It happens twice a year: the dreaded SNACK WEEK duty. I always think I’ll be excited – I cook for a living, after all! – but when the time comes, I inevitably get stressed out. I bet you do, too.
It is not easy providing a week's worth of snacks to 15 little ones. You need something healthy and delicious. Familiar, but not the same old, same old. Fun, but not sugary. That’s a tall order! And I haven’t even gotten into the challenges faced by those of you who have snack duty at nut-free schools!
So, every time it’s my turn for snack week, I kick things off the way I do any big project: by making a plan. My latest started like this…
kabob sticks/fruit kabobs, yogurt, whole wheat flat bread, cheddar cheese, fruit leather
And eventually turned into this:
M: bananas & veggie booty
T: granola bites & string cheese
W: fruit kabob (pineapple, pear, strawberry & blueberry) & yogurt parfaits
TH: homemade cheese crackers, hummus and carrots
F: popcorn trail mix, homemade fruit leather & apples
Not bad, eh? A good mix of homemade, semi-homemade (um, no relation to the Sandra Lee) and store bought. Plus, everything homemade—the granola bites, crackers and fruit leather—are all easy, make-ahead recipes. In fact, the hardest part of this plan was assembling the fruit kabobs on Wednesday morning. But even that was worth it because, apparently, every piece of fruit was gobbled up.
The plan was such a great success, that I’m handing over everything you need to make it your own. That’s right, mamas, a snack week plan to ease the stress of your motherly duty.
My Granola Bites (pictured above) were inspired by this Martha Stewart recipe for Peanut Butter Granola Balls. I tripled the recipe, except for the butter, which I kept at 2 tablespoons and added:
- 1 c unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 c golden raisins
- 1/2 c dried cranberries
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
They were a little hard to roll into a ball. I’d say that it’s more like pressing them into a ball. But fear not, they stay together nicely once refrigerated. My adaptions to the recipe should yield about 30 "bites."
Just one note on the fruit kabobs: if you’re serving these to young kids, be sure to snip the point off of the skewer! Other than that, skewer up your favorite fruits and watch how quickly food on a stick goes.
This was nothing more than plain Greek-style yogurt layered with all-natural store bought granola. Yum!
Homemade Cheese Crackers
These simple, easy to make cheese crackers are a staple in my house. I like using cheddar, but you can use any similar cheese. If you want to get adventurous, add chives or other herbs.
I ended up using store bought hummus, but homemade is super easy to make. Simply puree several cans of drained canned chickpeas with olive oil, lemon juice, a couple of small cloves or garlic and, if you like, tahini (sesame paste). Measurements are good, but I promise you don't need them for hummus. Taste and adjust. Taste and adjust.
Popcorn Trail Mix
Popcorn Trail Mix can be anything that you want it to be. I started with naked home popped popcorn (you can use store bought, but look for something without added flavor or salt) and combined it with dried cranberries, freeze dried banana “chips,” and cashews. Done and done!
Homemade Fruit Leather
Of all the snacks, this homemade fruit leather was the most fun to make. But be warned: it can be trickier than you’d think. The key thing to keep in mind is to pour your fruit puree in an evenly spread layer on your baking sheet(s). Otherwise, the thin parts get too crispy (i.e., inedible) by the time the thicker parts are ready.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with fruit leather. Use any fruit combination that you love, just make sure you strain it to get skin and lumps out of your puree. You can even stir in nutmeg or cinnamon.
Here’s the recipe for my Mixed Berry Fruit Leather. It’s pretty low in sugar since I was feeding 3- and 4-year-olds. You may want to add more. This recipe makes enough for about 15 snack servings.
- 6 cups washed, trimmed and cut up strawberries
- 1 cup washed blueberries
- 1 cup washed raspberries
- 1/4 c orange blossom honey
- juice of half an orange
- zest of half on an orange
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Puree the berries together in a food processor or blender.
2. Strain berry puree through a fine meshed sieve. Stir in honey and zest.
3. Pour puree evenly onto two rimmed baking sheets lined either with parchment* or a silicone baking mat (e.g., silpat) and bake for about 8 hours or until the puree is totally dry and no longer sticky to the touch. (Baking time can vary greatly. The goal here is to dehydrate the puree. I’ve even left baking sheets with a thick pour overnight.)
4. Leave the baking sheets at room temp for several hours so that the leather can soften up before cutting into snack strips.
*Note: Some recipes call for pouring the puree over plastic wrap. Since I try not to use plastic wrap, I recommend parchment. It’s a little trickier to work with but, with a little bit more work, it will peel off just like plastic wrap.