August 29. 2017 11:22PM

Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen: Back to school, back to quality snacks

By JANINE GILBERTSON


Kids around the state are heading back to school this week, and this means school snacks are in hot demand.

Sure, you can toss some boxes of pre-packaged snacks into the grocery cart and have them at the ready when you need to pack a lunch, but with a few minutes and a few ingredients, you can whip up some healthier offerings — or even get the kids to make them.

Of course, you might not have any school-aged kids in the house, but grown-ups need snacks too, so why not try something new?

Over the summer, I got to making batches of a mixed nut and banana chip concoction that I kept around the house.

One of my kids added banana chips to the grocery list, so I picked some up, then no one ate them. The chips sat on the counter, untouched, for a couple of weeks. This drove me crazy.

Finally, I mixed them in with some cocktail style peanuts, pepitas, and some chocolate peanut butter baking chips and put them in a container. Once they were mixed in with other goodies, the banana chips started to magically disappear. Everyone was grabbing a handful when they walked into the kitchen.

Another fast and fun snack to make is to pulse some dried fruit (I like to use cherries) into a food processor and chop it up, then mix it with some similarly chopped nuts (cashews and almonds are my favorite, but budget friendly peanuts work well, too), then roll them into bite sized balls that you can coat with sesame seeds or coconut flakes. They’re delicious. These also work great if you need something quick to bring for sharing at a party.

When my kids were in elementary school, I remember buying box after box of those stretchy fruit rolls to add to lunches. They loved them and somehow I thought they weren’t so bad because they were made of fruit.

What I didn’t know then was that it’s ridiculously simple to make your own at home, where you can control the quality by buying the best no-added-sugar fruit preserves you can find. This way you can bypass all the preservatives and extra calories in commercially processed versions. 

Plus, you can teach your kids how to make them for themselves, a valuable lesson they can one day put to use if they ever become parents themselves.

No Bake Cherry and Nut Bites

2 cups dried cherries

1 cup of peanuts

1 cup of cashews

1/3 cup sesame seeds

Put the cherries in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped; transfer to a bowl. 

Place the peanuts and cashews to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped; add to the cherries. 

Knead the cherries and the nuts together until well combined, then roll into balls approximately 1 to 2 inches in diameter. 

Put the sesame seeds in a shallow bowl. Roll the fruit and nuts in the sesame seeds to coat well before serving.

Strawberry Fruit Strips

2/3 cup strawberry preserves (no sugar added)

2 tsp cornstarch

Add the preserves and the cornstarch to a medium bowl and stir well to combine.

Preheat oven to 225 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Spread the fruit mixture in strips (about 2 inches wide and 8 inches long) on the parchment paper, then set the baking sheet in the preheated oven. Bake for about 35 minutes, then allow to cool. 

To store, leave the fruit strip on the parchment and trim away any excess paper. Store the fruit strips in a lidded plastic container or zip type storage bag.

Banana Nut Mix

2 cups banana chips

1 cup peanuts (cocktail style)

1/2 cup pepitas

3/4 cup chocolate peanut butter chips, such as Nestle



Combine all ingredients in a large container and mix well before serving.