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FD Healthy: Summer Snackin’

By: Greg "Uncle Buck" Spiegel

June is just around the corner, which means one thing: it’s time to picnic, grill, and snack in the sun! At First Descents, we are all about food as a form of nourishment and of community connection. What’s better than gathering around the picnic table and fueling your bodies after a day spent adventuring? It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

But, we also know that it’s hard to get creative with summer sides and snacks. Potato salad rules the season, burgers and buns monopolize plates, and watermelon wedges are practically falling from the sky! We called upon professional FD chef Uncle Buck to share his culinary expertise on how to revamp our picnic baskets with delicious, nutricious, and simple recipes. Sound too good to be true? Just wait until you taste them!

Uncle Buck’s Chickpea Waldorf Salad

This is a fun take on a classic summer salad! It goes great on top of spring mix with some grilled pita bread. The best part? It’s fast, simple and packed full of protein.


4 cans Chickpeas
4 stalks of celery, small diced
1/2 red onion, small diced
1 cup of red grapes, cut in half
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 Granny smith apple, small diced
1/2 cup currants (optional)
about 1 cup, mayo (try Vegenaise if you don’t want dairy!)
1 cup fresh herbs (I like a blend of parsley and tarragon) finely chopped

lemon juice, tabasco, salt and pepper

In a large bowl, add all ingredients. Add the mayo, and using your freshly washed or gloved hands, mix it together and “mash” the chickpeas together by squeezing your hands. This will help bind it.

Season generously with lemon juice. Add your salt in a little at a time. A few dashes of tabasco is a game changer. Uncle Buck likes this salad to be “lemony”, and balanced with salt. Adjust the mayo as you like.

Shrimp Stuffed Avocados with a Quinoa Tabouleh Salad


This is a great picnic snack, perfect for tossing in a tupperware and heading to the park, beach, or trail! Pro-Tip: Uncle Buck makes bulk of the tabouleh salad for a healthy, filling go-to summer snack!

For the stuffed avocados:

2 avocados
1lb shrimp, cooked, cooled and diced into small pieces
1/2 red onion
3 stalks celery, small diced
1 red bell pepper, small diced
1 cup avo-mayo (see below)
1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley
Lemon juice, salt and pepper

Old-Bay seasoning (optional)

Create a “bowl” in the avocados by using a spoon and scooping out some of the middle of the avocado. Reserve all your avocado “scraps”, and blend it up with the mayo. Voila! Now you have Avo-Mayo.

Mix all ingredients together, and adjust your seasoning how you like, (old-bay is magic dust in this recipe, just sayin…). Finally, Stuff your avocado, add maybe a dot of Sriracha on top, and ENJOY!

For the Tabouleh salad:

1 cup quinoa, cooked and cooled
1/2 red onion, brunoise
2 carrots, peeled, chopped small
1/2 yellow squash, chopped small
1/2 zucchini, chopped small
1/2 cup, fresh parsley
good olive oil
lemon juiceIn a large bowl, mix all ingredients together. Adjust your seasoning to your liking (Buck recommends going “Lemony” here), and ENJOY!
This tabouleh salad also works in your avocado bowl, on top of salad greens, in a wrap, on toast or right out of the container!

Who is Uncle Buck?

Good question! We are all about knowing where our food comes from, and who is behind the recipes we love. We sat down with Uncle Buck to learn a little bit about his enthusiasm for cooking and First Descents.

FD: What is your history at FD?

Buck: Like all good stories, this started at a local bar. I sat down next to our now Chef Manager Mia (Veggetti) randomly, we started talking about the culinary schools we attended, chefs we knew and worked for and other culinary topics. Then she brought up First descents, and the work she does with them. Now, if you have ever met Veggetti, you will know how enthusiastic she is about FD. And that positive energy really struck me at a time when I was in a culinary funk.

After many emails, light begging and crossing fingers, I was offered a sous chef position. I worked my first 2 week program in CO in 2017 under the direction of Veggetti.

That experience of learning how powerful healthy, good food can be, and seeing first hand the positive affects it can have, really changed me to learn more about how to cook healthier.

My culinary passion was reignited, and now burns hotter than ever as I travel across the country cooking delicious and healthy food in my third season with FD.

FD: Why are you so passionate about cooking for FD participants?

Buck: I love to cook. I love food. I love the fact that food can be restorative, nourishing and can bring everyone together in a shared experience. When I cook, I am striving to deliver the best product possible. And when I get to see people enjoy the food, ask questions or really take home a different perspective on what they eat, it keeps my passion for cooking at a high level.

Bon Appetite!

To order a copy of our very own Out Cooking It with First Descents cookbooks, explore our FD Store.

Please note that First Descents does not conduct nutritional research studies, nor does FD encourage readers to ensue any dramatic dietary or nutritional shifts without first consulting a doctor or certified nutritionist.

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