Sometimes I feel like a real hypocrite.
I make the craziest things. I get excited about making things like cheese and puff pastry, and I feel so proud that I can stick to the raw material aisles at the store. I bypass all those bags and boxes of processed things with my head held high.
Most of the time.
It turns out, that when it comes to my liberation from expensive little packages of food that make my life run smoothly, I have a nemesis out there.
I’m talking about the car snack.
Maybe for you it’s the bus snack, or the scarfing before piano lesson snack- it’s all the same thing. For those of you who are not familiar with the car snack, I’m going to let you in on a little something. Screw breakfast. For kids, the car snack is the most important meal of the day. It is consumed at about 3:00, right after school, on the way home or to the next thing.
I don’t know what your experience of these things is, but in my car, this is not the finest hour for my children. They are tired. They want to tell me a lot of intricate details about what happened on the playground. They do not want to speak one at a time. But most of all, they are so so so hungry.
I tuck little snacks in the outside pockets of their lunch boxes. Their school is nut free due to a very sweet boy with a nasty nut allergy, and so the girls know that they can’t eat their car snack until they buckle in. It often has nuts. It sometimes has chocolate, just enough to up the appeal. And it is always wrapped in a wrapper that ends up on the floor.
When I got back from Turkey, there seemed to be hundreds of wrappers on the floor in the back seat. TLC granola bars and Cereal Bars. Koala Kids puffy rice bars. Fruit leathers. Annie’s bunny snacks. All at five dollars a box, with wrappers within wrappers, and weighted with a heavy sigh when I throw a few boxes into the cart.
When they look into their lunchboxes to see what I’ve packed, I never know what kind of reaction I’ll get. One day the mango fruit leather is a hit, and the next day it inspires a half an hour straight of really loud crying. It’s all about the time of day, I guess.
So I rely on the things I know they’ll go for. I look for some sort of protein, maybe a little nutritional value. But mostly, I just want it to get into their bellies.
I’m feeling pretty good about things after my trip. I’ve made it through the jet lag, and life is feeling fresh. I’m ready. I’m ready to face the car snack.
I’ll be dueling my nemesis a few times over the next couple of weeks, just in case you need a few options like I do. But today, it’s sweet nutty puffy rice things. Bad name, I know. So let’s just call it:
Car Snack 1
makes 16-20 bars
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 cups puffed millet (rice crispies will also work here)
1 1/2 cups loosely packed chopped dried fruit (apricots, dates, prunes, raisins, ginger or what ever you have)
1 1/2 cups toasted sliced almonds
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil
Lightly oil a 9 x 13 casserole dish. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oats, puffed millet, dried fruit, almonds, cinnamon, salt, and chocolate chips. In a small saucepan, combine the brown rice syrup, brown sugar, canola oil, and vanilla. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Continue to stir the mixture while it boils for one minute. Then pour the syrup mixture over the dry ingredients and coat thoroughly. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan, press down with a spatula, and refrigerate for an hour. Then cut into bars as needed. They will hold together pretty well, but crumbs will escape here and there, so place in a container or a wax bag when packing for the car. Store in the refrigerator to keep the bars firm, but they will also be fine at room temperature.