Popcorn balls, at once gooey, sweet and crunchy, are a classic fall treat. They’re perfect Halloween party fare and they’re great for Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings, too. This version, developed by nutritionists at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center here in Baton Rouge, is also nice for after school snacking because it’s made with honey instead of the typical binder, corn syrup. You can really get creative with the trail mix additions, too.
Recently, my friend Katy asked if I had any suggestions for healthy snacks for young people. Her high school aged daughter is a dancer, and finding lunchbox and afternoon snacks that offered nutritional value and not just empty calories was a challenge. I’ve got two swimmers and a runner in my household, and now that school has resumed, I’ve been asking myself the same question. Truly nutritious snacks take more thought than that oversized box of Sun Chips from Costco, and it’s not easy when you’re operating at break-neck, back-to-school speed.
For advice, I shot an email to the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, an international leader in nutritional research and a sometimes overlooked local resource here in Baton Rouge. In addition to ground-breaking metabolic research, Pennington also has lots of easy recipes and healthy eating tips. PBRC staff members Alisha Prather and Stephanie Malin fired back a list of kid-tested snacks that don’t require a ton of ingredients.
I’m a huge fan of salsa. I love a green salsa with tangy tomatillos. Gimme fresh tomato salsa, heavy on the cilantro and garlic. And I’ve always loved fruit salsas. Mango is the workhorse and is one of my favorite toppers for cedar-roasted fish. Pineapple salsa also works great on grilled fish, pork and fowl. And now with strawberries in full seasonal swing in Louisiana and elsewhere, it’s a great time for strawberry salsa.
This past weekend, I had a chance to sample fresh strawberry salsa made with local berries at a pop-up event held outside Alexander’s Highland Market, a gourmet grocer here in Baton Rouge. World renowned obesity and nutrition research center, Pennington Biomedical Research Center (PBRC), also located in Baton Rouge, had a booth at the pop-up along with several local food entrepreneurs. I was there signing copies of Hungry for Louisiana. PBRC Communications Director Alisha Prather and respected research pathologist Jennifer Rood were handing out samples of this healthy fruit salsa, which you can also make with fresh blueberries. It’s light, flavorful and versatile and was developed in-house at Pennington.
Louisiana Spring Salsa
Makes 2 cups
1 pint strawberries, washed and diced, or ½ pint blueberries, washed and sliced in half
¼ of 1 medium red onion, finely diced (I used ¼ cup)
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
Juice from ½ lime (about 1 tbsp.)
Combine all ingredients and serve on salads, fish, chicken, chips or cheese and crackers. Use within a day.
Nutrition facts per ½ cup serving
Protein: 0.5 g
Carbohydrates: 8 g
Fat: 0.5 g
Fiber: 2 g
Maggie’s variation with avocado and jalapeño
Being an avocado junkie and a fan of heat, I added the following to Pennington’s recipe.
Half of 1 ripe avocado, diced
1 tbsp. chopped fresh jalapeno pepper
Juice from remaining half lime
For additional healthy recipes developed by Pennington, click here.