Cooking 101: Easy, Cheesy, Grab-and-Go Snack Cups

It’s time to fall back into meal planning! With school coming up, and extra activities being planned, I’m struggling to get a handle on schedules, meals, and snacks to help along the way.

Being Italian, my snacks usually fall into the Italian comfort variety and that can largely include cheese. In fact, Ricotta with a bit of sugar and cocoa on bread was a common snack growing up. A couple of spoons of fresh Ricotta (warm!) is still a treat. I remember my sister used to tear in to fresh Mozzarella braids or pop Bocconcini from the fridge while my parents weren’t looking.

From these memories, I’ve figured out how to get that cheesy comfort in easily planned snacks. Snack cups are a great way to use protein-rich cheese in a new way, mixing Tre Stelle cheese with fresh ingredients like fruit. Creating them myself means I can monitor the amount of sugar in my snack, as opposed to grabbing a pudding or yogurt cup. Plus, your kids can help you create them, measuring out the cheese, counting the fruit and personalizing them to their tastes.

I’ve used clip-top glass jars, but it works just as well with small plastic containers. Set up your countertop or table with Tre Stelle Extra Smooth Ricotta, Tre Stelle Mini Mini Bocconcini, fruit, a bit of sugar (or sugar replacement) and other flavoured ingredients like cocoa, vanilla, or mint and get started. Mix and match your flavours! Let the kids count out the fruit, mix the Ricotta, sprinkle in the additions and label them with their name. Seal them up, pop them in the fridge and grab them for an after-school snack, morning side dish, or weekend picnic addition.

Here’s some quick snack cup ideas:

Chocolate Ricotta Cup with Berries

My stand-by snack! Mix 3 tablespoons of Tre Stelle Extra Smooth Ricotta with 1 teaspoon of cocoa and ¼ teaspoon of sugar. Stir until combined and top with fresh berries. It’s really good on toast too!

 

 

 

 

 

Blueberry-Lemon Ricotta Cup

I love the freshness of lemon and blueberries together! Plus lemon and Ricotta together is a familiar flavour found in cannoli, if you love Italian desserts. Mix 3 tablespoons of Tre Stelle Extra Smooth Ricotta with ¼ teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of lemon zest. Top with fresh blueberries and dig in!

 

 

 

 

Citrus-Basil Bocconcini Cup with Melon

For more sophisticated tastes – or for the older kids – this sweet and savoury mix is a hit. Marinate 8 to 10 Tre Stelle Mini Mini Bocconcini with watermelon chunks in 1 teaspoon of light-flavoured oil (avocado or a light olive oil are great choices), a sprinkle of lemon zest and a chopped basil leaf. The longer it marinates, the more intense the flavours.

 

 

 

Apricot-Infused Bocconcini Cup with Almond

Add even more protein to your snack with nuts. Fresh Mozzarella, like Bocconcini, take on flavour well so I marinate with the fruit for this cup. Mash ¼ of an apricot and mix it with 8 to 10 Tre Stelle Mini Mini Bocconcini. Top with the remaining apricot, cubed. Drizzle with almond butter or sprinkle chopped almonds on top for a crunch.

Summer is for Dining Al Fresco

Our fabulous Canadian summer is the perfect time to take your meals outside.  Dining al fresco gives you the opportunity to utilize your outdoor living spaces and enjoy the long summer days, while entertaining your friends and family.  There’s no better way to enjoy a meal than outside in the gorgeous summer weather surrounded by great company.

Casual is the way to go.  The atmosphere of a relaxed backyard barbecue is what summertime is all about.  Prepare as much as you can in advance, and choose a menu that requires little to no cooking indoors.  Marinate your meat, get your veggies cut and on skewers, and have your beverages of choice on ice and ready to serve.

As is true with most parties, people tend to graze.  Instead of serving all the food at once, plan out a few courses and prepare them in waves.  Start off with finger foods, such as shrimp skewers, Grilled Stuffed Peppers or Grilled Jalapeno Poppers.

Summer produce is bountiful and supporting local farmers is always a good idea.   I’m a fan of planning my main course around produce and meat available locally.  I can almost always find a few gorgeous heads of romaine at the farmers market, which, surprisingly, grill up quite nicely – not to mention, quickly.  Impress the gang with Grilled Greek Salad served with a skewer of chicken, kebabs of onions, peppers and tomatoes, and cubed or crumbled Tre Stelle Feta.

No summer celebration is complete without dessert.  Keep it light and refreshing and serve your guests grilled fruit.  Thick slices of watermelon lightly drizzled with balsamic syrup, or wedges of fresh pineapple soaked in rum are crowd pleasers and incredibly easy to prep and grill.

My recipe for a first-class al fresco dining experience includes great friends, good food, and a casual atmosphere.  Keep the meal simple, cook everything outside, keep the drinks flowing, and don’t forget to incorporate your favourite Tre Stelle cheeses!

Grilled Greek Salad with Tre Stelle Feta

1 Romaine Lettuce Heart per person (depending on the size, might be able to get away with just half per person)

Canola or vegetable oil

Greek-Style Salad Dressing (homemade or store bought)

Cherry tomatoes

Red Onion, cut into 1.5 to 2 inch pieces

Green Peppers, cut into 1.5 to 2 inch pieces

Cucumber, cut into thick slices, then quartered

Olives (optional)

Cubed or crumbled Tre Stelle Feta

Method

Chicken Breast, seasoned with salt, pepper and your favourite seasoning blend, cubed and on skewers

Preheat your grill to medium high.

Grill the chicken skewers first.  Remove from the heat and keep warm.

Once the chicken is done, cut each romaine heart in half, keeping the stem intact, and lightly brush with oil.

Place on the grill and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until slightly charred.

Put the tomatoes, red onion and peppers onto skewers and grill until desired doneness.  I like to wait until the tomatoes char slightly and the onions have softened slight.

Place grilled romaine on a plate along with the veggie skewer and chicken.  Top with Greek dressing, cucumbers, olives and Tre Stelle Feta.