Tribune News Photo service
More than two years after the arrival of COVID help for families, school meals are starting to look like pre-pandemic meals, including the government’s recall of discounted and free options for some pupils.
For my sons, that means more “weekend bags”. Essentially a grocery wrapper to be consumed when the children are away from school, the bags contained both made-from-scratch meals prepared by the school district’s food service and packaged snacks. Among these were many, many bars.
Because my kids aren’t big fans of granola bars, energy bars, or breakfast bars, these went in a large glass container in the pantry where anyone in the house could take one in a heartbeat. But enough have sat there over the past year that it’s probably time to throw them away.
I have good reason to believe that a fresher, healthier alternative would tempt my children’s appetites before sports practices. And a homemade bar is infinitely more affordable and eco-friendly for frugal families to assemble from bulk ingredients, compared to individually wrapped bars on grocers’ shelves.
Mix up a batch of these energy bars for the week ahead, or double the batch and store a few in the freezer.
1/2 cup dried fruit
1 1/4 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
1 cup roasted and salted nuts or seeds
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
Heat oven to 325 F. Line bottom and sides of 8-inch square pan with foil. Lightly coat foil with nonstick cooking spray.
To make bars using a food processor, blend dried fruit if the pieces are larger than raisins or dried cranberries. Add the old fashioned oats, nuts and chocolate chips and pulse until the oats are broken into small pieces with a few bits of powder and the nuts are coarsely chopped. Add the peanut butter, brown sugar, butter and egg and mix until the mixture is well blended and comes together in a sticky mass around the blade.
To make hand bars, chop dried fruit into 1/4 inch pieces. Roughly chop the walnuts and chocolate chips. Combine the chopped ingredients with the quick-cooking rolled oats in a large bowl. Add peanut butter, brown sugar, butter and egg and mix well to form a sticky mass.
Drop the dough into large chunks to cover the bottom of the prepared pan. Wet your hands and squeeze the mixture firmly to form an even layer.
Bake in preheated oven until golden and set, 30 to 35 minutes. The top should look dry and spring back slightly when pressed. Cool completely in a pan on a wire rack. Using foil, slide out of pan onto a cutting board. Cut into eight 2-by-4-inch bars.
Bars can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Makes 8 bars.