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Local flavor

Healthy snacks for back to school season

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Granola bars and frozen monkeys

Granola bars and frozen monkeys are excellent choices if students are involved in after-school sports and need something extra for energy to sustain them.

The kids are back to school and children are coming home from school hungry and looking for a good snack to fill their hungry stomachs. Having some prepared fresh fruit or vegetables on hand in the refrigerator increases the chance they will make the healthy choice. There are several flavors of hummus you can have made up to go with the veggies for a good protein source. 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 guideline: 1 cup cereal, variety of shapes; 1 cup bite-sized crackers; ½ cup dried fruit; ½ cup nuts (opt.); ¼ cup treat, such as chocolate chips. They would probably enjoy pinwheels you can make by spreading softened cream cheese on a whole wheat tortilla, adding a thin slice of meat and cheese, then roll it up and slice into sections. These can also be added to the lunch box. These selections are also excellent choices if students are involved in after-school sports and need something extra for energy to sustain them.

Chewy Granola Bars

Granola bars are a nutritious snack to have packed in the lunch box as well as having some available for after school snacks.

(Makes: 24)


2 cups quick-cooking oats

2 cups crispy rice cereal

20 mini pretzels, crushed

¾ cup pancake syrup, maple syrup, or honey

½ cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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


Combine oats, cereal, and crushed pretzels in a large bowl; set aside. Pour 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 seconds more. Stir in vanilla. Pour syrup mixture over oat mixture; stir until completely coated. Spray a 9x13-inch pan with cooking spray and pour mixture into pan. I have also used a 9-inch square pan to make a thicker bar. Press mixture firmly into the pan using wax paper or the back of a spoon. Allow mixture to cool completely to room temperature. Cut into bars and enjoy! If desired, (and this is what I prefer to do) for a crunchier granola bar, bake in a 300 degree oven for 20 minutes. Source: Iowa State University Extension Service, Spend Smart, Eat Smart Program.

Frozen Monkeys

Frozen bananas are always popular and they are an extra 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’ve 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. Spear each with a toothpick and place in freezer until hard and frozen. *For variation spread peanut butter on banana in place of the yogurt. Source: Montana State University Extension, “Buy, Eat, Live Better.”

Quick Oats

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

(Servings: 6)


4 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking)

¼ teaspoon salt

6 re-sealable plastic bags

Flavorings of your choice (example below)


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

Fruity Orange Refrigerator Muffins

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

(Makes: 24 – 30 muffins)


1½ cups all-purpose flour

1½ cups whole wheat flour

2 cups shreds of whole bran cereal

1¼ cups sugar

1¼ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon allspice

3 teaspoon grated orange peel

2½ cups buttermilk

½ cup oil

2 eggs, slightly beaten

6 oz. pkg. dried fruit bits


In large bowl, combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cereal, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, allspice, and orange peel. Add buttermilk, oil, and eggs. Mix well. Stir in fruit bits. Cover tightly; refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to 2 weeks. To bake: Grease bottoms only of desired number of muffin cups or line with paper baking cups; spoon batter into prepared muffin cups filling ¾ full. Bake at 400 degrees 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. To microwave: Using microwave-safe baking cups, line each cup with 2 paper liners to absorb moisture during baking. Fill cups ½ full. Microwave on HIGH for recommended time: 2 muffins — 1¼ to 1¾ minutes, 4 muffins — 2 to 2½ minutes, 6 muffins — 3 to 4 minutes. Muffins should be slightly moist on the top. Remove muffins from pans and remove and discard paper liners immediately. Cool 1 minute before serving. Source: Breakfasts & Lunches for People on the Go-Go-Go, Pillsbury Classics.

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

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