The kids are heading back to school and moms everywhere are facing the “what to pack in their lunch” dilemma. The truth is, kids just want a lunch that tastes good and makes them feel like they are “part of the crowd” in the lunch room.
As a kid, I felt deprived when my school mates would have those yummy looking, pre-packaged snack and oat bars packed in their school lunches. I would sit down to my small thermos of home cooked lentils or cabbage soup (which I loved), and somehow feel like an outsider because I didn’t have anything in my lunch basket (not so lovingly dubbed, “the cat cage” by my grade school nemesis, Eric) that was in shiny packaging or not made at home.
I had no idea how good I had it when I had a home cooked meal for lunch. All I knew was that my lunch was very different from the lunches my peers were eating. Never mind the lucky ducks who got to actually buy their lunches in the cafeteria. Those were the chosen elite in my book. I guess you could say I had serious lunch envy as a kid.
Last year was the first year I had to start packing school lunches. In the beginning, I was packing balanced, nutrient-dense, beautiful-to-look-at lunches. But by the end of the year, my kid was lucky I wasn’t throwing the dog’s rawhide bone into his lunchbox. No parent can escape the daily lunch grind, and lets face it. If your kids are watching what most mainstream American kids are eating in the cafeteria, they might be feeling a little lunch envy themselves if you make their lunches from scratch.
Most kids have no idea what lurks in those seemingly harmless packages of sugar and chemical infested “treats”. And as a kid, they probably don’t care all that much anyway. They just want to be like their friends. Nobody wants to stand out from the crowd at that age. It’s the same way with every generation.
I was reminded of this when I saw Mini Chef watching one of his friends pick through her after-school snacks to get to “the good stuff” first. While it was a healthy treat, I sat there watching him quietly wish she would share her goodies with him. It brought back my own school lunch memories so vividly, that I just knew I had to come up with a snack bar that he would love to have in his lunch basket. So I set off to create a really yummy, super-duper delicious granola bar.
I had some old fashion oats as well as a jar of almond butter. I also had some raw cocoa nibs and cranberries I had just gotten at the health food store. It was a match meant to happen!
Recipe from the Gracious Pantry archives, originally posted 9/23/13.
- 2 cups (200 g) old fashion oats
- 1/2 cup (70 g) dried cranberries, fruit juice sweetened
- 1/3 cup (50 g) raw cocoa nibs
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch sea salt (optional)
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) coconut oil
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) honey
- 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup (200 g) raw, creamy almond butter
In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, cranberries, cocoa nibs and cinnamon. Stir well.
In a small pot, combine the oil, honey, vanilla extract and almond butter over medium heat. You want to warm this enough to combine the liquids well. But DO NOT BOIL! Stir constantly to avoid any simmering. This warmth is strictly to get everything to combine as well as to make it a bit more fluid for mixing with the oats.
Pour the nut butter into the mixing bowl and mix well to completely coat the oats.
Press mixture into an oiled or parchment lined baking dish. (Mine -pictured above- was 9 x 4 1/2)
Freeze for 2 hours.
Cut bars with a sharp knife and store in the freezer for up to 2 months, tightly wrapped so no air gets to them. Note that by the time lunch time comes around, these will no longer be frozen and will be perfect to eat. (These keep in the fridge for about a week.)