BERNIE MASON For Lee Montana Newspapers

The kids are back to school and the kids come home from school hungry and looking for a good snack to fill their hungry stomachs. Having prepared fresh fruits or vegetables on hand in the fridge increases the chances of them making a healthy choice. There are several flavors of hummus you can make to accompany vegetables for a good source of protein. Cheese sticks, yogurt, granola bars, and granola are also good choices. If you want to make your own snack mix, use the following as a guide: 1 cup cereal, various shapes; 1 cup bite-sized crackers; ½ cup of dried fruit; ½ cup of walnuts (opt.); ¼ cup of candies, such as chocolate chips. They’ll probably appreciate the windmills you can make by spreading softened cream cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla, adding a thin slice of meat and cheese, then rolling it up and cutting it into sections. These can also be added to the lunch box. These picks are also great choices if students are involved in extracurricular sports and need something extra for energy to sustain them.

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soft cereal bars

Granola bars are a nutritious snack to pack in the lunch box and have on hand for after-school snacks.

2 cups quick cooking oats

2 cups crispy rice cereal

20 mini pretzels, crushed

¾ cup pancake syrup, maple syrup or honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*If desired, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips or coconut can be added

Combine rolled oats, cereal and crushed pretzels in large bowl; put aside. Pour the syrup or honey into a microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir in peanut butter until combined. Microwave for 30 more seconds. Stir in vanilla. Pour syrup mixture over oat mixture; stir until completely coated. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with cooking spray and pour the mixture into the pan. I also used a 9 inch square pan to make a thicker bar. Firmly press mixture into pan using waxed paper or the back of a spoon. Let the mixture cool completely to room temperature. Cut into bars and enjoy! If desired (and this is my favorite) for a crispier granola bar, bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Source: Iowa State University Extension Service, Spend Smart, Eat Smart Program.

frozen monkeys

Frozen bananas are always popular, and they’re an added treat when you dip them in yogurt and cereal. This nutritious and tasty snack will be a hit as an after school snack. Thaw slightly before serving.

¾ cup (6 ounces) plain or vanilla yogurt (I also used coconut)

¾ cup corn flakes, crispy rice or other whole grain cereal

Dip banana pieces in yogurt to coat. Roll in cereal and press into yogurt. Prick each with a toothpick and place in the freezer until hard and frozen. *For variation, spread peanut butter on banana instead of yogurt. Source: Montana State University Extension, “Buy, Eat, Live Better.”


Simplify your morning breakfast routine with the use of these Quick Oats. Simply pour the prepared contents of the bag into a bowl and add boiling water. Each child can have the flavor combination in their bag to avoid last minute decision making. You can also compose your own flavor combinations.

4 cups rolled oats (not quick cook)

6 resealable plastic bags

Flavors of your choice (example below)

Combine rolled oats and salt in a food processor or blender and grind (in 2 batches if necessary) until the consistency of wheat germ. Pour ½ cup portions into each of the plastic bags. Add flavorings to each, then seal the bags and shake to combine the ingredients. When it’s time to eat, empty the contents of one bag into a bowl and slowly stir in 1 cup of boiling water. Cover and let stand 3 minutes. Stir again and add milk or yogurt if desired. Examples of flavorings: (A) 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 tablespoon of raisins, a pinch of cinnamon; (B) 1 teaspoon of brown sugar and a pinch of nutmeg, ground cinnamon and cloves; (C) 1 tsp brown sugar and 1 tbsp chopped pecans; (D) 1 tsp brown sugar and 1 tbsp chopped dried cherries and apples. Source: “Family Fun, Cooking with Kids”, Family Fun.

Fruity orange fridge muffins

Have a bowl of this muffin mix in the fridge and you can have a fresh batch of muffins in no time in the morning. To make it really quick, you can also microwave a muffin or two in a minute. Kids can come home from school and microwave it for a nutritious snack.

(Makes: 24 to 30 muffins)

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1½ cups whole wheat flour

2 cups grated whole bran cereal

1¼ teaspoons baking soda

3 teaspoons grated orange zest

6 oz. pkt. pieces of dried fruit

In a large bowl, combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cereal, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, allspice and orange zest. Add buttermilk, oil and eggs. Mix well. Add the fruit pieces. Cover tightly; refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to 2 weeks. Baking: Grease bottom of desired number of muffin cups only or line with paper cups; Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins, filling ¾ full. Bake at 400 degrees 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For the microwave: Using microwave safe pans, line each pan with 2 paper cups to absorb moisture during cooking. Half fill cups. Microwave on HIGH for recommended time: 2 muffins — 1 ¼ to 1 ¾ minutes, 4 muffins — 2 to 2 ½ minutes, 6 muffins — 3 to 4 minutes. Muffins should be slightly moist on top. Remove muffins from pans and immediately remove and discard paper cups. Let cool 1 minute before serving. Source: Breakfasts and Lunches for Those in a Hurry, Pillsbury Classics.

Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana Newspapers. She served as a Yellowstone County Extension Officer for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.

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