Give the kids some grab-and-go snacks


School is back in session. How’s it going so far? Do the kids’ after-school hunger pangs leave you constantly on the prowl for snacks that won’t ruin their appetites or waistlines? You may have stocked the pantry with chips, microwave popcorn and other kid favorites, but it’s time to go to the next level. In addition to putting out some fresh fruit and mixed nuts, make easy snacks that offer more nutrition than store-bought staples. The kids can help themselves to good eating, get a dose of fiber and other nutrients and still be ready for that all-important family dinner.

Apple cake squares

Here’s a moist, fast-to-make cake with a pleasing cinnamon-apple taste. Wrap squares individually for easy grabbing. Recipe from “The Healthy Kitchen: Recipes for a Better Body, Life, and Spirit” by Andrew Weil, M.D. and Rosie Daley; makes 9 servings.

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons softened butter

2 eggs

2 cups peeled, cored and finely shredded apples

1/4 cup finely chopped dates

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix flour, salt, nutmeg, baking soda and cinnamon in a medium bowl; stir thoroughly. Cream sugar and butter in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs; whisk until smooth. Stir in the shredded apples and dates until they are completely and evenly distributed. Slowly stir in dry ingredients; mix thoroughly into batter. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray or grease with 1/4 teaspoon butter. Pour in the batter.

Bake about 45 minutes. When cake is cooled, put confectioners’ sugar in a sifter and dust over the cooled cake a few times. Cut cake into nine squares.

Michael’s peanut butter gems

The editors of East West Journal put together their cookbook, “Sweet & Natural Desserts,” featuring dairy- and sugar-free treats. Kids can help make these nutty little gems. Yield: Forty 2-inch cookies.

1 pound peanut butter

2/3 cup corn oil

1 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups sifted whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, cream together the peanut butter, corn oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract until smooth. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt; gradually add dry ingredients to peanut butter mixture, mixing well. Form 2-inch balls and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Flatten slightly. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Chocolate caramel oat squares

When the sweet-tooth nibblers open your refrigerator, these yummy treats will be waiting. Recipe from Bon Appetit magazine; makes about 20 squares.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats

1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup whipping cream

14-ounce bag caramels

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine first five ingredients in a food processor. Add butter; cut in using on/off turns until crumbs begin to stick together. Press all but 2 cups crumb mixture into bottom of a 9-by-13 baking pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over; set aside. Bring cream to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add caramels; stir until melted and smooth. Pour caramel mixture over crust. Sprinkle reserved 2 cups crumb mixture over. Bake until edges are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cut around pan sides to loosen. Cool completely, then cut into small squares. Refrigerate at least 3 hours; serve cold.

Fruity pudding

Can anything be simpler? Instead of one large bowl, I like to chill the pudding in small paper cups to save on dishes and for portion control. Recipe from Woman’s Day magazine; makes 6 servings.

17-ounce can fruit cocktail, well drained (reserve juice)

3.25-ounce package vanilla pudding mix

Pour reserved juice in a 2-cup measure; add enough water to make 2 cups. Use this juice in place of milk in preparing pudding according to package directions. Cool slightly; stir in fruit cocktail. Distribute into paper cups, if desired. Chill until set.