This summer has evaporated just about as quickly as a tiny puddle of water in a pothole of a hot country road, hasn't it? It seems like it just made its entrance not long ago; I mean, weren't we all just preparing for the end of the school year? For backyard BBQ's and for celebratory parties marking graduations and the fun holidays of summer? I thought it's just me, but when I ask others if this particular summer has seemed to fly right on by, they too agree, with a slightly perplexed look on their face, followed by a drawn-out “yeah…”, as they consider where the time has gone, indeed. Labor Day has now fluttered in and fluttered out, and has marked an official end to “freedom” for all the kids who had yet to begin their school year. And then, for all of us parents, it marked the official beginning (once again) to all of the rigors of class work, after-school activities and “extra-curriculars” that are about to kick into high-gear. Let's face it, life is now making a return to the “regularly scheduled programming” — the grind — of the pre-summer months. And we all know what that means, don't we? It means dusting off our jester outfits and getting out those multi-colored bean-bag balls, 'cause we're about to start doing a lot of juggling. And part of that juggling game is trying to stay creative with after-school snacks, on top of everything else.
By the time that bell rings at the end of a day and the doors of the school are flung open releasing our kiddos of all ages, bellies can be heard rumbling in unison, if you listen closely enough. Appetites need to be satisfied and held-over until dinner time, though ideally not with chips, cookies and candy, but with finger-licking yet healthier, homemade options that satiate. As a busy mom, I appreciate being able to put together a fairly quick snack that has a mix of protein, fiber and some good fats, plus tons of flavor to serve as an after-school snack; and if I can prep it ahead of time, that's even better. There are certain “pre-done” items that I just adore, and that are ideal for implementing for “quick 'n healthy” snack options — puff pastry sheets are just such an item. Easy to cut, then fill with healthy ingredients the night before (perhaps even with the help of little fingers) and then bake for a few minutes when that after-school hunger strikes, they're an ideal candidate to use in making some delicious and nutritious Puff Pastry “Rollitos”, filled with BBQ chicken breast, gooey cheese and a few black beans. Absolute yumminess, and the perfect protein-packed “brain food” to keep kid's energy levels up until dinner, all while satisfying their cravings for great tasting “snack” foods.
So as we descend into the zany-ness that is the grind of a new school year, we can keep things at least a little more straight for ourselves and our kids by keeping things simple yet healthy on the after-school snacking front. With schedules becoming a bit tighter, the need for delicious and easy-yet-wholesome snacking increases; and with a little help from some puff pastry sheets and a few simple ingredients, that gets taken care of in a snap. Now, as for juggling? I think I'd best start brushing up on that pronto.
Taste what's good and pass it on.
BBQ Chicken Puff Pastry “Rollitos” with Mexican Cheese Blend & Black Beans
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(*These are a perfect recipe to make with your kids help! You can prep these the night before, and place them on your baking sheet covered with plastic wrap and into the fridge to hold; then when ready to eat, just bake and serve.)
(Makes 30 “Rollitos”)
6 chicken breast tenderloins, cooked and finely diced
½ cup BBQ sauce
• Black pepper
1 package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
½ cup black beans
1cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro (optional)
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
-Preheat your oven to 400°, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
-Combine the cooked and finely diced chicken with the BBQ sauce, a pinch of salt and black pepper, and set aside for a moment.
-Place one of the sheets of thawed puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface in front of you, and cut it into 1 ¾” wide strips; next, cut those strips into thirds to create 15 individual pieces of pastry.
-To fill, add about a scant teaspoon of the BBQ chicken to the lower part of each piece of pastry, then top with a few black beans, a sprinkle of cheese and a sprinkle of the cilantro, if using; roll the dough up over the filling, and place the “rollito” seam-side down on the parchment lined baking sheet; repeat until all are rolled up.
-Finally, brush with a little of the beaten egg to create a nice, golden-brown color, and bake the “Rollitos” for about 15-17 minutes; remove and allow to cool slightly, then serve. (Any leftovers can easily be re-heated in a toaster oven for a few minutes.)