lightly packed coarsely shredded spinach

In a large pot over medium-low heat, sweat the onion and garlic in oil until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper, then add the squash, red pepper and tomatoes. Stir well to coat the vegetables with the spiced onion and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. 

Pour in the chicken stock and use it to deglaze (scraping any tasty bits from the bottom) the pot. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the squash is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the beans; cook for 10 minutes. (Make-ahead: Let cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to a day. Reheat to continue.) Stir in more stock or water if desired. Add the corn kernels; simmer until tender, 5 to 10 minutes, and just before serving, stir in the spinach. The steaming heat of the soup will cook the spinach almost instantly.

Makes 6 big-bowl snacks. Refrigerate or freeze in containers the size to suit your household.

Timesaver: Save time and effort with already peeled, seeded and cubed butternut squash. You may need to cut the already-cubed squash into smaller pieces.

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Classic Hummus

From the fridge: The best and lasting culinary remnant of the 1960s and ’70s.

1/2 cup (125 mL) tahini

1/4 to 1/3 cup (60 to 80 mL) fresh lemon juice, divided

1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin 

1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt

1 can (19 oz/540 mL) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/3 cup (80 mL) cold water

1 tbsp (15 mL) extra virgin olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, minced

Garnish with drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of sun-dried black olives

In a food processor, whirl the tahini, 1/4 cup (60 mL) lemon juice, cumin and salt until smooth. Add the chickpeas, water and olive oil; whirl again to make a super-smooth hummus.

Scrape sides of bowl as needed. Stir in the minced garlic. Taste, adding more lemon juice if you like. 

Tip: If you don’t own a food processor, whirl in a blender or mash with a potato masher or fork — your hummus will be a little chunkier, which you may prefer.

Make-ahead: Hummus tastes even better after mellowing in the fridge overnight. Scrape into air-tight containers and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Or, neatly pack into shallow bowls, smooth the top and drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of sun-dried black olives. 

Makes about 2 cups, enough for 8 people, with chips, crackers, celery, carrot or fennel sticks. 

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus: A roasted sweet bell pepper adds a smoky twist to a classic tahini-based hummus. Nowadays, you will find already-roasted and peeled sweet bell peppers alongside the supermarket’s selection of olives. Or check out jarred roasted peppers. Or roast your own peppers at 375°F (190°C) for about 45 minutes until the flesh is tender and the skin roasted brown and easy to pull off. Trim away core and seeds; chop the flesh. Add the red pepper and 1 tsp (5 mL) smoked sweet paprika to the ingredients in the food processor; whirl until smooth, stopping from time to time to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Photo of Mushroom Pate

Mushroom Pâté

From the fridge: Regular cremini mushrooms make a savoury pâté, partnered with cream cheese on toasted baguette slices or spread straight onto crackers or crispbread. You might think about adding a few tangy pickles.

1/4 cup (60 mL) butter, divided

1 large onion, diced

1 large clove garlic, minced

3 ½ cups (8 oz/225 g) sliced mushrooms

2 tsp (10 mL) chopped fresh thyme

1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt

1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper

1/2 cup (125 mL) dry white wine or chicken stock

In a saucepan, melt half of the butter over medium-low heat. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook, covered, over medium-low heat, stirring often, until onion pieces are translucent, about 6 minutes. 

Add mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium high and, stirring frequently, sauté until they release moisture. Keep stirring until the mushrooms are dry and brown, about 10 minutes.

Pour in the wine and continue stirring until the wine has been absorbed. Add the remaining butter. Purée in a food processor (small bowl recommended) until smooth. Press the pâté into an airtight container or serving dish and refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours. 

Makes about 1 cup (250 mL) pâté, enough to top a dozen baguette slices.

Photo of Apple and Date muffins

Date and Apple Muffins

From the treats jar, a.k.a. large cookie jar: Why are old-fashioned muffins still a good snack? Most likely because they are quick to make and bake, they freeze well, and they fill that little hole. Make them local with the flavours of fall, including freshly picked apples. Cortland, Northern Spy and Golden Delicious are my choice to combine with dates. 

1 large apple, about 8 oz/250 g

2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour

3/4 cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

2 tsp (10 mL) baking soda

1 tsp (5 mL) freshly grated nutmeg or ground cinnamon

3/4 tsp (4 mL) salt

3/4 cup (180 mL) chopped pitted dates

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup (250 mL) buttermilk, at room temperature

1/2 cup (125 mL) canola oil

Extra granulated sugar, optional

Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or butter judiciously; set aside. Position an oven rack in the centre of the oven. Heat oven to 375°F (190°C).

Quarter, core and peel the apple. Cut into 1/4-inch (1/2 cm) dice; set aside 1 cup (250 mL) of apple for the filling, the remainder for topping. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Add the dates and 1 cup (250 mL) apples; toss briskly to separate and coat the pieces of fruit.

In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and oil. Scrape over the dry ingredients, and with a wooden spoon, stir the dry and wet together until there are no streaks of dry ingredients left in the batter. 

Scoop neatly into the prepared muffin cups. Scatter remaining chopped apple over tops of batter and, if desired, sprinkle lightly with a little extra granulated sugar. Bake until nicely domed golden brown and firm to a light touch, about 20 minutes. Let pan cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then gently transfer muffins to a plate to enjoy still warm, or separately onto a rack to cool.

Store in airtight container(s) at room temperature for 1 or 2 days, or freeze for up to 2 weeks. 

Makes 12 especially satisfying snacks.

Poached Pears with a Sweet Spice Touch

From the market: Too fancy for a snack, you say? Picture opening the fridge door and spying those fat pears in their sweet wine and spicy syrup bath …

And why not top with a modest scoop of something creamy — ice cream, crème fraîche, Greek yogurt.

4 cups (1 L) water

2 cups (500 mL) white wine, Riesling, Moscato or Gewurztraminer recommended

1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar

2 strips lemon peel

1/4 cup (60 mL) fresh lemon juice

2 thin slices fresh ginger

4 whole star anise, optional

1/2 tsp (2 mL) whole cloves 

1/2 tsp (2 mL) whole cardamom, lightly crushed

6 firm but ripe pears, Bartlett or Bosc recommended

In a large pot, mix the water, wine, sugar, lemon peel and juice, ginger, star anise, if using, cloves and cardamom. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, set out a large bowl of cold water. Peel pears and cut in half from stem to blossom end. With a melon baller or small spoon, neatly scoop out the core. As you work, add the pears to the water to keep them from browning. When the poaching syrup is ready, drain the pears. 

Arrange the pears in a single layer in the syrup; cover with a circle of parchment or waxed paper cut to fit over the pears so they cook evenly. Bring to a simmer; cook, turning pears if needed to balance the cooking time, until pears are tender but not mushy, about 20 to 30 minutes. With a large slotted spoon transfer the pears to a storage container or serving bowl. Pour any syrup collected around the pears back into the pot.

Return the pot of poaching syrup to a medium-high heat. Boil until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups (375 mL), about 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool and spoon over the pears, keeping a few of the whole spices for decoration. 

Makes 6 generous snacks at 2 halves per serving, or up to 12 snacks in individual bowls with the “something creamy.”

Popcorn with Twists

Pantry treat: The ultimate snack — finger-friendly and forever associated with relaxing and fun times. The toppings below are more savoury than salty, relying on spices rather than salt to keep your hand dipping into that big bowl. Just one more little handful … you know the risk!

Pop your corn as you would usually — stovetop or microwave. Then sprinkle on a topping!

Zaatar Popcorn: While tossing the popcorn, drizzle over it 1 tbsp (15 mL) canola or extra virgin olive oil. Keep tossing while sprinkling in 1 to 2 tsp (5 to 10 mL) zaatar.

Masala Spice: While tossing the popcorn, drizzle over it 2 tbsp (30 mL) melted butter or canola oil, followed by 2 tsp (10 mL) mild masala spice blend.

Parmesan Popcorn: While tossing the popcorn, drizzle over it 2 tbsp (30 mL) melted butter, followed by 3 tbsp (45 mL) finely and freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano). Toss and enjoy while still warm.

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