So, my kids do eat crackers, and cereal on occasion. In fact, just the other week I found Nutrigrain bars on super-clearance at the grocery store, and bought several boxes. I'm not saying they aren't convenient! I have LOVED having a boxed, packaged snack in the van to pull out at the park. I'm just saying, they aren't a normal part of our routine. Also, one of my all-time favorite things is Ritz, Colby Jack, and Salami. Heaven! Ritz seems like an acceptable cracker to me because I can stack cheese on it, or cover it in peanut butter. Add a little protein and fat, and that cracker just turned into a great snack, or part of a meal! Hey, I said I wasn't judging you, so don't be judging me! :) If you want to go really crazy, slap some Nutella on a Ritz. Just prepare yourself to go through several sleeves of crackers after you eat one. Try it! My kids also eat all kinds of boxed stuff when they're at Sunday school and Kids' Night at church. I'm totally fine with it, because they so rarely eat them at home! It's all about balance, right?
So, what do you feed all those kids for snacks if you have no crackers??!!
Apples and peanut butter, popcorn, fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, baked stuff (banana bread, muffins), trail mix, pudding, veggies and dip, cereal with milk (for some reason I'm fine with it as a snack, just not for breakfast!), cottage cheese, hard-boiled eggs, raisins, homemade granola bars...
Which, leads me to my latest semi-obsession. Homemade granola bars. My little buddy Truman loves Fiber One bars. His little brother loves them also, in fact, maybe even more? They call it a "Hard Bar", not to be confused by it's close cousin, the "Soft Bar" (which is an off-brand Nutrigrain bar...and, yes, he can tell the difference in the brands!). Truman is the easiest child to please on the entire planet. Anything I serve him, he eats, with absolutely no question. In fact, I poured him milk and he drank it happily for months before I found out that he actually prefers water. Sweetest kid ever, didn't even mention it. Anyway, I set out to try and find a way to make a homemade version of the "Hard Bar" (Fiber One). I wanted to make it myself for a few reasons: cost and nutritional value. Here I am again, saying, I do not think his parents are horrible for buying their snacks. OK?? I promise! I just figure, if I can make them myself they'll be cheaper (I'm feeding 7-8-9 kids here every day, instead of 1-2-3...) and they'll have less of whatever Kelloggs adds to them to give them such a long shelf life. I don't need stuff with a long shelf life, we go through food faster than it can spoil over here. Catch my drift?
I started out with my old granola bar recipe, which I've posted before. This is a great snack, and I always have a Ziploc full in my freezer. They're good, but they aren't hard bars.
Then, I started making Robyn's granola recipe into bars. I usually divide the batch onto two cookie sheets. One sheet I stir several times during the baking to break it up into pieces. The other I pack down tight into one large bar, and leave it. This works great, as long as I remember to cut into little bars while everything is still warm. They keep great in the freezer also, and the kids eat them for snack all the time. Still, it's not like a Fiber One bar.
So, I thought I'd try Google. Honestly, Google let me down here a little. I found two recipes that were similar, but I wasn't crazy about either this one, or this one. Interestingly enough, the kids ate them really well. I wasn't thrilled with the sweetened, condensed milk. I'm not a fan of the taste, plus it just adds so much sugar!
I modified a little using corn syrup and peanut butter, and ended up with a cross between a Fiber One bar, and a scotch-a-roo. It cooled and actually turned into something of a SUPER hard bar. It wasn't terrible, but not exactly what we were looking for.
Happy in the end, with this version:
1/2 package mini marshmallows
1/2 can fat-free sweetened, condensed milk
3 cups Fiber One
1 cup oats
1/2 cup ground flax
1 cup Grape Nuts
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
I ended up doubling this, to use up the entire can of sweetened, condensed milk. I have a really large cookie sheet, so I lined it with parchment paper and it was the perfect size for a double batch.
Melt the marshmallows into the sweetened, condensed milk over very low heat. Then, mix with the cereal/flax/chocolate chips, and spread onto the cookie sheet. I like that the chocolate chips basically melt into the bar. This way you get the light chocolate taste without little chocolate chips falling out of the bar when you take a bite.
I wait until it's pretty cool to cut into bars, and use a pizza cutter. They're a tiny bit sticky, and I freeze them layered in wax paper in a Ziploc.
So, I try and have all three bars (and a bag of loose granola) on hand in my freezer, so we have a little variety. The bars are perfect for hauling to the park or eating on the deck. Viola! No real need to bust out the 55 gallon jug of cheese balls. I'm not saying it's easier all around, but I don't mind being in the kitchen and once they're made, it is just as easy at snack time. Although, for the record, I'd eat cheese balls for every meal. What is it about those things? They're. So. Good.
While I'm at it...these breakfast sandwiches are a huge hit at my house and I've had several people ask me for the recipe. My mom made these for us when we were kids. Maybe that's where I get my weird cracker/cereal issues. I don't know...
1 cup butter/margarine
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups wheat germ
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sunflower seads
1 1/2 cup raisins
Shape into small patties (like the size of a pretty big cookie), bake at 350 for about 9 minutes. Watch them close, and whatever you do, don't over bake :)
8oz. cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar (this is a guess, I never actually measure)
Make a sandwich out of 2 cookies with the cream cheese in the middle. Refrigerate! These freeze perfectly, also. I usually wrap the sandwiches individually in saran wrap to keep them from getting dry, then throw them in the freezer in a Ziploc.
10 years ago I signed a contract with my handsome fiance swearing I'd never have kids, and never never never ever buy a minivan. Who'd a thunk I'd be obsessed with wholesome snacking options for this crew, and driving them around in a giant van?! Not me. Crazy. Blessed.