11 Cold Appetizers for Hot Days

For my money, nothing beats a piece of fresh fruit for an instant snack this time of year. But when I want to kick it up a little, add a new flavor or incorporate a few veggies into a meal other than dinner, these are my go-to summer snacks. Each one is cool, refreshing and kid-tested to boot.

Make-Ahead

The Pioneer Woman’s Frozen Fruit Cups (pictured above)
This is my kind of recipe: Chop up a little fruit, throw it in a freezer-proof cup, freeze and serve. I love Ree Drummond’s idea so much that I’m already planning to whip out my muffin pan just so I can make more of them! An even dozen should do it, right?

Peaches & Cream PopsiclesPeaches & Cream Popsicles Pull out your blender to make the sweetest, smoothest and most-luscious ice pops of the summer. It takes only a dash of real cream to take these frozen treats to the next level, and it’s called amazing. Frozen GrapesFrozen Grapes This one works especially well when you’re traveling or out for the day. Nothing is more refreshing (or harder to make a mess out of) than popping an ice-cold grape into your mouth. P.S. Sliced strawberries, blueberries or raspberries are also excellent contenders for this on-the-go snack.

Let the Kids Assemble Themselves

Yogurt and Granola TrifleYogurt and Granola Trifle How can you go wrong with layers of sweet strawberries, crunchy granola and creamy yogurt? Yum, yum and yum! Sliced Cucumber Sliced Cucumber “Sandwiches” This idea sprang up last year when my garden started bursting at the seams with cucumbers — and we’ll do it again every year. Just set out any combination of meats and cheeses and let the kids mix and match between crisp slices of “bread.” Personal Veggie CupsPersonal Veggie Cups Mix one part ranch dressing with one part plain yogurt for a better-for-you dip that comes together in seconds. Then fill the bottoms of small drinking cups. Set out a veggie tray and ask the kids to design their own palm-sized collection of crudites. BruschettaFresh Tomato Bruschetta Stay with me here. This is one of those recipes that looks fancy and seems too sophisticated for kids, but only one of those descriptions is true (hint: it’s the first one!). If you can dice up a few tomatoes, slather on the olive oil and tear a little basil, you can make a fresh and delicious toast topping your kids will ask for all summer long. Simple White Bean Hummus with Lemon JuiceSimple White Bean Hummus with Lemon Juice Drained white beans from a can are the base of this surprisingly addictive dip. Add a little olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice and you’ve got a nutritious dip served for pennies.

Prep on the Fly

Blueberry Smoothies with a Superfood SurpriseBlueberry Smoothies with a Superfood Surprise Just in time for blueberry season, this simple smoothie packs a cool and refreshing punch, thanks to frozen bananas and the one ingredient you might not have thought of. Pimiento Cheese SpreadTrisha Yearwood’s Pimento Cheese Spread If you’ve ever been in the South, you may have heard of this one. Still not sure? Consider this threefood-ingredient cheese spread a protein-packed snack you’ll feel good about serving, and one your kids will love. #eatitanywhere Jicama Slices with Lime JuiceJicama Slices with Lime Juice This one’s so simple that it’s more of an idea than a recipe, but don’t let that fool you. Your kids will devour these crisp and juicy jicama slices, featured in Food Network Magazine, and ask for more.

Charity Curley Mathews is the mom of four small kids who live for their two snacks a day. She’s also the founder of Foodlets.com, a site that’s part simple recipes featuring fresh ingredients and part parenting advice she wishes she’d had all along.

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These 11 Foods Are Scientifically Proven to Boost Your Mood

SPINACH

Dark green veggies are rich in folate, a B vitamin that affects the mood-controlling neurotransmitters in your brain. Yay, science.

CITRUS

Mandarins, clementines, navel oranges, grapefruit, you name it. They’re all packed with folate, a B vitamin that’s an instant mood booster.

BANANAS

Three reasons to make this ingredient a smoothie staple: potassium (improves brain function), B6 (increases serotonin, which calms the body) and tryptophan (the happy amino acid that regulates mood).

SWISS CHARD

Magnesium gives you an instant shot of energy and also staves off depression. Plus, it’s one of the nutrients lacking in the average diet, so sauté some up as a regular side dish.

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Healthy Eating

Healthy eating is not about strict dietary limitations, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it’s about feeling great, having more energy, improving your health, and stabilizing your mood. If you feel overwhelmed by all the conflicting nutrition and diet advice out there, you’re not alone. It seems that for every expert who tells you a certain food is good for you, you’ll find another saying exactly the opposite. But by using these simple tips, you can cut through the confusion and learn how to create a tasty, varied, and healthy diet that is as good for your mind as it is for your body.

How does a healthy diet affect mental and emotional health?

We all know that eating right can help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid certain health problems, but your diet can also have a profound effect on your mood and sense of wellbeing. Studies have linked eating a typical Western diet—filled with processed meats, packaged meals, takeout food, and sugary snacks—with higher rates of depression, stress, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. Eating an unhealthy diet may even play a role in the development of mental health disorders such as ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, and schizophrenia, or in the increased risk of suicide in young people.

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THE TRICK TO LOVING SCANDINAVIAN SALT LICORICE IS TO STOP THINKING IT’S CANDY

A salt licorice flavor found across Scandinavia, I spit it out on a Copenhagen street corner. It wasn’t that this powerful little pastille was bad. It’s just that my taste buds had never quite been lit up that way: smacked with a layer of sharp and sour salt dust, then soothed by something bitter and caramel-sweet. It felt simultaneously fascinating and…abusive? Or at least odd, like a knocked funny bone. It wasn’t until the second or third try that my confusion turned to appreciation. Addiction came soon after, which coincidentally is how you could define the Nordic relationship to the confection.

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