Raid the refrigerator for common fresh vegetables to make uncommonly simple, low-calorie snacks. Keep veggie snacks on hand so they are ready to eat when hunger strikes, and have ranch dressing ready as an optional zippy dip. When your busy schedule threatens to shorten your dinner preparation time, prep fresh vegetables for a side dish ahead of time so all you need to do is pop them into the microwave a few minutes before your family enjoys a meal.
Fill veggie boats with "treasure" fillings for a fun side dish to accompany any main course. Make zucchini boats by cutting 8-inch long zucchinis in half lengthwise. Scoop out the long center area of each half. Supply a smorgasbord of chopped, raw vegetables in a variety of colors, and let the kids create their own treasure to fill their boats. Quickly saute the chopped vegetables in olive oil with a sprinkling of dressing and seasoning mix for zest, and spoon them into the zucchini boats. Pre-cooking the filling shortens the total baking time. Simply top the low-calorie treasure boats with "gold" --- reduced-fat shredded cheese --- and microwave.
With only about 35 calories per sliced half-cup, carrots are a terrific low-calorie snack. Toddlers and young children may find carrot curls easier to bite and chew than mini-carrots or carrot sticks. Use 3- to 4-inch lengths of thin, flexible sheets of carrot cut from the wide end of a regular-sized carrot. A vegetable parer makes evenly thin slices of carrot. Wrap each strip into a ring around your finger and secure each curl with a toothpick. Place the curls into a container of cold water. The flexible curls stiffen as they chill, so keep them in the refrigerator until you're ready to eat them --- they're perfect for dipping in creamy salad dressing. Always remove the toothpicks for your little ones before serving.
Enlist young children to help you make radish roses without using a knife. Press a French fry cutter into a large, trimmed radish, but don't cut all the way through. Gently pull the radish off the bottom of the fry cutter. Chill the cut radishes in a container of water in the refrigerator and the cut sections will magically open like petals. Low-calorie, sliced red globe radishes contain about 12 calories per half-cup.
Make celery trees by slicing lengthwise about halfway into one end of a 3- to 4-inch celery stick, making several cuts about 1/8 inch apart. Place the cut celery into a bowl of cold water in the refrigerator to make the sliced ends open and curve outward. At snack time, your little ones may want to plant a celery tree in a cheese cube or dab some peanut butter or ranch dip on the branches. A plain 4-inch celery tree contains about 3 calories.
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- "Betty Crocker's Cook Book for Boys and Girls"; 1957
- University of Mississippi: On Your Mark
- University of Illinois Extension: Radishes
- Iowa State University Extension: Celery
- Kansas State University Extension: Fix It Fresh! Recipe Series
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