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Friday, August 9, 2013

Back to School...ALREADY?!

Happy Friday! Though the weather is funny over here in the Manhattan area, it won't stop us from doing what we love (...baking!). If the new Target and JC Penney commercials haven't given it away, it's back-to-school time for many kiddies! Now if it were up to me, I'd have all kids go back after Labor Day - who can really concentrate when it's hot and sunny out anyway? But since it's not up to me, we'll just have to get into school mode and bake, bake, bake! Today I'm giving you a few yummy snack bar recipes to add some fun to your cool kid's lunch box. Remember we're baking for kids here, so portion these small! If your child has a well-balanced meal and knows how to eat it - main meal/protein, fruits/veggies, milk, snack - they'll be prepared to enter that cafeteria with pride!

Just remember, be sensitive when baking for school. We live in a world of crazy allergies and we need to protect our children and their friends! Nuts, peanut butter...they're generally not allowed in schools. Try substituting nuts with a Kashi crunchy cereal or granola - it actually tastes pretty great! Sometimes you can even omit the nuts if you're not sure. Just be sure you're not omitting the yummy crunch!

One of my faves for the back-to-school crowd (you may have seen this from me before)...

Back-to-School Raspberry Granola Bars
Karen DeMasco for Food & Wine

  • 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 cup raspberry preserves
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper. Spread the chopped pecans in a pie plate and toast for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant. Let cool.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the rolled oats, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking soda and pecans. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the melted butter until the oat mixture is thoroughly combined.
  3. Press two-thirds of the oat mixture in an even layer on the bottom of the prepared baking pan and top with the raspberry preserves. Sprinkle the preserves with the remaining oat mixture.
  4. Bake the bars for about 45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the top is golden brown. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the granola bars cool completely, about 3 hours. Cut into squares and serve.
MAKE AHEAD The bars can be kept in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Sticky, gooey, and surprisingly low fat...

S'more Bites
Self, Marge Perry, July 2013

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 bag (10 ounce) marshmallows
  • 6 cups rice-crisp cereal
  • 1 cup melted semisweet chocolate chips
  • 7 1/2 rectangular graham crackers (or 15 squares)
  • 1 cup marshmallow crème (such as Fluff)
  1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in marshmallows and cook, stirring, until smooth, 2 minutes; remove from heat. 
  2. In a bowl, combine marshmallows with cereal; mix well. In the bottom of a 9" x 13" pan, spread half of cereal mixture into a thin, even layer. Top with warmed chocolate. 
  3. Place graham crackers in a single layer over chocolate, breaking crackers as needed to fit; top with crème. Spread remaining half of cereal mixture over crème; press lightly to cement layers together. 
  4. Let s'mores sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

For the healthier eaters...

Cranberry Oat Bars
Gourmet, November 2005

  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans (6 ounces), chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups dried cranberries, chopped
  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter a 9-inch square baking pan.
  2. Toast oats in another baking pan, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 12 minutes.
  3. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in eggs, milk, and vanilla. Whisk together flour, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda, then beat into butter mixture until incorporated. Stir in oats, pecans, and cranberries. Spread in buttered pan.
  4. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then cut into bars.

For the purist...

Homemade Granola Bars
Barefoot Contessa, 2008

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.
  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
  4. Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries and stir well.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

Happy baking!

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