First Day of School = Hungry People
Today is the first day of public school in Fairfax County, Virginia. The weather is cooler than normal, and, although we're sure to have more hot days, fall seems to be coming. The squirrels and chipmunks are zipping around searching for nuts in a mad frenzy. I'm not sure why. We seem to have a bumper crop of acorns and other nuts this year, so the frenetic activity seems unnecessary. Nonetheless, I suspect the "back-to-school" crowd will be busy and hungry. Why not offer them something nutritious as well as great-tasting to refuel and recover from their active days? Some Nutty Energy Bars should do the trick. These bars make great after-school snacks, grab-and-go morning bites, and, during Advent, wonderful gifts for friends. The bars are far less expensive than the store-bought versions, taste much better, and take only a few minutes to mix up. They also offer plenty of license for variation--such as swapping out the peanuts for almonds and the peanut butter for almond butter and varying the dried fruit--so feel free! I usually buy the 10-ounce packages of trail mix at Aldi that include pumpkin seeds and mixed dried fruit, because they're relatively inexpensive and perfect for making two batches of energy bars. Nonetheless, you certainly can mix up and add the seeds and dried fruit of your choice.
Nutty Energy Bars -- Makes 8-12
1/2 cup of oats (old fashioned)
1/2 cup of crispy rice cereal
1 cup of roasted peanuts (unsalted, preferably)
1 cup of mixed seeds and dried fruit
1/4 - 1/3 cup of mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup of corn syrup (check to make sure it does not include high fructose corn syrup)
1/4 - 1/3 cup of peanut butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil. Coat the foil with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the oats, rice cereal, peanuts, mixed seeds and dried fruit, mini chocolate chips, corn syrup, and peanut butter and mix everything well. You want to coat all the dried fruit and nuts with some of the corn syrup and peanut butter. The mixture will be sticky. Dump the mixture into the prepared pan and, with a spatula coated with non-stick cooking spray or your hands, press the mixture evenly and firmly into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake the mixture for 20-25 minutes, let it cool, and cut it into bars. You can use the foil to lift the bars out of the pan, if you'd like. Munch, munch, munch.