Forget about holiday weight gain until 2010. Instead, think of the last couple of days of 2009 as a time to try new foods, dig into popcorn tins, and revel in the indulgent combination of friends and food. Mealtimes encourage appetite and togetherness, but the hours in between are also ideal for nibbling. For multiple grumbling stomachs, here are five ways to nosh that will suit every type of holiday snacker.
1. If you are a… Comfort Snacker
A traditional party mix of pretzels, Chex cereal, nacho chips, Bagel Bites, Cheez-Its, and salted nuts is perfect for sports fans; it can be eaten one-handed and doesn’t distract from the screen. Anyone who enjoys familiar American-style munchies (and ample amounts of salt) will find this mix of cupboard staples satiating.
2. If you are a… Curious Snacker
This is a simple snack with tremendous seasoning and flavor sure to entice an eater who is more curious about taste than quantity. A Mexican mix has only a few ingredients but a fair amount of chili powder, and the heat factor promotes controlled nibbling. Fry up corn nuts, peanuts, and pepitas in a skillet, then sprinkle them with chili powder and salt. A handful of this treat is a simple pleasure that draws attention.
3. If you are a… Vegetarian Snacker
A perfectly roasted legume has a compact crunch that absorbs any flavoring you coat it with. Combine chickpeas, pinto beans, kidney beans, and peas. Then determine your seasoning before roasting the beans. For a sweet tooth, try honey and oil. If you have a taste for Asian flare, combine soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame seeds, and peanut oil. For an herbal infusion, dress the beans with rosemary or oregano, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. This mix is healthy and sustaining, with lots of possibility for different glazes and flavors.
4. If you are a… Health-Conscious Snacker
A forager’s medley of raisins, dried cherries, cranberries, raw cashews, almonds, and pecans is food your body can easily process. Rev your metabolism between large meals with a sugarless and unsalted boost of elemental ingredients.
5. If you are a… Sentimental Snacker
Gift-basket items are great for the holiday season. For a sentimental traditionalist, the tastes of spice and nuts and the textures of brittles and popcorn signify wintry celebration. Make your own seasonal presentation of homemade peppermint bark, candied walnuts, peanut brittle, and baked caramel popcorn—the combination is sweet and crunchy, and the golden hues of caramel and crushed candy canes add cheer and warmth.
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Stacey Slate is a food writer in New York City. She has contributed to Mark Bittman's New York Times blog, Bitten, and is also a writer for Civil Eats and a new print publication, Remedy Quarterly.