Traditional recipes

How to Build a Snack Dinner

How to Build a Snack Dinner

Snack dinner is our new favorite way to gather.

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At our house, we share Snack Dinner at least once a week. It's inspired by classic antipasti platters, but with less meat and cheese and more vegetables and fruit. It's quick to assemble, gets everyone eating more produce, and is always a home run. Here are my tips for building your own; snap a photo of your creation, and share on Instagram using #snackdinner.

The Platter

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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The Dip

Something family-friendly will encourage veggie noshing. Hummus, guacamole, and our Pesto Yogurt Dip are winners.

The Produce

Pile on as much as the platter will hold. Here, we have blanched Broccolini, Little Gem lettuce, baby carrots, mini bell peppers, watermelon, radishes, pears, grape tomatoes, and red grapes. Go for whatever is in season, and cut veggies into dippable pieces.

The Cheese

One type of cheese is fine; just go with something your family will enjoy. I've opted for creamy Havarti.

The Meat

Aim for 1 ounce per person of something rich and indulgent, like prosciutto, salami, or soppressata, or smoked salmon.

The Nibbles

Nestle little bowls of olives and nuts onto the platter. "Little" is key; too much of these can pack on the calories and the sodium.

Grazing Boards Are the Coolest Way to Serve Dinner this Summer

Whether you’re feeding a crowd or cooking for two, we’ve found the coolest way to serve dinner this summer. You might be wondering at this point: what the heck is a grazing board? And we’re glad you asked. Quite simply, it’s an artfully arranged spread of food on a large cutting board — like this beauty designed by board connoisseur Meg Quinn on The Kitchen. Place a grazing board the center of your dinner table, and everyone can leisurely snack as they please — instead of having "firsts," "seconds" and "thirds." Grazing boards double as a gorgeous centerpiece (let the ’grams rain) and reduce the number of serving dishes you have to clean. Here, a few of our favorite ideas to get your started.

Mitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald

A shrimp cocktail is as decadent and fancy as it sounds, right? Well, if there's a better way to start a meal, we haven't found it. Plus, there are health benefits to this fanciful cocktail. Shrimp derives about 80% of its calories from protein, making it one of the leanest sources of the belly-filling, metabolism-revving macronutrient.

Get our recipe for Oven-Roasted Shrimp Cocktail.

Step 1: Start with your platter or tray. I like to use something flat to prevent everything sliding to the middle. Place your two cheeses, the apple, and a few small dishes on the tray to see how much room you have. For an easy arrangement, place your two cheeses opposite each other.

Step 2: Prepare the cheeses. Here I put the almond milk cream cheese in a bowl and cut about half of the large block into pieces. I mix 1/2 cup of almond milk cream cheese with a few teaspoons of honey and a pinch of sea salt for a slightly sweet spread that’s good on both the crackers and fruit. Next, slice the apple into thin slices. I like to add a few leaves under the apple and cheese, almost opposite each other for an extra pretty look. The leaves in this photo were from some oranges at the grocery store and cost less than a dollar. Any leaves from a fruit tree work great.

Step 3: Use a few small bowls for some of the ingredients. Things that roll around like olives and blueberries are great for little bowls.

Step 4: Fill in the empty spaces with the rest of your ingredients and, voila! You’ll have a beautiful snack tray everyone will love.

Here&rsquos a one-pan dish with ingredients that come together so quickly.

This oven-baked meal combines flavorful sausages and tender vegetables in a homemade gravy sauce.

The gravy sauce is easy to make, too! There&rsquos no cooking required. Just pour the gravy mixture right into the pan along with other ingredients.

In 45 minutes, you&rsquoll have a delicious meal that&rsquos perfect for a busy, chilly weeknight.

Potato Bar

With the right toppings, potatoes make for a hearty meal. Prepare baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, oven roasted fries — or a combination — for your diners to customize. Topping ideas include sliced green onions, chopped chives, grated cheese, diced tomatoes, corn, roasted vegetables, chopped bacon, chopped ham (or chicken, or steak), beans, chili, barbecue sauce, salsas, Tabasco sauce, butter, and sour cream.

Trader Joe's Meal Plan

Here's what a week of healthy meals and snacks looks like when using only Trader Joe's tasty and convenient products.

Trader Joe&aposs has a pretty incredible fan base and it&aposs not hard to see why. They offer tons of tasty products at a great price and their customer service is top-notch. We love how convenient their products make getting meals on the table every day, and we always keep a few essentials stocked in the freezer and pantry for those days when there&aposs no time to get to the store. While there are plenty of items that aren&apost exactly the healthiest, there are just as many that are (and that are dietitian approved)! And those healthy foods are what we highlighted here in this weeklong Trader Joe&aposs meal plan.

Check out the shopping list below to see what you&aposll need for this week of healthy eating, and don&apost miss the helpful meal-prep steps that you can do ahead of the busy workweek to save time and stress less.

Can My Kids Make Dinner?

Kids are far more capable than we think. Even a very young child can spread peanut butter on a slice of bread or slice a piece of Cantaloupe with a butter knife.

Making dinner usually involves kitchen skills like slicing, some basic stovetop and oven skills (sauteeing, boiling, putting things in and taking things our of the oven safely), measuring, stirring, and the ability to read a recipe.

Young children can help rip lettuce leaves into bite-size pieces or shred carrots. Slightly older children who know how to safely handle a knife can chop vegetables and read recipes in order to make salad dressing. Older children usually just need a little supervision and a reminder to turn the oven off when they are done using it.

No one cooks perfectly at first, but the idea here is to empower our kids in the kitchen so that when they grow up and are responsible for feeding themselves, they can do it easily.

Not sure your kids can handle it? Teach them to cook with the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse and see how much they can do in the kitchen! If your kids have already gone through the course there’s an additional SkillLab just on using the Instant Pot and slow cooker for quick dinners!

Your Next Dinner Should Be This Family-Style Thai Feast

Sarah Yenbamroong had just managed to pack up her entire life and squeeze it into her tiny Acura when she got a text from her then-boyfriend, chef Kris Yenbamroong: "Hey, I need you to save some room in your trunk for wine." It was 2011, and Kris was flying out from Los Angeles to New York City to pick up Sarah and help her move across the country𠅋ut accommodating his request meant sacrificing an entire suitcase of shoes. The couple stopped by The Ten Bells, a natural wine bar in Lower Manhattan, and picked up three cases of wine from Noëlla Morantin before hitting the road. "I was bitter he took up so much space in my trunk," she says with a laugh.

The story is emblematic of how far Kris, a 2016 F&W Best New Chef, is willing to go to source bottles for the now-married couple&aposs Thai restaurant, Night + Market (and its three offshoots, including a new location in Las Vegas). The restaurants, which are known for no-rules, high-impact Thai cooking, have long had some of the best and most boundary pushing wine lists in the country. They have also earned two James Beard Award nominations in the Outstanding Wine Program category for their curation, which reflects Kris&apos passion for natural wines and small producers.

Tender wide rice noodles pick up color and peppery, meaty flavor when charred in a wok with thick slices of pastrami. This speedy, flavor-packed dish cooks up quickly, so have all the ingredients at the ready before heating the wok.

Kris&apos infatuation with natural wines dates back to 2008, when there were only a handful of spots stocking them in L.A. and even fewer distributors. To build his collection, Kris would embark on wine-sourcing trips to France, where he would show up at a winemaker&aposs doorstep, saying, "Hi, my name is Kris. I have a restaurant we pour your wine. I was hoping to meet with you and taste." It was also in 2008 that he took over his family&aposs now-shuttered Thai restaurant, Talésai. Excited to serve the obscure wines that he loved so much, Kris put them on the wine list.

He quickly ran into trouble. "I had to compromise with everything and try to balance what had existed for 25 years and satisfied the existing customer, while also trying to do this new thing," he says. "That never works out." Kris also found himself up against rigid notions of what wines could pair with Thai food. "There&aposs no shortage of Asian restaurants that have an extensive Riesling list," Kris says. "I don&apost need to be another one of those."

The Easiest, Most Impressive Snack Stadium Ever

It takes a village to build a snack stadium. That, patience, and upper-body strength.

Okay, so that's an exaggeration. The truth is, when we set out to create a snack stadium, we did the research. We looked at all the pins on Pinterest, the amazing stuff created by our sister brands, the crazy ideas dreamed up by rabid football fans around the country. And we quickly came to a conclusion: everything looked kind of HARD. Like, too hard for us. People seemed to have unheralded engineering degrees, backgrounds in carpentry, or training in the fine art of cardboard origami. All we wanted to do was make something awesome that anyone&mdasheven us&mdashcould handle.

Then our art director, Mike, had an idea: What if we created a snack stadium straight out of the stuff you'd want to eat&mdashno structure required? It was a revelation. All it would really be was a study in placement. And, we thought, if we carefully showed how we placed everything, anyone could do it.

So here we are. We did it. And it was awesome. PIN IT, and you'll have it forever:

1. The outer ring: Drinks. We created an ombre wall of Gatorade&mdashwhat could be more sporty?!&mdashand an inner ring of sparkling water (something for all tastes). Then we padded the sides (the stands, if you will) with soda on one side and beer on the other.

2. The end zones: Chips and dips. With drinks as a foundation, we created cardboard levels to hold guacamole and hummus (the individual cups available at Costco were perfect for this set-up&mdashguests can just grab and go). In each corner, we kept it simple (and avoiding dirtying bowls) by propping up open bags of chips and snacks.

3. The cheering sections: Pre-portioned cups. Individual cups of Pringles (best. party. snack. ever.) line up in front of the cans&mdashand in front of them, cups of mozzarella sticks (each with a marinara-sauce base) and buffalo wings.

4. The field: Sandwiches and more. We took pre-made platters of sandwich wraps and placed them at the ends of the field. Then, with a spinach dip at the 50-yard line, we created a face-off between chips and veggies (taken from a pre-made veggie platter). At our party, chips won by a landslide. Duh.

Beyoncé and Coldplay better bring it to the halftime performance: this snack stadium might just upstage them.