(Real) Ants on a Log

I grew up eating Ants on a Log. We had them at school, at home, at picnics. Ours were always made the same way: celery filled with peanut butter, topped with raisins (AKA ants). It was the perfect snack, containing veggies, some protein — plus, they were easy to make.

My mind was blown when, as an adult, I learned not everyone ate my version of Ants on a Log. Some had substituted cream cheese for peanut butter. Others used carrot sticks or apple slices as logs. Still others had swapped out raisins in favor of nuts or dried apricots. To each his or her own, I thought. I preferred the traditional.

Until now.

I was making myself a little snack recently when I had a light-bulb moment. What if instead of using raisins as ants, I used ANTS as ants?

Thanks to all my entomophagy experiments, I just happened to have a tin of black ants in my cupboard. They’re from a Maine-based company called Entosense. The company’s literature warns that ants “have a strong taste for their size.” They do have a citrus taste and, though they’re tiny, they’re definitely crunchy. I didn’t find a lot of “whole” ants in my batch, but rather many recognizable ant parts.

Super simple: I washed and cut celery stalks into three-inch sticks, filled them with creamy peanut butter, and sprinkled them with ants.

And so, there you have it, a new take on Ants on a Log.

Bug-ana Bread

Baking with cricket flour has been an ongoing experiment for me. Some results have been less than optimal, others have been absolutely delicious. I’m proud to say that this recipe is one of the yummy successes.

I started this particular baking adventure with a recipe I’ve used many times before. I subbed cricket flour for one-third of the flour called for. Once again I used flour purchased from the fine folks at Portland, Oregon,-based Cricket Flours. The final product is moist, flavorful – and contains 50 grams more protein than if I’d only used wheat flour. Don’t believe me? Give it a try.

Bugana Bread

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup cricket flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

½ cup butter

½ cup sour cream

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup mashed bananas

½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. When combined, add bananas and sour cream. Mix on high speed for one minute. In a separate bowl, sift together flours, baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Mix until well blended. If using nuts, add and mix well. Pour batter into large greased loaf pan (approx. 9 x 5 x 3 inches). Bake for one hour or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let bread cool in the pan for a few minutes. Then remove banana bread from the pan and let cool completely before serving.


Trying Entomophagy – One Sweet Bite at a Time

October 1 is National Homemade Cookie Day and, if there’s just one national food day or month I can get fully behind, this is the one. I have nothing against store-bought, cream-filled sandwich cookies, but there something special about being able to pack treats I’ve made myself into my family’s lunches.

There’s even something more special about these cookies. That’s because these cookies contain cricket flour. You read that right. Cricket flour is made by milling crickets. This super fine powder is combined with flour and results in a product that’s higher in protein, nutrients and amino acids than your run-of-the-mill flour. The half-cup of cricket flour used in this recipe, adds 12 grams of protein to the cookies. By contrast, a half cup of all-purpose flour contains just 6 grams of protein.

The first time I baked a batch of these cookies, they were still cooling when my teenage son rushed into the house and grabbed a handful for his tennis teammates. I thought about saying something, but I didn’t. Later that night, when I asked if his friends liked the treat, he said, “They were awesome. Everybody loved them – as usual.”

It’s thought that more than 2 billion people in 113 countries are incorporating insects into their everyday diets. Eating cookies made with a bit of cricket flour isn’t going to change the way Americans think about munching on meal worms or dining on dung bugs – at least not overnight. But, it may be the sort of thing it takes to get folks to take a bite and open their minds to entomophagy … one cookie at a time.

 Chocolate Chirpers

1 cup butter softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup brown sugar, packed

2 eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup cricket flour

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large bowl, using an electric mixer or wooden spoon, cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla, soda and salt and continue to mix. Gradually add both the cricket and all-purpose flour. When dough is well mixed, stir in chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoon onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake for 8 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire baking rack. Makes about two dozen medium-sized cookies. Enjoy!

My First Intentional Bug-Eating Adventure

I was in a busy market in Hanoi, Vietnam, when I first munched on insects. My daughter and I were embarking on a two-week trip through the region and I had promised myself I would be open to new experiences along the way. Biting into a fried grasshopper the size of your thumb was definitely a new experience for me. The taste was not memorable but the crunch? Years later, I still remember chewing and chewing, almost as if I was eating shrimp shells.

I had previously sampled chocolate-covered ants. At first, I put this insect-eating experience in the same category: It was a novelty, the sort of thing you would try once so you could brag to your friends about it.

Before long, though, I began to gain a better understanding of insects as food. I learned there are many places in the world, where people eat insects as a regular part of their diets. I learned how nutritious insects are and how much less land they take to raise than cattle or hogs. I even learned there’s a word for the practice of eating insects: Entomophagy.

Biting into those crispy grasshoppers changed my thinking. I’m hoping my Work in Progress might also change yours.